February 7, 2022 Summary

HIGHLIGHTS: DEI update (6:43), Covid Quarantine Policy Change (6:57), Covid Sick Bank for teachers and staff (7:12), First Saturday Feedback Sessions (8:11)

6:33 – The school board meeting was called to order. The board was asked to approve the agenda and the minutes from the January 10, 2022 regular meeting and organizational meeting.

Voted 7 out of 7

6:35 – Shelby Johnson, Assistant Principal at the Jr/Sr HS and Director of Special Education, invited the principal from each school (WLES, WLIS, Jr/Sr HS) to recognize students with the “Way to Go Award” for being great citizens. Two students from each school came to the front individually while the school administrator shared why this student was chosen and then each student was given a certificate. We have amazing students and families in our school district!

6:43 – Diversity/Equity/Inclusion (DEI) update from Laura Falk, WLCSC Diversity Initiative Specialist. Falk explained that she has been meeting with DEI leaders at Purdue, Ivy Tech, TSC, and LSC. She formed 15-person equity teams at each school building as well as a student equity team at the Jr/Sr High School. She is also forming an administration team and a parent equity group. She provides a weekly update on the school website where we can see where she has been focusing her efforts. Witt asked Falk about the Professional Development Day on Friday, February 11. Falk said she is again hiring Dr. Renee Azziz from Virtuoso Education Consulting to provide the training. Falk said that if we keep doing things as we have been, we will not make progress. Yin thanked Falk for her work, her posts to the website, and also said that her children (3rd and 6th grade) loved that Falk came to their classes and taught a lesson. Falk said that she has visited almost all of the K-6 classes and shared lessons. In grades K-3, she shared the book, “The Judgmental Flower,” which is about being curious and not judging. In grades 4-6, she shared about how prejudgements turn into stereotypes which turn into discrimination. Yin asked if there is a way for students who have experienced discrimination in our schools to report these incidents and suggested that these students and their families may not feel comfortable sharing this with administrators. Falk responded that she is forming a student advocacy group that may help with this and said that she is working on creating an intake form for reporting incidents. It is wonderful that our school district is finally doing something to address discrimination in our schools (some heartbreaking accounts from our own students are posted at www.wlcare.org/stories). I think that listening to those who have experienced discrimination and creating a way for students to report incidents without fear of reprisal should be a higher priority.

6:57 – Greiner proposed changes to the school district Covid policy. He met with the school doctors and others on the Covid committee and discussed reducing the quarantine period for Covid positive cases from 10 days to 5 days. The change would only apply to those who test positive in the future; those who are currently quarantined would not have a reduction. Yin welcomed Greiner and said how much she appreciated his time and travel coming to this meeting and also attending the Saturday Feedback Session on the 5th. I was surprised that this was the first time that any of the board members welcomed Greiner. Yin asked about the vague wording of the policy which gives school medical staff discretion to determine quarantine length based on individual case review. One of the school physicians, Dr. Bianculli, said that returning to school after 5 days of quarantine is not automatic and would depend on the student’s symptoms and situation. If the student still has a fever or other symptoms, then they will need to stay at home longer. She said that everyone wants to get kids back into school, but she doesn’t want them to spread the virus. Marley asked about the reason behind not reducing current quarantines to 5 days. Bianculli said that going back to revisit the situation for each of the currently quarantined students would require a large amount of additional work and could lead to errors. Austin asked how many students are currently quarantined. Greiner said that he did not have that number available, but said that there were 218 quarantined on January 14, 161 on January 21, and that there are even fewer students quarantined today. The revised policy was posted to the school website after the meeting. I appreciated all the discussion. I was especially encouraged that the proposed policy was posted to the school website before the meeting which allows the public to see it before the vote. That is great progress on increasing transparency! However, I would also like the school board to seek public input on proposed changes before the vote. They could send an email to teachers, parents, and students describing the proposed policy change and inviting comments.

Voted 7 out of 7

7:12 – Greiner asked for approval to create a Covid sick bank of 250 days for teachers and staff. He said that it can be retroactive with the submission of documents. After using 2 of their own sick days, the employee can request up to 3 days from the Covid sick bank once per employee. Once the days are depleted, employees will not be able to receive sick days from this program. Greiner said that ESSER funds (Federal Covid relief funds) would cover the cost of the sick bank. Yin said that Covid recovery times vary widely and asked what employees do if they run out of sick days? Sloat said that the goal was to give some relief to everyone.

Voted 7 out of 7

7:16 – Ohlhaut requested approval for online summer school. Last year WLCSC piloted online summer school social studies classes. He said it was successful and recommended offering these online classes again this summer. Ohlhaut also requested approval to renew the contract with the Indiana Online Academy for other online summer school classes. He has to submit a plan and expected cost to the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) by April 1. The school corporation finds out the estimated reimbursement in May, but does not receive the funds until the end of summer. Last year, IDOE reimbursed 60% of costs and the school corporation used ESSER funds (Federal Covid relief funds) to pay for the other 40%. Yin asked about the $50 fee for students who drop out. Ohlhaut said that Indiana Online Academy charges the school corporation a $50 fee if a WL student withdraws from an online summer class after it has started and so the school corporation passes this fee on to the student. I would have liked to have heard more evaluation of last summer’s pilot. How many students participated and how much did it cost? What did the participants think about these online summer classes? It wasn’t clear how this program will be funded when the ESSER funds expire. ESSER funds are intended to be used to address learning loss from Covid, so I would have also liked to have heard some discussion about how this use of the funds addresses learning loss.

Voted 7 out of 7

7:20 – Sloat asked the board to table the agenda item about a potential school bus purchase until March because he needs to get more information. 

Voted 7 out of 7

7:21 – Steve Florence (retired teacher) and Brad Thompson (technology specialist) asked for approval to use the Happy Hollow building until the end of April for robotics practices. Florence has been working with the robotics team for 23 years. Previously they used school space but for the past 5 years they have been renting the basement of the old CTS building on the corner of Yeager and Cumberland. They need a taller space for their robot to practice and would like to use the cafeteria at Happy Hollow a few hours each week. This program serves kids in grades 4-12. Yin thanked them for providing this program and said that 3 of her kids have attended it and enjoyed it. 

 Voted 7 out of 7

7:27 – Florence and Thompson were then invited to share information about their proposed long-term use of Happy Hollow for the robotics club. Specifically, they asked to use the cafeteria, kitchen, and art room. This would give them more space than they are currently renting which would allow them to increase enrollment. Karpick said that this is a great program and that they have been patient trying to find space to hold it. Sloat asked if they would need power upgrades at Happy Hollow. Thompson responded that they would like to use the art room because it has almost all of what they need and that they are willing to pay for upgrades and for the electricity. Two of my kids participated in lego robotics through the robotics club and I was a volunteer lego robotics coach for one year. At that time, club meetings were in classrooms in the school. I thought it was a great program.

7:37 – Sloat asked for approval to renew the contract with Safe Harbor, our school district before- and after-school childcare program. Safe Harbor pays the school $250/month during the school year and $650/month during the summer for use of the building. Currently 40 students participate at WLES and the program is currently at capacity. WLIS has 17 students participating. Yin asked about feedback from families. No one responded. She asked about the possibility of students participating in chess club or Wonderland in addition to Safe Harbor. Psarros said that at WLIS students can participate in choir after school and then go to Safe Harbor because they are in the building the whole time and a choir leader checks them in with Safe Harbor after choir practice. Yin commented that at WLIS this is easier because the activities happen in the building but at WLES the extra-curricular activities happen away from school. Targgart said that parents would need to discuss this option at WLES with the Safe Harbor director, Ashley Justice. Yin restated that she wanted to make sure there was an avenue to collect feedback from parents and see if they are happy with this program. Again, there was no response.

Voted 7 out of 7

7:46 – Ohlhaut asked for approval for West Lafayette youth baseball to rent the little league baseball fields. The name was changed last year from little league to youth baseball. They pay $1/year but also maintain the grounds and take care of trash. It has an auto renewal each year for 3 years. Yin asked if WLES uses the baseball fields. Targgart said they use it sometimes for things like field day, 3rd grade kickball tournament, and PE.

Voted 7 out of 7

7:49 – Sloat shared February’s Average Daily Membership (ADM) count. This determines the funding for January-June. The school corporation has 13 fewer students since the count in September. The state provides $6,295 per student per year and so this is a $40,000 loss of revenue. Witt said that administrators do a nice job of tracking why each student leaves. Sloat said that the reasons students left are homeschooling, graduating, international students returning home, and students who move away. Sloat said that it is the principals who track why students are leaving and stated that it isn’t often that students leave because they are unhappy with our schools. It is usually because of life circumstances that have nothing to do with the school district. Yin suggested that in addition to categorizing students who leave, that administrators should ask the family for feedback on areas where our schools can improve. Sloat responded by saying that circumstances for people moving can’t be controlled and that we do encourage students to stay. Yin’s proposal, to ask those leaving the district to share feedback, would be a very useful approach to learning about what is going well and what needs improvement. Perhaps this exercise would help school leaders address the recent and continuing drop in enrollment. 

7:54 – Greiner asked for approval of the personnel report.

Voted 7 out of 7

7:55 – Ohlhaut asked for approval of the accounts payable. Yin commented that many of the details in the accounts payable report are abbreviations and asked if Ohlhaut could create a chart to explain what the abbreviations mean. Ohlhaut said he could do that. Yin asked for an update on the board officers’ review of legal services. Witt responded that she had already told her in an email that this would be done at the March meeting. Yin said she asked to keep the public informed. Yin thanked the board officers for listening to community feedback about not having the attorney attend board meetings. Yin asked about spending from ESSER and what programs we are running to address learning loss. Ohlhaut said that they will use ESSER funds to pay for online summer school and said that they are discussing other options with Greiner. Greiner said that WLES and WLIS have several ideas to address learning loss. The school corporation paid Reiling’s firm $24,110 for legal services in January. At Reiling’s rate of $290/hour that’s about 83 hours of work for the month. The school district is still paying its part-time attorney about $300,000 per year. I think the school board should hire an in-house lawyer. It would save a significant amount of money and we would get a full-time rather than a part-time attorney.

Voted 7 out of 7 

8:02 – Committee assignments for school board members were announced. I was disappointed that Yin and Austin were removed from the communications committee. They started the year with big ideas of how to increase school board communication but then apparently were not allowed to implement any of these ideas.

8:03 – Board Reports

  • Indiana School Board Association (ISBA) Virtual Leadership Academy – Schott shared that Yin, Schott, Springer, Austin, and Witt participated in the 2 ½ hour session. They received training on communication, evaluation, strategic planning, and showing respect. Yin asked about attending the summer retreat. Greiner said that he will bring in an outside representative to discuss the current strategic plan. 
  • Park Board – Springer reported that the ice skating rink is open. She also shared that there will be 6 one-week day camp sessions offered this summer at the Celery Bog. 
  • Teacher Discussion – Springer shared that the teacher discussion group met on January 20 and discussed permanent subs at WLES & WLIS, class coverage at Jr/Sr HS, the proposed health clinic is on hold while waiting for more information from Anthem, Covid questions, ESSER funds for Covid sick days, HB1134, and SB167
  • Public Foundation – Austin shared that the grant cycle is open and they have made it easier for teachers to apply
  • Legislative – Austin shared that SB 167 died but that sister bill HB 1134 passed through the house; HB 1072 requires referendum money to be shared with charter schools; HB 1182 died, which would require school board candidates to declare a political party; SB 17 would remove protection from librarians over books considered harmful to minors. Witt and Austin are going to the statehouse day on February 15.

8:11 – First Saturday Feedback Sessions –  Yin said that she attended the first one on January 15 and she thanked Witt for the detailed and organized summary she shared with board members. She suggested that Witt share her summary with the community. Witt did not respond. If Witt is taking the time to take notes and write them up, why not share her summary with the community? I attended both the January and the February feedback sessions and thought they were great. Angie Janes wrote a summary of both Saturday Feedback Sessions.

8:14 Communication from the audience on non-agenda items (those who had signed up before the meeting began). 

  • Randy Studt (Union leader and German teacher) spoke against Indiana HB 1134. He shared that our district’s two representatives and one senator are friends of public education and are against this bill, but said that there are others at the statehouse who need to hear from us, especially those on the senate education committee. I understand the arguments in favor of this bill, but as a former teacher my view is that HB 1134 would impose significant costs on teachers. I think HB 1134 would be bad for teachers and therefore bad for our students. There is already a shortage of teachers in Indiana and the growing list of state regulations increases the difficulty of teaching and drives teachers to other occupations. We are in one of the best school districts in the state, and yet over the past five years our schools have struggled to attract and retain highly-effective teachers in comparison to neighbor and peer schools. I think that adopting HB 1134 would likely make our teacher retention problem even worse.

8:16 – The meeting was adjourned. 

Welcome to Dr. Greiner! I was surprised that Yin was the only school board member to say anything about this being Greiner’s first board meeting. The meeting had a lot of respectful discussion and was the most pleasant meeting of the past year. I appreciate the positive influence Greiner seems to have already contributed. I really like the way he interacted with board members. He was deferential to their authority as a group which definitely wasn’t the approach of the prior superintendent. For example, during the Covid discussion when board members looked to him, Griener said that the decision was up to the board and that he would implement any adjustments the board made to his recommendations. Rather than expecting that they would just rubber stamp his proposals, he seemed pleased that the school board members were discussing each issue. I was impressed.

Location: Happy Hollow Building, LGI Room

Streaming: WLCSC Regular Board Meeting February 7, 2022

Attendance: 7 of 7 School Board Members (Yue Yin, Alan Karpick, Karen Springer, Bradley Marley, Thomas Schott, Rachel Witt, Amy Austin); Shawn Greiner, Superintendent; Ross Sloat, Interim CFO; Stephen Ohlhaut, Assistant to the CFO 

Audience:  4 administrators, union leaders, high school teachers, parents, Dr. Anne Marie Bianculli

Future Meetings (calendar link)

  • Saturday Feedback Session – Saturday, March 5th at 9am 
  • Regular School Board Meeting – Monday, March  7th at 6:30pm at Happy Hollow LGI Room 

These are 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 (1 month from now). Previous agendas, minutes, and audio recordings can be found at the WLCSC website.

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