December 12, 2022 Summary

HIGHLIGHTS: Tabled policy 2432 (6:51); Summary of district priorities from survey (6:54); Increase in substitute pay (7:03); Retirement of orchestra teacher (7:05)

6:32 – The school board meeting was called to order. The board was asked to approve the agenda and the minutes from the November 14, 2022 meeting. They changed the room set-up replacing the podium for audience communication with a table, chairs, and microphone placed closer to the board members.

Voted 7 out of 7

6:34 – Margaret Psarros, WLIS principal, recognized students from various academic organizations: Spelling Bee, German Club, Spell Bowl, Math Bowl, Math Counts, Lego Robotics, Chess Club, WLIS Review, and Battle of the Books. It was great seeing so many students recognized as well as learning more about academic extracurriculars offered at WLIS.

6:43 – John Dennis, Mayor of West Lafayette, and Erin Easter, Director of Development,  recognized and presented a gift to honor Karen Springer and Alan Karpick for their service on the board. The school board also presented Springer and Karpick with a clock for the time they have given to our schools and community. Springer served for 24 years and Karpick for 16 years. I openly disagreed with some of the decisions that Springer and Karpick made in their time on the board, but I am also very grateful for the time and effort they dedicated to serve on the school board.

6:50 – No community members signed up to speak on current agenda items.

6:51 – Greiner asked to table Policy 2432 which limits the participation of transgender girls in athletics. He explained that school districts must follow the new state law, but are not required to also approve a corporation policy.

Voted 7 out of 7

6:52 – Cronk asked for approval to renew WLCSC Property Insurance for liability, workers’ compensation, and cyber liability. WLCSC worked with Henriott Group, insurance agent/broker, who provided several quotes. Both liability and workers compensation will continue with ASTRA through Great American. Cyber liability is a volatile market and the current carrier is no longer offering services to schools. The cost more than doubled but was the least expensive coverage that met the needs of the school and is through Tokio Marine.

Voted 7 out of 7

6:54 – Roth shared slides with a summary of the survey results from the survey sent out to parents and the community from the administration at the end of September. The survey link was shared through skyward to families and through social media to the community. 223 households responded. The ranking of priorities from highest to lowest is:

  1. Academics: perform a curriculum audit, allow “skipping” courses especially in math, use technology as a supplement but not to replace direct teacher instruction. Concerns about math placement and the lack of flexibility in Jr/Sr HS math classes have been brought to administrators for years with no improvements. Seeing the results of the survey may help to finally get this concern addressed. 
  2. Whole child: improving student mental health identified as a priority as well as efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion including race, economic status, and disability status.
  3. Finances: passing the referendum is essential to maintain programs and recruit/retain high-quality teachers, strong desire for transparency and accountability.
  4. Communication: some feel that communication from school leaders is adequate and others feel that it is lacking, need to celebrate students and staff to build community morale.
  5. Facilities: need a plan for Happy Hollow and need to keep the schools updated for student learning and to attract teachers.

Yin noted that the administration is already working to address some of the community suggestions, for example the curriculum audit. She asked when administrators would share how they are addressing these concerns. Roth responded that they plan to provide regular updates as they work with staff and administrators to address issues. Austin asked if there are plans to repeat the survey and see how priorities change and Witt said that it will happen as part of the communication goal. Witt commented that a 10% response rate of households is not ideal, but she was told that this is a good response rate. However, she would like to get more responses in the future. Witt shared that some board members asked to see the raw survey data and said that once administrators removed responses where there was a request for confidentiality, the raw data would be shared with the school board members. I appreciated Witt’s comment about seeking a higher response rate. I would like our school district to have an opt-in email list where anyone can sign up to receive information on school board meetings as well as the school board meeting packet (and even surveys) emailed to them. Currently, it is difficult to get feedback from community members who do not currently have children in our schools. 

7:03 – Cronk asked for approval to increase Substitute Pay. It will increase in January 2023 and will make WLCSC one of the highest paying school districts in our region. The current substitute teacher pay is $90/day and will increase to $110/day. Retired teachers who substitute will increase from $130/day to $145/day and permanent substitutes without a teacher certificate will be paid $130/day. Substituting in the schools is a great service to our community and a great opportunity to work with students. Before teaching 1st grade and kindergarten, I was a substitute teacher for years. Substitutes have a great deal of flexibility and can control their availability. 

Voted 7 out of 7

7:02 – Greiner asked for approval of the personnel report. There was no discussion. Congratulations to Michelle Brooks, orchestra teacher at WLIS and Jr/SrHS. She taught three of my girls and thousands of other students over her many years teaching here. WLCSC has a phenomenal orchestra program thanks to her and Mrs. Letcher.  We appreciate the years of service Mrs. Brooks has given and she will be greatly missed. 

Voted 7 out of 7

7:06 – Cronk asked for approval of the WLCSC Accounts Payable and WVEC Accounts Payable. She also shared the financial update which breaks down spending by funds. She created an overview explaining the major funds as well as shared the accounts payable key that the previous CFO, Stephen Ohlhaut, put together. They will be paying the teacher appreciation grant stipend in the last paycheck in December.  I appreciated that she shared the financial update by funds as well as separated WVEC spending from WLCSC spending in the accounts payable report to make things clearer.  

Voted 7 out of 7

7:09 – Greiner shared that he met with other superintendents in Indianapolis for the annual meeting of the association of public schools’ superintendents. They discussed legislative priorities. Because he is a member of the teacher education council and because of our partnership with Purdue, he will attend the pinning ceremony on Friday for Purdue’s teacher education graduates. Throughout the school year, we invite aspiring teachers into our classrooms for practicum and student teaching. This provides opportunities to encourage these great new teachers to apply to WLCSC. Greiner reported participating in the onboarding for me and Laurence Wang as we prepare to join the school board in January. He also thanked Springer and Karpick for their service on the school board and their support as he began working at WLCSC.

7:13 – Witt also shared about the onboarding process. Springer and Austin put together binders with materials to help the new school board members. Witt reported that she assigned herself to serve as mentor to me and Wang. I was very surprised that Witt assigned herself to serve as my mentor. She has been abrasive in her interactions with me and I don’t view her as an appropriate mentor.

7:15 – Karpick said that he met with Schott and Yin to discuss updates to school policies concerning communications from the board. With help from Springer, they looked at policies 0123, 0143, 0143.1, 0177.1, 3112, and 4112. He shared that these policies state that the board president is the voice for the board and that the board packet cannot be released before a school board meeting. He acknowledged that there are different views on this topic. Witt said that they are collecting information in order to discuss releasing the board packet before school board meetings. They are working on determining what they will release, when to release it, and the purpose and value in releasing it. Witt said that this process will take time and hopefully will happen in the first quarter of 2023. I have been advocating for a change to policies 0143 and 0143.1 to require releasing the board packet before school board meetings. School board members need to be able to seek input from community members before being asked to vote. If everything in the school board packet is confidential, school board members are being prevented from seeking input. This needs to change.

Karpick shared that they have seen improvements in communication with sharing board chair notes, district twitter and facebook accounts, Red Devil Pen newsletter, and WLSEF newsletter. He recognized that it is important to share on social media. 70% of the community do not have children in the schools so it is vital to communicate with them and prove our worth. This will be very important as it gets closer to asking the community to pass the next referendum. He suggested that the school district consider hiring a communications director to better provide information on programs and achievements. Roth has helped with this, but more is needed. There is also a need to improve visual aids and information for the audience during school board meetings. Schott added that improving the WLCSC website was one of the topics most discussed because it is outdated and difficult to navigate. All these things will require funds, but Schott suggested that the Foundation could help. Yin thanked Greiner and Roth for improving the school district communication. She suggested creating a communication plan to become more efficient and include more activities and events. I’m encouraged that the school board seems to have listened to the recent set of community suggestions. Angie Janes has been trying to get them to improve the website for years. I hope to hear more about the proposed changes over the next few months.

7:26 – Board Committee Reports:

  • West Lafayette Schools Education Foundation – Schott shared that the foundation posted its annual report. Giving Tuesday was successful with an increase in donors and gifts.
  • Community Council – Austin said they have created a shared google calendar with community events.
  • Park Board – Springer said that the Cumberland dog park opened December 8th. The Casson Family Park will begin construction in Spring 2023 and finish Spring 2024. 
  • Teacher Discussion – Springer said that they discussed Teacher Appreciation Grants, substitutes, purchasing process changes, parent background checks, and parent teacher conference expectations. 

7:30 – Communication from the audience on non-agenda items (those who had signed up before the meeting began). 

  • Randy Studt (Union leader and Jr/SrHS German teacher) shared that he was designated by WLEA to thank Springer and Karpick for their service on the board. 
  • Pushpa Toppo (Parent of WL graduates) shared about the Ankit Foundation for emotional and mental health. Students in our schools should be a priority for mental health support in our community. Student support comes from home, community, and schools. However, some students lack parent support so it is more important for them to get their support from the school and community. Screening and addressing mental health issues sooner can make a huge difference. She requested that we put more attention on the mental health of students. I was very touched that this mother in our community who recently lost her child is advocating to help our students with emotional and mental health support.      

7:43 – Springer thanked the community for allowing her to serve on the school board for 24 years. She is proud of all that has been accomplished for the students. Karpick thanked the community for his 16 years of service. He said it comes down to service, teamwork and leadership.

7:46 – Meeting is adjourned

Location: Happy Hollow Building, LGI Room

Streaming: WLCSC Regular Board Meeting December 12, 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; Michelle Cronk, CFO

Future Meetings (calendar link)

  • Regular School Board Meeting – Monday, January 9th at 6:30pm at Happy Hollow LGI Room (Wang, Witt, and myself will be sworn in at 6:25pm)

These are not the official minutes from the school board meetings. 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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