HIGHLIGHTS: Masks Optional on Yellow School Buses (6:52); Lack of Parent Input in Textbook Adoption (6:58), Health Clinic for Employees (7:15); School Board Meeting Schedule Change (7:32); New Assistant Superintendent (7:47); Received Proposals from 4 Legal Services Providers (8:03); Making the School Board Packet Public Before Board Meetings (8:10); New Jr/Sr HS Bell Schedule (8:12)
6:30 – The school board meeting was called to order. The board was asked to approve the agenda and the minutes from the April 4, 2022 meeting. They will begin voting by a raise of hand because they have had issues with inaudible votes.
Voted 7 out of 7
6:32 – Greiner 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 wonderful students and families in our school district!
6:40 – No community members signed up to speak on current agenda items.
6:41 – Greiner shared the first reading of two new school board policies (0164.5 and 0164.6). The board will be voting on these two new policies next month. 0164.5 says that board members can attend meetings virtually no more than twice in a row. If they are not in person by the third meeting, they will not be allowed to vote. Yin said that this policy may discourage some community members from running for school board if they need to be away for an extended period of time, like a 6-month sabbatical. Springer said that this is a state law that was passed in Spring 2021. She clarified that board members could have full access to the packet and participate electronically but would only be able to vote after their first two meetings away. Springer said that anyone with issues with this policy should contact the state legislature. It doesn’t seem like this policy is internally consistent; it states that no more than 2 board members will be allowed to attend virtually at the same time and and then also states that only 50% need to attend in person. The policy committee appears to have borrowed the text from a policy that was adopted by neighboring districts and then edited it to make it more restrictive of virtual meeting attendance.
Policy 0164.6 allows entirely virtual school board meetings if a disaster emergency is declared. If the board holds a virtual meeting, they must also allow the public to attend virtually. I spoke at the school board meeting last month (6:40) and asked the board to share the text of the proposed policy changes before the meeting in which they are voted on. Publicly posting these two proposed policies now and voting on them next month is a wonderful approach and a great step in the right direction (previously the school board has voted to waive the first reading in order to avoid having to inform the public). The agenda for this meeting also listed a large number of other policies that the board was proposing to change, which is also a step forward (over the past few years, the school board routinely voted to approve unspecified policy changes with no way for the public to know what they were voting to change). However, the issue with the board’s approach to the policy changes listed below is that the public has no way to know what changes are being proposed before the meeting and therefore has no way to give comment. The school board either needs to use a first reading / second reading approach for all policy changes or it needs to publicly share the text of the proposed policy changes before the meeting when the vote is scheduled. A recent ruling forced our school board to publicly post the school board meeting packet (something that other school boards have been doing for years), but they have been waiting until after the meeting is over to post the packet. After each meeting, I copy the agenda and add links to each document here: agenda with links. This would be easy for the school board to do before each meeting so the community could review documents and provide input. This would also make it easier to follow what is going on during school board meetings.
6:47 – Greiner asked for approval of revisions to a large number of school policies:
- 1422, 3122, 4122, 2260 Nondiscrimination in employment and in education opportunities
- 1422.02, 3122.02, 4122.02 Nondiscrimination based on genetic information
- 1623, 2260.01, 3123, 4123 Nondiscrimination based on disability
- 1662, 3362, 4362, 5517 Anti-Harassment
- 0164.4, 0167.1 Definition of a school board meeting and virtual participation
Yin asked about the compliance officers named in these policies. Greiner said that Title IV recommends both male and female officers and so they have assigned Joel Shrode, athletic director, and Jane Schott, assistant athletic director, to be the compliance and Title IV officers. Greiner said that both compliance officers receive training and that the corporation attorney guides and supports them. Yin asked if a person who has experienced discrimination can still report this to a teacher or a counselor or does the new policy specify that the complaint has to go to the compliance officer. Greiner said that individuals can work with a teacher or a school counselor to address the concern and that they only need to go to the compliance officers if they want to file an official complaint.
There are a large number of changes to these policies and the public didn’t get to see any of the proposed revisions until after the school board had already voted to approve them. It would have been nice to have seen some discussion of the differences between our policies and those adopted by other school districts, for example: Policy 2260 (procedure for addressing a complaint about discrimination) now says on page 8 that, “the decision of the Superintendent shall be final.” In contrast, TSC’s policy says, “A complainant or respondent who is dissatisfied with the final decision of the Superintendent may appeal . . . In an attempt to resolve the complaint, the Board shall meet with the concerned parties and their representatives within twenty (20) business days of the receipt of such an appeal. . . The decision of the Board will be final.” I’m very surprised that the school board would vote to approve this change to give up their authority to be able to review the superintendent’s decision.
These policies specifically designate the athletic director and assistant athletic director as the nondiscrimination compliance officers. I’m surprised by this because the past discrimination complaints that that I’m aware of all had to do with athletics, so having someone outside of athletics as a compliance officer would perhaps allow for a better process of addressing these complaints. I’m also disappointed that the policy committee, the group that writes the policy changes, is just Doug Masson (a community member who was temporarily appointed to the school board in 2015, but was never elected), Karen Springer, and Tom Schott (spouse of Jane Schott who is being named as the compliance officer). It’s a pretty small group of people who are allowed to propose school policy changes. Also, listing the compliance officer names in a large set of policies (as opposed to just their school positions) means that anytime there is a personnel change it will also require the school board to revise all of these policies again. I also noticed the majority of these policies say they were last revised on February 11, 2022, but there was no school board vote to revise these policies in February.
Voted 7 out of 7
6:52 – Greiner asked for approval to revise the Return to In-Person Learning Plan to make masks optional on yellow school buses. Three weeks previously, a federal judge overturned the federal requirement for masks on public transportation. At that time, students in grades 7-12 who rode Citibus were not required to wear masks, but grades K-6 who rode the yellow school buses were required to wear masks. Yin asked if school administrators would continue to monitor covid cases and propose requiring masks if there is a significant increase in cases. Greiner said they would continue to monitor cases, post case numbers on the website, and revise the plan if needed. Greiner said that the case numbers get a lot of views on the school website. Yin said she has received feedback from many in the community expressing appreciation for these case numbers from the schools. Greiner has done a nice job at being open to suggestions. During the April school board meeting, Yin recommended that the numbers be shared on the website and this is now being done. Greiner also sent emails to parents informing them of his recommendation to make masks optional on yellow school buses, which allowed parents to share support or concerns with him in advance of this vote.
Voted 7 out of 7
6:54 – Ohlhaut asked for approval of Continuing Disclosure with Baker Tilly. Karpick said the school corporation has had a long-term relationship with Baker Tilly. It looks to me like the relationship with Baker Tilly began in 2019. The school corporation’s financial advisor for the 2017 bond and the 2018 bond was H.J. Umbaugh & Associates. Baker Tilly was the financial advisor for the 2019 bond and the 2020 bond. Borrowing so much money all at once pushed our school corporation up to second highest in the state for most debt per student at over $53,000 of debt per student. The third highest in the state had just $39,000 in debt per student.
Voted 7 out of 7
6:56 – Ohlhaut asked for approval of the Waiver of Protected Taxes Resolution. Yin asked Ohlhaut to explain how this works. Ohlhaut shared that property tax revenue goes into the referendum fund, debt service fund, and operations fund. The referendum fund is not affected by property tax caps. The tax caps reduce property tax revenue and the reduction is called “circuit breaker losses.” The state legislature allows school corporations to decide where to allocate these circuit breaker losses. This resolution designates the circuit breaker losses to be allocated proportionally across the debt service fund and the operations fund. Ohlhaut said they have budgeted anticipating this waiver and Springer said that they have approved this waiver for many years. It’s up to the school board to decide how much money to spend on teachers, how much to spend on operations, and how much to spend on construction. The state legislature has given the school board a great deal of flexibility to move money across these funds and this is one of these sources of flexibility.
Voted 7 out of 7
6:58 – Ohlhaut asked for approval of the Title Adoption of Textbooks and Course Fees for 2022-23 which includes the adoption of a new math curriculum. Dr. Targgart, the WLES principal, was asked to share the curriculum adoption process they used this year. The committee was led by Mrs. Delaney, Assistant Principal, with 2 teachers per grade and the math interventionist. They collected information from the teachers about what they wanted in the curriculum. The Wabash Valley Education Center vetted the curriculum options to make sure they met Indiana Standards. The committee narrowed it down to 3 publishers that sent sample kits and had zoom meetings with the teachers. She said they followed the same process at WLIS. Mr. Shriner, the Jr/Sr HS principal, said publishers sent samples in fall 2021. The math department chair, Ms. Blaisdell, asked 2 to 3 teachers to serve on a committee for each course. Teachers asked a few parents for suggestions and didn’t want more assistance than that. Shriner said that they sought out parents with a variety of backgrounds to bring in diversity. Those parents reviewed the textbooks and filled out forms. The teachers had professional development time to review the textbooks. Yin said that she was happy that parents were invited to be part of this process and asked how parents who are interested can be involved. Shriner responded that the teachers reach out to recent parents they know and that this year they got all the responses they wanted and so didn’t need to ask for volunteers. Shriner said that in previous years they have invited parent volunteers through parent council or he has just invited parents that he often sees in the school building. He said, “Our teachers lead that and we need them to be comfortable with the selection so they are seeking out parents they are familiar with.”
I was not impressed with Shriner’s description of this process which seems designed to reduce parent input into textbook selection. With all the education and math expertise in our community, it is surprising to me that our school district doesn’t want more help from parents. At the end of the textbook adoption document are forms showing the reviewers which show that there were only six parents who were asked to give input into the new math curriculum across all courses. After the parent council meeting in March, I posted the following to the Friends of WL Schools Open Forum facebook group:
Last year, the Jr/Sr HS adopted a new social studies curriculum. As part of the review process, Mr. Shriner invited parents at a parent council meeting to volunteer to help with the curriculum review. It’s a pretty small group of parents who attend parent council meetings (held in the morning during the school hours), so I suggested that Mr. Shriner include this invitation in the newsletter email that goes out to all the parents, but it didn’t happen. At the parent council meeting yesterday, Mr. Shriner announced that they are now reviewing the math curriculum. I asked if parents would be included in the review and Mr. Shriner said that parents could be included and that he would talk with Ms. Blaisdell (Math Department Chair). I just wanted to spread the word so that parents who are interested in helping with the math curriculum review are aware of this opportunity. The math curriculum review will likely be completed in the next several weeks.
Involving more parents in the math curriculum review was again discussed with administrators at the April parent council meeting, but with no results. Do we really want the community to have no voice in our school curriculum decisions?
Voted 7 out of 7
7:08 – Courtney FitzSimons, food service director, asked for approval of food service bids. She shared that the food department is part of a co-op which gives us more purchasing power. The co-op has 109,000 students compared to our school which has 2,300. It is the fourth year with this co-op and she attends monthly meetings. The bids she is presenting are those that the co-op recommends and are from the same distributors we have used previously. Yin said she answered many of her questions before the meeting and understands that there are several challenges we face because of our school size. She asked if parents with concerns can ask to have specific food products changed. FitzSimons said this is just to bid on the vendors and that the products are always changing. Parents can contact her with concerns.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:12 – Ohlhaut asked for approval of Valuation Services by Buckland and Associates. He shared that the business office maintains a capital asset report and that this is a requirement of the state board of accounts. The previous provider passed away earlier this year which prompted the review of the report on file and also the verification of compliance with current SBOA guidelines, especially considering how things have changed with the completion of construction projects. They consulted with several evaluation providers. Buckland and Associates has worked with TSC and LSC. Witt asked if this fee is similar and Ohlhaut responded that it is: $39,000 for the first year of the full comprehensive report and then the maintenance fee each year will be $2,500 plus their time.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:15 – Ohlhaut asked for approval to begin a WLCSC Health Clinic with Everside. The health clinic will provide basic primary care services for employees and dependents at no charge to the employee. The school corporation pays the health clinic that provides the services at a lower cost than the health insurance would reimburse for those same services provided elsewhere. If there is sufficiently high utilization of the health clinic, it will decrease other health care usage and over time would decrease the school corporation’s health insurance premiums. Proactive MD and Everside provided feasibility studies and school leaders compared the two options. They surveyed employees this spring with 26% saying their top priority was for the health clinic to be located in West Lafayette (which matches with Everside) and 23% saying their top priority was for the health clinic to be open during the day (Everside has staggered hours so different days have early morning or later afternoon options). The school corporation plans to pay for the first year from federal ESSERIII funds. It will not be paid for from the insurance over/under fund for at least the first year, which will mitigate the cost risk as they assess if the clinic will bring a positive return on investment. They did negotiate a 60-day-out provision that could happen at any time with Everside. Originally that was only going to be possible after 3 years.
Marley said that he doesn’t see a lot of risk or downside to this plan because ESSER funds are paying for it and they have a 60-day-out clause. He said that there will likely be a deficit in the first year, but that there are projected gains for the school district after the first year. Ohlhaut said Everside would provide updates on the utilization. Witt verified that the health clinic will provide both well care and sick care. An audience member asked if she could ask questions and Witt said only at the beginning or end of the meeting. Yin said she appreciated the survey of teacher preferences, but said that the survey didn’t ask if they plan to use the health clinic or how often. She said she is concerned that there may be low utilization because the survey showed that almost 80% of teachers are happy with their current provider. Ohlhaut said that the issue for some teachers is that their current provider is not as convenient. Yin asked if they could survey the teachers now that a provider has been chosen and she voiced her concern about spending the school district ESSER funds on this health clinic if the teachers would rather it be spent on alternatives, for example, additional teacher pay. Austin responded that this is a trial to see what utilization will be. Yin responded saying that a quick one-question teacher survey will help predict utilization without needing to spend the time and the ESSER funds for a trial. Witt said that Ohlhaut had conversations with union leaders and other teachers and is relying on more than just the survey to determine if the teachers want this. Ohlhaut said teachers have been interested in this option for many years. He said he doesn’t know what the utilization will be, but said that the survey reported that 90% of teachers said they were interested. He feels that they now need real world data to determine utilization, but then did agree with Yin that if they were to ask the teachers about Everside utilization specifically that they may collect some useful information. However, Ohlhaut said that he did not want to wait another month to vote to approve this. Yin said that TSC and LSC use the other provider, but that she would feel confident in voting for this health clinic once she hears that this is what the teachers want. She motioned to table this proposal for one month in order to survey teachers. No one seconded the motion so they proceeded to the vote to approve the health clinic. [Yin asked a follow-up question at the end of the meeting about how they could spend the remaining ESSER funding if they stop the health clinic. Ohlhaut said that if they didn’t use the ESSERIII funding for the Health Clinic that they could amend the budget to use the funds within the parameters set by the federal government.] The health clinic proposal was first brought to the board at the November meeting (7:01). Yin pushed for more information about teacher preferences each time this was discussed, unfortunately the rest of the school board seems uninterested in getting additional teacher feedback. I was happy to see the discussion shift from the health clinic being described as “free” to an acknowledgement that the federal funding could be spent on other things and that this is a choice about how to spend school resources.
Voted 6 out of 7 (Yin abstained)
7:30 – Ohlhaut asked for approval for an agreement with Schuster Consulting. This formalizes the arrangement that the school district has had with Dan Schuster for many years on energy consulting. Schuster looks at energy consumption trends and gives recommendations on commodity purchasing strategies like hedging natural gas as well as recommendations on the temperature setting in classrooms. Karpick said we have used Schuster for years and said that he has saved the school corporation thousands of dollars. How did our school corporation not have a formal agreement previously?
Voted 7 out of 7
7:32 – Information was shared about possibly changing the meeting day and time for school board meetings. The calendar is set on an academic year so it will be up for a vote in June. Witt is giving 3 options: (1) First Monday at 6:30pm, (2) First Monday at 7:00am, (3) Second Monday at 6:30pm. She said that the preference is the first Monday because decisions have to be made at the beginning of the month so that everything else can process through the month. Witt said she has heard from 5 patrons in the last year that want to change the date from the first Monday, primarily because of the conflict with the city council meetings. Witt said that if more than 5 people have an opinion on the date then they should communicate this with the school board. Marley said he prefers to change the schedule because of the conflict with the city council meeting. He believes that community members would like to attend both and said that he would like to attend both as well. Karpick asked how the change from the first Monday would affect how the school corporation pays bills. Ohlhaut said the change to the second Monday compared to the first Monday will make it easier for him to get all the payable information together by the board meeting. Witt said that the accounts payable reports would look different because there will be a longer period of time going from the 1st Monday to the 2nd Monday. No one responded to correct Witt’s comment. Yin said she prefers the second Monday option.
Community members have been giving pushback to the school board ever since December 2015 when they voted to move school board meetings to the same day and time as city council meetings. It seems they made the change to try to reduce community participation in school board meetings. Yin proposed moving the meeting to an alternative day at the June 2021 meeting (7:38 and 7:42). Austin and Witt spoke against Yin’s proposed change and none of the other board members supported it. In February 2022, I wrote to the board asking for an alternative meeting day and I’m thrilled that they seem to be considering a change now. Something I don’t understand is why Witt would even propose a 7:00 am school board meeting time? There is no way that could work for teachers or for parents of school children. Also, there are other evenings besides Mondays that could be considered, so I’m not sure why Witt only proposed one real alternative. In the past when this issue came up, the prior superintendent would claim that holding the school board meeting the first week of the month saves the schools money by reducing interest charges. This is why Karpick asked Ohlhaut about how moving to the second week of the month would affect paying the bills. However, this is a misunderstanding of what the school board does. The school board is not voting to “pay our bills” as Witt so often says. The board is voting to approve the report of the bills that have already been paid. Note that other school districts don’t hold their school board meetings on the first week of the month or always on a Monday: TSC meets on the 2nd Wednesday, LSC & Zionsville meet on the 2nd Monday, Carmel meets on the 4th Monday, IPS meets on the 4th Thursday.
7:37 – Greiner requested to cancel the July 11, 2022 school board meeting because of summer break and less activities. He also requested that they vote to give the superintendent and CFO approval to make decisions without needing approval from the school board, but with formal approval coming in August. Taking a break over the summer makes sense. However, I get worried each time the school board votes to give the superintendent authority to act unilaterally. For example, at the April 2022 meeting (7:55) the board voted to give the superintendent emergency authorization to hire. Given that there is no emergency, this just seems to be a rubber stamp in advance. Maybe this approval for summer authority makes sense as the only way to cancel a meeting, but it doesn’t look good that the board so often votes to abdicate their authority to review administrator decisions.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:39 – Greiner requested approval of the Aquatic Center Summer Program. It was listed on the agenda as information only so they did not vote on it. It is not clear why some of the summer programs, like STEM and music, were presented to the school board for a vote, while other summer programs are presented to the board but do not need a vote, while still others are never mentioned in a school board meeting.
7:40 – Ohlhaut shared information about the 2023 Budget Calendar and said that some of the specific dates will depend on the proposed change to the school board meeting calendar. Austin asked if moving the meetings to the second Monday would cause issues with the calendar. Ohlhaut responded that it wouldn’t cause issues because in each instance the budgeting would be done the month before the deadline.
7:42 – Ohlhaut asked for approval of Check Removal. Indiana Statute requires that any outstanding checks from over two years as of December 31st of any given year have to be removed from their books. Yin asked what people do if they have one of these outstanding checks and want to deposit it. Ohlhaut said they can’t deposit that check but can contact the central office with proof of their claim and the central office can reissue a check.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:44 – Greiner asked for approval of the Personnel Report. Greiner noted that the report recommends Anna Roth as the new assistant superintendent. He said that the priorities for this search were: licensure, education level, experience in a central office, experience as a principal, background with curriculum, and preferred experience in high school as a principal or a teacher. The search process included five in-person interviews, but he did not say how many applications were received. Greiner said that there were 11 members on the search committee, including teachers, principals, central office staff, and school board members. The 11 members were unanimous in narrowing down the 2 finalists. The second round involved performance-based tasks including data analysis and a presentation on a professional development activity. The committee then unanimously recommended Anna Roth. Roth worked for Greiner in his last job where she was director of curriculum, instruction, & teacher development at Southmont Schools. It makes sense for Greiner to be most comfortable hiring someone that he already knows. Perhaps they had already decided who they wanted to hire and that may have been why Witt was so opposed to Yin serving on the search committee (March meeting 6:45 and April meeting 8:04). The qualifications listed for this posting seem reasonable, but they also seem tailored to the person they wanted to hire. It reminds me of the 2020 job posting for CFO where the school board specified “experience as a classroom teacher” as required qualification for the CFO position, but didn’t specify a requirement for a degree in accounting or finance (December 2020 question 3 and March 2021 question 2). It often feels that the school board would rather structure their search to hire people they feel they can control rather than search for the best person for the job.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:47 – Witt asked Anna Roth to introduce herself. Roth said that West Lafayette schools are already doing wonderful things for the students and that she looks forward to helping us do more wonderful things. I have concerns about the search process, but Roth seems like a very caring and capable administrator and I’m grateful that Greiner is prioritizing curriculum improvement.
7:48 – Ohlhaut asked for approval of the accounts payable report. He reported that the schools made no payment to Ross Sloat in April through his consulting company, Pine Mesa LLC, because of the timing of when he submitted his invoice. Ohlhaut said that payments to Sloat will appear on next month’s accounts payable report. These payments will include a payment related to a 2019 memorandum of understanding and also for extra hours from when he was serving as interim superintendent. He included the memo, agreement, and 2 months of invoices in the school board packet. At the April meeting (7:57), Yin asked for information about why Sloat was continuing to be paid after having retired. Witt responded by saying that “it’s a typical school contract thing; there’s nothing unusual there, really” and then questioned Yin’s motivation in asking about the payment to Sloat. Witt told Yin that the public school board meeting was not the place for discussing this topic. The way Witt responded suggested that she was trying to hide something, so I submitted an APRA request for the memo, agreement, and invoice. They responded by not only sharing it with me but also including it in the school board packet and posting these documents to the website!
The documents show that Sloat was paid $885/day which is equivalent to a full-time annual salary of about $220,000. That’s a pretty generous rate of pay for a retired superintendent who is filling in as interim CFO. It reminds me of the school corporation paying its lawyer about $300,000 a year for part-time work. The agreement in these documents was for Sloat to be automatically paid for 12 days of work each month ($10,620/month) and to send an invoice for months in which he worked more than 12 days. Over the past year, Sloat was paid $148,275:
Mar 2022 $13,685 Feb 2022 $13,735 Jan 2022 $13,685 Dec 2021 $27,415 (Nov and Dec payments) Oct 2021 $13,810 Sep 2021 $10,970 Aug 2021 $10,685 July 2021 $11,305 Jun 2021 $10,927 May 2021 $10,685 Apr 2021 $11,373
The MOU from February 2019 states that Sloat failed to send invoices for more than $60,000 over 2017 and 2018 and that the school corporation would pay Sloat this $60,000 within one year of him leaving the interim CFO position. The MOU doesn’t include details, like a list of hours of work for 2017 and 2018 showing where the unpaid overages occurred. The documents also include a revised personnel report from March 2019 that shows that the school board approved this MOU. Note that it was the next month, April 2019, when the board voted to fire first-year teachers at WLIS and WLES while at the same time voting to begin an additional construction project. It’s no wonder that Witt would have preferred for these payments to Sloat to be made quietly and discussed only behind closed doors.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:50 – Ohlhaut was recognized for having now completed 99 total training hours in school district finance. Ohlhaut was the Jr/Sr HS French teacher until late 2020 when he was hired as the assistant CFO. He worked alongside Sloat, the interim CFO until Sloat retired and Ohlhaut was appointed as CFO as of April 1, 2022. I’m very happy with Ohlhaut as one of our top school administrators, but still think the school board is making a mistake to not have someone with an accounting or finance degree managing the school’s finances. 99 hours of training seems equivalent to the instructional hours one would get taking two college courses. The last time our school corporation had someone with the schooling and experience of a traditional school CFO was in 2015. At the time when the new construction plan was being presented to the community, the school district CFO, Tim Clary, resigned and signed a non-disclosure agreement preventing him from talking about school district finances.
7:52 – The school board received the Indiana School Board Association (ISBA) award for exemplary governance at the commendable level for 2021. Springer explained that this award is given by the ISBA to school boards that attend ISBA conferences, trainings, and webinars. This is not really an award, it’s a loyalty program that ISBA uses to encourage school board members to attend their trainings. Note that the school board pays fees to the ISBA to be able to attend these trainings.
7:54 – Board Reports
- West Lafayette School Education Foundation – Karpick reported on the Wall of Pride Event held April 7-8. He also said that there will be a reception before graduation (May 27) to present 32 scholarships for a total of $33,000. Schott said that 5 teacher grants were awarded for a total of $8000 in the second semester. The senior legacy project at the Jr/Sr HS will be a flag mural that will replace the flags that used to hang in the cafeteria before the remodel. He noted that homecoming will be September 9.
- Economic Development Committee – Marley shared about the 5-year tax abatement offered for the expansion of the Rolls Royce plant. He noted that approving the tax abatement is on the agenda for the city council meeting happening at the same time as this school board meeting.
- Park Board – Springer reported that 80 people gave input on a survey about activities at Happy Hollow Park.
- GLASS – Springer said that GLASS received $1.3 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding. They have many certified staff openings for 2022-2023.
- Teacher Discussion – Springer said that they discussed the new transportation plan, the two professional development days for 2022-2023, and new legislative requirements related to elearning. The update on the transportation plan was not shared at the school board meeting.
- Policy Committee – Springer said they meet every 2 to 3 weeks. Next month’s agenda will have policy updates from October 2021.
- Public Foundation – Austin said that they are working on “cupcake stuff for the fall.”
Yin said she has no updates. The school board leadership has not placed Yin on any active committees. Yin has asked to serve on committees but is being excluded.
8:03 – Greiner shared his superintendent report. He recognized the WL wind ensemble for being 1 of 16 bands in the entire state to compete at the ISMA state finals. He noted that it is teacher appreciation week and shared his appreciation for teachers who are dedicated to this service. Greiner noted that the deadline for legal services applications has passed and that they received 4 proposals as well as a note from 1 firm saying that they are not accepting work at this time. Witt will facilitate the legal council search. Our school district needs a new lawyer.
8:06 – Communication from the audience on non-agenda items (those who had signed up before the meeting began).
- Troy Janes, a WL parent, spoke about the importance of having community input before the school board makes decisions. He said that the state legislatures passed HB1130 and SB83 which require local school boards to allow public comment before making a final decision on an issue. He appreciates that this school board has provided opportunities for public comments at the beginning on agenda items. However, the only information available to the public before the school board votes is a list of agenda items. For example, today’s agenda just says that the board is voting to approve “continuing disclosure.” Lacking information about the items the school board is voting on restricts community input. Janes shared about the recent approval of a charter school in Lafayette and noted that the state regulator who voted against the proposal did so because of a concern that the community was not informed as evidenced that only one person came to the public hearing about it. The regulator said, “Do the people in Lafayette even know this is happening? Did we do enough to let them know?” Janes said he thinks the same question applies here and he does not think the school board does enough to let the community know about the issues they are deciding. The school board recently started releasing information after the school board meeting which allows the community to give input on new policies that have 2 readings. This is appreciated and a great start, but he asked for the school board to share the information with the community before the board meetings.
8:08 – The next school board meeting will be June 6 at 6:30pm where they will honor retirees with a reception before the meeting and recognize them at the meeting. I was surprised that they did not announce the Saturday Feedback Session scheduled for later in the week on May 7. These feedback sessions have been a great opportunity to interact with Greiner. At these feedback sessions, Witt usually pushes back against any community suggestion, but Greiner has done a nice job of engaging in discussion and then working to address the concerns that are shared. I am just grateful that we finally have somewhere for parents to ask questions and give input. May 7 was the last scheduled feedback session, but I hope Greiner will continue holding these in the future.
8:09 – The parent from the audience, who had earlier asked if she could ask a question about the health clinic, spoke from her seat and asked why audience members are not allowed to know what is going on during the school board meeting. She said that with no information about the agenda items publicly shared, community members cannot follow what is going on. She questioned why audience members are not allowed to speak. Witt responded that they already exceed the current law as well as the law that will be in place on July 1st. She said that anyone can contact the central office or school board members with any questions. The typical procedure at WL school board meetings is to only allow public comments from those who have signed up before the meeting begins. However, last month they allowed a parent to speak at the end who had not signed up. During the public hearing for superintendent (5:46), Karpick also let community members speak without having signed up ahead of time. So, this seems to be a rule that is easily relaxed if the board president wants to allow audience members to speak.
8:10 – Yin said that she wanted to follow up on that community member’s comment. She asked if the school board could share the school packet information before the meeting. Yin explained that at the ISBA training, board members were encouraged to share information with the public. Witt responded by saying that she has discussed this in the weekly emails that she sends to the school board members and said that she believes that they are acting well above the law. Witt said, “This is a conversation we need to have as a board but we have not placed it at the top of our priority list.” Yin suggested that this should be a priority saying that school board members need to get feedback from the community to be able to better represent the community. She said that she is not knowledgeable about every issue the school board is asked to handle and would like to get feedback from others before voting. Witt clearly explained why our school district has had so many issues with not sharing public information; it is not a priority for our past and current school board officers. As community members have requested disclosure of public records, the school board has chosen to waste taxpayer money paying its lawyer to fight these requests. We need school board members who prioritize transparency.
8:12 – The meeting was adjourned. I was surprised that the school board did not ask Shriner to report on the new Jr/Sr HS bell schedule as he only gave a preliminary update with no details at the April meeting (6:53). Two days after the school board meeting, Shriner shared the plan with the student council telling them that it was already finalized. I’ve copied it here for you:
This new bell schedule was discussed at the May 7 Saturday Feedback Session where Witt said they didn’t bring it to the school board because it does not require a school board vote. It is interesting to note that last year’s bell schedule change was voted on at the April 2021 meeting (7:05). Last year, the Jr/Sr HS administrators said they were recommending the schedule change to the school board. This year, Shriner has made it very clear that he does not want parent or student input and that the schedule change is a principal decision. Greiner acknowledged that changing the school day start time and dismissal time are not the same as just adjusting the timing of class periods within the day and said that he would be happy to discuss concerns about the schedule with parents.
Another update on Shriner’s April meeting (6:53) presentation is that at last week’s parent council meeting, Shriner announced the list of “core values” selected by the Jr/Sr HS teacher committee. I’ve copied them here:
Red Devil Principles
- Get to class/meetings on time
- Bring your supplies each day
- Clean up after yourself
- Make commitments thoughtfully
- Act and speak with integrity
- Be a respectful member of our school community
- Be mindful that you are just one of many – listen, be patient, celebrate differences
- Take care of your body and mind
- Follow instructions carefully
- Be a good classroom citizen
- Do good work each day
- Finish what you start
- Don’t quite because something is hard. Work to know more and to know why the topic is so difficult.
- Minimize absences
- Sleep at home
- Engage with the material, your teachers, and your fellow students
- Contribute something positive to your communities
- Put your phone away
- We learn more with an open mind.
Location: Happy Hollow Building, LGI Room
Attendance: 7 of 7 School Board Members (Yue Yin, Bradley Marley, Thomas Schott, Alan Karpick, Karen Springer, Rachel Witt, Amy Austin); Shawn Greiner, Superintendent; Stephen Ohlhaut, CFO
Audience: 5 Administrators, 2 high school teachers, 2 students, 8 parents
Future Meetings (calendar link)
- Regular School Board Meeting – Monday, June 6th at 6:30pm at Happy Hollow LGI Room
- Reception for WLCSC Retirees – Monday, June 6th at 5:30pm 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.