January 9, 2023 Summary

HIGHLIGHTS: New School Board Members (6:25); Leadership Election (6:31, 6:34, 6:35); Releasing Information Prior to School Board Meetings (7:08); Discussion of my Meeting Summaries (7:16)

The following is my summary of the public school board meeting, not the official meeting minutes (which will be released one month from now). My personal thoughts and opinions are given in italics and represent my own views which do not necessarily reflect those of any other member of the school board. I identify myself as Mumford in the summary but use first person when describing my personal thoughts and opinions.

6:25 – Two new school board members, Laurence Wang and Dacia Mumford, and re-elected member, Rachel Witt, took the oath of office to serve as school board members before the official meeting began. 

6:30 – This school board meeting was split into three parts: the organizational meeting, the regular meeting, and the board of finance meeting. The school board organizational meeting was called to order. The board was asked to approve the agenda for the organizational meeting

Voted 7 out of 7

6:31 – School board members were asked to nominate others or themselves for 2023 school board president. Marley nominated Witt and Austin seconded it. Witt accepted the nomination. Mumford nominated Marley and Wang seconded it. Marley did not accept the nomination. Witt did not provide the opportunity for discussion. When Yin nominated Marley for president last year, he declined and said that it was not something he could take on. The unnecessary tradition in our district is that the school board president spends a lot of time dealing with nearly every school board issue. In many other school districts (most are larger than ours), the board president puts in less time by sharing the responsibilities to a much greater extent. 

Voted 4 out of 6 (Yin and Mumford opposed, Wang abstained) for Witt as President

I think the most important responsibility of the school board president is to act as the voice of the school board. The school board president represents us during meetings, at events, and in written messages and so a minimum requirement for this position is to communicate respectfully. It is especially important for the board president to speak with a great deal of respect to fellow school board members, community members who attend meetings, and to those invited to speak to the board. I would also like the board president to show kindness and listen attentively to those with whom they disagree. The board president should be willing to admit mistakes, accept responsibility, apologize, and work to correct the issue. Failure to consistently demonstrate these characteristics is why I voted against Witt for president.

6:34 – Austin nominated Marley as vice president and Schott seconded it. Marley accepted the nomination. Wang nominated Yin and Mumford seconded it. Yin accepted the nomination.

Voted 4 out of 7 for Marley as vice president (Yin, Wang, and Mumford voted for Yin) 

6:35 – Schott nominated Austin as secretary and Marley seconded it. Austin accepted the nomination. Wang nominated Mumford as secretary and Yin seconded it. Mumford accepted the nomination.  

Voted 4 out of 7 for Austin as secretary (Yin, Wang, and Mumford voted for Mumford) 

The school board leadership voting sent a strong message. The leadership for this year excludes all 3 of the outsiders/non-PAC members (Yin, Wang, Mumford) and indicates that there is no intention to work in a collaborative way. The 4 PAC members (Witt, Marley, Austin, and Schott) have the majority, and don’t need the other 3 board members in order to get their priorities passed. An alternative approach would have been to nominate a more inclusive leadership with one outsider/non-PAC member in a leadership position. I think it is likely that an inclusive leadership slate would have received unanimous support. That would have been a wonderful message to send to the community.

6:36 – The board was asked to approve the corporation treasurer – Michelle Cronk.

Voted 7 out of 7

6:37 – The board was asked to approve 4 bonded treasurer positions. (January 2022, 6:52 explains the bonded positions).

Voted 7 out of 7

6:38 – The board was asked to approve the two school corporation physicians – Anne Marie Bianculli, M.D. and Chester Ho, M.D. Greiner shared that the school nurses and both physicians like working together. He said that the two physicians split the compensation, so having two physicians doesn’t cost our school district more than if we only had one.

Voted 7 out of 7

6:40 – The board was asked to approve the appointment of the school attorney – Church/Church/Hittle/Antrim. The rate schedule is reviewed at the end of the 1st quarter.

Voted 7 out of 7

6:41 – The board was asked to approve its own compensation per Indiana Code ($2,000/year + $112 per evening of meetings + $62 per evening if date is different from regular school board meetings for executive or work sessions). This is the same compensation as in prior years. 

Voted 7 out of 7

6:42 – The board was asked to approve Schott as a member of the board of directors of the West Lafayette Schools Education Foundation. Witt said a second person could possibly be assigned to serve in the future. Schott served on the foundation board last year with Karpick. Schott and Austin served the year before. 

Voted 7 out of 7

6:43 – The organizational meeting was adjourned. 

6:44 – The regular school board meeting was called to order. The board was asked to approve the agenda for the January 9, 2023 regular meeting and the minutes of the December 12, 2022 regular meeting.

Voted 7 out of 7

6:46 – Roth shared that WLES was the Top Performing School for the Purdue Women’s Basketball Reading Challenge with a total of 1,002,651 pages. They will be celebrating the 100th day of school on Friday, January 20th. Also they have increased substitute pay and are seeking more substitute teachers. Cronk shared that the Jr/SrHS received donations to support those in need during the holidays. Greiner shared that WLIS is celebrating the 100th day of school with a Family Game Night on January 20th. They will also have a welcome coffee for WLIS parents on January 24th from 9:30-10:30 am. He also noted that a parent sent a letter of appreciation for bus driver, Linda Peyton, for her kind approach as she interacts with students and her daily commitment to keep them safe.

6:49 – No community members signed up to speak on current agenda items.

6:50 – Cronk asked for approval of Resolution: Additional Check Runs. She said that the school corporation regularly incurs expenses that must be paid on a timely basis outside of

normally-scheduled meetings in order to maintain operations and to not incur late fees and/or penalties. Mumford asked her to explain how the accounts payable document shows which expenses were already paid and which ones have not been paid yet. She said that a “Y” in the “Btwn Brd” column indicates that she has already paid that expense. No “Y” means that the expenses will be paid after the board votes. Mumford noted that our school board approves this resolution every year in January, and asked why other school districts do not pass similar resolutions. Cronk responded that her previous district did not have an annual resolution of this type, but did have a policy that governed spending before board approval. She noted that many school districts have a policy that addresses this issue which is something our school district could consider rather than passing this resolution each year.

Voted 7 out of 7

6:53 – Greiner asked for a vote to approve an anonymous donation of $1000 for the band to purchase a tower for summer practices and an anonymous donation of $2000 for the debate team to purchase a podium and gavel. Yin suggested recognizing all donations, big and small, in the Red Devil Newsletter. We have a very generous community!

Voted 7 out of 7

6:54 –  Greiner asked for approval of Field Trip: West Lafayette Bands out of state to see the Blue Man Group in Chicago. Mumford asked if there were scholarships available for students who couldn’t afford to attend. Greiner said that there are no scholarships. Mumford asked for possible options to provide scholarships. Greiner noted that there are no school funds available to cover the cost of attending extra-curricular field trips for disadvantaged students. He suggested asking parent councils if they could help with this. Witt said that teachers are most aware of which students have financial needs and that this should be a faculty discussion. Yin asked if the foundation (WLSEF) could help and Schott said he would ask. She also suggested a possible fundraiser of a small donation to attend musical performances as a way to raise funds for scholarships. I am grateful for the band teachers for making this field trip possible for students. I look forward to future discussions as we get more information from the parent council and the foundation to make sure all students can participate in activities where there is an extra fee.

Voted 7 out of 7

6:59 – Greiner asked for approval of the Personnel Report. There was no discussion.

Voted 7 out of 7

7:00 – Cronk asked for approval of the Accounts Payable WLCSC, Accounts Payable WVEC, and Finance Report. Mumford asked Cronk to explain the transfer tuition payments that the district made to TSC and LSC. Cronk explained that the amounts are determined using form 515 for students transferring out of our schools. Mumford asked why we were only now paying for 2021-2022 tuition. Cronk said that WLCSC, TSC, and LSC have all decided to typically bill in November for the previous year which allows the districts to decide if they want to make the payment in the current calendar year or the next. We paid TSC $15,078.04 for one student in 3rd grade and one student in 6th grade. We paid LSC $33,457.25 for four students in grades 5 through 7. Mumford asked if these six students are the only transfer students from WLCSC to TSC and LSC in 2021-2022. Greiner said yes and noted that all six are students with special needs and are part of GLASS. 

Voted 7 out of 7

7:06 – Greiner shared some general information. He said that Governor Holcomb’s recommended state budget includes increased funding for teacher salaries (6% in 2024 and 2% in 2025), local incentives to recognize increased student literacy, free textbooks, STEM education, early learning and childcare, school safety, and college affordability. Greiner said that February 10th is professional development day in our district with no school for our students. The teachers will meet in the morning with equity teams from each building directed by Laura Falk, the diversity equity and inclusion director. The student group “I Am Power” assisted in developing the agenda. He said that the afternoon will be more focused on building related sessions. He gave a special recognition to Michelle Brooks, orchestra teacher, who has decided to retire at the end of the school year. This is her 37th year teaching! The orchestra program is outstanding and Mrs. Brooks has had an incredible impact on the lives of thousands of students, including my children. She will be greatly missed!

7:08 – Witt said that the school board is considering revising our bylaw po0143.1 in the first quarter of 2023. She said that she obtained an opinion from our retained legal counsel, Jessica Billingsley of Church, Church, Hittle & Antrim to ask how it relates to new state legislation. She then read the opinion: 

“House Enrolled Act 1130 made additions/revisions to IC 5-14-1.5-3 and 3.7 requiring school boards to allow a member of the public who is physically present to provide oral comment at a board meeting and when a board may meet virtually. HEA 1130 does not address board packets or public access to board packets. Hence, no conflict exists between HEA 1130 and the referenced policy language. The Indiana Access to Public Records Act (IC 5-14-3 et seq.) addresses public access to records maintained by West Lafayette Community School Corporation such as the board packet. No law, including HEA 1130 nor the APRA, requires West Lafayette Community School Corporation to make the board packet proactively available. That is a policy decision within the jurisdiction of the Board.”

Witt said that the board would meet in a work session in February to discuss revising bylaw po0143.1, and the policy committee will discuss new bylaw language after the work session to present revision to the board for the first reading in the March school board meeting. Mumford asked if they could do the work session discussion in January. Witt responded that she was concerned that committee assignments would not be in place in time for a January work session. Mumford asked why the committee assignments were needed before the work session. Witt said she would see if the work session could be scheduled in January.

The reason Witt asked for an opinion from the school district’s legal counsel is because I spoke with the Indiana Public Access Counselor and it was his view that our bylaw po0143.1 is in conflict with the recent revisions to IC 5-14-1.5-3. Specifically, our policy that “prior to a school board meeting, the school board packet shall be considered confidential and shall not be released” prevents the public from being able to speak at board meetings about those issues that are up for a vote. Without access to the documents, how does the public know what is being voted on? The new law specifically states that “the taking of oral public comment on a topic must occur before the governing body takes final action on the topic.” Essentially, the school board cannot vote on a topic without first allowing public comment on that topic. He suggested that making all information confidential before the vote essentially nullifies the intent of this state law and said that he didn’t think our policy would stand up to a challenge. 

I don’t understand why our school leaders are fighting so hard to keep everything confidential. My view is that everything should be posted before the meeting unless there is a compelling reason that a particular document must be confidential. Confidentiality should be the exception, not the rule. A year ago, our school district claimed that all the information in the school board packet was confidential, both before and after the meeting. Mumford v. West Lafayette Community School Corp found that the school board could not deny a request for the school board packet as it “runs contrary to any reasonable interpretation of the access laws.” After I won the case, the school district began posting the school board packet online after each meeting. I wrote about this in my post on Access to Information. Now we need to take the next step and post everything online before school board meetings so that teachers, parents, and other community members can see all the information relevant to the upcoming votes before they happen.

7:13 – Board Committee Reports:

  • Redevelopment Commission – Marley shared that Lindberg road has started construction to put in sidewalks. 
  • West Lafayette Schools Education Foundation -Schott shared that the deadline for senior student scholarships is 2/1/23. The first grants to the athletic coaches were awarded to volleyball, women’s soccer, and softball. The foundation is working with Purdue’s Engineering Projects and Community Service who is designing and building a bagging carousel to aid the volunteers with the backpacking program. 
  • Legislative Liaison – Austin shared that she joined the Indiana School Board Association (ISBA) Legislative Action Meeting and learned that there will likely be about 200 education bills.

7:16 – Mumford shared that she plans to continue to write a summary of each school board meeting:

“I plan to continue to write summaries of public school board meetings and share them with the community. School board members are welcome to let me know if there are any errors in the summary and I will correct them. My view is that school board members are elected to represent the community. One way to do this is to keep the community informed. Community members are often not able to attend these meetings for various reasons and I like that the summaries allow them to be informed. I do not plan on writing summaries of committee meetings or other school board discussions but do plan on writing them, as I have done in the past, for regular school board meetings and public work sessions. I will be very clear at the beginning of each summary to state that the summaries are my own personal views and opinions and do not represent the views of the WLCSC school board.” 

Witt said that she does not read Mumford’s summaries. Austin said that she does not read them either. Witt said, “Our liability as individuals rests with us when we are not elected. When we become school board members our liability extends to the schools so understand that as you write those, that that is an increased exposure to our schools to risk and that is a burden which you are accepting. I also would point out to you that your fellow board members are really not free to collaborate on your minutes or your notes as it could put us in violation of holding meetings outside of our official meeting.” 

Witt is claiming that for her to read my summary and then send me a note to correct something that I’ve gotten wrong would be like holding a secret meeting in violation of state law. This doesn’t make sense. She sends an email to the entire school board each week and individual school board members are encouraged to write back to her with questions. Holding a group discussion outside of an official meeting would be a violation, but board members are allowed to speak to each other individually and send individual messages.

Wang shared that when he was campaigning he heard from many community members that they appreciated the summaries. He thinks they should be continued and are appreciated. Witt responded, “Opinions are opinions and need to be recognized as opinions. As you spend an increased amount of time on the board and have more context of people who do not share those opinions on the other side of the coin, that may broaden your view.“

Austin then related a story saying that her daughter was in a Discord discussion: “defending her mom because a student was accusing the board, and that includes myself, of embezzlement. I don’t appreciate the harm that your summaries have done. And I don’t think you have any appreciation for how many people have been negatively impacted by your opinions.” Mumford apologized and said that if people have misunderstandings or questions that she hopes the school board will answer them. Yin said she reads Mumford’s summaries each month and has found them helpful. Yin noted that she has never seen an accusation that the board embezzled money in any of Mumford’s summaries. 

My monthly summaries are appreciated by some and hated by others. There are people who don’t agree with my opinions and I’m fine with that. I would rather have a civil discussion about the issues than be told to be quiet and that I should not be allowed to express my opinions. I am happy to listen to those who would like to try to convince me that an opinion I have expressed is wrong. This is especially true now that I’ve been elected to represent our community on the school board. Also, I am always interested in constructive criticism on how to better share what happens in school board meetings. I believe that having an informed community is the best way for our schools to improve.

7:23 – Meeting is adjourned

7:24 – Austin began the annual meeting of the board of finance. She asked for approval of the January 9, 2023 agenda for the annual board of finance meeting and the January 10, 2022 minutes. In the future the minutes for the annual board of finance meeting will be approved in the next month’s regular school board meeting instead of at next year’s annual board of finance. 

Voted 7 out of 7

7:25 – Austin asked for nominations for president and said she is willing to continue to serve. Witt nominated Austin and Marley seconded it. 

Voted 7 out of 7 

7:26 – Austin asked for nominations for secretary. Karpick was the secretary in 2022. Mumford asked if the only responsibility of the secretary is to sign the minutes immediately after this meeting. Witt confirmed that the secretary has no other responsibilities for the year. Austin asked Mumford if she would be willing to sign the document and she said yes. Witt nominated Mumford and Marley seconded it.

Voted 7 out of 7

7:27 – Cronk shared the Investing Officer’s Report, Interest Earned Annual Report, and Investment Register. The school corporation’s total interest earnings over the past twelve months was $124,490.64. Four Certificates of Deposits matured during the 2022 calendar year with five maturing in 2023. Our HoosierFund reinvestment account is currently earning 4.05% interest, and we have four treasury bills that will be coming to term in our 2017 Lease Depository Account over the next year so we will ask for bids to try to earn higher interest rates on those funds. 

Voted 7 out of 7

7:28 – Cronk shared the Fiscal Indicators Report and Fiscal Indicators Update Memo. The fiscal indicators report was shown on the overhead. The indicators are used to evaluate the financial condition of a school corporation. This report is prepared by the state and can be viewed with other Indiana school districts’ reports at the Distressed Unit Appeal Board’s website. The indicators include Average Daily Membership (ADM), fund balances, annual deficit/surplus, fund balances as percent of expenditures, revenue by type, and operating referendum revenue as percent of total revenue.

The ADM count for fall 2022 was 2276 students which is up 35 students since February 2022. This count does not include transfer students from other districts. Currently we have 117 transfer students compared to 72 from last year. Yin asked if we could get the data for how many school age kids live in our district. Cronk said this is available and can be shared. Yin also asked if we could ask students who leave our district (transfers and homeschooling) what we could have done to better accommodate them. Greiner said that the secretaries ask this when a child un-enrolls so it is also something that could be shared.

The year-end fund balances graph shows negative values in Federal funds (pink and green) because they are reimbursement funds. We have to spend these funds before we can ask for reimbursement. The operating referendum revenue as a percent of total revenue is 17.1% for the school corporation in 2021. Without the referendum, we would have had approximately $6.3 million in expenses that would not have been covered. The increase in referendum revenue is due to increases in assessed value. The tax rate remained the same. The referendum is vital to our school district and I hope to hear more about steps we will take to be more transparent with our past and current finances as a strategy for encouraging the community to vote for the referendum.

Voted 7 out of 7

7:39 – The annual meeting of the board of finance was adjourned

Location: Happy Hollow Building, LGI Room

Streaming: WLCSC Regular Board Meeting January 9, 2023

Future Meetings (calendar link)

  • Regular School Board Meeting – Monday, February 13 at 6:30pm at Happy Hollow LGI Room (enter from North side/pool side of building)

This document is my summary of the public school board meeting, not the official meeting minutes (which will be released one month from now). My personal thoughts and opinions are given in italics and represent my own views which do not necessarily reflect those of any other member of the school board. I identify myself as Mumford in the summary but use first person when describing my personal thoughts and opinions. Previous agendas, minutes, and audio recordings can be found at the WLCSC website.

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