The State of Tennessee requires the district be accredited by an independent organization. AdvancED is the company that has been recommended by staff for this process. The company will send five examiners to observe classes and students. There was little discussion.
GMSD is leasing devices from Apple to pilot the 1:1 Initiative. This is a legal document required by the City of Germantown. It will essentially be a pass through the City budget and the expenditures will not be considered Maintenance of Effort.
The Devil is in the Details
Seventeen budget amendments were submitted to the board for review. Most discussion revolved around < Budget Amendment 9 >. Due to Shelby County going back to the state to request additional ADA funds, GMSD will receive $400K in state monies. This is the amount allocated to Germantown – its piece of the County pie, if you will. Superintendent Manuel proposed in the Amendment that $368K be allocated for architects & consultant fees, and that a $125K donation be made to the Houston High Athletics & Arts Foundation to match the City’s recent grant for the artificial turf project which includes the purchase and installation of a Jumbotron electronic digital scoreboard.
Board member, Mark Dely, suggested rather than a direct donation to one project that a process be set up and a fund developed whereby the district provides dollars to “kick-start” additional projects. He mentioned using this fund to address some of the capital needs in the district, or helping to equip science labs, assist band and orchestra with equipment needs, etc. He stated he had reservations about a single donation to the turf project and felt we could “do a lot more.”
At this point, Ken Hoover mentioned that the Turf Project, as initially discussed, was to be privately funded and wondered if something had changed. He asked Jason Manuel if the project would not be finished if these additional funds were not donated. Manuel stated the fundraising group has “$800,000.” Manuel went on to say the timeline had been compressed due to the City’s Lateral G project. (Aside: This is a City funded project to control rainwater drainage along the culvert named Lateral G. As a result of this project, the City has co-opted the HHS practice field, and it will no longer available to the high school.) He stated we are “getting ready for something really special.” It will be a big deal with a ribbon cutting, etc., and he felt “we need to contribute.”
Lisa Parker intoned that this item was put on the agenda because the City has contributed, and she feels we should step up. She also stated the project is indeed 90%-95% funded privately. ( JAM’s math doesn’t work out to that. By our calculation 72% would be private monies and 28% would be taxpayer dollars.)
Discussion continued around the topic of would the project stop if these monies are not approved. Manuel stated repeatedly that the turf and other features would be installed but not the scoreboard. The Jumbotron will show ads, and these ad sales have already taken place. Hoover questioned changing the funding model stating pointedly that the Athletics & Arts Foundation was created to raise funds for the district, not request money from the district. He also cited needs such as the leaking roof at Dogwood Elementary and other deferred maintenance that could be addressed with these funds.
Dely brought the group back to his main suggestion of building a process and using $125K-$150K to fund multiple smaller requests via public/private partnerships. Natalie Williams chimed in suggesting the board consider the models used by County and City officials if the district decided to set up a charitable fund and mentioned that County Mayor Mark Luttrell stated taxpayer money should not go to charities. Williams further noted the City of Germantown, on the other hand regularly contributes to GPAC, GCT and the Bobby Lanier Farm Park. When pressed by Dely to confirm she was saying that these (taxpayer) dollars should not go to the AAF, she clarified she was, indeed, in favor of the donation. Manuel then stated the funds were recurring so the district could set up Dely’s plan later. Hoover asked again if the project would go forward without the donation, and Manuel stated the group had the commitments needed for 110% of the loan amount (as required by the lender). Parker argued she felt the donation was paying for turf not the Jumbotron. Discussion concluded when Parker suggested they lower the Consultants line item to $75K (from $100K) and allocate that $25K for Dely’s fund.
The second amendment generating discussion was Amendment 6 for the creation and funding of the district’s PR employee, a newly created staff position at the district offices. The position now a CTT (Collaborative Team Teaching) requirement and a $9,000 bump in salary. The opening has been filled by Kate Crowder, formerly a 4th grade teacher at Farmington Elementary. Manuel lauded Crowder’s many talents including producing and directing musical plays at FES as well as producing podcasts and videos with students. Hoover asked Williams what she was envisioning when she suggested the staff position. JAM could not hear her response. Dely urged the PR employee to communicate with parents. Mason Grace stated he had just returned from a communications conference where they presented the concept of “storytellers” who would help promote a school district.
In support of the Board’s decision to approve Educational Lanes, a new HR policy was generated to ensure advanced degrees conferred were from accredited institutions and proof of the advanced degree was provided in a timely manner. There was some discussion from board members if the masters or doctorate should be pertinent to the teacher’s subject matter.
Student Services Policies
Chauncey Bland presented revisions to several policies involving transfer students. Most changes were small, such as dates and some semantics.
A number of instructional policies were revised and presented to the Board. One policy that generated discussion was that of grading . Based on direct feedback from teachers and students and indirect feedback from parents (in the form of complaints), a new approach to grading has been developed using “Amplify.” Amplify provides a methodology for teachers to create pre-assessments (the student’s starting point), common assessments (how well the student achieving mastery) and formative assessments (the graded component). Teachers will work in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) by department to ensure best practices and to discuss and compare results.
The policy regarding course placement has been completely revised. There will be multiple components to course selection and recommendation, and these steps will take place well in advance of students requesting courses for the following academic year. The revised policy also ensures that parents will have the final say in their children’s course placement.
A brief update on the Turf Project was provided to the board. Demolition and excavation is to be finished by the July 17. Base preparation will be done by early next week. Delivery of the artificial turf is set for July 27, with anticipated installation completed by August 15. The first home game is August 21.
While JAM reported previously that the district planned to outsource Nutrition Services to Aramark, that plan was halted when the state of Tennessee disallowed GMSD to piggy back on Aramark’s Oak Ridge contract. The district is back to square one with regards to the RFP process. The mandatory pre-bid meeting was set for July 16. It was anticipated that two vendors would attend - Aramark and Chartwell. Given the short time frame before school starts, Josh Cathey stated he thought the new vendor would install and renovate over fall break and begin operations the second quarter of the school year. Thus the district will likely continue with the shared services provided program the first nine weeks of school.
Capital Improvements Update
The Board and audience were treated to a slide show of the new HMS parking lot and gym floor (both very impressive), as well as the turf project (in process) and the new windows installation at Farmington. Houston High School has received new sophisticated thermostats and zoning controls which will allow individual classrooms to control the temperature
Superintendent Manuel requested a follow-up for the Town Hall meetings held last month before presenting his Strategic Plan.
That’s a Wrap
Chairman Parker circulated a list of board work sessions and business meetings for the upcoming school year. She stated beginning in January the business meetings would be held at schools.
There being no further business the work session concluded at approximately 8:30pm.