HIGHLIGHTS: 10 Year Capital Improvement Plan and recommendation for Happy Hollow Building (6:47); Discussion on West Lafayette School Education Foundation (7:27); Changes to Accounts Payable (7:39)
6:30 – The school board meeting was called to order. The board was asked to approve the agenda and the minutes from the October 10, 2022 meeting. Springer joined the meeting via zoom so the votes were conducted by roll call.
Voted 7 out of 7
6:33 – Sara Delaney, WLES principal, recognized 4 students who were in the Good Citizenship Club for the life skill of honesty. I love seeing our wonderful students recognized!
6:35 – Doug Caldwell, transportation director, was recognized by the school board for his service. A letter from one of the school bus drivers thanking Caldwell for his leadership was read aloud. Several of the bus drivers attended the meeting to support and honor Caldwell. It was great to see the appreciation from his staff plus the school board for his service.
6:38 – Cronk, Roth, and Greiner shared about some of the good things going on in our schools:
● WLES – The parent council is providing grants to teachers and running a poinsettia sale fundraiser.
● WLIS – The spell bowl was taking place at WLIS at the same time as the school board meeting. WLIS also hosted a veterans day program and an English Language Learners evening to give thanks.
● Jr/Sr HS – The Wrinkle in Time performance was a success. The school recently hosted Model United Nations. The girls basketball team had a good start to the season and the football team won regionals.
6:40 – No community members signed up to speak on current agenda items.
6:41 – The policy committee proposed several policy revisions. Greiner asked for approval of the proposed revisions and said that they were all due to state legislative changes to Indiana code:
- 0131.1 – Revisions clarify that board members can vote on bylaws or policies either in-person or virtually.
- 1521, 3121, 4121, 8121 – Revisions shorten the number of days the corporation has to obtain an expanded background check on employees and clarifies the termination process for an employee who has had their license revoked.
- 2464 – The revisions require a committee with both school and community members to periodically review the school district’s plan to provide appropriate educational experiences to high ability students. The plan must now include practices that ensure that students from disadvantaged backgrounds and underrepresented minorities are included in high ability student programs. The plan must be made available for public inspection.
- 5610 – The policy on suspension and expulsion of students is revised to be consistent with Indiana code.
- 6250 – The February average daily membership (ADM) count now also includes a count of students graduating early.
- 6550 – Revisions to comply with SBOA expectations on forms submitted for documentation of travel payment and reimbursement
- 8600 – Revisions to definition of special purpose buses
I do not understand why the school board is unwilling to publicly share the text of the proposed policy revisions before voting on them.
Voted 7 out of 7
6:45 – The policy committee (Schott, Springer, and Doug Masson) proposed a new policy which Greiner presented for a first reading:
- 2432 – Grievance Policy for Violation of State Law Limiting Participation of Transgender Girls in Athletics. Greiner explained that the policy follows Indiana statute 20-33-13 and prohibits transgender girls from participating in girls sports. It also includes a procedure to address grievances. Greiner said that it is being presented for a first reading and that the vote will happen at the December meeting. Austin said that she understands that this policy is necessary to comply with a new state law but said that she doesn’t agree with that law and would like to know what would happen if she voted against the policy. Greiner responded that adopting this policy protects the school corporation from legal issues. Witt agreed that the policy protects the school corporation and said that the battle needs to be fought at the courthouse with the courthouse budget and not with the school corporation’s budget.
A few days after the meeting, Greiner announced that the school board would not vote on this proposed policy in December to allow time to see how legal challenges to this new state law turn out.
6:47 – Bill Payne from Fanning Howey shared the 10-year Capital Improvement Plan. The purpose of the capital improvement plan is to prepare for future facility and maintenance needs which the plan estimates will cost $44 million over the 10-year period. He said that he only considered the status of the facilities and did not consider the school corporation’s funding capacity in making these recommendations. In addition to the report, the school district is provided with a spreadsheet which lists the timing of each recommended capital improvement and can be edited to allow the administrators to adjust as priorities change. Because the planning and bidding for projects takes about a year, the 10-year plan begins in 2024.
The recommendation for Happy Hollow is to retain the newer portion including the gym, large meeting room, and kitchen. Payne recommends demolishing the 2-story classroom portion of the building and doing some remodeling to add administrative offices and classrooms for a pre-kindergarten program. He recommended turning the open area in the parking lot and the west tennis courts into a school bus service center with bus parking. The outdoor pool would continue to operate like normal and the east tennis course would not be removed. The total cost of the proposed Happy Hollow project is $8.5 million. There was no discussion of how to pay for the Happy Hollow project. To learn more about how the school corporation exhausted its capacity to borrow you can read my post: Debt Payments.
7:17 – Cronk asked for approval to replace the WLES Air Handler. She explained that the cost for the chiller at Happy Hollow was higher than anticipated and so they decided to postpone replacing the chiller at Happy Hollow. She noted that another reason to postpone replacing the chiller is that there is still uncertainty about the future of Happy Hollow. I am grateful that they are not pushing ahead with the plan to replace the Happy Hollow chiller before deciding what to do with the building.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:20 – Cronk shared the Employee Insurance Renewal Update. In October, the board approved an increase in health insurance rates of up to 9%. This document shows that the actual increase in health insurance rates is 6% for the year.
7:21 – Cronk asked for approval to upgrade the GPS device in each school bus through Synovia Solutions. Caldwell said that the existing GPS devices will soon be obsolete. He uses these devices to see diagnostic information for each bus as well as see the location of each bus. He explained that our school district does not pay the additional fee to provide an app where students and parents could also see the location of each bus. He said that he doesn’t consider the app worth the cost because there is a time delay and our bus stops are quite close together.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:26 – Cronk asked for approval of a 5 percent Wage Increase for Non-Teacher Employees.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:27 – Witt asked for approval of an amendment to the WL Education Foundation Bylaws which removes the school’s treasurer from serving as the foundation’s assistant treasurer. The foundation has had its own treasurer for years and this proposal would bring the bylaws into agreement with their current practice. Karpick said that the school treasurer helped the foundation at the beginning, but that the foundation has been handling its own finances for a long time. Yin asked for an explanation of the relationship between the foundation and the school corporation. Doug Masson, president of the WL Education Foundation, explained that the foundation is independent from the schools and is a nonprofit organization that supports the mission of the schools. Two school board members (Karpick and Schott) are included on the foundation’s board in addition to former school district employees (Mary Beth Whitman and Beth Bangs), a student representative, and other community members. Yin asked how a donor determines if they should donate to the school corporation or to the foundation. Witt said that donors are usually steered towards the foundation, but said that some prefer donating directly to the schools and that donors can donate to either. Masson said that there are things the foundation can do that the school can’t and vice versa. The foundation can invest money to be used for scholarships. Marley said that donating to the foundation offers a tax advantage to donors. Yin asked how the foundation’s money is allocated. Masson said that it depends on donor intent and on the needs of the schools. Schott added that the foundation supports the backpack program and provides teacher grants. Karpick noted that the foundation raised over 2 million for the recent construction. Yin asked if details about donations received and the foundation’s spending could be shared with the school board, perhaps annually. Witt told Yin that the foundation president comes to a board meeting each year to give an annual report and that the two board members who attend foundation meetings give frequent updates. She then clarified that because of Covid it has been several years. Masson said the last time was probably in 2019. Yin told Masson that more public information from the foundation would be helpful. Schott pushed back at Yin’s request stating that the foundation is “well publicized” and that the foundation’s director, Wendi Ailor, does a good job. Masson responded that the foundation has been more focused on communicating with alumni but would like to build a better bridge to the community. I appreciated Yin asking questions and especially her request that the foundation provide an annual report to the school board. I’m not a tax expert, but my understanding is that donating to the foundation or to the schools provides an equal tax advantage. As for differences, my understanding is that schools cannot provide college scholarships to students (the foundation awarded $65,000 in scholarships in 2021-2022), schools have other spending restrictions, and schools must disclose the identity of donors.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:38 – Greiner asked for approval of the Personnel Report. Schott made a comment saying that this will be great for baseball. When the school board released the personnel report, it became clear that Schott was referencing that Jr/Sr HS teacher Aaron Wood was hired as the head baseball coach.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:39 – Cronk asked for approval of the Accounts Payable. She said that there are several things that she will be changing and that next month the accounts payable report will look different because she plans to share additional information for a more complete financial picture. Cronk said that she will also report on the current balance in each fund as well as report gross payroll numbers. Yin commented that she was grateful to see the large reduction in our legal expenses. Yin is correct, the school corporation’s new law firm billed a total of $1,802 for the month. The school corporation’s prior law firm billed an average of $25,000 per month. Also, I’m so excited to have our new Chief Financial Officer, Michelle Cronk, taking over the school corporation finances. This was her first official meeting and it was clear from what she said that she is already working to increase financial transparency. The last time our school corporation had a CFO with a finance or accounting degree was 2015, and he only lasted 6 months before resigning and signing a non-disclosure agreement to not talk about the school’s finances. It’s so great that we have someone with real training and experience in this position now!
Voted 7 out of 7
7:42 – Greiner said that he scheduled to meet with both new school board members (Lawrence Wang and me) individually. Onboarding with the new board members will happen in December with Greiner, Roth, Cronk, and Witt. Springer and Austin are putting together binders for the new board members. Greiner also reported that the results of the staff and community survey of district priorities were shared with school board members. They are discussing the results and Roth will share them publicly at the board meeting in December.
7:43 – Witt shared that Greiner, Yin, Austin, Springer, and Witt attended the ISBA Fall Conference in October and that the school board completed the annual performance evaluation for Greiner. She reported that the board officers will review the evaluation with Greiner.
7:47 – Board Committee Reports:
- West Lafayette Schools Education Foundation – Karpick shared that the scarlet and gray dinner will be on April 22, 2023. Schott shared that three teacher grants have been awarded with one at each school.
- Redevelopment Commission – Marley shared that they approved the 2023 budget. Casson Park will be built in 2023 at a cost of over $8 million. Road improvements are planned for Cherry Lane and Lindberg.
- Park Board – Springer shared that there will be a special holiday farmer’s market at the Wellness Center on November 23rd, 2-6pm. Riverside ice skating will begin November 25th, weather permitting. Grand opening for Cumberland Dog Park is scheduled for December 8th.
- Policy Committee – Springer shared that they finished the fall updates.
- Public Schools Foundation – Austin shared that the cupcake run had over 700 participants and volunteers raised almost $17,000 for teacher grants. Over $10,000 in grants have been awarded to 8 teachers. One WLCSC teacher applied, but was not selected. A virtual grant writing workshop will now be offered to teachers for continuing education credit at the end of July which hopefully will encourage more teachers to participate.
- Community Council – Yin shared that lots of events were shared and they discussed creating a community master calendar where all events from the various organizations could be listed.
7:55 – No community members signed up to speak on non-agenda items.
7:56 – Meeting is adjourned
Location: Happy Hollow Building, LGI Room
Attendance: 6 of 7 School Board Members (Yue Yin, Bradley Marley, Thomas Schott, Alan Karpick, Rachel Witt, Amy Austin); Shawn Greiner, Superintendent; Anna Roth, Assistant Superintendent; Michelle Cronk, CFO (Karen Springer attended via zoom)
Future Meetings (calendar link)
- Regular School Board Meeting – Monday, December 12th 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.