Thursday, November 16, 2005
Hartwell multi-purpose room
Present: Julie Dobrow (Chair), Sandy Hessler (Vice Chair), Laurie Manos, Dennis Picker, Cathy Rogers, Pam Borgert (Hanscom Representative), Corie Cruise (Hanscom Representative).
Also present: Mickey Brandmeyer (Superintendent), Paul Naso (Assistant Superintendent), Susan Bottan (Administrator for Business and Finance)

  1. Greetings and Call to Order
    Ms. Dobrow called the meeting to order at 7:02 P.M.

  2. Chairperson�s and Members� Reports
    Ms. Borgert said that this is American Education Week and that the Hanscom Middle School has been celebrating by opening its doors to parents. More that 127 parents have accompanied their children in various programs this week. It has been a true celebration of the home school partnership.

    Ms. Cruise said that today at the Hanscom Middle School elections were held for the student council positions of president, vice-president and treasurer.

  3. Public Comments
    Vicki Kendrick and Missy Stannaford appeared before the Committee with questions about home-schooling. They said that they are Hanscom parents who home-school their children and they had heard that the School Committee might be thinking about changing its home-schooling policies. Mr. Naso said the District endeavors to follow state law regarding home-schooling. He said that the administration is seeking to make sure its practices are supported by policy rather than looking to change its practices. If a policy regarding home-schooling is created it will need to be approved by the School Committee. Mr. Picker explained that before any policy is adopted, the School Committee would have at least two public discussions before taking action. He said that the School Committee agendas are posted on the web and that interested persons can find out when a topic is slated for discussion by monitoring the posted agendas.

    Robert Steinbrook of the Lincoln Finance Committee said that he is interested in utilities costs and whether the school had any information about how utilities costs are shaping up for this year. Ms. Bottan said that she will have information for the December 7 School Committee meeting and that she will see that the information on this in the School Committee packet is also forwarded to Mr. Steinbrook.

  4. Consent Agenda

  5. Time Scheduled Appointments
    1. Request from Magic Garden for Sign Installation
      Ms. Bottan explained that the Magic Garden Childcare Center has requested permission to place a sign on Ballfield Road at the corner turning off of Lincoln Road. The sign would be placed under the Lincoln Schools sign and would be like the Lincoln School sign in style, font and color. Magic Garden�s purpose in placing the sign would be to let the public know that the Magic Garden is here. Ms. Hessler observed that Lincoln Nursery School has two signs and that Lincoln Country Day has sandwich boards at times. Ms. Hessler said that it was hard for her to find the Magic Garden when she first moved to Lincoln.

      Mr. Picker said that the School Committee does not have sole jurisdiction. He said that a special permit is required from the Planning Board for any signage on a public way and that a public hearing is required. Mr. Picker also said that he does not think that a sign is necessary. He said that the look and feel of Lincoln is to minimize signs and he said he did not believe there is a problem finding the Magic Garden because people can call and ask where it is located. He wondered what would happen if other tenants also want signs. The other tenants are EDCO (who may be leaving), LEAP, and the recreation department. Space is also used by the Friends of the Lincoln Library, the Lincoln Family Association, and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Ms. Manos wondered whether the proposed sign could be construed as an implied endorsement of Magic Garden. She noted that two signs within the Lincoln Schools complex do have Magic Garden on them.

      Ms. Rogers asked the difference between the Magic Garden and the Integrated Preschool. The Integrated Preschool serves Hanscom students and is run by the Lincoln Public Schools. Magic Garden is private entity. The Lincoln School has a public/private partnership with Magic Garden. Tim Christenfeld, President of the Board of Directors of Magic Garden appeared on their behalf.

      Ms. Hessler moved that the School Committee allow Magic Garden to place the sign contingent on approval by the Planning Board. Ms. Dobrow seconded the motion. Ms. Hessler and Ms. Dobrow voted in favor of the motion. Mr. Picker, Ms. Manos, and Ms. Rogers voted against the motion.

      The Committee then discussed whether Magic Garden might be permitted to use a sandwich board for special events such as open houses and parents nights.

    2. Status Report: Middle School Initiative at Lincoln School
      Judith Glassman appeared with Claudia FoxTree and Nancy Marshall to talk about the Middle School Initiative. Ms. Glassman set forth three areas of inquiry for this initiative: (1) the extent to which the program and schedule offer students a well balanced and challenging course of studies; (2) the extent to which students are actively engaged in their learning; and (3) the manner in which an honest, respectful and productive partnership between families and teachers is achieved and sustained. She said that the District has retained Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC) and that they are working with Andria Winther, the Managing Director of IISC. There will be two phases of the work with IISC: (1) the design phase and (2) the planning phase. The design phase is currently underway. A group has been formed, has met four times and two additional meetings have been scheduled. The planning phase will begin in January. The IISC terminology is somewhat confusing as the planning phase is not only planning, but also an action/work period. In a parallel effort, six middle school teachers have formed a committee to research programs and schedules of other middle schools.

      The planning phase will involve more people and will involve obtaining input from the parents and teachers. The goal is to reach a common understanding of the needs, wants and challenges of Lincoln Middle School students and to understand how best to serve them. It is contemplated that some changes will be implemented next September as a result of this work.

      Committee members expressed concern about whether the direction of this work is too focused on relationships and community and not focused enough of improving student learning. Ms. Glassman said that she is passionate about the partnership and relationship adults have in bringing about success of students in school and that this partnership will make for engaged students. Ms. Glassman said that the Middle School survey was used in framing the three areas of inquiry but that it is not being used in the rest of this endeavor. Ms. Marshall said that a lot has changed since the survey was done. Committee members stressed the importance of the second area of inquiry, student engagement. The Committee also discussed how this work is part of a continuous improvement cycle and the expectation that learning and processes can be reflected in other areas, and that information can be shared with the Hanscom Middle School.

      Ms. Glassman is scheduled to report back to the School Committee on this work in March. The Committee discussed whether an additional report should be scheduled in January. Mr. Naso said that as part of the planning phase there will be communications about the status of this work. Ms. Dobrow suggested that the Committee wait until these communications to decide whether there need be a report before March.

      Mr. Picker expressed a concern about the effort to research programs and schedules. He said that the district has been focusing on how the delivery of program is crucial and that this effort might also ask how program is delivered.

      Mr. Steinbrook asked about budgetary implications of the work. Specifically he asked whether implementation of changes in September would have budgetary impact. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he anticipates that some changes can be implemented in September with redistribution of existing funding and that other changes will require additional funding. Ms. Dobrow thanked Ms. Glassman for the report.

    3. FY�07 Budget Discussion
      Mr. Brandmeyer introduced the School Committee�s second discussion of the FY�07 budget. He said that the preliminary budget was first presented on November 3rd and the preliminary budget presented was above base budget amounts for both Lincoln and Hanscom. The discussion tonight would be the first School Committee discussion of how to close the gap.

      Ms. Bottan summarized the information presented at the November 3 meeting. For Lincoln, a level service budget results in a $627,155 gap over the FY�07 Finance Committee base budget target (a 2% increase over the FY�06 budget) and a level service budget plus new initiatives results in a $720,733 gap over the base budget target. For Hanscom, a level service budget results in a $633,035 gap over the FY�07 target of no increase from FY�06 and a level service budget plus new initiatives results in a $770,272 gap over the target.

      Ms. Bottan said that the Administrative Council met on November 8 and that they developed some reductions from the preliminary budget proposal. In Lincoln, eliminating a building repair proposal, eliminating the instructional supplies and materials inflation factor, and not filling tutor positions (as a result of revised projections of student enrollment) would result in a gap reduction of $113,673. For Hanscom, eliminating a building repair proposal, reducing special education out-of-district tuition and transportation (because a student who would be receiving these services is moving out of the district), eliminating the instructional supplies and materials inflation factor, and not filling tutor position (as a result of revised projections of student enrollment) would result in a gap reduction of $126,073.

      Ms. Bottan said that the Administrative Council also discussed whether some new initiatives could be postponed or funded for efficiencies this year. For Lincoln, postponing additional professional development resources would reduce the new initiatives by $25,000 or 37% of the new initiatives. For Hanscom, postponing additional professional development resources and preschool enrichment and postponing or funding them out of efficiencies this year mathematics textbooks, computer lab air conditioning, and computer furniture would result in a reduction of new initiatives by $48,692 or 36%.

      Ms. Bottan presented revised gap numbers as a result of the measures recommended by the Administrative Council. For Lincoln, a level service would now result in a $513,482 gap over base budget target and a level service budget plus new initiatives would result in a $582,060 gap over base budget target. For Hanscom, a level service would now result in a $506,962 gap over base budget target and a level service budget plus new initiatives would result in a gap of $595,507. Ms. Bottan pointed out that, given that 85% of the base budget is made of personnel costs, for illustrative purposes only, the gap is equal to more than 9.0 FTE�s on each campus or nearly 5.0 FTE on each campus plus essentially all classroom instructional support staff.

      Ms. Bottan asked where does the district go from here or how can the district continue to provide level services with funding that no longer keeps pace with rising costs. She said that the Administrative Council discussed a number of approaches which could lessen the gap such as doing more with less, postponing or slowing down rate of investments, rethinking the number of sections and class sizes, reconsidering fees, revisiting methodology used to project electricity and heating costs, and continuing to seek and gain efficiencies. She observed that even if the District does all these things they would probably not be enough to close the gap.

      Mr. Brandmeyer said that the District has rigorously sought out efficiencies and that each year the efficiencies that they are able to find are smaller and smaller and those that are found this year will not close out a half million dollar gap. Mr. Brandmeyer proposed that as the planning moves to close the gap at Hanscom that at some point planning be stopped pending the resolution of the contract to run Hanscom.

      The Committee discussed whether additional new initiatives could be postponed and the fact that postponement of all new initiatives would not move very far to close the gap. The Committee also discussed the balance of core academics with other programs. They also considered whether small classes with no aides are to be preferred over larger classes with aides.

      The Committee talked about the procedure for reducing the gap. Mr. Brandmeyer said that it is has worked best for the School Committee members to make recommendations on where the administration should look for cuts and not to isolate line items. Mr. Brandmeyer also cautioned that in a small school when reductions of programs or personnel are discussed this can be perceived as about a specific person or job and that this upsets people and the culture of the schools. He also said that some harsh reductions that need to be discussed may never happen. Mr. Brandmeyer said that if the administration recommends reduction of specific programs or specific personnel, he will talk with the people affected before discussing these recommendations at School Committee. Mr. Brandmeyer said that if items are cut from the budget, the School Committee should not assume that they will be put back through fundraising.

      Committee members suggested that the administration seek cuts in the following areas: reducing class sizes (look for educationally responsible options to reduce sections), slowing down the 5 year cycle of library improvement, cutting non-academic programs, revising the methodology for projecting heating and electricity costs, reducing principals of the Lincoln School from three to two, imposing a deflation factor on consumables, increasing caseloads of special educators and social workers, increasing fees, and reducing the number of buses. Ms. Dobrow said that reductions should be expressed across the board and that the District should look for opportunities in every area. When asked, Mr. Brandmeyer quantified potential savings from reducing the principals at the Lincoln School to two from three at $40,000 to $50,000.

      The Committee discussed multi-age classrooms. Mr. Naso said that they can be effective when introduced for educational reasons but problems arise when they are introduced for financial reasons. Mr. Naso said that the trend in Massachusetts has been away from multi-age classrooms because of the need to cover certain material at certain grades so that students are prepared for MCAS.

      The Committee discussed the methodology for projecting heating and electricity costs. Ms. Bottan said that �05 actual costs were increased 25% for FY�06 and an additional 50% for FY�07. She said that projections could be reduced by increasing the projections only by an additional 30% for FY�07. Ms. Bottan said that she will report on actual costs so far this year on December 7 and that she will have these numbers by December 1 for the School Committee packet. Mr. Steinbrook said that the Finance Committee will be discussing utility costs and the dynamic situation where FY07 budget is based on anticipated FY06 costs. Mr. Steinbrook said that the Finance Committee would appreciate information on this years actual utility costs. He said that he would be concerned if utility costs were over-projected leading to program cuts but that he would also be concerned if utility costs were under-projected leading to a shortfall. Mr. Brandmeyer asked Mr. Steinbrook to talk with the Finance Committee about coming up with a means of taking the utilities pressure off the town agencies.

      In response to the suggestion that savings might be achieved by outsourcing some special education, Mr. Brandmeyer said that the District has worked hard to provide in district service because it is cost efficient and because special education regulations require that districts provide services in the least restrictive environment. It was suggested that the District could consider increasing special education caseloads.

      Mr. Steinbrook made some comments about the budget process from the Finance Committee perspective. He said that there have been times when the Finance Committee is able to add money later for the base budget but that he does not see the base numbers changing this year. He said that the School Committee should come up with a base budget that they can live with without an override. He said that the Finance Committee has evolved to this base budget system which allows new programs to be added as long as base budget numbers are met rather than requiring agencies to build on what they were doing last year. He also cautioned the School Committee that if they take something out of the budget, they may not be able to add the item in an override. He said that overrides should be for other enhancements rather than something you decided you could live without.

      Mr. Picker expressed the desire for the District to continue with the curriculum development and professional development that it has started and said that he would rather see non-core program cuts such as increasing athletic fees or reducing instrumental music offerings than reductions in curriculum development and professional development.

      The Committee discussed class size, perceived teacher preference for a slightly larger class size with an aide to a smaller class size without an aide, and that larger class sizes mean that a teacher has a greater work load because they need to do more report cards and correct more papers as well as teach more students. The Committee discussed whether it might be possible to find reductions in class size without going over the maximum.

      Regarding class size projections, Mr. Steinbrook reminded the Committee that, if the District made a projection of enrollment and students moved in over the summer necessitating an additional section, the Committee could come to the Finance Committee to ask for additional funding. Mr. Brandmeyer said that recent projections of enrollment have been fairly accurate.

      Regarding fees, the Committee discussed their learning from past years that increasing bus fees does not increase revenue because rider-ship drops. Regarding athletic fees, Mr. Brandmeyer said that Lincolns athletic fees are already high relative to other towns. The athletic programs are currently funded with roughly $25,000 in fees and $25,000 from the budget. Lunch fees can only be used to fund the lunch program.

      Mr. Brandmeyer asked how the School Committee would feel about denying some families who live near the school or who have 7th or 8th graders the ability to pay for a student to ride the bus. He said that he believes that eliminating a school bus might mean that there are not enough seats to fill the demand. It is currently $275 to buy a seat for students for whom busing is not required This $275 does not cover the full cost of rider-ship which is $891 per student. Ms. Bottan will look at bus routes to see whether the District really couldnt offer people who would like to pay for seats if a bus were eliminated.

      Mr. Brandmeyer said that the School Committee is scheduled to vote its base budget on December 15 and that the Administration would come back in January with a preferred budget, perhaps including an override. At the December 1 School Committee meeting budget discussion will continue to focus on closing the gap.

    4. Update: Implementation of Teacher Evaluation Program
      Mr. Naso reported on the teacher evaluation program that was negotiated as part of the contract with the Lincoln Teachers Association. He said that the administration and the Lincoln Teachers Association are collaborating to implement the program. He said that close attention is being paid to communication with the faculty about the new expectations. Training is being given to all evaluators and members of the faculty.

      The district has contracted for this professional development with Research for Better Teaching (RBT). Services are being provided by Dr. Caroline Tripp, a senior staff member at RBT and co-author of The Skillful Teacher: Confronting Mediocre Teaching. This training has been a great opportunity to make sure that evaluators and teachers are talking about standards in a consistent way. Mr. Naso said that Dr. Tripp emphasizes looking beyond merely asking whether certain teaching practices are evident to asking whether those teaching practices have had an effect on student learning. He said that the evaluations involve taking a close look at student work to make sure that student learning is occurring. Mr. Naso said that feedback on the new procedures has been positive, that language changes are becoming clear to teachers, and that timelines are clear.

      Ms. Hessler asked whether the new procedures provide ways for models of good teaching to be passed on to other members of the faculty. Mr. Naso said that under the selective focus option there are times when faculty members are collaborating and times when faculty members can contribute to a professional development program but that selected focus still requires demonstration of effectiveness of instruction. Mr. Picker asked how the new teacher evaluation program ranks against evaluation programs in other good schools. Mr. Naso said Dr. Tripp has provided some information and that she has communicated that it is a very strong program. Mr. Brandmeyer said that part of what makes the program strong is that the administration took time to get teacher buy-in and took time to craft a program that will really work. Mr. Manos observed that there is a bill being introduced in the Massachusetts legislature setting forth measures schools should take to insure teacher quality and that she is pleased that Lincoln is already doing most of what is being proposed in the legislation.

  6. Superintendents Report
    Mr. Brandmeyer reported that Ms. Hessler, Ms. Manos and Ms. Borgert met with the Administrative Council to talk about the work they are beginning on mission/vision for the Lincoln School District. He also announced that Donica Hadley sent him a letter stating that it is her intention to leave the District at the end of this school year. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he is moving forward with a process to identify the optimal leadership structure for the school, and will then move forward with principal searches.

  7. Curriculum
    Mr. Naso reported that notice went out to parents of the calendar change necessitated by MCAS testing. Mr. Naso also reported that he and Mr. Brandmeyer met with four representatives of Fresh Pond regarding the technology RFP and that they are creating timelines and reshaping the work that Fresh Pond will be asked to do. He said that consideration is being given to having representatives of Fresh Pond appear before the School Committee.

  8. Policy
    1. Discussion of Attorney Generals Safe Schools Initiative
      Mr. Brandmeyer explained that he received a letter from Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly urging the adoption of a sample policy on promoting civil rights and prohibiting harassment, bullying, discrimination, and hate crimes. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he had legal counsel review the sample policy and existing related policies that Lincoln has in place. Legal counsel advised that the sample policy is overly restrictive and has too many reporting requirements. Counsel recommended that the District not adopt the sample policy as written, but that the District re-work the current policies that address the same issues. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he anticipates that this will result in some new policies coming before the School Committee as well as some proposals to rework existing policies.

      Mr. Brandmeyer said that the District is working on school safety and that two incidents this fall (finding a bullet in the Lincoln gym and a missing knife at the Hanscom Middle School) have pointed to the importance of school safety. Mr. Brandmeyer said that some programming on school safety is being planned for Institute Day. Mr. Naso said that the Institute Day will be primarily on social and emotional learning and the keynote speaker will be Dr. James Garbarino who will also address parents. At the end of the day principals will address standards for school behavior. Mr. Naso said that the administration is considering a district goal for 2006-2007 on school-wide behavioral expectations. At an upcoming PTA meeting, Mr. Brandmeyer and Lincoln Chief of Police, Kevin Mooney, will be speaking about school safety.

  9. Budget
    1. Warrant Approval
      Ms. Manos said that she reviewed the warrants with Ms. Bottan and that they are in order. Mr. Manos moved that the School Committee approve warrants in the amount of $775,245.26. Ms. Dobrow seconded the motion. All elected members voted in favor, with Ms. Borgert and Ms. Cruise concurring.

  10. Old Business

  11. New Business

  12. Approval of Minutes
    Ms. Dobrow moved that the School Committee accept the November 3, 2005 minutes as amended. Ms. Manos seconded the motion. Ms. Dobrow, Ms. Manos, Mr. Picker, and Ms. Rogers voted in favor, with Ms. Borgert and Ms. Cruise concurring. Ms. Hessler abstained because she was not present on November 3.

  13. Information Enclosures

  14. Adjournment
    Ms. Dobrow moved that the meeting adjourn. Ms. Hessler seconded the motion. All elected members voted in favor, with Ms. Borgert and Ms. Cruise concurring. The meeting adjourned at 10:34 P.M.

Respectfully submitted,
Sara Rolley, School Committee Recording Secretary