Ms. Dobrow commented that Ms. Page is well qualified and that the school is lucky to have her. She agrees that opening up communication between the institutions and about DeCordova opportunities is important.
Ms. Nyquist moved that the School Committee appoint Katherine Hall Page to the Board of Trustees to the DeCordova Museum. Julie Dobrow seconded the motion. All members voted in favor, with Laura Koning concurring.
Mr. Peery said that later in the year he would like to have a brief report from Ms. Page.
Mr. Peery thanked Sonja Wolfsberg for her service over the last one and a half to two years and requested that Mr. Brandmeyer send her a letter of thanks on behalf of the Committee.
Ms. Nyquist left at this time due to another commitment.
Gian Criscitiello, Judith Glassman, Donica Hadley and Patrese Pierson of the Leadership Team described the goals in some detail identified by the Advisory Council for each cluster.
Ms. Dobrow said that the group did a terrific job and noted that much thought went into the goals. Ms. Dobrow asked what assessment criteria would be used and who would collect data. Gian Criscitiello said that the school planned to do it. Ms. Dobrow noted that a School Committee goal also relates to communication. She asked how to assess what is working and suggested that groups can share what they are doing.
Ms. Hessler commented that it is important to reflect diversity of opinions and to make clear that all were heard and decisions were made with all views in mind. Mr. Peery noted that the public has the opportunity to get a copy of the plan and he wants them to know their comments are desired. Ms. Dobrow said she appreciated the tangible goals and said that we, as parents, have experienced benefits from this work. Ms. Hessler asked if parents could get the benefit of the information about teens that is collected about partnering with Hanscom .
Mr. Peery noted, regarding the library recommendation, that parents are concerned that the library is not being well used. Mr. Criscitiello said that the librarian discovered that the average copyright is 1984, below the National Library Standards. Mr. Criscitiello said that the library is not being utilized and that teachers have retreated to their classrooms and built-up personal collections. Ms. Doborw said that it is important for the library to be the heart of the school but that this is not merely a matter of how many books there are but also how we schedule classes. Ms. Dobrow also suggested that there are many resources in the community that might be tapped for library programming.
Mr. Peery said that the goal regarding mathematics is in alignment with the School Committee’s goal and that he is glad to see this.
Mr. Peery asked what the group is looking for in a consultant who will consult in the Middle School evaluation. Mr. Brandmeyer said the focus is around particular initiatives: looking at current and best practice, how other schools operate, academic rigor, use of resources, and the balance between high academic achievement and adolescent developmental issues. Mr. Naso added that one quality that they are looking for in a consultant is someone who could help define the appropriate quality of data for decision-making.
Mr. Brandmeyer noted that some changes and adjustments may require financial resources and that some may not. Some can be accomplished by the use of existing resources. He noted as examples of improvements which did not have budget implications: (1) improved communications as a result of input last year; and (2) reworking of the 5th and 6th grade schedules for instruction in technology and library.
Ms. Hessler said that it is important for there to be a broad open-minded approach even though there are financial constraints.
Ms. Koning asked whether there is collaboration between Hanscom and Lincoln. Ms. Koning said that each school shouldn’t recreate the wheel and that district goals should be goals for everyone. Ms. Koning said the schools do not need to be identical but there are many things that are important for all students. Ms. Koning said that questions should be asked about both schools and campuses and that both schools could make the goals more meaningful if there were more collaboration. Mr. Brandmeyer said that the academic expectations are the same in the two schools but that each school may get there in a different way. Mr. Naso said that there are probably many more ways that the schools could collaborate but that there are places where they are collaborating such as (1) the 6th and 7th grade English teachers are collaborating in identifying and creating assessment tools in common meetings, and (2) three math specialists are meeting on a regularly scheduled basis.
Mr. Peery thanked the group for the work they have done.
Ms. Dobrow moved to accept the School Improvement Plan. Ms. Hessler seconded the motion. The Committee unanimously approved the motion.
This item was discussed under Lincoln School Improvement Plan.
Cindy Sweetser, a parent, said that having an outside consultant is good but that she is concerned about the timeline is pushing out into the future. She wondered whether the extra full time administrator this year could do some work on this in addition to the outside consultant. Mr. Brandmeyer said that just because they will be using a consultant does not mean that inside people will not do this work. He noted that both short-term and long-term changes are contemplated.
Mr. Peery noted that this is only the first round of the budget discussions. He said that the School Committee did not ask for a budget based on the constraints, rather they asked to hear what is needed. Mr. Peery commented that in the coming meetings, the Committee will need to think about trade-offs, as well as about the state’s generosity or lack thereof, the town’s support, and outside sources of revenue such as grants.
Mr. Brandmeyer then gave an overview, with slide presentation, of the budget, which for both schools is approximately $18 million dollars. Mr. Brandmeyer set forth the School Committee’s guidelines for the budget: (1) maintain a comprehensive program; (2) let educational goals drive decisions and maintain focus on curriculum; (3) implement modest improvements; (4) meet class size guidelines; and (5) seek efficiencies.
Mr. Brandmeyer said that budget planning began September 9. He said that the School Committee will present the budget information to the Financial Committee on December 1 and will vote on the base budget December 16. He noted that for Hanscom the contract amount is already known. Mr. Brandmeyer said the School Committee will try to schedule an additional meeting between December 10 and December 16.
Mr. Brandmeyer described the assumptions for the budget: Lincoln base budget 0% growth, Hanscom contract 4% growth, Chapter 70 level funded, federal grants level funded, METCO level funded, Special Education Circuit Breaker reimbursement falls significantly, and Kindergarten Grant provides for assistants.
Mr. Brandmeyer said this is a year of great uncertainties. He mentioned that in the Hancock v. Driscoll case, which is now at the Supreme Judicial Court, the lower court found inequitable funding for public schools. Mr. Brandmeyer noted that if the Supreme Judicial Court affirms this case, Lincoln and other wealthy towns may see decreased state aid. Mr. Brandmeyer said that other uncertainties are: the Special Education Circuit Breaker, Kindergarten Grant, energy costs, and health insurance rate increase.
Mr. Brandmeyer said the initial Lincoln budget proposal is $8,554,000, an increase of 8.5% and $670,000 over FY05 and the Hanscom Budget is $9,371,000, an increase of 6.8% over FY05 and $248,000 over FY06 contract.
Mr. Brandmeyer emphasized that level funding is not the same as level service and that no increase in money in effect means a reduction in service. Mr. Brandmeyer described the initial budget proposal as primarily a project maintenance budget. He said it maintains programs established in FY05 such as instrumental music, reduced athletic fees, professional development, additional bus, and arts enrichment.
Mr. Brandmeyer described staffing changes contemplated in the budget. In Lincoln two teachers would be added to maintain class size, 0.3 teachers would be added to support English Language Learners (ELL), 1 additional secretary would be added to support special ed, and 1.5 FTE reduction in special assistants and tutors (mainly due to students leaving). For Hanscom, one additional kindergarten teacher would be added. At the District Office, one half time secretary would be added.
Mr. Brandmeyer said that class sizes are projected only for Lincoln at this time because Hanscom is too uncertain to project.
Mr. Peery asked for more explanation of the change in the projected Special Education Circuit Breaker reimbursement as this is the biggest projected change. Teresa Watts, Director of Special Education, came to the table for this discussion.
Mr. Brandmeyer explained that this is a reimbursement program for services to students. Mr. Brandmeyer said the town received reimbursements in last year’s budget of approximately $200,000 which Lincoln put into a revolving fund for use this year. He noted changes to this policy will require towns to spend the money in the year that they receive it. Mr. Brandmeyer said the current projection is that Lincoln will get less than $20,000 in FY06 for both Lincoln and Hanscom.
Ms. Dobrow asked about Chapter 70 uncertainties. Mr. Brandmeyer said that the state has just begun to talk about whether to change the Chapter 70 formula but nothing significant has happened so far.
Ms. Hessler asked what was meant by special education efficiencies and how this would affect students. Teresa Watts explained that each year they look for efficiencies such as looking at placement decisions which are efficient but without negative impact to the delivery of a quality education. Mr. Brandmeyer said that some years the cohorts are larger than others and this can result in changes.
Ms. Hessler asked whether there are other ways to bring in library resources such as foundation grants. Mr. Brandmeyer said that we do think about grants but at the same time we have a responsibility to fund our school programs. Ms. Hessler mentioned that the librarian is looking into a book donation program.
Ms. Hessler asked what assumptions were made about the administrative structure for the Lincoln School. Mr. Brandmeyer indicated that 3.0 FTE were in the budget for administration. Mr. Peery commented that every year there is a lot of community concern about administrative support. Mr. Peery understands why the request for additional support has been made but he thinks it is important to be able to articulate why this is important and to show how much time this frees up professionals to interact with kids.
Mr. Peery asked for pubic comments. Robert Steinbrook of the Finance Committee, explained that the Finance Committee has done a funds available analysis and that they will re-examine this in December. Mr. Peery commented that management of contingencies and dialogue with the Finance Committee are important since there is an inability to predict revenues. Mr. Peery said that the School Committee wants to be relatively conservative given the number of uncertainties that we are currently facing.
Robert Steinbrook said that the Finance Committee has a contingency fund for unanticipated expenses. Mr. Brandmeyer said that the Finance Committee has provided money in the past for unanticipated expenses like a broken chimney and a mold cleanup.
Mr. Peery thanked the members of the public who came for the discussion of the budget tonight and acknowledged how important it is to the education the students receive.
Mr. Peery asked about conducting exit interviews to understand when people leave whether it is because they are moving or because they are choosing private schools. He noted that the trend has implications for facilities planning. Ms. Hessler also asked about looking at kids, why they leave, and surveying. Mr. Brandmeyer said we are planning to have information in December.
Mr. Dobrow asked about preschool students and the implications for special education funding. Teresa Watts said that they try to identify children who may need special education but that the projection for three and four year olds is very uncertain.
Mr. Peery said that $15,000 has been allocated for the removal of the canopies and an additional $25,000 was requested. Mr. Peery said that the town building inspector has been asked to take a look at the canopies to evaluate them from a safety perspective. Mr. Jack reported that he had a conversation and a report from a roofing company that confirmed the failure of the canopies. Ms. Hessler asked whether the canopies can be removed in cold weather, such as in February. Mr. Jack said yes and that it is actually more expensive to do this work in the summer than the winter.
Respectfully submitted by Sara Rolley, School Committee Secretary