SAU 41 BOARD
A regular meeting of the SAU 41 Board was held on Monday, November 10, 2008 at 6:09 p.m. at the Captain Samuel Douglass Academy.
Chairman James McCann presided:
Members of the Board Present: Susan Benz, Hollis School Board
William Beauregard, Hollis School Board
Tom Enright, Hollis/Brookline Coop.
Marcia Farwell, Brookline School Board
Fred Hubert, Hollis/Brookline Coop.
Maura Loftus, Hollis School Board
Beth Lukovits, Brookline School Board
James O’Shea, Hollis/Brookline Coop.
Dave Partridge, Brookline School Board
Dan Peterson, Hollis/Brookline Coop.
Steve Simons, Hollis/Brookline Coop.
Tom Solon, Hollis/Brookline Coop.
Janice Tremblay, Hollis/Brookline Coop.
Members of the Board Absent: Alison Haytayan, Hollis School Board
Wanda Meagher, Brookline School Board
Jim Murphy, Brookline School Board
Also in Attendance: Superintendent Hodgdon, Superintendent of Schools
Dawna Duhamel, Business Administrator
Bob Kelly, Director of Special Education
Carol Mace, Director of Curriculum
APPROVAL OF SCHOOL BOARD MINUTES
SAU 41 Board. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . September 15, 2008
Mr. O’Shea provided the following amendment to the minutes:
Page 6, under "Comments from Board Members," the fifth bullet should read "James O'Shea asked whether there should be further discussion about the merits of an SAU-level Assistant Director of Special Ed versus a Director of Special Ed at each school district who reports to the SAU Director of Special Ed; and that he would be more comfortable with adding administration in Special Ed at the district level, rather than at the SAU level."
MOTION BY MEMBER TREMBLAY TO ACCEPT AND PLACE ON FILE AS AMENDED
MOTION SECONDED BY MEMBER SIMONS
Member Lukovits Abstained
HOLLIS FACILITIES SPACE NEEDS STUDY
Chairman McCann acknowledged the work done by the committee and thanked them for their efforts. He went on to state the intention to have detailed discussion on the item at the December 9th meeting.
Ms. Duhamel informed the board a bid has been put out for the retrofit equipment. However, since the time of the grant application, the price of the equipment has dramatically increased. Now being proposed are two types of equipment/filters in order to retrofit all of the buses; CCR and DPF filters. The DPF is the preferred filter, however, is cost prohibitive to outfit all buses.
Ms. Duhamel added, when the grant was written, the filters were less expensive, and the amount of the grant ($171,000) would have covered the cost of retrofitting all of the buses with DPF filters. The opinion expressed by the consultant was to retrofit all buses with the highest concentration possible of DPF filters.
The original grant amount for bio-diesel subsidy was $13,000. Ms. Duhamel has requested the EPA consider allowing the monies earmarked for bio-diesel to be utilized for the purchase of one additional DPF filter. Waiting on word from EPA prior to awarding a bid.
The use of either filter will allow the buses to run on either diesel or bio-diesel, however, Hollis Transportation would be required to put in another fuel tank if bio-diesel fuel was utilized. The board was reminded the subsidy for bio-diesel is a one-year subsidy.
Mr. Partridge questioned whether the bio-diesel would provide benefits with regard to pollution or if it is simply believed to be more environmentally friendly. Ms. Duhamel stated that to be her understanding, however, she has asked for clarification on the issue. She went on to remark on the loss of gas mileage with bio-diesel fuel.
Mr. Peterson remarked if the pollution controls are gained without the use of bio-diesel, he sees no reason to spend additional funds in that area. Ms. Duhamel cited the filters as providing the primary pollution control.
Mr. Beauregard questioned whether the life expectancy differed between filters. Ms. Duhamel’s response was the DPFs are a better match for the equipment (based on heat of exhaust). Life expectancy is ten (10) years.
Chairman McCann reiterated Ms. Duhamel is waiting to hear from the EPA with regard to the request to utilize the $13,000 earmarked for the one-year subsidy of bio-diesel fuel for the purchase of one (1) additional DPF filter. He suggested other grants could be sought to outfit the remaining buses with DPF filters, and bio-diesel could be considered should price become favorable.
When asked who would bear the responsibility for ongoing maintenance, Ms. Duhamel stated her assumption the bus owners would be responsible.
The timeframe for installation is dependent upon the vendor chosen and their lead-time for equipment acquisition - could vary between 4-15 weeks.
MOTION BY MEMBER PARTRIDGE TO FOREGO THE SUBSIDY FOR BIODIESEL AND TO UTILIZE THE FUNDS FOR THE PURCHASE OF THE DPF FILTERS
MOTION SECONDED BY MEMBER SIMONE
PUBLIC INPUT – None
Superintendent Hodgdon updated the board on the efforts of the task force working on the Student Information System. She provided the board with preliminary figures for the three software programs being considered; Power School, Infinite Campus and MMS. The task force has expressed an interest in utilizing the Power School software, however, a final decision has not been rendered.
Have done research and spoken with other school systems currently utilizing the Power School software who have provided positive feedback, i.e., remarked it is much more organized than MMS, has custom fields than can be used for NECAP and NWEA data, superior report quality to MSS, etc. Power School is utilized by Milford, NH and 85% of the school districts in Maine. A review of the Infinite Campus software indicated a requirement for annual license renewal – a costly requirement. Both Power School and MMS require a one-time license fee in the first year.
Power School is currently offering a promotional rate to customers with WinSchool; 50% reduction in cost, if half of the reduced price is paid by June 30, 2009. The cost reduction would represent a savings of $45,705.
Mr. Beauregard questioned whether Infinite Campus was more task-specific than Power School. The response was Power School would require us to perform our own conversion, however, it is felt that could be done in-house as a cost saving measure. The promotional rate is inclusive of support.
When asked, Superintendent Hodgdon stated the software is web based, which is another attractive feature, as Power School would be hosting it. He high-speed server previously discussed would no longer be needed.
Mr. Partridge questioned whether a previously planned/funded purchase could be briefly postponed to allow for the purchase of the software during the promotional period. Mr. Beauregard commented on his willingness to approach the Hollis Budget Committee and ask for consideration of utilizing contingency funds and/or unexpended appropriations as the Hollis contribution, knowing it would simply require the shifting of monies from one fiscal year to another.
Chairman McCann requested Superintendent Hodgdon, Mr. Raymond, and Ms. Duhamel review the budgets and speak with the vendor to see what may be able to be done to purchase the software during the promotional period.
Superintendent Hodgdon informed the board she has attended two meetings regarding oil prices; the first conducted with the Hollis Board of Selectmen and A.J. Robichaud, General Manager, Lorden Oil, and the second with Mr. Lorden, Mr. Robichaud, Selectmen Petry and Cadwell, and the Town Administrator.
One of the issues discussed was the possibility of Lorden buying out their contract and passing that on to the district. In total, there is approximately 126,000 gallons of oil the district has not taken delivery on. The difference between current prices and what was locked in is close to $1.00. Lorden would be looking for a $1.00 differential plus $.15 per gallon to do the buyout. In order to make that feasible we would need surety that prices are either staying low or even going lower than they currently are. The point was made we are at the start of the heavy use season, and when demand goes up the price will follow. The Hollis Selectmen indicated they were not interested the buyout option as proposed.
Mr. Partridge asked if the board wanted to consider purchasing price drop insurance for next year. Mr. Peterson felt that to be risky. Mr. Hubert remarked he would only want to consider that if the price of oil remains high next year. Ms. Duhamel stated her desire to establish a committee for the purpose of researching possible scenarios for fuel purchase.
Ms. Farwell remarked the town of Brookline utilized a price plus percentage option. Ms. Tremblay added that option is Boston rack price plus a percentage, which is dependent upon the price of Boston rack at the time of delivery – not truly a locked in price.
Mr. Beauregard questioned why the first fill was priced at $3.09/gallon instead of the contracted $3.49/gallon, and was informed that was done in the name of community good will. Lorden purchased at the contracted price once our order was placed with them.
Mr. Beauregard asked if a legal opinion has been received with regard to the language contained in the contract; first paragraph refers to the purchase of 500 gallons and the header refers to the purchase of 17,000 gallons. Several board members commented on their belief the 500-gallon purchase is standard language for most oil contracts, and refers to a minimum purchase. Mr. Partridge stated he does not wish to pay an attorney to provide an opinion on the contract language as he feels that would be using the letter of the law to violate the spirit of the contract.
A brief discussion ensued with regard to the formation of a committee to review future fuel purchases.
MOTION BY MEMBER PETERSON TO FORM A COMMITTEE CONSISTING OF AT LEAST ONE BOARD MEMBER AND ONE MEMBER OF THE BUDGET/FINANCE COMMITTEE(S) FOR THE PURPOSE OF REVIEWING FUEL PURCHASE CONTRACTS AND PROVIDING A RECOMMENDATION TO SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION
MOTION SECONDED BY MEMBER PETERSON
Ms. Tremblay volunteered to sit on the committee as the board member.
Superintendent Hodgdon informed the board of the resignation of June Briggs, Secretary to the Director of Special Education. Ms. Briggs’ resignation is effective December 31, 2008.
MOTION BY MEMBER BEAUREGARD TO ACCEPT THE RESIGNATION OF JUNE BRIGGS WITH REGRET
MOTION SECONDED BY MEMBER BENZ
Superintendent Hodgdon requested a discussion on the start date for students for the 2009/2010 school year.
Mr. Kelly and Ms. Mace were asked if any scheduling conflicts exist that would require a specific start/end date to the school year. Neither individual had any specific requirements to be considered.
MOTION BY MEMBER O’SHEA TO SET THE START DATE FOR STUDENTS FOR THE 2009/2010 SCHOOL YEAR AT SEPTEMBER 2, 2009
MOTION SECONDED BY MEMBER BENZ
NESDEC SPECIAL EDUCATION REPORT
Superintendent Hodgdon reiterated her recommendation the board entertain the idea of hiring an Assistant Director. She informed the board she has met informally with building administrators in Brookline, conducted formal meetings with the Hollis and Coop administrations, and solicited the advice of a consultant with significant expertise in special education (at a cost of $250) to receive their perspective prior to making her recommendation.
Mr. Solon questioned why we paid for a NESDEC report, asked what the function of that report was, and whether it had value. Superintendent Hodgdon responded a baseline of data was acquired that is extremely useful. She also remarked the administrators she has spoken with have also indicated the report was helpful.
Mr. Solon stated his understanding of Superintendent Hodgdon’s report to be that much of the director’s current activities are tasks that are necessary and consuming but not what are traditionally defined as director activities. Superintendent Hodgdon responded she did not intend to leave that impression, and would say what the current director is doing are many of the tasks a director would typically do, and because of the volume of that work, there is an impact on the ability to get other things done, which a director would typically do.
Superintendent Hodgdon stated her concern that although the district currently employs an individual with a vast amount of history and knowledge, should that individual be unavailable, not only would the system experience a great loss, but would also be faced with liability. Although board members have expressed an interest in looking at the issue on a district-by-district basis, it is her feeling the only benefit to that would be having an individual completely devoted to each particular district, which may allow the system to continue to be somewhat fragmented, i.e. the possibility each district would take different approaches
Ms. Benz remarked on a similar conversation that took place at the Hollis School Board meeting. Stated her support for the additional position. Mr. Partridge commented on the workload that would be added to the director if he were required to supervise three additional positions or even part-time positions at the district level rather than one additional position at the SAU level.
Ms. Lukovits commented on time constraints that do not allow for research of available programs, cost saving measures, etc. Mr. O’Shea remarked, knowing the Superintendent has now had the opportunity to review the program and meet with his building administrators, he is able to support the recommendation of a position at the SAU level.
Mr. Solon stated his concern that leadership comes from the director rather than an assistant director. Concerned Mr. Kelly would be utilized outside of the day-to-day administrative responsibilities, which are a big part of the leadership role. Superintendent Hodgdon stated her agreement the leadership role is the one thing that cannot be delegated to an assistant. She went on to state her belief, with the addition of an assistant director, the workload can be divided in a manner it currently cannot. Cited some of the areas that require attention as early intervening and response to intervention (RTI). Without assistance to help with the workload in the area of complaints, crisis, etc., aside from the bi-weekly meetings with coordinators, Mr. Kelly has very little time to go into the schools and be active in the schools in follow-up work.
Mr. Kelley described some of the workload that could be passed on to an assistant director possessing the correct skill set as representation at hearings, background work required for hearings, etc. He also remarked on work that is not currently being done, which could be performed if some day-to-day tasks were assigned to an assistant director.
Spoke about issues requiring attention such as Research Based Intervention, supervision of the task committee on section 504 set up to address changing statutes effective January 1, 2009, task force on longitudinal progress data - documentation cases as well as research based interventions now required for math and reading and the identification of those. He needs to direct and supervise staff on those issues. Programs need to be looked at both in terms of adding new programs and enhancing the ones we have. Stated the need to be able to assess the programs currently in place.
Mr. Partridge asked Mr. Kelly for his opinion of how the work could be best delegated; district or central office level. Mr. Kelly provided his opinion it would be best handled at the central office level.
Mr. Peterson requested Superintendent Hodgdon provide a detailed proposal outlining responsibilities of the position; primary and secondary responsibilities of the current director position and the proposed assistant director position, and how the position could be measured for effectiveness, cost savings, etc. Stated his initial impression is for positions at the district level, however, he is open to hearing a proposal.
Mr. Beauregard is concerned the addition of a position may not address the problems cited, i.e., time spent putting out fires and addressing last minute problems rather than being proactive. Concerned there is something fundamentally wrong with the process at the district level. Suggested utilizing a consultant to review how services are provided, what testing services are used, how quickly services are or are not provided, etc.
Mr. Kelly cited the volume of work as the biggest problem. They can and do look at what can be done to improve the process. However, he feels the programs offered are excellent. The fires that occur are related to last minute issues that arise, which require his involvement to allow the process to continue moving forward.
Mr. Solon reiterated his frustration that neither the NESDEC report nor the previous Superintendent completed the task of justifying the position. He is in agreement with Mr. Peterson’s request for Superintendent Hodgdon to provide a detailed presentation on the justification of the position.
Mr. Peterson reiterated the proposal should detail why the position is beneficial, what can be expected to be derived for benefits, what the cost will be, and how to measure if what is expected is achieved. Went on to state the budget can be built with contingency, and the funds do not need to be expended until the plan is deemed adequate.
Superintendent Hodgdon responded they could use some of the remaining monies in the special education budget to put together an in depth proposal and to analyze how many students are identified as 504, etc. Contracted services could be used to dig into some of the matrix that is needed. A foundation is needed in terms of the proposal but also for future review.
Mr. Solon remarked the NESDEC report included two recommendations for personnel. Questioned where the second position was. Superintendent Hodgdon responded Brookline is working towards the pre-school program, and a coordinator for the program. The other recommendation was with regard to gaining support for principals, which is a position the principals feel a strong need for.
Mr. O’Shea questioned what the ideal timeline would be for posting of the assistant director position in order to accommodate a start date in the July/August timeframe. Superintendent Hodgdon would like to have the positing in place in January. The need exists for the role to be defined properly in order to attract an individual with the right skill set.
Ms. Benz touched on the immediate changes mentioned in the Superintendent’s report. Asked whether some of these changes, without a budget impact, could assist Mr. Kelley until a new position could be put in place. Superintendent Hodgdon responded that could be looked at in terms of developing guidelines on IEP meetings, content, and length. If a web based IEP system were adopted, it would have a financial impact.
Mr. O’Shea questioned whether the board would need to meet in January. Superintendent Hodgdon stated she could have the full presentation prepared in time for a January meeting. Chairman McCann suggested a preliminary report could be provided at the December meeting to address the monetary issue with the remainder presented at a January meeting.
Ms. Duhamel informed the board the overall budget is up by $13,816. The primary driver for this is the occurrence of new hires opting for health plans that are more expensive than those of their predecessors. If the current health plans mirrored last year’s, the budget would be $6,000 less than last year’s.
An item of note is changing revenue. During the last two fiscal years, approximately $25,000 of fund balance was used to offset the tax rate. As of the end of last year the SAU has $4,700 remaining leaving no cushion – GFOA suggests 10% of the budget be left as reserve. Because of the decrease in revenue a larger increase is needed.
A possible solution; there is approximately $16,000 remaining in the merit increase line of which approximately $15,000 is unexpended funds from the superintendent search. Ten thousand ($10,000) could be utilized to offset the tax rate resulting in a need to raise $28,000.
Last year $40,000 was placed in the special education wage line. Of that $9,194 has been expended. The balance has been shifted into the line item for special education consultant ($30,806) for next year as it is anticipated $35,000 funding will be maintained for either consultant work or an employee depending on the decision of the board. It is understood some of those shifted funds will be utilized during the remainder of this fiscal year.
Ms. Duhamel stated the remaining line items are reflective of actual amounts from this fiscal year.
Mr. Beauregard question Account #2620441, rent/maintenance, being carried over ($8,000). Asked if there is substantiation of that number with the condition of the building and what needs to be done. It had been discussed that the number would be set based on work needed for the upkeep of the building. Ms. Duhamel responded last year she was instructed to bring the issue to the attention of the Hollis Board. She is looking to that board to make the decision on the repairs that should be completed. A list of needed repairs will be provided at the next Hollis School Board meeting. Chairman McCann stated that conversation can take place at the next meeting, and draft meeting minutes provided to the remaining SAU board members.
Oil has been budgeted at $4.50/gallon, which represents the high water mark. Mr. Beauregard questioned the cost of adding price drop protection, and was informed that would represent an additional $249.00 for the approximate 1,660 gallons.
Mr. Beauregard questioned the line item for equipment and software, which indicates a $3,100 decrease in contracted services BA. Ms. Duhamel stated she had asked for extra money last year to get training started. They are starting the outline of what they are going to do. One thousand ($1,000) was left in the budget in case remedial work is needed. Mr. Beauregard asked if all of the modules are now in place to which Ms. Duhamel responded they have just started doing the outline of what the needs are and things that should be done. The software modules are in place, but not functional as they have not yet received training on how to get everything up and running.
Mr. Peterson commented on the budgeted amount of $11,000 for phone/internet costs. Believes work was done to lower that amount, yet the budgeted amount remains constant. Ms. Duhamel explained the amount expended on phone costs has decreased, however, the internet costs were not shared by the SAU last year, and were, therefore, not included in previous budgets. What results is a budgeted amount of $5,200 for telephone and the remainder for Internet expenses. The costs have been allocated per building.
Chairman McCann questioned whether the amount of funds set aside for salary for the position of Secretary to the Director of Special Education is sufficient. Mr. Kelly will provide an update on the search at the next meeting.
With regard to the inclusion of the salary for the Assistant Director position, Chairman McCann remarked last year an amount of $40,000 was placed in the budget under special education. This year it will likely be in the area of $60,000 in addition to what is remaining at year-end. Ms. Duhamel commented on the need to ensure costs of equipment, supplies, etc. for the new position are considered as well.
A brief discussion ensued with regard to the proposed 3% merit increases. Mr. Solon remarked it is less than COLA. Mr. Solon questioned the increase teachers are receiving. Mr. Beauregard explained the employees who were on the last step and are now off the schedule are receiving 2.5%. Others are receiving step increases plus 1%. Mr. Beauregard commented on the desire of the Hollis Budget Committee for the SAU budget to be placed on all three district warrants. Ms. Duhamel questioned whether the Hollis Budget Committee has considered the possibility of one town passing the SAU budget and another not. Mr. Beauregard stated the request for placement would come before the SAU Board.
MOTION BY MEMBER LUKOVITS TO ADJOURN
MOTION SECONDED BY MEMBER BEAUREGARD
The SAU 41 Board meeting of November 10, 2008 was adjourned at 8:35 p.m.
SAU Board Chair _________________________________________ Date: ______
Brookline School Board Chair_______________________________ Date: ______
Hollis School Board Chair __________________________________ Date: ______
H/B Coop Board Chair _____________________________________ Date: ______
Special Education Follow Up
Major areas of focus:
Three Options for Staffing
Some Immediate Changes
Each of these suggestions would permit teachers and administrators to increase their focus on instruction and student progress.