January 4, 2021 Summary

HIGHLIGHTS: No Change to School Board Leadership (6:35), School Corporation Attorney Pay at $290/Hour (6:43), $65,000 Gift to Pay for Ribbon Cutting Event (6:50), WL City Moving out of Happy Hollow (6:55), Motion to Create the DEI Committee (6:59), Broad Authorization to Transfer Funds Between Account (7:14), My Public Comment on Policy Committee (7:25)

Location: West Lafayette Intermediate School Cafeteria

Attendance: 7 of 7 School Board Members (Alan Karpick, Karen Springer, Bradley Marley, Thomas Schott, Rachel Witt, Amy Austin, Yue Yin via zoom); Robert Reiling, Jr., Lawyer; Ross Sloat, Interim CFO; Stephen Ohlhaut, Assistant to the CFO; Rocky Killion, Superintendent;

Audience: ~18 people including 3 principals, 2 teachers from union leadership, Anna Darling from WLFI and Emily DeLetter from J&C 

Streaming: https://youtu.be/X2DQe90Kwxc

6:33 – Karpick began the organizational meeting. Reiling asked the 4 school board members who were elected in November (Austin, Marley, Schott, and Yin) to stand, raise the right hand, and take the oath to serve as School Board members for the WLCSC. Yin did this via zoom.

6:35 – Springer shared the nominations for the board leadership which stayed the same as it was last year: Karpick as president, Springer as vice president, and Marley as secretary. Karpick then shared some remarks. This is his ninth year as board president and has served on the board for 14 years. He welcomed Yin and Austin and said that all board members are equal. He said, “Our role as a board is not to be a representative body. It is a subtle distinction, but we are charged to respond to administrative concerns, needs and initiatives, to set policy but not to enact law.” He said that we can and should learn from other schools, but our schools do things the “West Side Way.” I found it interesting that Karpick doesn’t view the school board as a representative body. The important distinction is that in his view the school board is charged to respond to administrative concerns, needs, and initiatives by setting policy.

Voted 7 out of 7

6:41 – Karpick asked for approval of each of the bonded appointments for 2021. Ross Sloat, Treasurer for $100,000; Janelle Wade, Deputy Treasurer for $100,000; Konnie Laws, Extra-Curricular Accounts Treasurer for $25,000; Kathy Slauter, Athletic Secretary for $25,000. There were no questions.

Voted 7 out of 7

6:42 – Karpick asked approval for the School Corporation Physicians: Chester Ho, MD and Anne Marie Bianculli, MD. There were no questions. I would have preferred to have heard some discussion from the school board members. How much is the school district paying these two physicians? Why does our school district need two physicians? Are we planning to transition to a local physician since Dr. Ho does not live in Indiana?

Voted 7 out of 7

6:43 – Karpick asked for approval for the School Corporation Attorneys: Robert Reiling at $290/hour plus $500 for monthly board meetings, Kevin Riley at $240/hour, and Ryan Munden at $240/hour. In addition, COSA representation at $225 per year per person and $315 per hour for bond counsel and litigation issues. There were no questions. Again, I would have preferred to have heard some discussion from the school board members. How much do we pay these attorneys annually? If Reiling worked full-time for the school corp that would be equivalent to an annual salary of $580,000 at the $290 hourly rate. Would it save our school corporation money if we were to hire an in-house attorney instead of paying hourly fees to outside law firms? Is our school district’s spending on attorney fees similar to that of other similarly-sized school districts?

Voted 7 out of 7

6:44 – Karpick asked the school board to approve all the school corporation policies and bylaws. There were no questions

Voted 7 out of 7

6:44 – Karpick asked the school board to approve the rate of pay for school board members ($2,000/year + $112 per meeting where two meeting held one right after another count as only one meeting in determining pay)

Voted 7 out of 7

6:45 – Karpick appointed Schott to continue serving on the West Lafayette Schools Education Foundation. Karpick said he may appoint another board member to the Foundation board to be determined later.

Voted 7 out of 7

6:45 – Karpick adjourned the Organizational Meeting and convened the Regular School Board Meeting. He said that Sloat would be leading agenda items in place of Killion who was in attendance but could only speak at whisper-level volume.

6:48 – Sloat shared that the WL Jr/Sr HS construction for the Education Wing will not be done in January as hoped but should be done in February. The Performing Arts construction is still on track with a big celebration scheduled for June. Karpick asked if the good weather has helped construction stay mostly on time. Sloat agreed that the weather has been good for construction.

6:50 – Sloat shared that a surprise donation had come in for $65,000 from the estate of Rose Hedrick, a retired high school keyboarding teacher who passed away earlier this year. Sloat said that the use of the gift was left to the discretion of the administration and that they are planning to use the gift to pay for the Education Wing and Performing Arts construction event costs. Karpick said he graduated in ‘78 and had her as his typing instructor. Witt asked if they would be doing something to recognize her and suggested a plaque. Killion said (whispered) yes. $65k seems like a lot to pay for a celebration of the new construction. How much was spent on WLIS ribbon cutting?

6:55 – Ohlhaut shared that Happy Hollow is being vacated by the city as they are moving into their new facility. HH is still being used as a Covid testing site and will possibly be a future vaccine sight if needed. The previous consideration of the WL library leasing HH for a few months has been tabled and will be addressed in February.

6:57 – Karpick discussed the WLCSC Diversity Taskforce and shared that Margaret Psarros and Laura Falk were appointed co-chairs. Karpick, Springer, and Witt have been working on this since late summer. Witt agreed to serve as board representative on that committee and Karpick hasn’t decided if other board members will be a part of it also. The committee is set in motion by Killion. Karpick commented about being disappointed with posts on social media over the weekend that attacked one of the co-chairs. I think he is referring to the Facebook post on Jan 2 at 5:01 pm to the Friends of WL Schools Open Forum. The post references data on racial disparities in our school district published by ProPublica.

6:59 – Psarros and Falk both spoke about what they bring to the diversity committee and shared a brief description of their backgrounds and vision for this task force. Falk said that our school district can be a leader on this issue and that she doesn’t want to rush the work. Both asked that the community be patient. Falk shared information about Dr. Caroline Johnson who will serve as facilitator for this committee. Psarros said that WLCSC has had a 10% increase in minority students in our school district over the past 10 years. The task force will be using longitudinal data to make informed decisions about what is going well and what needs improvement. They said that the committee will consist of about 30 people in total and that they are looking for people with diverse backgrounds who are passionate about this topic and open minded. Anyone can apply. Witt and Karpick both offered praise to Psarros and Falk. Karpick said that he has been having phone conversations nearly every week with Witt and Springer about this issue. Springer encouraged people to apply to serve on the committee. Karpick called for a vote on the creation of the committee. I was surprised that for a topic this important that there were no questions from any school board members. I am excited about the virtual Town Hall meeting that WL CARE scheduled for January 26th at 8pm because this will be a chance for community members to share their thoughts directly with school board members and diversity committee members. While there are certainly some areas of disagreement, I believe there are many potential improvements that have broad community support and could be adopted quickly. Quite a few other communities have recently had town hall meetings on anti-racism and diversity in their schools, but I believe that this will be our first opportunity to share our views on how our schools can better serve marginalized students.

Motion by Witt; Seconded by Austin

7:14 – Ohlhaut asked for authorization to make payments and transfer funds in between board meetings in 2021. Springer said that this is something they approve every January to run an efficient business office. It is important to note that this authorization allows the administration to move funds as needed between the Education, Operations, Rainy Day, and Referendum funds. Rainy Day funds can be moved to the Debt Service fund to pay for construction projects. The debt payments exceed the debt service revenue which means that effectively, there are no budget silos.

Voted 7 out of 7

7:16 – Sloat asked for approval of the personnel report. Ohlhaut asked for approval to extend the COVID leave policy employee protections until 3/31/21. I wish that the school board would allow the personnel report to be shared with the public at the school board meeting. I attended a Lafayette school board meeting and found it helpful that they include the personnel report on the agenda as well as on the overhead so that the members of the audience know what the school board is voting on. At WL school board meetings, we have to wait a month to know what the school board voted to approve.

Voted 7 out of 7

7:18 – Sloat asked for the accounts payable to be approved. He said that spending in December is higher than other months because of debt payments. December 2020 finished the final payments for the 2013 GO bonds so all old debt is paid and we currently only have debt from the 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 bonds that were issued to finance the recent construction projects. Until they make the budget information available to the public at the school board meeting, I will continue to file a public records request for the account payable report each month.

Voted 7 out of 7

7:22 – Karpick said he would be making appointments of board members to various committees. Board members can contact him about suggestions.

7:25 – Dacia Mumford (that’s me) shared a statement with the school board. This is what I said, “I asked to speak today to volunteer to serve on the school district policy committee. My understanding is that this committee does not change policies; it’s role is to systematically review policies and then make recommendations to the school board. While most of the policy committee is composed of school board members, I was excited to learn that one community member volunteer is already serving on this committee. Given that membership is not restricted to school board members, I hope that you will consider appointing me to this committee.

The policy committee considers what updates are needed for our school policies. I bring experience as a parent of 4 children and as a previous kindergarten and first grade teacher at West Lafayette Elementary School. I worked at Purdue supervising student teachers which involved visiting several schools in our community. I have frequently attended school board meetings as well as some school board meetings in other districts. I’ve spent time reading our school district policies as well as some from other districts.

To conclude, I would like to point out one specific corporation policy that I believe needs to be adjusted. Policy 0143, listed as a school board Bylaw, requires that public information included in the packet provided to school board members before each meeting must all be kept confidential. I believe that community members would like to be better informed in order to understand the reasons behind school board decisions. Our neighboring school districts do not have a policy that restricts public access to those portions of the school board packet that are not related to personnel issues, lawsuits, prospective employees, or employee evaluation. I encourage you to follow the lead of our neighboring school districts and provide public access to the school board packet. Thank you again for your service on the school board and I hope that you will accept my offer to volunteer to help with the review of corporation policies.”

7:28 – Karpick adjourned the regular school board meeting and Tom Schott began the annual meeting of school finance. Tom Schott will continue as president of the school finance committee with Rachel Witt continuing as secretary

7:31 – Sloat discussed the Investing Officer’s Report. He said the interest earned in 2020 was $145,362 which he said was significantly lower than the $271k of interest earned in 2019. I wish they would project this information on the overhead, hand the report out to the audience, and post it to the school corporation website. As a community we want to understand what the school board is doing with our taxes. It would be nice to see how much of the reduction was due to lower interest rates and how much was due to lower balances.

Comments – I will email the school board to ask them to respond to my request to serve on the policy committee. I will also ask for clarification about when school board member discussions take place. On the calendar, it states that there are work sessions each month if needed. Do these happen each month and how does the community find out so we can attend? Is there some other time school board members talk with each other and ask questions? I don’t understand how the only questions at this school board meeting were about the weather and how to best recognize the $65k donation?

Future Meetings (calendar link)

February 1 at 6:30pm – Regular School Board Meeting

This is not the official minutes from the school board meetings. I am a parent of students in the WLCSC and my thoughts are given in italics. The official minutes are released after the approval of those minutes at the next school board meeting (a month from now). Previous agendas, minutes, and audio recordings can be found at the WLCSC website.

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