MINUTES FOR THE LINCOLN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING OF
Thursday, February 9, 2006
7:00 Open Session
Hartwell multi-purpose room

Present: Julie Dobrow (Chair), Sandy Hessler (Vice-Chair), Laurie Manos, Dennis Picker, Cathy Rogers, Leta Allen (Boston Representative).
Also present: Mickey Brandmeyer (Superintendent), Paul Naso (Assistant Superintendent), Teresa Watts (Director of Special Education)
  1. Greetings and Call to Order
    Ms. Dobrow called the meeting to order at 7:03 P.M.

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  2. Chairperson�s and Members� report
    Ms. Dobrow welcomed Ms. Allen as the School Committee�s new Boston Representative. Ms. Dobrow said that the School Committee has not had a Boston Representative for the last two and a half years and that she is delighted that Ms. Allen has offered to serve.
    Ms. Dobrow said she, Mr. Brandmeyer, and Mr. Naso attended a legislative forum advocating for more Chapter 70 funding for suburban districts. She said Acton Boxborough is proposing a new formula which would establish a minimum baseline of $2000 per child, ,adjusted for inflation. The formula would not take funds away from the primarily urban districts that currently receive higher levels of funding, but would provide additional funding for about 133 districts that are disadvantaged by the current funding structure.

  3. Public Comments
    None at this time.

  4. Consent Agenda
    None.

  5. Time Scheduled Appointments
    1. District Project Plans: Mid-Year Review � Part 1
      Documents: Lincoln Public Schools District Goals 2005-2006 Project Plans for the goals discussed below with annotations of progress made to date

      Mr. Brandmeyer said that this report would be an update on the work that has been done and the progress the District is making. He also said that Ms. Bottan is out of town and will not be back until March.

      Mr. Naso reported on progress on the goal to establish K-8 learning expectations, to develop processes to measure student achievement, and to implement curriculum changes. Mr. Naso said the work is on schedule with a few slight delays, is ahead of schedule in a few places, and all the benchmarks should be able to be accomplished. He said there will be reports on English language arts, the art curriculum, and foreign language at upcoming School Committee meetings.

      Mr. Picker said much progress has been made. Ms. Hessler asked about the faculty�s energy and enthusiasm for the projects. Mr. Naso said sometimes the faculty is very enthusiastic about the curriculum and learning expectations work and sometimes they do the work because he requires it of them. Ms. Rogers asked whether, with the three year plan for progress in math and science and assessments, quantifiable data will be forthcoming. Mr. Naso said the assessments will confirm success in units but that the District will want to use other assessments, such as MCAS , and also will want to look to other variables less easy to quantify, such as student engagement, to determine success. He said this effort is about creating the right conditions and tools for thoughtful teaching.

      Ms. Dobrow said this is wonderful work and asked whether there will be a way to share it with prospective candidates for principal and teaching positions. Mr. Naso said learning expectations, curriculum, and assessment often come up in teacher interviews. He also said it will be important for candidates for principal to understand the District�s approach.

      Ms. Hessler asked whether there will be a way for this progress to be shared with parents. Mr. Naso said that he will soon be announcing meetings about MCAS. He said at this point no meetings are scheduled to share the overall curriculum work with parents but that he will consider where it might be fit into the schedule. Mr. Brandmeyer said the next Lincoln INK will have an announcement about some of the curriculum work.

      Mr. Naso reported on the goal regarding teacher excellence and professional development. Mr. Naso said the mentoring program is on track and that in the spring he will be checking in with new staff and new teams to see how things are working from their perspective. Mr. Naso said mentors have been following through with all their tasks.

      Mr. Naso said the teacher evaluation program is going forward and feedback from teachers has been positive. Work is being done to get consistency among evaluators and fine tuning of thinking. Sessions with the consultant have focused on this. Institute Day is on schedule. Use of professional development funds is becoming more systematic and there will be more concrete information about how they have been used. Mr. Naso is working to find the right balance between conducting in District professional development and sending people out for training. Primary Source has worked out well for the District with positive feedback from teachers who attended their programs.

      Mr. Picker asked about the plans for paraprofessional development. Mr. Naso said initially there was discussion about whether this training should be at the District or the building level and the current thinking is that is should be District-wide. There will be a plan by the end of the year. Data is currently being gathered on the needs at different grade spans. Mr. Naso said that professional development funds are being used for EDCO and other training for tutors.

      Mr. Brandmeyer reported on the goal regarding developing strategies to lead the District�s improvement initiatives in multi-year planning, communications, organizational and leadership structure, and support for school based initiatives. Mr. Brandmeyer said that multi-year planning has been helpful in budgeting. Years two and three will be fleshed out more in the year end reports.

      Regarding communication, Mr. Brandmeyer said that one issue of Lincoln INK has been published this year and that a second issue is in final draft. The second issue will cover the FY�07 budget, special education, the principal searches, and curriculum. Some minor work has taken place on the District web site in the areas of special education, employment links, and preschool. A grant has been received from the Codman Foundation to work on the District web site. Mr. Brandmeyer is going to meet with Mr. Picker to discuss ideas, goals and structure for the website redesign. Bench Group has some ideas for internal use web pages. The K-4 handbook has been reviewed by the School Council. The Middle School handbook is being revised and should be ready in September. Information gathering is taking place for the faculty handbook.

      Regarding the organizational and leadership structure, Mr. Brandmeyer said that the current plan is different from the original plan due to the retirement of one principal and the resignation of another, and the choice to move to a two principal model. Mr. Brandmeyer said that as part of his support for site-based initiatives he has conducted numerous walk-throughs with building principals. The design team for the Lincoln middle school project is moving to a core team. Ms. Bottan has been going through quarterly operational reports with the principals and this has helped to align goal setting and budget planning.

      Ms. Manos asked if Mr. Brandmeyer could share what he has learned from his walk-throughs with building principals. Mr. Brandmeyer said he has seen great teaching, support from the community, the energy that is being put into meeting students� needs, and has had more opportunity to talk with principals creating greater consistency of expectations. He said would be happy to share more about these visits with the School Committee at a later date.

      Ms. Manos asked whether the report on leadership challenges is still needed in light of the decision to go with the two principal model. Mr. Brandmeyer said that this spring might be a good time to outline the challenge of being a principal in school today, to review educational research on leadership, and to talk about the challenges of our District. He recommended rescheduling this report for later in the year.

      Ms. Manos suggested that the Communications Subcommittee and Mr. Brandmeyer could collaborate in looking at the effectiveness of communications efforts. Mr. Brandmeyer said he looked forward to working with the Subcommittee on this. Ms. Manos suggested that something should go out to the public on the curriculum. She and Mr. Naso will work on something to go out in March.

      Ms. Rogers asked about the anticipated activity for 2006-2007 regarding the organizational structure. Mr. Brandmeyer said that, since the decision to have a two principal model for the Lincoln School was made, this the plan will need to be adjusted.

      Ms. Watts reported on the project plan for special education. She said all benchmarks which are under the District�s control are on schedule. She said federal regulations under IDEIA 2004 have not yet been issued and the challenge is to comply with the law without regulations about how to apply the law. These regulations are now slated to come out in the summer or fall. As an example of these problems, she said a Massachusetts flyer for parents conflicts with federal legislation about what is required under law regarding whether a school system is expected to file for due process when a child needs an evaluation and parents do not grant permission for one to take place. Ms. Watts said procedures which are clear from the IDEIA 2004 statute have been incorporated into the District�s practice.

      Ms. Watts said basic contact information has been placed on the web site and that parents have already used this information to contact her. She also said she wants to put additional material on the website. Ms. Watts said the District has continued to have more effective integration of special education and general education.

      Ms. Watts said the NAEYC accreditation for the preschool has been put on hold because NAEYC is changing their accreditation process. The new standards were released at the end of January. Ms. Watts and Lynn Fagan went to training about the new accreditation standards and the self study required for the accreditation will be a significant initiative over the next year.

      Ms. Watts said there was some response to the new office hours but that it was minimal. There were productive meetings with the handful of parents who made contacts during the office hours but these meetings might have happened even if there were no office hours. She said they are going to try it again in the spring on the morning and afternoon of the same day. Ms. Manos suggested that notice of the office hours be placed in the Mini-Link.

      Ms. Watts said that the Special Education Collaboration Evaluation Committee (CEC) met in the fall and that it will meet again in May. There will be an article in the Lincoln INK which welcomes all who want to participate in the CEC and in the PAC. Ms. Watts said that only one parent from Hanscom was involved in the CEC and that she would like to see more.

      Regarding the plan to develop the FY 2007 preliminary operating and capital budgets, Ms. Rogers asked how the effort to refine the budget calendar to begin planning in the spring is going. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he anticipated that this would begin after Town Meeting and before the end of year goal setting. There were no questions about the project plan regarding the Facilities Task Force.

      Ms. Rogers asked whether funds from ERATE would go to the town or the school. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he was not sure. He said that this program involves funds the federal charge on telephone bills for access to wiring and that some of these funds are used to support schools in rural areas. Ms. Bottan has been preparing to apply for these funds. Any receipts would be used for telecommunications costs.

    2. Public Comments
      Marty Fahey said he remembered that a MCAS presentation for parents was planned and asked when this would take place. Mr. Naso said these talks are scheduled for March 6 at Hanscom and March 8 at Lincoln. He said the presentations will look back at prior results as well as talk about upcoming testing. Flyers will be going out to parents.

    3. Discussion of School Committee Materials for Town Meeting
      Documents: Letter to Lincoln Residents from Superintendent, March 2005, and FY06 Budget Slide Show

      Ms. Dobrow said the Finance Committee has determined that an override will not be necessary this year because the Finance Committee was able to add additional funds to all Town agencies� base budgets. Ms. Dobrow said she had emailed the Selectmen and the Finance Committee to ask whether there are any town wide messages which are important for the School Committee to touch upon in its presentation and whether there will be any town wide meetings about the budget. She said it was suggested that the School Committee look for ways to encourage parents to attend Town Meeting. Ms. Dobrow also said there will probably be a few meetings about the budget but not as many as last year. Mr. Brandmeyer said Tim Higgins had suggested that the School Committee could talk about the level of cooperation and collaboration between the Town and the School and specifically about the facility studies that both the Town and the School are doing, the town master planning projects, and the telephone system assessment that the school is doing.

      Ms. Dobrow said the information about the budget would be delivered in three ways: a letter from Mr. Brandmeyer, the School Committee presentation at Town Meeting, and the meetings around town about the budget. Mr. Picker suggested five message points: (1) next year�s budget maintains program offerings, (2) next years budget maintains class sizes, (3) there has been a shift from sporadic ad hoc curriculum work to an intensive ongoing effort, (4) due to financial pressures the town has under-funded school maintenance in the past, and (5) the school will continue to require to require more funds than are available without overrides especially if maintenance is funded as it should be. Ms. Dobrow agreed with these suggestions and suggested additional messages: (1) more information on the facilities work that the School is doing to start to prepare the town about the scope of the problems, (2) an update on the status of the Hanscom contract, (3) Chapter 70 funding, (4) ways that the School Committee has continued to pursue efficiencies such as the teachers contract and the work on energy conservation.

      Ms. Manos suggested that talking about why proposition 21/2 is self limiting. Ms. Dobrow and Mr. Picker said that the Finance Committee usually does this and that the presentation should be around fifteen minutes long since an override is not being sought.

      Maria Hylton said that if she received a mailing about the budget she would be pleased to hear: (1) that the Town does not need an override because the School has been able to live within a tight budget and has fiscal discipline and (2) a bit about the grim realities of school funding. Mr. Picker said that the facts may not fit with the story Ms. Hylton suggested because, although the District has been doing a good job fiscally for the last four years, the reason there is no override this year is that the Finance Committee was able to come up with a bigger base budget. Mr. Brandmeyer said the District has lived within its means each year and that they can take credit for this.

      Mr. Picker said he did not think that FAQs were necessary this year because there is no override request and because this year the election will not be before town meeting. Ms. Hessler and Ms. Manos volunteered to work on the town meeting presentation and the presentations for multi-board meetings. The School Committee will need to review and approve a solid draft at its next meeting on March 2 which means that the draft will need to be submitted for the packet by the middle of school vacation week. Ms. Dobrow said members should email Mr. Brandmeyer with any suggestions for his letter about the budget.

  6. Superintendents Report
    None.

  7. Curriculum
    Mr. Naso said at the next School Committee meeting the technology project plan will be discussed. He said there is great momentum in the work that Fresh Pond and Benchgroup, a subcontractor, are doing. Benchgroup has submitted a draft report on the technology infra-structure. The Technology Steering Group met yesterday afternoon. Fresh Pond has submitted a draft analysis of the teacher survey.

    Mr. Naso also reported that the principal search committees have been formed and Mr. Naso distributed information to School Committee members about their composition. A common orientation took place Tuesday afternoon and then each group worked separately on questions for the interviews. Approximately sixty resumes have been submitted.

    Ms. Manos asked whether in the report at Town Meeting technology should be addressed in discussing facilities or curriculum. Mr. Naso said he would discuss it with curriculum because this work is being done to enhance learning.

  8. Policy
    1. Second Reading for Deletion of Following Policies under Section G
      1. Administrative Guidelines on Leaves of Absence
      2. Guidelines for Tenured Teachers Requesting Transfers
      3. Standards for Full-Time Equivalencies
      4. Guidelines for Using Wednesday Afternoons
      5. Procedures for Reduction in Teacher Time

      The deletion of these policies was discussed at the January 26th School Committee meeting. The Committee determined that they did not need a third reading previously scheduled for March 2 on the deletion of these policies. Mr. Picker moved that the School Committee delete the above-mentioned policies being recommended for deletion. Ms. Dobrow seconded the motion. All elected members voted in favor, with Ms. Allen concurring.

    2. Policy Revisions: First Reading for the Following Policies:
      1. Discipline Code
      2. Non-Discrimination

      Documents: Proposed revisions of these two policies

      Mr. Brandmeyer explained that these policies were sent to legal counsel for review triggered by the Safe Schools Initiative which the District considered but did not adopt, on the recommendation of legal counsel who had suggested some revisions. On the Discipline Code, Mr. Picker suggested that the word computers be added in the forth paragraph after desks and that the words or information be added in the last sentence of the same paragraph after items. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he will send these proposed changes back to legal counsel for review. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he will also look at the Acceptable Use Policy to make sure that it is consistent with these changes. Ms. Rogers suggested that a reference to the policy on physical restraint be added after the mention of restraint in the third paragraph on page 1. Ms. Manos asked how the Discipline Code fits with the information about discipline in the school handbooks. Mr. Brandmeyer said that the policy would take priority over what is stated in the handbooks. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he would review the handbooks to make sure that they are consistent with the policy.

      On Non-Discrimination, Mr. Picker said that he is not sure that genetic information should be added in the third paragraph. He asked what the law says the District has to do and said that he thinks that if this language is not required by law that the District should not break ground in an area which is not yet settled. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he would check whether this language is required by law. Ms. Dobrow said she thinks that there may be another state or federal law or regulation on disability which should be listed under Legal References. Ms. Watts said there may need to be an updated reference under Chapter 766. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he will check on these matters.

  9. Budget and Financial
    1. Vote FY07 Budget
      Mr. Brandmeyer said no adjustments to the FY07 Budget previously voted are needed.

    2. Warrant Approval
      Ms. Manos said she has reviewed the warrants and they appear to be in order. She moved that the School Committee vote warrants in the amount of $754,665.67. Ms. Hessler seconded the motion. All elected members voted in favor, with Ms. Allen concurring.

  10. Old Business
    1. Proposed School Calendar 2006-2007: First Reading
      Documents: Draft Lincoln Public Schools School Calendar 2006-2007 and Memorandum to LTA Co-Presidents from Superintendent, February 2, 2005

      Mr. Brandmeyer said at the last meeting he presented three calendar proposals for the School Committees feedback and that he is now bringing a proposed calendar to the School Committee for approval. The calendar would include three days off which would align with the religious holidays. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he is recommending that school not be held on these three days (Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Good Friday) because these are days of lower attendance by both teachers (10% absent) and students (10 12% absent). Because of the way academic year 2006-07s calendar falls, only two of those holidays fall on weekdays next year. The recommended calendar has 180 school days, the required instructional time, and does not extend the school year further into June than the present years calendar does.. Mr. Brandmeyer noted that, under the contract with the LTA, LTA approval is needed for any calendar which requires teachers to come back before Labor Day and said that this calendar has been submitted to LTA who will vote on it next Tuesday. Mr. Brandmeyer said he has moved Institute Day to November 10 instead of holding it in March. Some school districts, including Lincoln-Sudbury, will be taking November 10 for Veterans Day which actually falls on Saturday, November 11. December break would be two days shorter than this year and they 180th day would be June 18 instead of June 19 this year.

      Mr. Brandmeyer said, as requested by the School Committee, he checked with other school districts about whether they closed on Yom Kippur and Good Friday (the two holidays that actually fall on weekdays next year). He said for Yom Kippur, Bedford and Belmont do not close and Lexington, LS, Sudbury, and Weston do close. For Good Friday, Bedford does not close, Belmont has a half day, and Lexington, LS, Sudbury and Weston close. Mr. Brandmeyer noted that there has been much conversation about this proposal. He said his goal is to protect instructional time. He said that he is aware that there are other interruptions in the school calendar and that he is trying to minimize them. He said there are 180 days for teaching and learning and that there needs to be the right balance for traditions and celebrations.

      Ms. Hessler said in the course of attending her childrens sports events and other activities she has heard from about 40 parents. She said people that she talked with seem to feel that they would rather not have these two days off because of the difficulty of finding child care coverage and because of the need for instructional time and continuity. She said there is a reluctance to make the school year longer (which the proposed calendar does not) because of the perception that after June 15 its parties and then everyone is gone. Mr. Picker said that the School Committee has received about five emails predominantly in favor of closing for the two days in question. Ms. Dobrow cautioned that the emails and conversations at school events were not systematic feedback and the School Committee should not base its decision on perceived community information.

      Ms. Manos said these comments validate that our school year feels very choppy. She noted there would be 29 regular weeks under the proposed calendar rather than the 31 regular weeks this year. She suggested that the School Committee revisit half-days on Wednesdays prior to the next teacher contract negotiation. Ms. Allen said there are a lot of days when the students could be in school and are not. Mr. Picker observed that when the absentee data is considered the weeks with these holidays become irregular weeks whether school is held or not. Mr. Brandmeyer said that teachers do not want to introduce new instructional material on these days when so many students are absent and that with substitute teachers , instructional progress in thwarted.

      Ms. Rogers asked whether it would help to make these half days. Mr. Brandmeyer said he is reluctant to switch Wednesdays with Fridays because people make plans around having Wednesdays afternoons off. He did this for MCAS because it was necessary. Simply making them half days would still result in loss of instructional time.

      Maria Hylton said she is opposed to not having school on the two religious holidays because it is problematic for a public school to declare religious holidays which many people do not celebrate and because it would create a choppy schedule. She said that in terms of learning time this would be a move in the wrong direction because she believes the School is at a bare minimum on real learning time. Ms. Hylton said that it is even more important to her that as a matter of principle the schools as public institutions not take more than passing interest in religion and that religion not play a role in how things are organized. She said that many workplaces do not recognize any religious holidays at all. Ms. Hylton said that she does understand that Mr. Brandmeyer is attempting to respond to a real problem of low attendance on these days but she said she believes that principle rather than pragmatism should govern. Ms. Hylton said that the state is not in the business of underwriting religious activity and that the schools should simply say to parents that it is their choice to keep kids home or send them to school. She noted that one can choose to send ones children to private religious schools but that when one opts into a public system one accepts that the institution is not organized around religion. She said she believes that there is a benefit to children that the schools are not organized around religion.

      Mr. Brandmeyer said that the care and protection of students is a concern when many teachers are absent on the same day. Mr. Brandmeyer said that no public money would be spent by taking these days and that the District would be saving money, due to the amounts currently spent on substitute teachers on low attendance days, rather than spending more with this calendar.

      Mr. Picker noted that there were emails in support of the proposed calendar which said that the status quo is not working just fine. He said that some people have had hard choices and pain with the current calendar. Mr. Picker said that it is difficult to make an analogy with other organizations policies on religious holidays because there are unique issues in running a school. Mr. Brandmeyer said that families were faced with the difficult decision of whether to send their children to school because it is a value not to miss school or to celebrate their religious holiday, an important value for them as well.

      Ms. Allen suggested that it could be a choice for parents whether to send their children to school on their religious holidays. She said that when the Martin Luther King Holiday first began whether to go to work or take the day off was an issue for many African Americans.

      Ms. Dobrow reminded everyone that the proposal was driven by absentee rates. She said there would not be a vote on this calendar this evening since it was only the first reading. Ms. Manos asked whether the current calendar has any holidays which are not state or federal holidays. Mr. Brandmeyer said there are not. There is Institute Day but it is not a holiday.

  11. New Business
    1. General
      Ms. Dobrow said that she and Mr. Brandmeyer received a METCO legislative alert to advocate for increased state funding for METCO. Ms. Dobrow asked whether she should draft a letter in support of this and the sense of the Committee was that she should.

      Ms. Dobrow said that Lincoln has been asked by Acton-Boxborough to advocate for Action-Boxboroughs proposal regarding Chapter 70 funding by writing letters. The sense of the Committee was that this should be done. Mr. Brandmeyer and Ms. Dobrow will write letters in support of the proposal.

      Mr. Brandmeyer said that the parent forum which is taking place as part of Institute Day is scheduled for March 16 and that it conflicts with the School Committee meeting scheduled for the same evening. The Committee decided to move the School Committee meeting to Wednesday, March 15.

    2. Review Process and Timetable for Superintendents Evaluation
      Documents: Process for evaluating the performance of the Superintendent of the Lincoln School District, February 2006, and DRAFT Template for providing input to Superintendents performance evaluation for period from April 2005 to March 2006

      Ms. Dobrow said that she took the evaluation template from last year and updated it for this year. She said that the evaluations will first be discussed at the School Committee at the March 2 meeting rather than the March 15 meeting and that she would need the evaluations back from School Committee members by February 24. The reason the dates are being pushed back is to get the evaluation and salary negotiations done with the current sitting School Committee and the last meeting with the current Committee members will be on March 15. Ms. Hessler asked that last years evaluation be emailed to Committee members. Mr. Picker asked that Mr. Brandmeyer make these calendar changes to the long term agenda so that they can be posted. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he would send the School Committee members an opinion on Superintendent evaluations by attorney Michael Long.

      Ms. Dobrow said she will compile the evaluation from individual School Committee members written comments. Mr. Brandmeyer will be provided with a copy of the evaluation prior to the School Committee discussion of the evaluation. Mr. Brandmeyer will receive the composite evaluation but not the individual write-ups.

  12. Approval of Minutes
    None.

  13. Information Enclosures

  14. Adjournment
    Ms. Dobrow moved that the School Committee adjourn the open session to enter executive session, not to return to open session, for the purposes of discussing strategy with respect to litigation since an open meeting discussion may have a detrimental effect on the litigating position of the School Committee and of discussing contract negotiations. Ms. Hessler seconded the motion. The motion was approved by the following roll call:
    Ms. Dobrow yes
    Ms. Hessler yes
    Mr. Picker yes
    Ms. Rogers yes
    Ms. Manos yes
    Ms. Allen concur
    The Committee adjourned to Executive Session at 9:34 P.M.

Respectfully submitted,
Sara Rolley, School Committee Recording Secretary