This meeting was the first time the community had access to the public documents in the school board packet before the school board meeting. Being given the same information that school board members receive enables the public to know what is going on during the meeting. School board meeting minutes continue to be an issue. This started at the February meeting with the board officers expressing their opposition to recording motions and votes that do not promote unity. After months of discussion, the board officers agreed to record all the motions and votes and to correct inaccuracies (the only remaining inaccuracies are in the January organizational minutes). The minutes are the only official record of a school board meeting and need to accurately summarize what happened in the meeting. The approval of an additional after-school care option should help parents who have been desperately trying to find childcare care for next year.
- 6:31 Westside Robotics honored as world division winners
- 6:40 Approval of agenda
- 6:41 Approval of executive session minutes
- 6:42 Approval of April meeting minutes; motion passed to add summary of Wang’s comments; discussion on what to include in minutes
- 7:07 Comments by parent on students with disabilities
- 7:13 Wellness Center After-School Childcare
- 7:23 Approval of 4 field trips
- 7:24 Approval of personnel report
- 7:28 Approval of revisions to student code of conduct handbook revisions
- 7:33 Update on the out-of-school program study
- 7:46 Approval of WLES nurse intern
- 7:47 Approval of Jr/Sr HS Gym Roof
- 7:50 Approval of food service contracts and discussion on feedback
- 8:05 Approval of church agreement for continued rent of part of Happy Hollow
- 8:07 Approval of accounts payable
- 8:08 Discussion on possible future board trainings
- 8:15 Witt’s updates
- 8:16 Witt discontinues board chair notes
- 8:17 Greiner’s updates on legislation
- 8:21 June agenda item on Neola and if we continue
- 8:22 Board Reports
- 8:30 Past minutes revised but still contain errors in January organizational minutes
- 8:31 Board Report
- 8:32 Comments from teacher recognizing student achievements
- 8:37 Meeting adjourned
The following is my summary of the public school board meeting, not the official meeting minutes. 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.
6:31 – The school board meeting was called to order. Westside Robotics was honored for being Galileo Division Winners at the 2023 world competition. In attendance were coach Chris Woodard, computer science teacher at the Jr/Sr HS, 14 high school students, and 9 mentors from Purdue and local engineers. The program has been in place for 24 years and this is the first year they won. They were state finalists, won their division at the world competition, and received 5th place overall at the world competition. They also received the First Impact Award recognizing the team that demonstrates the biggest impact in their community from school events and their partnership with Purdue and the Minority in Engineering program.
6:40 – The board was asked to approve the agenda for the May 8, 2023 regular meeting.
Voted 7 out of 7
6:41 – The board was asked to approve the minutes of the April 20, 2023 Executive Session.
Voted 7 out of 7
6:42 – The board was asked to approve the minutes of the April 10, 2023 Regular Meeting. Wang motioned that a summary of several of his statements be included in the minutes and noted that he had sent these to other board members in advance. Witt said that she did not include Wang’s statements in the minutes and said that she believes the minutes should either include no details or a complete transcript of the meeting. Mumford said that other boards have found a way to include important details in their minutes and shared the example of the WL city council minutes where discussions are summarized which keeps the community informed. Witt asked who should be paid to do the transcribing and who determines what is included. Mumford recommended collecting information about the procedures other boards use to produce more detailed minutes without needing to transcribe the entire meeting. She said that each month that she has served on the board she has recommended edits to the minutes and noted that this is the first month that her recommended edits were incorporated into the minutes before the meeting. She said she thinks the board should take a collaborative approach to creating the minutes and that board members should be asked to provide edits. Disagreements should be discussed at the board meeting before the minutes are approved.
Witt said that if more details were included in the minutes that the only option in her view would be to transcribe the entire meeting, it should not be a partial sharing. Yin said she would like the minutes to include more details, but that she didn’t want the extra work to fall on Roberta Julian, administrative assistant to the superintendent. Yin said that YouTube provides an automatic transcript and this could be used to help with the minutes, but said that she doesn’t think that the minutes should be a transcription of the entire meeting. Witt asked how many people would be served by adding more details to the minutes when video and audio recordings are available. Yin said that many people read Mumford’s summaries because they are interested in knowing what happens at the school board meetings and that this suggests that providing details in the minutes would be helpful to the community. Austin said that board members who are interested in having a complete transcript should put it together after the meeting and see how much time it takes and then we can decide if it is useful. Witt said that any member could transcribe the board meeting, but that it would be difficult to check it for accuracy. Witt said that she has received far more complaints about Mumford’s monthly meeting summaries than she has received compliments. Witt said, “I cannot stress enough that the purpose of meeting minutes is to document transactions taken, votes made, decisions made. That is what minutes are for.” She said that the board has increased the quantity of descriptive information in the minutes. She recommended adding an agenda item to the next meeting to discuss if we should go to a transcript format for the minutes. Witt asked Greiner to research if other school districts transcribe their minutes and the cost.
Mumford said that she is not interested in turning the minutes into a meeting transcript. She agreed that the board has gradually added more details to the minutes over the past year, but noted that this has only been in the board reports and special recognition sections. On important policy topics and other board votes, the minutes typically only report that “discussion ensued.” Mumford said that the board should review meeting minutes from West Lafayette City Council to see an example of how to include discussions in the minutes. Witt said there have already been issues with the minutes in each of the past four months and said that adding more details to the minutes would only result in additional conflict between board members about which comments to include and which comments to exclude. Witt said that in her view, “it is an all or nothing proposition.” She noted that Schott was nodding in agreement. Schott said that YouTube would not do an accurate job so we would need to hire a professional stenographer. Witt said, “of all the things we need to spend a lot of discussion on as a school board, the minutes are not at the top of my list.”
Wang clarified that he is only asking for a summary of some of his comments that he made during the last meeting be included. He emphasized that his request is not about adding additional comments after the fact. Wang said that in his view there is no need for a word-for-word transcript of the entire meeting. He said that Indiana code requires recording in the minutes “the general substance of all matters proposed, discussed, or decided” and said that the term general substance means including a summary. Wang said that while it is true that his comments are his personal opinions, these comments are part of the official board discussion. He said that providing a summary of the discussions in school board meetings follows Indiana’s open door law, reduces financial liability for the district, and improves our transparency and accountability. He said that there have been times when he is the only one to vote against a proposal and that he wants his rationale to be shared in the minutes. Austin said, “One of the things that was emphasized to me during my board training is that once the board has voted on an action, whether it is 7-0 or 4-3, it is the responsibility of each board member to support the action of the board as a whole because each of us individually doesn’t have any power unless we are in this room.” Austin continued, “I think by calling out individually who voted yes and who voted no or by documenting comments that may disagree with what ends up being voted on, then we are undermining the principle of everyone supporting the decision of the board as a whole.”
Speaking to Greiner, Witt said that Wang doesn’t believe the school district is in compliance with Indiana’s open door law and asked Greiner to take this to the attorney and confirm that our current minutes are in compliance with the open door law. Greiner asked for clarification about if he should also review what other school boards do or if he should only focus on if there are boards that provide a transcript of the meeting and what that costs. He said that he heard several board members say that they are not asking for a transcript. Witt said that she only wants him to research the transcription and cost. She said that she would add a discussion of the transcription model to the agenda for the next meeting. Yin said that she is assigned to the Parks and Recreation Board and that she is asked to send a summary of her comments made at the board meeting to the secretary to help with the minutes. She said that we could do something similar where each board member sends the secretary a summary of their comments. Witt said that she can discuss this at next month’s meeting and then asked if there was a second on Wang’s motion to add a summary of his comments to the meeting minutes. Marley seconded the motion.
Voted 4 out of 7 (Witt, Austin, and Schott opposed). I was surprised that Wang’s motion passed and appreciated Marley’s willingness to vote to allow discussion details to be included in the minutes. This is the first time Marley voted against the other PAC members. The revised minutes, with Wang’s comments included, were posted a few days later. My view is that it is very important that the official minutes include a summary of the discussion at school board meetings. The minutes are the only official record of the meeting. Audio and video recordings are not required to be kept permanently.
Voted 7 out of 7 to approve the minutes with Wang’s comments included
7:07 – Communication from the audience on current agenda items (those who had signed up before the meeting began)
- Lora Marie Williams, parent, talked about support of fair and appropriate public education for students with disabilities within WLCSC. She asked for information to be shared including an audit of how many students with disabilities have left the school corporation to receive services at other institutions. Also she asked for a review of special education programs in WLCSC to verify that they are up to federal ADA standards in current evidence based practice and established education criteria for students with disabilities especially those with learning disabilities. Yin asked if she would email these comments to Roberta Julian so they can be included in the minutes.
7:13 – Greiner recommended the approval of the Wellness Center After-School Childcare MOU. This provides another option for after-school care for families. Ashley Conner, youth development coordinator for WL Parks and Rec, was invited to share information about the proposed program. Conner said that she was previously a first grade teacher. She has been meeting with school administrators since January to find a way to provide additional after-school care options in West Lafayette. The proposal is for the school district to provide transportation from WLES or WLIS to the wellness center. The program will include snacks, time for homework with staff support, and physical activities outside or in the gym. Registration begins May 15th at 7am online or in person. They have 45 slots for children who would attend Monday-Friday. She hopes to hire more staff so that they can open more spots. Wang asked about swim lessons or other activities during the after-school care. Conner said they have considered several options but are going to start with just the basics at this time. Wang asked about safety and staff training. Conner said that the minimum ratio is 1 adult to 10 children. They have a lot of experience running these types of programs and the staff are required to complete a variety of training. Wang asked if individuals with membership to the Wellness Center have priority or a discount and Conner said no. The cost is $85/week per child with a third child discount rate of $70/week. There is also a scholarship program for those with financial needs. Mumford asked Greiner to describe our bus utilization and if we have buses that are not being used on a regular basis. Greiner said that the wellness center recommended employees to receive bus driver training and to be employed by the school district to drive the district owned bus. He said he is working with Doug Caldwell, transportation director, and that there is a bus that is used to transport students from the Jr/Sr HS to the athletic complex and that this bus is available during the time needed to transport students to the Wellness Center from WLES and WLIS. For years, the demand for after-school care has greatly exceeded our offerings at WLES and WLIS. I’m so grateful for Roth’s willingness to meet with parents, listen to feedback, and work to find a solution.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:23 – Greiner recommended the approval of 4 overnight and/or out of state field trips: Orchestra/Band, Boys HS Football, Girls Basketball Camp, and Boys Soccer Camp.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:24 – Greiner recommended the approval of the personnel report. He recognized Kim Lancaster who is retiring after over 30 years of service in our district. Witt said that there will be a recognition of all retirees before the next board meeting. Wang asked if Roberta Julian’s additional position of executive secretary to the board was listed on a previous personnel report. Witt said that this is included in her official job description and so does not need to be separately included, but asked Julian to research and verify. Marley said he would abstain because his wife is listed on the report.
Voted 6 out of 7 (Marley abstained)
7:28 – Roth recommended approval of revisions to the Student Code of Conduct Handbooks for the JSHS, WLIS, and WLES. Wang asked if parents were involved in reviewing the handbooks and Roth said she would find out. Wang asked if “student mental issues” are considered in the discipline process used in our schools. Roth said students are treated individually according to their needs and emphasized that the schools follow the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) for students with an IEP. Roth said that schools are required to follow Indiana state code that dictates no leeway for things like bringing a weapon to school. Witt directed Greiner to have Shelby Johnson provide the board with a description of appropriate language to use when speaking about students with developmental disabilities. It was clear that Wang had good intentions, though it wasn’t clear if he was referring to students with mental health challenges or students with developmental disabilities or both. Rather than asking him, Witt announced that the board needs training on using appropriate language. It was an uncomfortable moment. I understand the importance of using appropriate language, but was disappointed by the way Wang, a non-native English speaker, was treated in a public setting. Wang was asking about an important topic and I appreciated the information that Roth provided in response.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:33 – Roth shared an update on the Out-of-School Program Study. The presentation was an overview of the effort to collect information about after-school care and understand the needs of the community. This began with two parents who shared their concerns with school administrators and asked to help. A survey was sent out to parents in March to collect information and others were invited to join the study group. The survey had 128 responses. The highest priorities for a provider were 23.1% for supportive and caring staff, 18.9% for transportation, and 16.9% for affordability. The highest priority for the program was 35% for active time with physical movement. The study group determined that there is an important need for an increase in capacity, transportation, and information. Roth thanked community members Dr. Keleher, Dr. Liu, and Dr. Purpura as well as the others who joined the expanded study group. Roth did a phenomenal job with this study group and all her work with the out-of-school programs. For years parents shared their concern with the out-of-school care and wanted to work with the schools to address it. I appreciate Roth and Greiner coming in and being willing to listen and work with the community to find a solution. Earlier in the meeting, the school board approved transportation to the after-school program at the Wellness Center. Several days after the meeting, all parents were sent an email with information about out-of-school care and a resource list was also shared. I appreciate the administration sharing this information and putting together this helpful resource.
7:46 – Roth recommended the approval of the WGU Affiliation Agreement for a WLES Nurse Intern.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:47 – Cronk recommended the approval of JSHS Gym Roof Replacement and shared the architect recommendations. There was a very large spread in the bids received. Cronk said that this has to do with the availability of the company and supplier prices. She said Foster Contracting Inc. has been in business since 2013 and they have no negative reviews with the Better Business Bureau. Mumford asked when they will do the roof replacement and Cronk said that it will be completed over the summer.
Voted 7 out of 7
7:50 – Cronk recommended the approval of the Food Service Contracts. Courtney Fitzsimmons, food service director, shared about the co-op process. Next year will be the 6th year WLCSC has been a part of the K12’s Leading Indiana Co-op (KLIC). There are 51 other school districts in the co-op and it increases our purchasing power. Each month there is a meeting and they are given samples of products. Often she brings them back and has the students taste test them. Witt recognized Fitzsimons for her leadership in the industry. Fitzsimons will be president of the Indiana School Nutrition Association beginning in July and met with our legislators at a recent conference. Yin asked if there was a process for seeking feedback from families and students. Fitzsimons said she is working on putting something on the website but her highest priority is getting feedback from the students. In addition to taste testing, she also sent a survey to students last year and received a lot of feedback. Yin asked who received the survey. Fitzsimons said she sent it to Jr/Sr HS students through the school email database. Wang asked if ordering products is flexible after these contracts are approved. Fitzsimons said the contract is with the distributor, but we can adjust what exact food items we want throughout the year. I appreciate Fitzsimons’ willingness to seek feedback. She has added a feedback form to the website.
Voted 7 out of 7
8:05 – Cronk recommended the approval of The Church Agreement for continued rental of rooms at Happy Hollow.
Voted 7 out of 7
8:07 – Cronk recommended the approval of Accounts Payable for WLCSC and Accounts Payable for WVEC. She also shared the Credit Card Statement, Claims Docket Breakdown, and Finance Update. They are preparing to go live in July with the timeclock set up and have been receiving training. This week the business office staff will be attending the Indiana Association School Business Officials Annual Meeting in Fort Wayne to learn more about the legislative session and other topics on school finance.
Voted 7 out of 7
8:08 – Witt asked for input on future board training. She noted that board members participated in an initial training session on April 20th with Ryan Donlan and she asked if the board should continue with him, try someone else, or how to proceed. Austin said she liked Donlan and what he shared was valuable but “I don’t necessarily feel that everyone is willing to change their behavior so I don’t want to waste time and money if other folks don’t agree that it is necessary.” Mumford said it would be helpful to have a facilitator from outside of the community, like Donlan, provide the training. She noted that Donlan did a general training but offered to come back at no cost to facilitate a more specific discussion to help us evaluate if we want to move forward with him. Schott said that we shouldn’t ask Donlan to provide training for free and suggested that if he comes, he should be paid and could donate it back. He thought Donlan was good but added, “I don’t know if we are a group that can be helped.” Yin suggested looking at other options and asked if we could hire an Indiana School Board Association (ISBA) facilitator. She said that some of the issues relate to the law and recommended hiring Julie Slavens, ISBA attorney, to provide the training. Witt said, “I would like to believe that at a minimum all of the members agree that all of the other members are generally well intentioned, capable, and honest. But I’m not sure based strictly upon some members’ actions that we can presume that.” Witt continued, “if we can’t reach that common agreement then it would make sense that we would fall back on the structure which would guide the governance of the school which is the law and how we pursue it.” Witt said we could look at the other options including the law firm Church Church Hittle or the ISBA. She noted that Yin received ISBA training during her first year on the board and asked if that is what she wants or more of a consultation. Yin said the first-year ISBA training was more general and that she would prefer a customized training for our school board. Brad Marley recommended Michael Adamson who has done training for the board in the past before he retired from ISBA. Witt said, “The key is, as Mrs. Austin stated, that people have to be willing to be open to being trained and believing the best of fellow board members.” Witt said that the next steps will be to get quotes from Adamson, the ISBA, and the Church Church Hittle law firm and focus on the governance structure of the school board.
8:15 – Witt shared appreciation for the WLSEF and their Scarlet and Gray dinner fundraiser. Commencement is coming up inside the Jr/Sr HS gym and she noted that students plan the commencement. The ISBA region 4 meeting was last week and we received an exemplary board award besides individual awards to Yin, Austin, Marley, and Witt for the number of trainings they attended last year. WLCSC pays to be a member of ISBA. When members attend ISBA events, they are given points and those points are used to give out awards.
8:16 – Witt announced that she will no longer write weekly board chair notes and said that she made this decision because three board members would not use them for discussion. Last year, Witt started posting board chair notes to the school district website. These contained redacted/edited versions of information she wanted to share with school board members. Also before the last election, she scheduled monthly community feedback sessions where she and Greiner answered questions of community members. Unfortunately she has discontinued both. I don’t know what her rationale was for canceling the the feedback sessions, but she said in this meeting that her reason for canceling the notes was because the three non-PAC members of the school board were not willing to go along with her recent request that we begin using the notes as a type of online discussion board with members making comments on her notes. It was set up so that every time any member made a comment, I received an email containing the comment. My view is that school board members should discuss school issues in public meetings, not online prior to the meeting.
8:17 – Greiner is excited for high school graduation on May 26th at 7pm at the Jr/Sr HS Berberian Gym on the new gym floor. The legislative session ended and public schools did not receive the level of funding that he had hoped for, but at the last minute there was improvement. WLCSC will see a 5.7% increase in funding for 2024 and 1.4% increase in 2025. There were 223 bills and 19% were related to K-12 school governance or children. He is also attending the IASBO annual meeting this week with the business office administrators.
8:21 – Witt noted that we received the Neola recommendations of policy revisions for Spring 2023. Austin, Witt, and Greiner have been discussing if we should continue with Neola. This topic will be on the June agenda.
8:22 Board Reports:
- West Lafayette Schools Education Foundation – Schott shared the Wall of Pride was April 13 & 14. The plaques are hanging in the commons area at the Jr/Sr HS. The Scarlet and Grey fundraiser had a record with 191 attendees. The WLSEF scholarship banquet for 23 students will be before commencement. The class of 1958 is having their 65th class reunion this week.
- Yin said that a group of students and Mrs. Hipsher, Jr/Sr HS Environment Science teacher, removed some invasive species at Happy Hollow Park. WLCSC is the first school district in Indiana to be designated as a K-12 tree campus by the Arbor Day Foundation. Park and Rec had a Detrash the Wabash event on April 28. She also noted that the farmers market is now open for the season. Witt asked Yin about attending a GLASS meeting. Yin said she wasn’t aware that there had been a meeting. Witt asked Roberta Julian to send a calendar of GLASS meetings to Yin and reminded all members that if they cannot attend to let her know so that someone else can attend. It was an uncomfortable exchange.
- Marley said that he had not been able to attend the previous Redevelopment Committee meeting but said that he would attend the next one. Witt did not comment about him missing this meeting. I don’t like the way Witt speaks to Yin and Wang during public meetings. From their reports and the questions they ask, it’s obvious to me that they dedicate a large amount of time to the schools. They deserve to be treated in the same way that Marley is.
- Wang said that he attended the ISBA legislative training and learned a lot about several school-related legal topics.
- Mumford said that the Public Schools Foundation had a spring grant reception on May 3 and reported that they honored Laura Falk, WLCSC diversity director, for the grant she received.
8:30 – Austin reported that minutes from the prior meetings were revised and posted to the website. I am grateful that the minutes were revised to share the correct order of motions and votes. They are still a bit confusing but at least the information is now accurate. However, there are still errors in January’s organizational minutes. There were no “yes” or “no” votes for vice president and secretary. I don’t know why Austin has refused my requests to correct the minutes to reflect what actually happened in the meeting. Originally at the February meeting she said that she would not include votes that were not unanimous (6:31). The process for creating accurate minutes is getting better, but we are not quite there yet.
8:31 – Austin said that she attended the Scarlet and Grey dinner as well as the ISBA legislative training. She also said that she attended the teacher discussion meeting but did not share any information about what was discussed.
8:32 – Communication from the audience on non-agenda items (those who had signed up before the meeting began).
- Randy Studt, German teacher at the Jr/Sr HS, said that this is teacher appreciation week. He recognized boys golf, track and field, softball, HS prom, the academic super bowl at Purdue (placing 5th in state in fine arts, 3rd in science, 2nd in social studies, 2nd in english, 2nd in interdisciplinary), orchestra concerts and awards, Mrs. Brooks’ retirement, World Language awards for Quiz Bowl, and that there were many students who scored above 90% in the National Language exams. He shared three things he wants the board to remember that will help staff, students, and the community: constantly focus on the students, advocate for public schools with legislatures, and that our community needs to pass the upcoming referendum.
8:37 – Meeting is adjourned
Location: Happy Hollow Building, LGI Room
Streaming: WLCSC Regular Board Meeting May 8, 2023
Future Meetings (calendar link)
- Executive Session – Monday, May 22 at 6pm – Not open to the public
- Work Session – Monday, May 22 at 7pm at Happy Hollow LGI Room – Open to the public and will be livestreamed
- Retiree Reception – Monday, June 12 from 5:30-6:15pm at Happy Hollow LGI Room – All invited
- Regular School Board Meeting – Monday, June 12 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. 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.