The business part of the meeting began about 7:30. The Minutes for the July 27th and August 31st meetings were both approved.
Natalie Williams reported that they had met with Sen. Kelsey and were planning an upcoming meeting with Rep. Todd.
Lisa Parker gave the Chair's report:
- HHS will receive a $1K check from National Guard
- 3 of the 5 school level start time meetings have been completed and “change will happen.”
- HHS Band is celebrating its 25th Anniversary
- Ms. Parker visited Dogwood Elementary School
- The district office and each school participated in 9/11 remembrances
- An HHS soccer player is being supported by her team mates after a cancer diagnosis
- On Friday when students were out of school for inservice, HHS Honor Academy Juniors took a mock PSAT test.
- On Monday, How to Raise an Adult author Julie Lythcott-Haims spoke at HHS
Mr. Manuel gave the Superintendent's report making announcements on student teachers and the Affordable Health Care Act. He then asked Mr. Haddow to discuss the district's Strategic Plan which involves setting goals, seeking stakeholder alignment in the next 2-3 weeks, and then presenting it to the community, hopefully in October. When Mr. Dely asked how the board is involved in this process, Mr. Manuel answered that the board set the five goals back during the board's retreat and now his staff was developing them. Mr. Dely then asked, “what if the board does not agree at the end of the process?” and suggested there be “sign posts” along the way. Mr. Manuel agreed to that. Other mentions included: the financial audit should be be completed by the end of September, the district plans to meet with the city regarding capital improvements, and the district is going forward with the new benchmarking software, Amplify.
Citizens to be Heard
Paul Koltnow addressed Ms.Parker's opening comments saying that the role of the board was to hear citizens' complaints and criticisms. He went on to ask for transparency and an open dialogue between the Board and the community. Then, he explained that his young son is coming home from school upset by the recent drop in his math grades. He asked the Board to be accountable for the problems students and parents are having with the new math and socials studies curriculum.
Jeremy Crow raised concerns over common core especially the new convoluted math lessons. He doesn't like "teaching to the test" and tying teacher salaries to test scores. He is also worried about the health of our children and asked that he Board support more physical activity in the school day.
Mindy Fisher thanked the board for postponing their meeting so it would not conflict with the speaker at HHS on Monday. She appreciated everyone's cooperation and support in bringing Julie Lythcott-Haims to GMSD.
Preston Gilchrist asked the board to examine the Eureka math curriculum and wanted to know why it was selected by GMSD. He is worried about the difficult transition for the older elementary students and wants to know what options are available. His comments triggered applause from the audience.
Paul Leonard spoke on start times. He thanked the board for their commitment to later start times and asked that the change reflect the beneficial times supported by health professionals. He said that the research indicates that school should not start before 8:30 so a modest change from 7 to 7:30 would not cut it. He said that in a meeting, Mr. Manuel said that an 8:00 start time was ideal and he wants the board to make that happen.
Denise Stumph also raised concerns about the current math curriculum. Her second grader at Dogwood is upset over bad math grades and his teachers are also frustrated. She currently has a child psychologist working on a letter outlining the damaging effects this is having on her child. She wants the board to help parents and teachers with the new Eureka math curriculum.
Revision of SBO Policy 14.000 to remove the prohibition against photographic equipment at board meetings and replace it with the following language: "The Board may restrict the recording of Board meetings via camera, camcorder or other photographic equipment when such recording creates a threat to public safety and welfare or impedes the conducting of efficient and orderly public meeting."
Ken Hoover then asked about his request at the last work session to add this item to the agenda. Mr. Hoover said that he had planned to propose the change but then got an email that the change in policy was coming from district administration. He stated that he had emailed the chair, the superintendent and copied the other board members about the district recording the meetings and then making that recording available to the public. He asked why the agenda did not include this item. Ms. Parker seemed stunned and responded that no one moved to amend the agenda at the beginning of the meeting but said Mr. Hoover can now request a change in the agenda and it will be done.
Mr. Hoover moved to adopt the change in policy then added an amendment that would make the superintendent responsible for making arrangements to video board meetings and work sessions then publicly posting the video online. Ms. Fisher suggested that all meetings should be held at City Hall where recording equipment is readily available, allowing for meetings to be streamed live and recorded. Dely supported Mr. Hoover's motion and Ms. Fisher's suggestion. Mr. Manuel chimed in and said that he did not want an "unfunded mandate." Ms. Fisher said that work sessions and business meeting could take place in City Hall back-to-back on the same night. Mr. Dely did not like that suggestion and said he could not imagine that it would cost much to hire some students to video the meetings. He said that he would be happy to make that budget request. Natalie Williams asked if she could propose a friendly amendment to allow an audio recording to substitute for video when camera equipment was not available. Mr. Hoover rejected her friendly amendment.
Mr. Hoover's amendment passed 3-2 with Ms. Williams and Ms. Parker voting "No." The policy revision as amended then passed unanimously on the first reading.
Five Year Strategic Plan
Ms. Williams moved to approve the strategic plan and Linda Fisher seconded the motion. Ms. Williams added that she supports the plan and its timeline while understanding that the numbers are fluid and likely to change. Mr. Manuel said he will need to call a special meeting on the cost split between the city and the school district. Mr. Dely asked if we will get any additional funds from the county for the current year. Per Mr. Manuel, this depends on whether Shelby County Schools makes any capital requests because the muni districts will then be given a share based on any monies awarded to Shelby County Schools. Mr. Dely then stated that we need $2.3M now for improvements in our current year’s plan. Mr. Cathey noted that some projects may get bumped to subsequent years due to lack of funding.
Mr. Dely also asked for a detailed list of the ADA (Americans with Disability Act) upgrades needed at Dogwood. Per Mr. Manuel, the district is grandfathered legally but the building does not meet the current ADA requirements. Mr. Dely stressed that these improvements should be detailed and considered alongside the Riverdale expansion plans. Ms. Williams added that staff will provide a list of improvements as they are needed each year. Mr. Cathey agreed the details will be provided “if we ever get the money.” Mr. Manuel reiterated that he “needs approval for the order of priorities.”
Ken Hoover moved to amend the motion by including the requirement for a project budget on the Riverdale expansion be approved by the board. Mr. Manuel argued that the board had already been given a list of itemized expenses. Mr. Dely and Mr. Hoover both expressed a need for the board to remain involved in the project as it moved forward. Ms. Williams stated she has full confidence in Mr. Manuel and his staff. She trusts teachers and principals to guide the architects on the needs of the school. The amendment passed 3-2 with Ms. Williams and Ms. Parker both voting "No." The motion to approve the strategic plan with the requirement for a project budget on the Riverdale expansion passed unanimously.
The administration asked for the board's approval of a three year contract with Collierville for Vision Specialist services. The hourly rate for the Collierville Schools employee was not made available to the board but the annual cost is expected to be around $10K to $12K. Mr. Dely asked school board attorney, Debra Owen, if the contract obligates GMSD to a 3 year agreement with Collierville. And if the 90 day out clause can only occur at the end of the 3 years. Ms. Owens said the district would be obligated to continue with the services for three years and would have to give a 90 day notice if they did not want to continue with the contract at the end of the three year term. Mr. Dely said that he asked about contract term because a three year commitment can lead to a situation like we have with the nutritionist, who the district will no longer use but has to pay for two more years.
Teresa Price apologized for misreading the contract and indicating to the board earlier that the Vision Specialist could be released at anytime with a 90 days notice. When Mr. Dely asked what options we have as a district, Ms. Owen replied that we could hire our own specialist or she could renegotiate the proposed contract with Collierville. Mr. Hoover asked if the current vision specialist is an employee of Collierville Schools. Ms. Price confirmed that the specialist was currently employed by Collierville then added that she had been providing services for Bartlett until they hired their own full time vision specialist. Ms. Price also stated that GMSD has used her services for 17 hours so far this year and GMSD is technically paying her an hourly rate while the contract is pending approval. Mr. Hoover indicated we should consider other options. He noted that other contract vendors are not written for three years. Ms. Price stated she would research other options and Ms. Owen agreed to negotiate further with Collierville. Ms. Parker tabled this item prompting Ms. Williams to inquire if children will continue to receive services. She was assured that students would not miss out on any services. The matter was then tabled.
HHS TV Studio Equipment
Josh Cathey sought approval for a bid to supply HHS TV with studio equipment. This was a budgeted expense. Mr. Hoover made the motion, Ms. Parker seconded it and the motion passed unanimously.
Dogwood's New Air Conditioners
This item involved approval from the board to make the request from the Shelby County Commission to allow GMSD to use the remainder of capital funds previously allocated for windows at FES so that rooftop AC units can be installed at DES. Discussion between Mr. Cathey, Mr. Hoover, and Mr. Manuel revealed that the ‘leftover’ amount of money from window project is not enough for the roof replacement needed at DES. While it would be ideal to do both projects together (replace roof and A/C units), GMSD does not have the funds available. So, the district will replace the units first then replace the roof when money is available. There is a possibility that the units can be installed over Spring Break but otherwise it will occur Summer 2016 because it is too disruptive to work while students are on campus. Ms. Parker made a motion for the executive committee to make this happen, and it was approved. (The executive committee consists of Lisa Parker and Jason Manuel.)
Mr. Cathey asked the Board to adopt the TOSHA Public Sector plan. School board lawyer, Debra Owen explained that state law requires a plan to be put into effect. The previous plan was adopted by Shelby County but was inexplicably dropped without notice. Now, all the municipal districts are required to adopt their own plans. Ms. Fisher made the motion, Mr. Dely seconded and approval for the plan drafted by Mr. Don Key passed.