HIGHLIGHTS: Retirements (6:44), Superintendent Search Questions (7:28), Consent Agenda (7:32), GLASS Lease of Happy Hollow (7:35), School Board Meeting Calendar (7:38), DEI Committee Recommendations (7:48), Superintendent Search Information (8:00)
Location: West Lafayette Intermediate School
Agenda Change: I want to acknowledge and express appreciation to the school board for changing the instructions at the top of the meeting agenda which used to state that “the school board will not entertain questions during a school board meeting” to “the school board reserves the right not to answer questions during a Board meeting.” See the original agenda and the revised agenda. Being more encouraging of questions from the public is a great step forward. Community members don’t expect that the school board will answer questions on the spot, but having a school board that is willing to listen to questions is a positive change!
6:36 Karpick called the meeting to order. He called for a vote to approve the agenda and then to approve the minutes from the prior meeting.
Voted 7 out of 7
6:37 Karpick presented a special recognition to Rob Kochon for 27 years of work with youth baseball with the West Lafayette Little League. My family has benefited greatly from Kochon’s service as all 4 of my children have participated in little league baseball and softball. I so appreciate all those who make our community such a great place to live!
6:40 Karpick recognized the WLIS Math Bowl Team for their state championship! They competed virtually in April and earned 30 out of 32 points. Karpick called up 15 student team members and presented them each with certificates. He also recognized their coaches, Sue Stan and Gina Anderson. I love that we recognize these great students and teachers. So much to be proud of here.
6:44 Karpick recognized the 4 staff who are retiring from WLCSC
- Lori Eubank – Jr/Sr HS Special Education; Hired in 2007; Advisor for Best Buddies for 12 years and helped transition the club to West Side United; 27 total years as an educator. She spoke about how great and supportive the school board members and school administrators are.
- Ann Gerlach – WLES 2nd grade teacher; Hired in 1986; Taught 1st grade for 17 years and 2nd grade for 18 years; Summer school for 10 years; 35 years as an educator. She spoke about her love for the children she has taught and her gratitude for her amazing co-workers at the elementary school.
- David Wood – HS teacher and coach; Hired in 1994; Coached the varsity boys basketball team and taught at the high school for 27 years. He spoke about being happy to see the students at school every day and how he tried to learn every student’s name.
- Rocky Killion – Superintendent; Hired in 2007; Started his career as a music teacher and band director in Ohio and was later a high school assistant principal, a middle school principal, and an assistant superintendent at Lake Central in St. John, Indiana; 32 total years as an educator. He spoke about the school district being highly ranked and credited this to the great teachers, staff, and administrators as well as a school board that hires the best and then lets the administrators make the decisions.
Representative Sheila Klinker, Representative Chris Campbell, and Senator Ron Alting each spoke and honored the retirees. This special recognition ended with a small group of band students playing the school’s fight song! It was a wonderful way to end the recognition. I was happy to have been in attendance to honor these great educators. Two of them taught my children and I am so grateful for the positive impact teachers have on our children! It was great that the school board changed the date of this school board meeting so that it wasn’t the same night and time as the city council meeting so more community members could attend together.
7:28 Karpick called for communication from the audience on current agenda items (those who had signed up before the meeting began). I was the only speaker. I expressed appreciation to the school board and to the retirees and then read the questions that I had previously emailed to the school board members:
- What search process will you use to hire an interim superintendent?
- What are the general contract terms and the contract length for the interim superintendent?
- When and where will you post the opening for the permanent superintendent position?
- Will you use a superintendent search firm or consultant to attract a large and well-qualified applicant pool?
- As one of the best school districts in the country, will this be a national search, or will candidates only come from within Indiana?
- Will the school board appoint a superintendent hiring committee, or will the hiring committee be the 7 members of the school board?
- How will teachers be included in the search process?
- How will students, parents, staff, and other community members be included in the search process?
- How many finalists will be invited to come for an in-person interview and meet with teacher, student, and parent groups?
- What personal qualities, qualifications, skills, and experiences will you prioritize in searching for the new superintendent?
- How will teachers and community members be able to provide input on these priorities?
- What are the most important challenges facing the school district that the new superintendent will need to be prepared to address?
A couple of weeks prior to the school board meeting agenda being released, I emailed the board asking them to add an agenda item related to the superintendent search and sent them this list of questions. However, when they published the meeting agenda, it did not include an item for the superintendent search. I wrote again asking them to please add this as an agenda item so the community could be informed about the search plans and was very pleased when the day before the meeting they published a revised agenda that included this topic as well as removing the “no questions” instruction. See the original agenda and the revised agenda.
7:32 Karpick called for a motion to approve the items on the consent agenda. He said that two of the items on the consent agenda (School Board Calendar and GLASS Lease Happy Hollow) were requested to be moved to the regular agenda by two school board members and so they would be approving all the other items. A consent agenda is sometimes used to speed up a meeting by allowing a single motion and vote to approve all items at once without discussion. Our school board’s policy is that the board president can put any item on the consent agenda but it can be moved back to the regular agenda if two or more board members request it. I have found it helpful to compare our school policies with TSC because they use the same format and service provider. Comparing the WLCSC consent agenda policy Bylaws po0166.1 to TSC’s Bylaws po0166.1 it is easy to see how our school board’s consent agenda policy makes it easier to hide information from the public (the TSC policy limits what can be placed on a consent agenda to specific routine items and it only takes one board member to request an item be moved to the regular agenda). As an example, consider the August 2019 WLCSC school board agenda which placed the following items on a consent agenda: accepting a construction bid, an agreement with a financial advisory firm related to construction borrowing, revisions to the school seclusion restraint plan, and changes to unspecified school board policies – none of which are routine items. Also on that consent agenda was the creation of an additional administrator position at the high school, which angered some teachers because just a few months before the school board had approved cutting K-6 teachers. When the minutes were posted there was no information on any item on the consent agenda. This is a tactic to keep things out of the public view.
Yin asked for clarification about the consent agenda item Credit Recovery – Edmentum. She said that there have likely been more high school students who have fallen behind this year due to the pandemic and asked if there are only 24 high school students who need this remediation service (RDP Academy). Ohlhaut said that the proposal is to renew the school’s 24 licenses and that the high school has not identified specific students yet. Yin asked if 24 licenses would be sufficient. Karpick suggested that Yin should wait until after the meeting to get clarification from administrators. Killion said that the school board approves this every year and that it helps students. Yin said that she was sure it was a great thing. Karpick interrupted her with: “that’s why it’s on the consent agenda.” Yin persisted and asked if the students who need remediation know about this opportunity because learning loss this year may be more important; there may be more students who need to catch up. Killion answered yes and then said that everything that is presented to the school board is vetted by the students and the teachers before being presented to the board. Karpick then called for a vote to approve all items on the consent agenda. From the administrator responses, I got the impression that they are not doing anything different this year in terms of remediation for students who have fallen behind. I was so impressed with Yin for both asking this important question and for not giving up when Karpick and Killion tried to quiet her. I don’t know what Killion means when he says that students and teachers vet every proposal before it is presented to the board – that certainly wasn’t the case when I was a WLES teacher.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:35 Karpick called for a motion to approve GLASS (Greater Lafayette Area Special Service) leasing part of Happy Hollow. He said that GLASS would use 3 classrooms, the teachers lounge, and part of the gym for $22,000/year which includes utilities. This comes to about $11/square foot. The contract is for 2 years. Yin asked if our school district is actively advertising to find other groups to lease the rest of the building. Killion said that administrators are talking with various organizations like the city and Purdue to potentially lease it until the school district can do something with it, like remodel it into an early childhood center. The school board has locked the school district into high debt payments until 2039. They are already having to use referendum funds to make the debt payments. Without additional tax increases, there is no more borrowing capacity to pay for the construction that would be needed to transform the Happy Hollow building into an early childhood center. $22,000/year isn’t much, but every little bit helps.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:38 Karpick called for a motion to approve the school board meeting calendar for the next year. Yin asked that it be tabled until the next meeting to allow for more discussion and feedback. She said that her main concern was that our school board meetings are scheduled for the same time as city council meetings. She asked if school board meetings could either be changed to a different day, a different week, or even a different time. Marley seconded her motion to table. Witt said that she wanted to vote to approve the meeting schedule now because she wanted to get the dates on her calendar and not have to wait until the August meeting to finalize them. Austin said she agreed with Witt and didn’t want to wait til August. Karpick called for a vote on the motion to table.
Voted 2 out of 7 (Witt, Austin, Springer, Karpick, and Schott opposed)
7:42 With the motion to table failing, Karpick again called for discussion of the school board meeting calendar. Killion shared that 7 years ago, they held school board meetings on Wednesdays and he said that they had no community participation. After talking with teachers union leaders and a parent group, he decided that Mondays would allow for more participation. He also said that holding the school board meeting on the first Monday of the month saves the school district money by paying less in interest charges and keeps vendors happy who want to be paid at the beginning of the month. Yin said that in addition to the conflict with the city council meeting, some parents had suggested that a later start time would be better. Witt said that school board members have to sacrifice to attend these meetings and that if they moved the meeting to a later time, they would get complaints from parents saying that it conflicts with their child’s bedtime; there is no way to please everyone. Killion recommended that the school board not make any operational changes over the next year until a new superintendent is hired. Is there really no way to avoid interest charges if the school board meeting were held on the 2nd Monday of the month? I am not clear why holding school board meetings on the 1st Monday is so important to some school board members. Before moving the meeting to the 1st Monday, a school board member was assigned to attend and report on city council meetings in an effort to better work with the city. Moving school board meetings away from the 1st Monday is something that many community members have requested. I appreciate Yin and Marley for voting to table this to get community feedback though I’m disappointed that no other school board members joined them.
Voted 6 out of 7 (Yin opposed)
7:48 Psarros shared four recommendations from the DEI committee for the 2021-2022 school year.
- Provide ongoing intentional K-12 professional development in the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years. Psarros said that she and Laura Falk, the DEI co-chairs, recommend continuing to work with Dr. Renae Azziz, who provided this year’s professional development.
- Identify a qualified educator or administrator to be appointed as the WLCSC Diversity Initiative Specialist for 2021-2022 to create a framework to address needs of students, parents, and staff in regards to diversity, inclusiveness, curriculum & instruction, and finding resources.
- The DEI committee would continue to work with the new Diversity Initiative Specialist and by spring 2022 would bring additional recommendations to the school board.
- Student advocacy and extended student assistance to give students opportunities to express concerns (i.e. counseling sessions & guidance lessons, one-on-one peer groups, and website resources). Age appropriate students will have a formal role in decision making processes including committees for curriculum revisions, code of conduct reviews, and staff professional development.
Killion asked the board to appoint Laura Falk as the Diversity Initiative Specialist. Witt said that the members of the DEI committee were invested and wished they had been able to accomplish more. She said that the four recommendations are true to what the committee represented and do not expand beyond that. Yin asked what the specific expectations are for the role of Diversity Initiative Specialist. Killion said that it will be to implement the recommendations from the DEI committee. Yin asked if this would be a one-year appointment. Killion responded by saying that all appointments are year-by-year appointments and that there are no continual appointments unless there is an Indiana code requirement that involves professional licenses. With respect to the Diversity Initiative Specialist, Killion said that the position would be renewed each year by the school board. I am excited to hear more about these diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. We have amazing students and I think it is wonderful that they will have a formal role in curriculum revisions, changes to the code of conduct, and professional development.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:55 Karpick asked Killion to report on the opening guidelines for 2021-2022 school year. Killion said that administrators are waiting on guidance from the Indiana DOE and said that he had heard that some guidance might be released as early as Friday. He said that the guidelines would be developed over the summer and presented to the board on August 2nd. He said administrators will meet with Tippecanoe Health Officials, teachers union leaders, as well as TSC and LSC administrators. The administration will then make recommendations in relation to masks, virtual learning, vaccines, e-learning, and safety protocols. Administrators will update information as it is available and post it on the school’s website and it will be sent out to parents and students before the August 2nd school board meeting. Karpick then called for a vote. I am not clear what they voted to approve? The motion was to approve the school opening guidelines and then Killion didn’t present any guidelines, just some information about what might be in them and what the process would be. I hope we don’t have a repeat of the school board’s poor handling of the reopening guidelines in summer 2020. Last summer, the school board did not attempt to gather public input and ignored those who spoke at the July 7 school board meeting. It took petitions and community outcry to get the school board to listen and make important adjustments (read my description and thoughts on what happened here).
Voted 7 out of 7
8:00 Karpick announced that Ross Sloat, Interim CFO, will be the WLCSC Interim Superintendent beginning July 1st. Karpick then called for a vote to approve the appointment. It sounded like Sloat may only fill this role until another interim superintendent can be appointed. I’m inferring this from the discussion on the next item when they referred to two separate searches, one for an interim superintendent and one for a permanent superintendent.
Voted 7 out of 7
8:01 Karpick announced that they have hired an education search consultant company headquartered in Brookston, Indiana, Administrator Assistants. Springer shared that she and Karpick served on the search committee that hired Killion. Springer said that she also served on the search committee that hired the superintendent prior to Killion and on two interim superintendent hiring committees. She shared that the main function of the school board is to hire a superintendent and said that they have a very competent group of seven school board members to take this on. Springer said that the school board considered four consultant companies before choosing Administrator Assistants. Yin asked what the cost is for the consulting company assisting with the search and if the cost would be separate for the interim search and the permanent superintendent search or it was all in one fee. Karpick asked Steve (Wit) Wittenauer, co-founder of Administrator Assistants, to answer the question about the cost. Wittenauer asked for the question to be repeated. Killion said that Wittenauer would have one charge for the superintendent search, regardless of if another interim superintendent is appointed. Wittenauer said that Killion was correct and that right now he was only worried about the superintendent search and that there was one fee for that. Karpick then called for a vote to approve hiring Administrator Assistants consulting company. Yin not knowing the cost or the terms of the contract suggest that the school board was not working together as a group when they evaluated the four consultant companies and then decided on this one. Wittenauer never answered the question of how much his company would charge for the search, but Dave Bangert reported $10,000 (Dave Bangert’s Newsletter, Based in Lafayette, Indiana).
Voted 7 out of 7
8:06 Killion asked Wittenauer to introduce himself and speak about the superintendent search process. Wittenauer said that he just finished serving as Interim Superintendent of Benton Community School Corp (where Ross Sloat was superintendent). Wittenauer said that he has a strong interest in the hiring of the superintendent here because his daughter is a teacher in our district and he has 3 grandchildren in our schools. Wittenauer said that the search process would be transparent. He will post the position soon and said that it will be a nation-wide search. His company will collect the applications and provide all of them to the school board. His company will not narrow it down, it will be the school board’s job to review the resumes and determine who to interview. Wittenauer said that he believes that this posting will attract a lot of applications. The consultant company will schedule the interviews and then the school board will narrow down the list. They will then arrange for second-round interviews and the school board will narrow it down to two candidates and then will have to make a decision.
He stated several times that the process will be transparent and that the community and staff will be allowed input. He said the school board will determine how they will seek this input and suggested that there could be a town hall. Witt asked him to clarify the timing of community input and stated that the community members will not be involved in interviewing candidates. Wittenauer agreed and said that community input would be early in the process and that only school board members would interview candidates. He said his opinion is that the community elected the school board to represent them and that the school board members are the hiring committee. Wittenauer said that the individual consultants that will be assisting with this process will be Tom Austin, the former superintendent of Elwood Community School Corp and Gilbert Crimmins, the former superintendent of Tri-County School Corporation.
In a comment to Dave Bangert the day after the school board meeting, Karpick clarified what Witt and Wittenauer said in the meeting: “We have yet to set any level of the process with the exception of hiring Steve Wittenauer’s firm. We said that the Board will conduct the interviewing and hiring, which is the same roadmap we utilized 14 years ago when Dr. Killion was hired and one of the most important roles an elected school board has. But what we didn’t say last night was that there won’t be anyone else besides Board members on the hiring committee” (Dave Bangert’s Newsletter, Based in Lafayette, Indiana).
Karpick’s statement should give us hope that the school board will follow a more inclusive search process than what Witt was advocating for. When Killion was hired, the search committee included parents and teachers, not just school board members. This committee made recommendations to the school board. My opinion is that the most important thing the school board should do in the search process is to give every teacher in our district a way to provide input on the candidates being considered. Every teacher should have the opportunity to meet the final set of 3 to 4 candidates in group meetings and have the opportunity to ask about their experience and views. Every teacher should have a way to provide feedback to the school board on this final set of candidates.
8:19 Board Reports
- Park Board – Springer said that the Happy Hollow pool and Wellness Center pools are open.
- Negotiations – Marley and Karpick said that negotiations will start soon.
- WL Foundation – Schott shared that the new executive director, Wendi Ailor, has been great for the foundation. They have some vacant positions and have accepted nominations so should be announcing those positions soon.
- Public Schools Foundation – Yin shared that they have awarded more grants. They also are preparing for the cupcake run in September. This foundation sends their gratitude to Killion for his 14 years of service.
- Witt thanked the administration for all their work with commencement and said that even with the rain delay to Saturday, everything went well. She said that the students are responsible for what is shared at commencement and that they rise up to the occasion. She congratulated the class of 2021.
- Karpick said he also wanted to echo what Witt said. He said that the administrators have had a difficult year but have done great work. Karpick said that he has enjoyed working with Killion over the past 14 years.
8:24 Karpick invited communication from the audience on non-agenda items (those who had signed up before the meeting began) Randy Studt, HS teacher and teacher union leader, spoke about how well the schools did throughout the pandemic. He also talked about the great relationship that our local teachers union (WLEA) has with the state teachers union (ISTA) and said that he is the district chair of ISTA.
8:29 Karpick adjourned the meeting
Future Meetings (calendar link)
- Monday, August 2nd at 6:30pm at WLIS (No July meeting)
Attendance: 7 of 7 School Board Members (Yue Yin, Alan Karpick, Karen Springer, Bradley Marley, Thomas Schott, Rachel Witt, Amy Austin); Ross Sloat, Interim CFO; Stephen Ohlhaut, Assistant to the CFO; Robert Reiling, Jr., Lawyer; Rocky Killion, Superintendent
Audience: Many families were in attendance to see the school board honor the WLIS Math Bowl Team as well as for the retirement of three teachers and the superintendent. Representative Sheila Klinker, Representative Chris Campbell, Senator Ron Alting, teachers union leaders, and several school administrators were also in attendance.
This is not the official minutes from the school board meetings. I am a parent of WLCSC students and my thoughts are given in italics. The official minutes are released after the approval of those minutes at the next school board meeting (2 months from now). Previous agendas, minutes, and audio recordings can be found at the WLCSC website.