Brookline School Board
CSDA Media Room
March 24, 2009
Susan Hodgdon, Superintendent of Schools
Dawna Duhamel, Business Administrator
Carol Mace, Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Robert Kelly, Director of Special Education
Lorraine Wenger, Principal, CSDA
Lidia Desrochers, Principal, RMMS
Kristina Henry, Assistant Principal
Members of the press and public.
At 6:08 pm Superintendent Hodgdon declared the meeting open. She noted the first item on the agenda to be the reorganization of the Board with the election of officers. With that said, she entertained a motion(s) for Chair. Beth Lukovits moved to nominate Dave Partridge as Chair. Wanda Meagher seconded the motion. There were no other nominees. The motion carried 5-0-0.
Chairman Partridge congratulated Beth Lukovits and Wanda Meagher on their re-election and Forrest Milkowski on his election to the Board. The Chair also noted two members of the Finance committee in attendance commenting this bodes well for communication between the two boards.
Chairman Partridge asked for a motion(s) for Vice-Chair. Wanda Meagher moved to nominate Beth Lukovits as Vice-Chair. Marcia Farwell seconded the motion. There were no other nominees and no further discussion. The motion carried 5-0-0.
Chairman Partridge called for a motion(s) for Secretary. Beth Lukovits moved to nominate Forrest Milkowski as Secretary. There were no other nominees and no further discussion. The motion carried 4-0-1 with Forrest Milkowski abstaining.
Minutes: Wanda Meagher noted three amendments to the minutes on Page 3, Principals’ Report, to clarify: The first should be Life Threatening Allergy document is almost ready. The second is to clarify the quote should say roof repair quote and the third is in the next paragraph increasing the bus route should be decreasing. Marcia Farwell moved to approve the minutes of February 17, 2009 (sent by email) as amended. Beth Lukovits seconded and the motion carried 4:0:1 with Forrest Milkowski abstaining.
Correspondence: Chairman Partridge read aloud a letter signed and submitted from 13 RMMS teachers expressing support of the environmental education program in the Brookline School District and expressing their strong concern this program should not be cut.
Superintendent Hodgdon read aloud a request for a change in bus route for a Hood Road family for the 2009-2010 school year. The request outlined the current stop is 1 mile from the family home thereby requiring the student who will be attending RMMS to pass a registered sex offender to wait at the bus stop. It was noted in the request there is a bus turn-around located at 44 Hood Road which is two houses away from the family home and would not require the student to walk past the home of the registered sex offender nor wait near a known felon and drug dealer, by history.
Beth Lukovits began discussion noting in the past the Superintendent has driven with the Ordes to review. Superintendent Hodgdon stated this has not occurred but that Nancy Orde has discussed the route with her and stated the road is horrible for the mini bus currently driving the route due to the road width. She further explained this would make it more difficult for a full size bus. Nancy Orde had also noted this would add 10 to 15 minutes to the current route and the contract as written requires routes to be no more than 45 minutes long.
Beth Lukovits asked if the mini bus currently servicing Hood Road goes to RMMS? Bob Kelly responded this is a great suggestion and he would research the current situation and reminded the Board it would also be pending the need for the vehicle in the area which the Board understood.
Wanda Meagher asked if the distance is 1 mile and Superintendent Hodgdon stated she had not yet clocked the distance.
Beth Lukovits also suggested the possibility of the mini-bus that transports students off of Ball Hill. She reminded everyone this bus transports regular ed students and on the same side of town.
Bob Kelly noted the two possible mini-bus routes and will research both possibilities and report back.
Principals’ Report (appended to the file copy of the minutes): Laurie Wenger reviewed the busy calendar of events outlined in the report. She then informed the Board Scott Knowles of the local Fire Department visited the school regarding certificates of occupancy and the new fire law in New Hampshire explaining the implications for the building use at RMMS and CSDA. Ms. Wenger explained events using the gyms cannot exceed 299 people at either school as they are not sprinkled. She went on to say if an event is to exceed 299 people, the Fire Department will have to be present to monitor the event. Ms. Wenger noted funds will have to be budgeted to cover such expenses. Principal Wenger also distributed an article recently published in the Union Leader regarding the law and noted the restrictions on displays of art work and that the Brookline School District is already in compliance with this issue.
Forrest Milkowski asked the capacity with the Fire Department present and was told the FD would monitor and it would be their discretion.
Lidia Desrochers explained while they may not be able to afford the security updates originally planned, they are making the best with what they have by locking doors, key pad code restriction (who has)., etc. Ms. Desrochers noted the excellent job done by Kristina Henry with the introduction of RTI.
Ms. Henry explained when a teacher or parent sees a student struggling paperwork is filled out. There is a binder referred to as a tool box with strategies which teachers can go into for help. She noted at this point a meeting is scheduled including herself, Speech, OT, psychologist, nurse and parents, if they chose to attend. Ms. Henry explained there are 35 students serviced by early intervention plans in the district. Ms. Henry explained the team will determine when it is best to reconvene and if the child is making adequate progress. She stated it is a time consuming process but a process that is working. Ms. Henry stressed while it may be time consuming, it is less time consuming than identifying a student later when a gap has formed.
Lidia Desrochers explained they are in the process of trying to identify accelerated students and use resources available in the building. She explained enrichment is offered for K-3 for accelerated students.
Ms. Desrochers talked about the DIBELS or Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills assessment for K-3 population. She noted these are standard short 1 minute tests assessing pre-reader skills with the objective to meet students’ needs and adjust instructions.
Beth Lukovits asked Kristina Henry regarding the RTI if this was a substitute for the 504 for speech and was told no.
Bob Kelly explained the 504 umbrella needing a life impacting factor and RTI services would be separate service intervening early with early sign of disability.
Discussion ensued relative to data used for referral and the Special Education Director gave a lengthy explanation regarding different tracks used and regulations not requiring early intervention first.
Wanda Meagher asked if there was no evaluation first with RTI. Kristina Henry explained she has had Karen Pillion do math assessments and others do different assessments.
Beth Lukovits questioned the staffing levels and how is it there is the extra time? Kristina Henry explained no Special Ed needs can not be dropped for other needs and a handful of the 35 students get direct services with the rest of the students receiving help in reading and math.
Lidia Desrochers reinforced this is mostly strategies to help students do work.
Beth Lukovits reiterated these are not extra hours added and was told no.
Lidia Desrochers explained she has met with the Hollis Principal and visited Hollis Preschool and she will visit others soon. She explained registration will be done through the front office. Principal Desrochers stated she has been in discussion with the Superintendent regarding the posting/advertising of the Coordinator position. Beth Lukovits asked about the progress and remarked there is a season for recruiting and did not want to miss out on talent for this position.
Wanda Meagher stressed registration urgency as other preschools were registering 1-1.5 months ago.
Bob Kelly explained he had an upcoming state association meeting on Friday and would drop off the necessary paperwork for the program approval. Wanda Meagher questioned why this had not already been done. Bob Kelly explained his contact had directed him to get district approval first and then she would expedite the state approval process.
Principal Desrochers spoke about the newly formed Behavior Committee consisting of the hardworking staff where students will be taught appropriate and acceptable behaviors to promote a positive environment to learn and grow.
Ms. Desrochers also explained in Early Childhood they will be able to perform screenings of Kindergarten students for the first time. These will be used as assessment tools. Appointments will be set and information will be used for placement needs.
Wanda Meagher asked if notices have been posted for Kindergarten registration reminders and was told yes.
Beth Lukovits asked if the information would be used to help service the readers, etc., entering Kindergarten. Lidia Desrochers stated they are hoping to service all the best they can.
Discussion ensued relative to filling the roster for preschool as well as the 57 Kindergarten registrations to date. It was agreed additional notices should go out. Dave Partridge had suggested letters to 16 identified families and Wanda Meagher suggested backpack notices. The Board’s overall concern with only 57 registrations at this date, only 3 Kindergarten classes would be needed.
Laurie Wenger noted letters to request parent input for the 2009-2010 school year would be going out this week. She explained RMMS students will know who their teachers are by year end. However, CSDA will get letters sent to parents in August when we know staffing. Principal Wenger will still have their step-up day and be assigned to a fourth grade teacher. Principal Desrochers added RMMS will have a step-up experience (part of day visiting next grade). There was a question from the audience if this would include Kindergarten and the answer was yes.
In the final part of the Principals Report there were job descriptions discussed which Principal Laurie Wenger explained there have been discussions with Superintendent Hodgdon and Carol Mace looking at how to do things smarter and impacting student performance across the board especially with budget cuts. She explained they had followed the Board’s directive and put these together for the board to review. The first one for review was the Assistant Principal/Special Ed Coordinator. Principal Wenger explained the current set-up is a shared Assistant Principal and shared Special Ed Coordinator travelling between the two schools. The proposal consists of transitioning to a model where there is one position at RMMS and one position at CSDA designated as an Assistant Principal/Special Education Coordinator replacing the current shared model. She noted they are fortunate to be able to witness this model in another district and benefit from a study that has already been conducted. Lidia Desrochers read aloud the handout listing advantages of the model.
Beth Lukovits comment she could support the model but did question the Hollis model and thought there was a question if it worked. Bob Kelly responded he had initially thought it would be difficult to “wear both hats” but that it has proved successful and there are some added advantages in communications with staff. He noted it can be a challenge to get both skill sets in one person.
Beth Lukovits asked where the Preschool Coordinator fit in the chain of command and was told by Bob Kelly the position reports to the Principal of RMMS.
Beth Lukovits asked if there is any concern with the “load” at the schools? Discussion ensued relative to the difference in needs at each of the schools (CSDA has more discipline which Principal Wenger handles for consistency as she is there every day.) After much discussion it was agreed it would be a significant advantage to have two people regularly in the building 5 days a week helping with regulatory mandates, teacher evaluations and the like. Included in the discussion were ideas regarding the support staff which would be discussed further.
Superintendent Hodgdon asked the Board to weigh in on the direction to take which led to a discussion of the impact of current contracts. Beth Lukovits asked if the current individual(s) have the right to refuse and was told yes. Superintendent Hodgdon explained the purpose tonight was to get input or feedback and that they haven’t looked at the contracts. Chairman Partridge commented that in all fairness the contracts should be reviewed at this time.
Forrest Milkowski asked if these were Professional contracts and not Union and it was confirmed these were Professional contracts.
Dave Partridge asked Kristina Henry if she had any thoughts/opinions and she commented she could see pros and cons to both models.
Beth Lukovits stated she could support the model but that she is concerned with the load at RMMS.
Bob Kelly spoke about the 100 IDEA cases in Brookline and that he could prepare a forecast for the next 10 years to compare the case load for the schools.
Kristina Henry noted in Hollis the Guidance Counselors handle the 504’s. There was some discussion regarding how this is handled.
Superintendent Hodgdon added there would more availability of support from the Superintendent’s office than in the past.
Chairman Partridge expressed concern with the balance of needs and it may not be split between the schools. Superintendent Hodgdon explained in her conversations with the both the Hollis Assistant Principal/Special Education Coordinators relative to the impact of the Assistant Principal role she learned while the number of Special Ed needs at the Primary level may be greater, the discipline needs are lower and thereby creating more of a balance in the two positions.
Wanda Meagher expressed support for the model as she felt the consistency is important. She did comment she was concerned that there may be a loss in overall maintenance of communications between the schools that is occurring now with the shared administration. Both Principals Wenger and Desrochers felt that communications would continue to be shared with regular meetings that happen now and would continue in the future. Ms. Meagher stressed she felt that some day-to-day added communication would be lost.
Kristina Henry commented she does handle discipline issues at RMMS with the lower grades and it helpful as she knows the students and their special education needs. She stated it can be burdening to do all the discipline. Bob Kelly added that no model is perfect and that you need a back-up with a back-up to the back-up.
Discussion ensued to a back-up already in existence with Principal and staff sitting in when meeting conflicts occur and it was agreed this would continue if this new model were to be adopted.
There was a question from the audience if this proposed model would impact the budget and the answer was no.
Marcia Farwell stated she thought we were creating new positions but we are not really and that was her concern.
The Superintendent listed the Boards’ concerns to be reviewed regarding contractual issues along with suggestions of coordination and communications between the two schools.
The next job description reviewed was the Reading Specialist which Principal Wenger explained has been on the books a long time with a few things added to the job description. She explained the Language Arts Coordinator is being returned to the Reading Specialist. Principal Wenger noted this has no impact to the budget. The Reading Specialist addresses response to intervention and provides more direct services to students. She explained how services would be conducted without interruption and that the Reading Specialist provides services for regular education population.
Principal Wenger distributed copies of the Math Specialist job description and noted the same recommendation is made for the Math Specialist which the board reviewed along with the Reading Specialist job description. She explained it looks like we could be a school in need of improvement based on AYP under NECAP and these recommendations would aid in working with students and a school improvement plan.
Chairman Partridge stated he fully supported the job descriptions and the concept as he has watched this go up and down and his feeling is the students gain more from direct services. He noted that #6 had a wording issue to be addressed. Superintendent Hodgdon stated the ADA language still has to be added as well and Principal Wenger will forward the job descriptions to Doris Lindgren.
Laurie Wenger distributed a Science Coordinator job description but explained these duties would be absorbed within administration.
Lidia Desrochers explained that with the .5 Science Coordinator position they would propose transitioning to the Kindergarten Extended Day (KED) program position (handout circulated). She outlined the benefits of this extended program earmarked to begin August 2009. Ms. Desrochers stated there would be no financial impact to the budget. She noted with the Kindergarten registrations this may indicate an impact to the Readiness program and extended day Kindergarten will help prepare students for first grade.
Beth Lukovits expressed concern with budgetary impact as state funding is for half day Kindergarten only and only Special Ed students are funded for extended day.
Chairman Partridge expressed concern with the current budget cuts and what this may be saying. He stressed how could we expand when we do not have the resources to fund what we are doing right now. Chairman Partridge also stated there has been strong commitment within the community for the Readiness Program and that as recently as two years ago there had been a study and the town voted to keep Readiness. He stated he would be very apprehensive to eliminate this program. He reminded there are still a number of cuts needed.
Beth Lukovits expressed a number of concerns and serious doubts. She commented Readiness has been developmental in nature and you cannot push that develop by giving extra hours. This proposal does not address those young/maturity issues versus addressing academics. She added her research indicates the state only funds ½ day Kindergarten but funds Readiness.
Forrest Milkowski asked what the projected numbers are for Readiness. Lidia Desrochers explained this year’s numbers and next year’s Kindergarten enrollment being low may impact Readiness. Beth Lukovits stated we had this happen one year and we had a readiness program. She stressed whether we have a separate class or a Readiness program, we cannot determine at this time. Dave Partridge stated in the last decade plus we have only had one year where we did not have a separate Readiness class.
Beth Lukovits asked Bob Kelly was this an answer to Hollis eliminating the program and implementing an answer to the problem or hearsay? Bob Kelly stated he did not know the answer.
Marcia Farwell stated she has always supported getting rid of the Readiness program.
Megan King commented she had heard that the problem Hollis had when they eliminated Readiness was they did not have the support staff in place to help with the maturity issues so the first couple of years were rocky.
Wanda Meagher stated she supports Readiness for the developmental issue but feels it could be dealt with by changing the cut off date to June 30th. She stated she thought the response to intervention was a good thing to start doing in Kindergarten and if that means doing it after hours and the child is ready for that, it would be a good thing. Ms. Meagher added that she did not feel we had the funding to do so this year.
Pat Lynch asked if in the future with child check wouldn’t we start catching/identifying students who were not ready for Kindergarten and was told in theory yes, but it will be a tiny percentage of parents who chose not to send their child to school when that door opens up to them.
At this point Forrest Milkowski asked for clarification on the .5 Science Coordinator position which is actually .4 and what would happen to this position. He was answered the Administration will handle duties the same as social studies. There was some discussion of using this time for computer aid time.
When asked for a consensus of the board on the Extended Kindergarten Day Beth Lukovits said no; Marcia Farwell said no. Forrest Milkowski stated he did not understand enough to have a position. Superintendent Hodgdon stated there was enough of a consensus that no vote was needed and the input was obtained. Chairman Partridge stated he appreciated the idea being brought before the Board.
Beth Lukovits asked about the upcoming Spring Concert and was told it is next Thursday and notices would be going home tomorrow. Ms. Lukovits asked for earlier notification considering the parents who travel and like to make arrangements to attend such events. Discussion ensued relative to use of the website, broken links and dependence on backpack mail. It was suggested to get permission at town hall to use the message board donated by the Women’s club to advertise events.
Business Administrator: Roof Quotes: Dawna Duhamel explained the roof repair quotes have been updated to include warranty information to avoid conflict resolution. She noted there are still some difficulties with the quote for the CSDA roof repair and information regarding the ventilation. She explained some vendor feedback has been if they repair and do not take care of the ventilation, the problem will happen again. She stated the hearing will be held in April to get work started in May. At this point Chairman Partridge explained he has researched the issue and learned the original plans show vents on the gables that are not on the building. He stated without the proper venting the heat sits in the gables and creates the conditions to create the rotting on the roof. Chairman Partridge added that the comments made by the vendor that fixing without repairing/addressing the venting issue is true and the problem will happen again. He noted there should be a 5’ vent at the end of every gable. Chairman Partridge stated there is some historical recollection that the Fire Department suggested closing off some vents but not the gable vents. Dawna Duhamel made note and will look into the issue as well as liability.
Special Education Director: Bob Kelly reported that a letter to parents of special education students would be going out. He explained the State Department requires notices are given annually of procedural safeguards for special education. These letters let the parents know the letters regarding procedural safeguards will be handed out at upcoming meetings and also of an annual parent survey.
Superintendent’s Report: Superintendent Hodgdon reported she attended a meeting this past Friday with the commissioner relative to the Stimulus Funds. She stated while they had hoped for more specifics than received, she could report that there will be three pools or buckets as follows: 1) unclassified which can be broadly used for education; 2) Title I which in the past could not be used to supplant but supplement budget and there may be a restriction removed on this; 3) IDEA potentially 129K
Superintendent Hodgdon explained they were cautioned by the commissioner that this could change as well as there are strings attached to the funds. She added that funds may be available for one and not more than two years.
Marcia Farwell asked if there would be funds for Capital Improvements and was told yes but from another State source and it would be a small pool spread across the state.
Superintendent Hodgdon discussed new board member orientation and it was agreed Forrest Milkowski would meet with her in mid-April and she would put together a packet for him. Chairman Partridge offered to sit in on the meeting as well.
FY10 Budget: Chairman Partridge explained the Board was looking to cut an additional $224,279. He first invited Karen Pillion to speak regarding the results of the Union meetings. Karen explained after many meetings and considering several scenarios the union voted their top choice which was a 2% COLA by the 2/3 majority vote needed. She noted this would save $102K and that the 42 teacher membership concurred this was to prevent a loss of teachers and to save programs like Readiness. The Board responded positively commenting this was admirable and a huge step which was greatly appreciated. Wanda Meagher asked if there were any strings attached and Karen Pillion said no, there were no strings but looking at re-figuring numbers in the 5th year contract because of this change. At this point Chairman Partridge noted with the 102,683 in wages and 71K retiring teacher, there would be 51, 597 left to cut from the budget.
There was discussion of selling one of the portable classrooms which may be worth 40K on the open market. Marcia Farwell felt there was a considerable investment and was not sure about getting rid of one of the portables at this point and Beth Lukovits concurred. Dave Partridge agreed but added there is also an investment in teachers.
Discussion ensued relative to computer aides and library aides and using parent volunteers. Marcia Farwell asked about the possibility of bus reduction and Superintendent Hodgdon explained the Ordes are still in the process of setting up the software and inputting students and parameters. She added with the current contract’s 45 minute route limit, it is unlikely we will see a route reduction.
The following is a list of possibilities discussed:
Teacher wages 102,683
Retiring Teacher 71,000
Computer aide 16,000
Kindergarten aides 28,000
Computer equipment 5,000
Teaching supplies 500
Ink & Toner 1,000
Readiness workbooks 600
2nd grade grammar wkbk 2,000
1st grade handwriting wkbk 2,000
School Board Salary 1,750
There was lengthy discussion of many line items within the budget. Another look will be taken at the 21K for fire alarm testing to see if any reduction can come from that line item. At this point the Board discussed the need to reach a comfort level that the amount of cuts needed can be achieved without reducing staff and that more information is needed. It was agreed to send notice to the support staff that layoffs are under consideration and to consider attending the next meeting.
Electricity Bill – up 15K – Dawna Duhamel reported this is ice storm related and they are looking at cost saving ways (same as done at RMMS).
Marcia Farwell asked if Dawna Duhamel had spoken to Debbie Clayton regarding the insurance group and Dawna explained she thought that Debbie had everything she needed to know. Marcia explained Debbie had been looking for written authorization and Dawna explained she had given her verbal authorization promised to email the written authorization right away. Ms. Duhamel added she was not sure there would be added savings for the district but possibly for the group looking to join.
The Board discussed cutting the School Board salary but agreed to keep it at $50 per member in order to be considered employees to keep the liability coverage.
Forrest Milkowski asked about the temperature setting in the schools and if that has been looked at. Dawna Duhamel suggested having a professional assessment.
A member of the audience commented she has seen the foreign language program change a lot. She stated there used to be a workbook used and is no longer part of the program. She stated she would hate to see the program cut. She added that Hollis students know how to conjugate verbs and are already at an advantage over Brookline students.
Bonnie Gucwa stated there had been a suggestion to do without laminators. Laurie Wenger stated funding for laminating had already been cut 10%. Marcia Farwell asked to look at the 90% left.
There was discussion of the 9K needed to set up the preschool classroom and the possibility of some of those needs coming from an unused Kindergarten classroom.
School Calendar: Superintendent Hodgdon reviewed the instructional hour requirements versus the 180 day requirement and noted that CSDA is still 5.5 hours ahead and RMMS is 5 hours ahead if the students get out Friday, June 19th (the scheduled day with five snow days). She explained a waiver would need to be requested for the 4 days off as the schools would be under on days of attendance. Beth Lukovits moved to approve the calendar and request for waiver of four days. Marcia Farwell seconded the motion. The motion carried 4-1-0 with Wanda Meagher voting opposed as she felt there is a curriculum to cover. Discussion ensued relative to the importance of the curriculum and loss of days.
Pat Lynch stated people in China and other countries already get a better education than our children get here in the United States.
Discussion ensued relative to cancelling the early release days planned and using the days after the students get out at year end for professional days as the teachers stay for contractual reasons. There was also discussion of cancelling field day.
Lori Hestad commented she attended field day and the teacher was so frustrated with the class that she took the entire class inside. Laurie Wenger agreed with the early release days but stressed some things build a sense of community such as field day.
Forrest Milkowski moved to remove the two early release days. Marcia Farwell seconded. The motion carried 5-0-0.
Wanda Meagher reminded the Board of Jim Murphy’s suggestion that April vacation not be guaranteed till mid March in case of things like ice storms, etc. Superintendent Hodgdon added she has received feedback is it is also family time that people look forward to and plan for.
Staffing: Superintendent Hodgdon read aloud a letter of request from Jaime Matylewski requesting maternity leave from the first day of the 2010 school year for 12 weeks ending around the 1st of December, 2009 when she will be in touch with the Special Ed Case Manager. Marcia Farwell moved to grant the request for maternity leave from Jaime Matylewski. Beth Lukovits seconded the motion. The motion carried 5-0-0.
Superintendent Hodgdon read special request from Emily Gagne requesting to be allowed to take 3 personal days 4-20, 21 & 22 and 4/23 & 24 as unpaid days to go out of the country to attend a wedding. Superintendent Hodgdon explained she may grant the request for personal days but that the Board must grant the request for unpaid days. Beth Lukovits moved to grant the request for unpaid days for Emily Gagne. Wanda Meagher seconded. The motion carried 5-0-0.
Next Meeting Date: possibly 4/13 TBD
Beth Lukovits moved that the Board go into non-public under RSA 91-A:3II(c) Reputation. Wanda Meagher seconded the motion. The motion carried by unanimous roll call vote 5 yes, 0 no, and the Board entered non-public session at 10:38 PM. At ____PM, the Board returned to public session.
Adjournment: At ____ pm _______moved to adjourn the meeting. _________seconded and the motion carried 5-0-0
Date __________________________ Signed ________________________