October 10, 2022 Summary

HIGHLIGHTS: Increasing Class Size (7:22); Demolishing Portion of Happy Hollow Discussed (7:35); Increase in Teacher Salary (7:50); School Calendars for 2023-24 and 2024-25 (8:02)

6:32 – The school board meeting was called to order. There was a moment of silence for the Purdue student killed last week.

6:33 – The board was asked to approve a revised version of the agenda. Greiner proposed revising the agenda to add a presentation from Fanning Howey on the capital improvement plan between item 3 and 4. He also asked that item 4 be changed from approving the capital improvement plan to a request for approving the services agreement for the Happy Hollow chiller and the WLES air handlers. 

    Voted 7 out of 7

6:34 – The board was asked to approve minutes from the September 12, 2022 regular school board meeting.

Voted 7 out of 7

6:35 – The principals from each school recognized students. WLES recognized students who were in the Good Citizenship Club. WLIS recognized students from the cross country championship. Jr/Sr HS recognized students from Westside Unified. It is wonderful to celebrate our phenomenal students! 

6:46 – The board then recognized Greiner for being the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents District 4 Chair and then recognized Springer for her award from the Indiana School Board Association (ISBA).

6:48 – Communication from the audience on current agenda items (those who had signed up before the meeting began)

  • Laurence Wang, a WL parent and candidate for school board, spoke about the collective bargaining agreement. He shared his concern about the shortage of teachers in Indiana and said that in addition to the proposed increase in the salary schedule, he would like the school board to consider other types of compensation, for example, offering a one-time signing bonus or offering partial college loans forgiveness. He also spoke about the need to improve the retention rate for paraprofessionals in our schools and recommended providing more training and offering higher pay.

6:49 – Jerome McKibben from Rock Hill, South Carolina shared a presentation on his Demographic and Enrollment Forecast. He said that he is providing forecasts, not projections, and noted that projections use a path trend, usually over 5 years, and are easy to produce. Projections are only accurate when the next five years look very similar to the previous five years. Producing a forecast is a much more involved two-step procedure. First, he does a full population forecast by age and gender with a fertility, mortality, and migration model. The second step uses the results of the population forecast to produce an enrollment forecast for each grade in the school district. 

Various assumptions go into producing the enrollment forecasts. One assumption is that the student transfer policy remains constant. He noted that until 2020, we had a net positive transfer rate of about 60 to 80 students. At the September Work Session, Reutter reported that our school district currently has 119 transfer students from TSC in addition to the children of employees who are counted in the ADM. I have not been able to find information on the number of students who transfer out of our school district.

McKibben said that the biggest factor that affects our population and enrollment is the age structure of our population. Our school district has a large fraction of the population that is in their 60s. We will likely see more single-family homes for sale by elderly people which will bring in new young families with children. He also noted that the birth rate in our school district is relatively flat. He said that ⅔ of the households in our district are renters and ⅓ are single-family home owners.

Yin asked if it would be possible to offer incentives to older homeowners to encourage them to sell their homes with the hope of attracting more families with children. McKibben said that this has been tried in communities in New England where the local government partnered with developers to build retirement housing, but noted that once the retirement housing opened, people from all over moved in, not just people from the local school district. McKibben made a sarcastic comment about not being able to force elderly people from their homes. Witt responded saying that this conversation was close to being ageist and told them to be respectful of all homeowners. Yin responded that Witt was misunderstanding her and that she did not have anything negative to say about elderly residents. Witt said that she was not directing her comment specifically to Yin and that it was the conversation that was the problem. McKibbens said that we have a hard time talking about mortality in our country and said that elderly people don’t always have good housing options. Yin said she wanted to clarify that she respects seniors and all that they contribute to our community and that her desire was to discuss the scarcity of housing in our school district. Witt said that it was fine and that the conversation just got off track. It was an uncomfortable exchange. Witt works at Westminster Village, a local senior living center, and so this may have contributed to her reaction to this discussion. In general, I would like to see better interactions between school board members.

7:22 – The last page of McKibben’s Demographic and Enrollment Forecast provides recent enrollment by grade and forecasts of future enrollment. The forecasts show no large increases or decreases in total enrollment. It is helpful that the school corporation website now lists the average class size at WLES and WLIS for last year and this year. It shows an increase in class size at both schools. No class size information is provided for the Jr/Sr HS:

  • Elementary Class Sizes (K-3 grades) During the 2021-2022 school year WLES had 691 students while staffing 32 teachers leaving class sizes ranging from 19-23 and an average class size of 21.593 students. Currently WLES has 700 students enrolled with 32 teachers leaving class sizes ranging from 20-24 students and an average class size of 21.875 students. 
  • Intermediate Class Sizes (4-6 grades) During the 2021-2022 school year WLIS had 543 students while staffing 24 teachers leaving class sizes ranging from 21-25 and an average class size of 22.625 students. Currently WLIS has 565 students enrolled with 24 teachers leaving class sizes ranging from 23-25 students and an average class size of 23.5 students. 
  • Junior-Senior High Class Sizes (7-12 grades) These class sizes will vary from year to year depending on student interest and need for a class. For instance, all students will need a US History class, but only some students will choose a psychology class. All students will need biology but only some will choose physics. More variation in class size will occur at the secondary level so that students may not only satisfy requirements for graduation but are also given options to pursue their interests and goals.

The current average class size at WLES of 21.9 students is the highest it has been in 20 years and maybe much longer (see the figure below). My view is that smaller class sizes, particularly in the elementary school, used to be something that made our schools stand out and allowed teachers to better serve disadvantaged students. We used to brag about this on the school corporation website. From 2007 to 2018 the WLES website boasted that “our average class size is 19, which allows us to foster strong interpersonal relationships in a safe school environment” (archived website). The only year that claim was true was in 2007. I’m disappointed that the school board decided to abandon the goal of an average class size of 19 and that they made this decision without any input from parents. Like many others in the community, I had understood that the main purpose of the referendum was to keep class sizes low. You can read more about my views in my post on Class Size.

7:23 – Bill Payne from Fanning Howey said that the purpose of the Capital Improvement Plan is to prepare for the facilities and maintenance needs for the next 10 years. The plan also analyzes the quality of our facilities because teaching, curriculum, and methodology change over time. Payne said that they did a building tour with an engineering team focused on building systems and another tour with an architectural team focused on the learning environment, buildings, and surrounding sites. Larry Daily, WLCSC director of maintenance and facilities, attended all the tours. The next step in their process is to prepare a document with recommendations and costs. They will work with Mike Reutter, financial consultant, to determine the school corporation’s funding capacity. The result is a tool that can be updated by administrators or the school board as things change, depending on funding capacity and age of equipment. Payne said that the air handler in the gym at WLES needs to be replaced and noted needed repairs to the sidewalks, asphalt, and tennis courts around WLES. He said that WLIS is a beautiful new building where the only needs are related to the outdoor space which receives heavy use and could be improved. He recommended that the Jr/Sr HS shift to LED lighting. He noted that the athletic complex needs improvements in concessions, locker rooms, coaches areas in the support building, artificial turf, visitor access to visitor grandstands, asphalt parking repair, and possibly expanded parking. 

7:35 – Payne said that the Happy Hollow building has some spaces that are functional and flexible. The robotics club recently began using part of this space and he said that it could be used by a number of other groups. However, the two-story classroom section of the building has many issues. The biggest issues are that it was not built with enough space for modern air quality equipment and the exterior walls are not insulated or up to code. He said that if you have to spend more than 70% of the cost of new construction to renovate an old building to make it useful then usually funding sources will not be available. This part of the facility is not being used and he said that the cost of maintaining it is not money well spent. Payne said that they will come back with a recommendation to demolish the two-story portion of Happy Hollow and save the larger spaces, like the LGI room. They will bring ideas to the next school board meeting. He noted that WLCSC is outsourcing all of their bus maintenance and suggested that the Happy Hollow property could be used for bus parking and servicing. Payne said that the next steps are to receive feedback from the school board, meet with administrators to identify priorities, review the Happy Hollow concept, populate ten year projections, and present the revised Capital Improvement Plan and Happy Hollow concept to the board. The final product is a spreadsheet file that can be changed as conditions change. 

7:43 – Greiner asked for approval of the proposal for services agreement (not yet released by the school corporation) to replace the Happy Hollow chiller and WLES air handlers. He said that this was approved at the August School Board Meeting (7:05), but said that he would like the board to vote to approve it again now that they have received notice that the cost is $33,000. He said that there are two separate projects and that each is to review the current capacity, share recommendations, design the projects, facilitate the bidding process, and supervise any approved work. These projects can be voted on separately or together. This agenda item is a vote to approve the planning and then after the bids are received the board could vote to move forward with replacing the equipment or not. Yin asked why they are replacing the Happy Hollow chiller when the presentation suggested demolishing a large part of the Happy Hollow building. Witt said the Happy Hollow chiller is not functional and said that Mr. Dailey has to restart it every day to keep it running. Payne said that reducing the size of the chiller does not offer significant savings. He said if the chiller isn’t replaced then there is a chance of future issues. Each time I entered the Happy Hollow building this summer, it was very cold inside. It sounds like the chiller is nearing the end of its useful life, but then again, it also sounds like we may be demolishing a large portion of the building. I still think the board should decide on a plan for Happy Hollow first. 

     Voted 7 out of 7

7:50 – The board was asked to approve the Collective Bargaining Agreement. It had already been ratified by the teachers’ union. The negotiations committee consisted of board members Yin and Marley as well as administrators Greiner and Roth. Greiner said that the focus in this new agreement is on keeping the best teachers here and bringing the finest teachers to our school corporation. Witt asked Greiner to explain how negotiations with teachers compare to negotiations with staff. Greiner said that when Cronk, the new CFO, begins in one week she will put together an agreement for the support staff. Yin asked how our teacher salaries compare to those of other school districts. Greiner said that he will continue to look at the pay in other districts and noted that some school districts set a 2-year contract last year, but others are currently negotiating and will have their agreements finalized by November 15th. I looked up the TSC teacher contract which is a two-year agreement approved last year. TSC had a starting teacher salary of $43,950 last year (higher than the WLCSC starting salary) and has a $45,606 starting salary for this year (lower than the just approved WLCSC starting salary). The LSC teacher contract had a $40,000 starting salary last year and has not yet posted this year’s contract. I think it is wonderful that we are giving teachers a big pay increase this year. When I started teaching at WLES in 2016, the starting salary in our district was $40,000. It went up to $41,000 in 2017 and stayed there until 2020 when it increased slightly to $41,140. Last year the starting salary increased to $43,363 and the new starting salary that was just approved is now $47,250. If we inflation adjust the 2016 starting salary of $40,000 to 2022 dollars, we get $49,360, which suggests that our teacher pay is not keeping pace with inflation, even after this large increase. I would like teacher pay to be a much higher priority in the budget.

    Voted 7 out of 7

7:56 – Roth asked for approval of several Budget Resolutions: appropriations and tax rate, resolution to adjust appropriations, resolution for a target tax rate for the debt service fund, resolution for bus replacement, and resolution for capital projects.

    Voted 7 out of 7

7:59 – Roth asked for approval of the CD Resolution. This is an annual request which allows the school corporation to invest in CDs with banks that are not within school district boundaries. 

    Voted 7 out of 7

8:00 – Greiner asked for approval of the increase in Health Insurance Premiums. He said that he is anticipating a 6% increase and is confident that it will not exceed 9%. He won’t have the final numbers until the end of the month. However, this needs to be approved before the next meeting in order for open enrollment to begin and so is asking the board to approve an increase of up to 9%.

    Voted 7 out of 7

8:01 – Greiner asked for approval of school calendars for 2023-2024 and 2024-2025. Mrs. Creech, HS teacher and member of the calendar committee, presented the calendars to the board. She said that the calendar discussion was a collaborative process with teachers, administrators, and school board members. The teachers union conducted a survey to get feedback. The calendars follow Purdue’s Spring Break and keep graduation on Memorial Day weekend. Witt noted that last year, the interim superintendent delayed approval of the 2023-2024 calendar until this year and said this is why they are approving two school calendars at once. Yin said she had sent a request to have holidays listed on the calendar and would like clarification. Greiner said a statement would be added to the calendars after he discusses it with principals, teachers, and school board members. I wish more of Greiner and Yin’s conversation would have happened at the public meeting so we could understand what was being discussed. I was happy to hear about all the collaboration that went into building the school calendars, but I’m disappointed that students, parents, and other community members are excluded from the discussion. Our school board should seek community input before making important decisions.

    Voted 7 out of 7

8:05 – Greiner asked for approval of the out-of-state German Class Field Trip.

    Voted 7 out of 7

8:06 – Greiner asked for approval of the Personnel Report.

    Voted 7 out of 7

8:07 – Roth asked for approval of the Accounts Payable. September payroll deductions will appear on the October payroll. 

    Voted 7 out of 7

8:09 – Information for the board: The ISBA Fall Conference was attended by Greiner, Yin, Austin, Springer, and Witt. In November they will share what they learned. The board completed the self-evaluation process and set three goals. They will share more about that in November. 

8:11 – Greiner said that he sent a survey to staff and families about school district priorities. He reported that 223 families responded. The results will be shared publicly. There is an open house on Saturday, October 22nd, 11am-2pm at the high school for the James R. Guy Academic Wing and the Bob Kelly Performing Arts Center. Greiner also said that Niche.com recognized WLCSC as the #1 district in Indiana, #1 district for best teachers in Indiana, #1 district for best place to teach in Indiana, and #8 district in the nation. The last time we heard about the Niche.com rankings was in the couple of months right before the 2020 school board election. Our school corporation had paid Niche.com $9,900 to buy a “premium profile” to promote their rankings of our schools.

8:13 – Roth said that we use an automated system to track required training for employees. This year, the special education team added an online training for administrators and special education staff emphasizing therapeutic crisis intervention. She noted that Laura Falk, DEI director, has relocated to the high school and spends 3 days at the Jr/Sr HS, 1 day at WLIS, and 1 day at WLES. A group of teachers from each of the schools have been working with Falk on DEI issues. Dr. Renee Azziz from Virtuoso Education, provided professional development for staff, teachers, and administrators to make them trainers in order to facilitate activities with our own staff. The administration team worked with Devon Moore, a WLPD social worker, to learn more about implicit bias. The IDOE Excellence STEM grant proposal for $500,000 has been submitted with $250,000 to promote professional development and $250,000 for equipment supplies and other curricular resources. All of this is exciting for our school district, especially the grant! 

8:17 – Board Reports

  • West Lafayette Schools Education Foundation – Karpick shared about the homecoming tailgate on September 9th. There were class reunions for ‘57, ‘62, ‘72, and ‘97. John Conkright visited WLES with a carload of books in honor of his parents, Mary and Walter Conkright. Teacher grant applications are due October 28th.
  • Negotiations – Marley shared that this was the smoothest negotiation in 12 years and that Greiner should be commended as well teachers David Joest and Lori Windler.
  • Redevelopment Commission – Marley shared that they approved the 2023 spending plan, a water fountain for the new dog park on Kalberer, playground equipment for Lincoln Park, the facilities master plan, and a public safety center feasibility study.
  • Teacher Discussion – Springer said that they discussed class sizes, substitute teachers, paraprofessionals, and the school calendar.
  • Park Board – Springer shared that the park board foundation is sponsoring a 5K on Friday at 6pm. The Fall Fest will take place on Friday, October 28th, 5-8pm at the Wellness Center with bounce houses, games, crafts, food trucks, and trick or treating along the trails of Cumberland Park.  

8:24 – Communication from the audience on non-agenda items (those who had signed up before the meeting began). 

  • Erin Moon-Walker, WL parent, spoke about school district communication. At the June school board meeting she shared concerns about poor Jr/Sr HS communication with parents. Other than being thanked at the meeting, she received no other response from the board. Two months later there was an incident at the high school where her child was bullied. She felt that the administrators should have shared information with her as a parent right away and worked to address the concerns, instead the bullying escalated. She said that in this district, school leaders value parents’ money and time, but not their opinions. She would like to see school board members acknowledge other outlets, like social media, for communicating. She would like them to admit their mistakes and be accountable. 

6:26 – Meeting is adjourned

Location: Happy Hollow Building, LGI Room

Streaming: WLCSC Regular Board Meeting October 10, 2022

Attendance: 7 of 7 School Board Members (Yue Yin, Bradley Marley, Thomas Schott, Alan Karpick, Karen Springer, Rachel Witt, Amy Austin); Shawn Greiner, Superintendent; Anna Roth, Assistant Superintendent 

Future Meetings (calendar link)

  • Regular School Board Meeting – Monday, October 14th 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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