HIGHLIGHTS: School Mental Health Therapist (7:03), Before/After School Care (7:34), Releasing the Board Packet Before Meetings (8:00), Member Committee Assignments (8:55)
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.
6:30 – The school board meeting was called to order. The board was asked to approve the agenda for the February 13, 2023 regular meeting. The live streaming audio did not work for the first few minutes of the meeting and then stopped entirely halfway through the meeting.
Voted 7 out of 7
6:31 -The board was asked to approve the minutes of the January 9, 2023 Organizational Meeting of the Board of School Trustees. (These have not been posted to the website yet). Wang asked for several edits:
- Correct an error that records Austin having received 7 votes as secretary when in fact she received 4 votes
- List all those nominated for a leadership position, including those not elected
- Include which school board member voted yes and which voted no
Witt said that Wang had emailed her these questions and rather than respond, she would read the email response she had sent to him previously:
“I can tell you the reason that the minutes do not detail ‘what did not happen’ is connected to 1) their status as a record of decisions made by the board. They are not a record of “decisions not made by the board” 2) and perhaps a more important reason is related to board bylaw po0144 Board Member Ethics as it relates to ‘graciously conforming to majority rule’. In simple terms, this means that once a vote is cast, all members, even those who did not vote in the majority, accept the decision as fact and operate respectfully of one another regardless of individual votes. In my opinion, this is of particular importance in a small local elected body such as a school board. The end result of the vote was that myself, Brad and Amy were elected to serve as the officers for this year. It is entirely appropriate to list the vote tally, and I could even possibly consider that it makes sense to list each member’s vote tally after each vote, but I would argue that not only is it not necessary to list what did not happen in a meeting, but it is disrespectful of the outcome, and in the case of officers, is divisive practice in our community. Members of our community have some members they support and some they do not as proven by their votes. If we as a group of seven adults who were elected to a position cannot treat one another with respect, I’m not sure we can expect our staff, students or community can. As such, I strongly discourage inclusion of divisive and unnecessary language in the official minutes of the board. Those are my two cents anyway. I will invite comments in the meeting of course as I am obliged to do and we as a board can discuss the matter.”
Yin said that she thinks it is important to record in the minutes how each member votes so the community can hold school board members accountable for their decision. Austin said, “Our students and staff are best served by a board that is united. I believe that creating a record of division, a paper trail of times when the board has disagreed, will be a divisive force in the board and won’t serve our students or staff.” Schott said this won’t look good for the referendum. Mumford said that her opinion is that all votes during the meeting should be recorded in the minutes, including votes for motions or nominations that fail. Witt told Mumford that she did not see how it would serve our students to list the names of those who were nominated for leadership positions, but not elected. Mumford said that votes in public meetings should be recorded in the minutes.
Everyone eventually agreed with all 3 of Wang’s concerns. Wang’s request that the vote count for Austin be corrected to 4 out of 7 passed.
Voted 7 out of 7
Witt advocated for not going back to correct all the vote counts for prior meeting minutes, but instead proposed that each members’ individual vote be recorded in the minutes for all future meetings.
Voted 7 out of 7
Witt said we do not need to vote on our decision to include in the minutes all vote counts (including for motions that fail).
Wang told Witt about the error in the minutes (incorrect vote count for Austin), but Witt did not correct the error before presenting the minutes to the board. Oversights happen, but she should have quickly admitted the mistake and immediately offered to fix it. Witt and Austin’s arguments for not recording some of the votes in the minutes came across as pretty self-serving.
6:53 – The board was asked to approve the minutes of the January 9, 2023 Regular Meeting.
Voted 7 out of 7
6:54 – The board was asked to approve the minutes of the January 9, 2023 Annual Finance Meeting.
Voted 7 out of 7
6:55 – Ron Shriner, principal of Jr/Sr HS, recognized 3 students to receive the Way to Go Award for being good citizens. Aaron Smith, HS teacher and Debate Club Coach, recognized 4 debate students and also the debate team (consisting of 49 students) who placed 4th in the state last weekend. Smith was also commended for serving for 21 years as debate coach. What an incredible accomplishment by the debate team! I love this part of the school board meetings!
7:02 – No community members signed up to speak on current agenda items.
7:03 – Heather Levy shared a slide presentation about our school district’s new Mental Health Therapist Position. This is a 2-year pilot position paid for with ESSER funding (pandemic related funding). She spends time at all three schools with 2 days at the high school, 1-2 days at WLIS, and 1 day at WLES. The average waitlist in our community for counseling for children is 6 months. School counselors work with individual students and parents directly and may refer students to Levy for individual counseling. She will meet with students once a week for 30-50 minutes. The goal is to provide a short-term bridge for students who are on a waiting list to see a therapist in the community. Since starting in fall 2022, Levy has worked with 45 students individually and 49 students in small groups.
Schott asked how the small groups are formed and Levy said that the students are referred to her by the school counselors. Austin asked if she is able to meet the needs or if we need more mental health therapists in our schools. Levy said there are more students that need mental health services, but she added that she has been able to meet some needs that would not have been addressed in past years. Mumford asked which school has the greatest need and Levy said WLIS and Jr/Sr HS. Yin asked for more details about how the referrals from school counselors are provided and asked if school counselors are able to get to know all the students and their needs. Levy responded that teachers indicate needs to the school counselors and then school counselors determine if the student should be referred for mental health therapy. Yin suggested providing a parent workshop on some of the common concerns. Levy said that it would be up to the school counselors to provide a parent workshop and said that the high school counselors have provided parent workshops in the past. I’m very grateful that our schools have a mental health therapist.
7:27 – Cronk asked for approval of the Jr/Sr HS Gym Floor Replacement. Mumford asked what sports or student activities would be affected by the main gym floor being closed from March to May. Shriner said that PE class will be the only thing affected. Mumford asked if graduation will be outside or inside this year. Shriner said that the floor will be done by graduation and that they are planning to do it inside.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:28 – Cronk asked for approval of the Disposition of Outstanding Checks for 2020. After not having been cashed for over two years, outstanding checks are canceled and the money is returned to the fund on which the check was written.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:29 – Roth asked for approval of our contract with Indiana Online Summer School. Witt asked about other summer school options. Roth said that we will discuss the WLES Jump Start and Jr/Sr HS Social Studies summer school options at the next school board meeting. Mumford said that the summer school information sent out by the Jr/Sr HS only listed the Achieve Virtual Indiana option and asked for clarification about the role of the Indiana Online Summer School. Roth said that this second option is for courses that may not be offered by Achieve Virtual Indiana. Mumford asked for details about the prices charged to families. The past contract didn’t show a charge to parents, but this one does. Roth said that Indiana Academy made the change in the contract to add the administration fee. Summer school participants become the students of these online academies and they set the terms. Mumford asked about the per-student charge to the school district. Roth said that there is no cost to our school district. My reading of the contract was that our school district does have to pay for each student. My understanding is that the state reimbursement may cover the entire cost. Why then are we so reluctant to allow students to take summer courses?
Voted 7 out of 7
7:34 – Greiner asked for renewal of our contract with Safe Harbor Before/After School Care. Wang asked if it is difficult to find contractors who will provide this service. Greiner said there are other groups that provide before/after school care but do not do it in school facilities. Mumford asked about the limited capacity and waitlist for services and asked if this was due to limited facility capacity or limited staff capacity. Greiner said that they have not had sufficient staffing and said that they have now changed how they fill spots. Previously it was first come first serve on reserving spots even if you didn’t use that spot consistently. Beginning 2023-2024 school year, priority will go to families who will use and pay for the service regularly. Mumford asked for details about the group tasked with studying this. Roth said that she is leading the group and met with parents and principals from WLES and WLIS. She plans to send out a survey to seek more understanding of parent concerns as well as collecting data on needs, programs currently being used, and suggestions for improvement. During the discussion they found that many parents are not aware of the other before/after school care options in our community and said that she will work to get that information out to families. They plan to send out the survey before the end of the month and also will invite interested parents to join the study group. The goal is to finish this study by the end of May. Yin asked if they are considering offering after-school classes or other options in the schools besides Safe Harbor. She said that chess is an example of an after-school activity offered by other school districts in their school buildings. Roth said there is a facilities usage request form that is available to anyone and noted that we currently have scout troops that use the buildings. She also hopes through the survey they will be able to have individuals respond that they would like to be part of the solution and offer some options. Witt said that what happens in the school building is under the direction of the school principal and that the responsibility lies with the principal to determine what is and what is not a good use of the school building. This is an important issue and I really appreciate that Roth is working with parents and principals together and is going to send out a survey. Good leaders seek feedback.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:47 – Cronk asked for approval to purchase software and enter into a maintenance agreement with Frontline Time Clock. Currently, the Business Office still processes approximately 300 handwritten timesheets each payroll period.They would like to begin implementing the Frontline time clock for classified hourly employees beginning with the 2023-2024 fiscal year, beginning July 1. Wang asked how many employees will use the system. Cronk responded that they receive about 300 handwritten timesheets, so said that about 300 hourly staff members will use it. Wang asked what the yearly maintenance fee would include. Cronk said it would be for updates and system support. Cronk said that the cost depends on the size of the school corporation. Wang asked what the additional cost will be for the hardware/computers at each school building. Cronk said that we will need 2-3 devices per building with possibly an additional 1-2 devices at the Jr/Sr HS because they are a bigger building. She will work with each principal to see what will be best for each building. Wang asked for a guesstimate of the total cost. Cronk guessed the ballpark of $10,000-$15,000 depending on what devices they purchase. Wang asked who has custody of all the schools’ data and employee information. Cronk said it is stored on the school districts’ servers and not on Frontline servers. Yin asked if this would be a swipe card system and Cronk said no this would be a login with employee ID numbers.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:56 – Cronk asked for approval of an agreement with the Indiana Band Association for Transportation. We have provided school buses and drivers to the Indiana Band Association for several years to provide transportation from local hotels to Purdue University during its Spring Camp which is March 10-12. They recommend increasing the cost of this service this year to the Indiana Band Association to $600. They charged $500 in previous years.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:57 – Cronk asked for approval of the School Bus Purchase. The Transportation Department has requested the purchase of a 78-passenger conventional bus. Thomas provided the lowest bid but they recommend we purchase the IC/Collins bus at a slightly higher cost for two reasons. 1) TSC provides maintenance and repairs for our buses and they primarily use IC/Collins buses and so have the parts, tools, and expertise to work on them. 2) There is a short supply of buses due to supply chain issues stemming from the pandemic. We still have not received the 84-passenger bus we ordered in the Spring of 2022. The IC/Collins bus is currently in inventory with the manufacturer and they have agreed to hold it for us if we are given permission to purchase.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:59 – Cronk asked for approval of a Donation Resolution to donate an old maintenance truck to the West Lafayette Streets & Sanitation Department. This truck that has not been used in some time and fixing it up would not be cost effective for the district. Cronk noted that the city has provided trash pickup services at our buildings for years at no cost to the district. To show goodwill, we would like to transfer the ownership of the truck to the West Lafayette Streets & Sanitation Department.
Voted 7 out of 7
8:00 – Witt shared an update from the February 1 Work Session and the Board Packet Pre-Release Consideration Document. At the work session, we discussed the different types of documents included in the board packet and when each of these items should be released to the public. Greiner, Roth, and Cronk assembled the list of documents that have been included in the board packet in the recent year and coded each document as green, orange, red, or blue to describe how time consuming it would be to release the documents before the school board meetings. The vast majority were marked green as an uncomplicated release that would not require any additional time. Austin shared two main concerns with releasing school board packet documents before school board meetings: 1) it would cause too many questions from community members and 2) providing more information would cause misinformation (see her quotes in the Journal & Courier article). Currently Bylaw po0143.1 prevents releasing any documents before the school board meeting because it designates the entire school board packet as confidential until after the meeting. We also discussed releasing the minutes in draft form and not waiting until they have been voted on to post them to the website. Roberta Julian, superintendent administrative assistant, said that she has the draft of the minutes complete by the end of the week after the school board meeting.
The next step is for the policy committee (Witt, Austin, and Greiner) to meet and propose policy changes that would allow releasing documents before the school board meeting. A policy draft proposal will be brought to the March school board meeting for discussion and allow the community to give input before a vote in April. Mumford asked if the policy committee meeting is open to the public. Witt said it is not open to the public. Mumford said that our bylaws indicate it should be open. Witt didn’t agree. Bylaw po0155 says “meetings of committees appointed directly by the School Board or its President and given authority to take official action upon public business are subject to the Open Door Law and shall give notice of meetings and hold public meetings as required by that statute. ‘Official action’ includes receiving information, deliberating, and making recommendations. A committee subject to the Open Door Law shall keep minutes of its meetings.”
Later in the meeting, Witt brought up that the school board has always done a 1st and 2nd reading for policies and that this allows community members to give feedback between board meetings (It wasn’t necessarily related to the discussion topic, so I’m including it here). Mumford said that this has only been the case for the last year. Prior to March 2022, the school board packet was confidential before and after school board meetings, so the community did not know which policies were being revised/added and had no access to the text of the proposed changes. Most of the time, the policy numbers were not listed on the agenda (see an example) nor were the policies read aloud during the meeting. There were even times when the minutes did not list which policies were revised or passed (see an example).
Voted 7 out of 7
8:02 – Witt asked for approval to post her weekly Board Chair Notes online. Wang asked why the board is being asked to vote on posting the notes this year when the school board did not vote to approve Witt starting to post the notes last year. Witt said that last year she asked each board member if they were okay with her posting her notes online and this year she is asking for a formal vote as a courtesy to both Wang and Mumford who are new to the board. Yin said that given that the previous notes were viewed/downloaded, it means that the community reads the notes and Witt should continue to do so. Mumford said she also thinks Witt should continue to post the notes online but asked that she not redact so much before posting and noted that much of what Witt redacts is public information. Wang said that any efforts of sharing information for transparency purposes is appreciated.
Witt said that she wants board members to post comments on her board chair notes. Yin said she wasn’t sure on how the board comments would work because board members may not agree with what is on the chair notes or be able to verify the information. Mumford also asked for clarification on how the comments would be done. Austin said that on Box (similar to Dropbox) that there is a comment button. Mumford asked to table the request of adding comments. After some discussion Witt proposed 2 motions: 1) approve her to post the first 6 weeks of 2023 and 2) table the issue about continuing to post all notes after Feb 13, 2023 until further discussion at the next meeting. I don’t understand why Witt thinks we need to vote to approve posting public information online. Unless there is a specific exception, every public document should be posted on the school website.
Voted 7 out of 7 on both motions
8:30 – Greiner asked for approval for several field trips: 5th Grade Camp at Camp Tecumseh, Robotics to District, Girls’ IHSAA Swimming/Diving State Finals, and Boys’ IHSSA Swimming/Diving State Finals.
Voted 7 out of 7
8:32 – Roth asked for approval for a new temporary Communications and Connections Coordinator Position. The request is to fund this position until September 30, 2023. The funding would be 75% from the STEM grant received from IDOE to provide oversight and 25% from the operations budget to improve district communication. This person will also work with the technology team to consider how to improve the school corporation website. Roth said that this will be a trial to evaluate if having a communications coordinator works well. Mumford asked for clarification that this position is temporary and will automatically expire on September 30. Roth said yes and that the person may be able to apply for a possible opening of another position in the central office.
Voted 7 out of 7
8:47 – Greiner asked for approval of the Personnel Report. Mumford asked why so many special education paraprofessional hours were reduced. Cronk said that the employees requested a reduction in hours. Mumford asked for clarification about the search for the WLIS physical education teacher (replacement for Lane Custer who is retiring in May) and why the search prioritized coaches. Greiner said this was his decision and noted that we struggle to hire coaches and hoped that this will help. There is a pattern in our school district where classroom teachers want to move out of the classroom while remaining a teacher covered by the union contract. When a specials position (librarian, physical education, etc.) is posted, it is a sought-after job and many of our classroom teachers apply. However, when a classroom teacher position is posted, none of the specials teachers apply because they are already in a more preferred position. The only internal applications for classroom teacher positions come from our special education teachers, but when a special education position is posted, none of the classroom or specials teachers apply. There are some positions that require an additional certification, and so that could have some influence, but my point is that a specials teacher is generally a more preferred position than a classroom teacher. I think we need to do a better job of supporting classroom teachers and providing incentives in order to keep our teachers.
Voted 7 out of 7
8:50 – Cronk asked for approval of the Accounts Payable for WLCSC and Accounts Payable for WVEC. She also shared the Credit Card Statement, Finance Update, and Object Breakdown. Mumford thanked Cronk for publicly sharing so much financial information. Mumford asked her to explain the Valic payment for $54,928. Cronk said that it is the last retirement severance payment to the previous superintendent, Killion. Mumford also thanked Cronk for working with Huntington Bank to set up our accounts so they are now earning interest and for getting Huntington to waive the ECA account fees. Mumford asked Cronk to describe the accounting issue she discovered related to a federal grant and what this may mean for our next audit. Cronk said spending from the ESSER grant is required to come directly from the grant. Instead, the school corporation made payments from the Education Fund and the Operations Fund and then transferred money from the ESSER grant to these other funds. Fund transfers are not allowed from federal grants. Cronk said that there is documentation for the correct expenses, but said that the fund transfers may be noted as a finding in the next audit indicating a lack of internal control. She has talked about this with staff and will continue to provide training so that they are aware that transfers from federal grants are not allowed. Having a CFO with financial training is providing us with better financial reporting, helping our staff know how to avoid financial errors, and saving our school district money. I’ve previously raised questions about some of the spending that was occurring on school credit cards in past years. During that time, Witt was the only school board member reviewing the credit card statements. Making credit card statements publicly available each month will dramatically reduce concerns about future spending.
Voted 7 out of 7
8:55 – Witt described the committee/engagement assignments which she is referring to as “engagement assignments” this year. Her original document did not specify which committee each school board member was assigned to. Yin said that the document is incomplete and asked Witt to add the specific committee assignments to the list. Yin said that there could be confusion as she is listed as being responsible for “curriculum engagement” but has been assigned to serve on the West Lafayette Parks and Recreation Board because Schott could not serve on it. Witt said that she wants the community to go to school administrators for questions and believes that not listing which committees each school board member is assigned to helps accomplish this goal. Mumford said that the community should be allowed to know each school board member’s committee assignments. Witt said that she is willing to update the document, but first wants Mumford to share how letting the community know committee assignments benefits students. Mumford said that informing students and everyone else in the community is a benefit. The public should be told who is on the policy committee if they want to request a change to a school board policy. Witt said that even though the school board sets policies, questions about a policy should only go to the school administrator who is charged to follow the policy. After the meeting, the list of committee assignments was updated on the website. It’s obvious that Witt and I disagree about the value of sharing information with the community. Twice during the meeting, she asked me to explain how it benefits students to share information publicly. My view is that sharing information and then seeking input leads to better decisions that benefit students. Hiding information and making decisions without input leads to worse decisions and that doesn’t benefit students. It seems to me that Witt made the committee assignments to keep Mumford, Yin, and Wang from serving on those committees with the most influence. I requested to serve on the policy committee, the teacher discussion committee, and on the WL schools education foundation board, but was not assigned to any of them. Regardless of my committee assignments, I will find ways to contribute.
Board Committee Reports:
- WL Schools Education Foundation – Schott reported that Lauren Alexander has been added as a member of the board.
- Park Board – Yin said that the Easter Egg Hunt will be at the Wellness Center on April 1, 4-7pm.
- Public Schools Foundation of Tippecanoe County – Mumford said that the Cupcake Bake Off Tasting will be February 16th, 5-6:30pm at the Greater Lafayette Career Academy. Grant applications for teachers are due March 8th.
9:16 – Greiner reported on the professional development provided to staff on February 10. In the morning there were workshops on diversity, equity, and inclusion. He was impressed with the students in the I Am Power group who had the courage to be part of a panel discussion at the beginning.
9:20 – Communication from the audience on non-agenda items (those who had signed up before the meeting began).
- Randy Studt, HS German teacher and union leader, shared about several proposed bills at the statehouse that have significances to education: SB188, HB1407, HB1428, SB12, SB486
9:26 – Meeting is adjourned.
Location: Happy Hollow Building, LGI Room
Streaming: WLCSC Regular Board Meeting February 13, 2023 Unfortunately the sound stopped working after 1 ½ hours.
Future Meetings (calendar link)
- Regular School Board Meeting – Monday, *March 6 at 6:30pm at Happy Hollow LGI Room (enter from door 8/North side/pool side of building)
*Note this is a 1st Monday due to Spring Break
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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