MINUTES FOR THE LINCOLN SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING OF
Thursday, December 8, 2005
Hartwell multi-purpose room

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

  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. Manos said that she and Ms. Rogers attended a coffee at Hanscom Primary School on Tuesday morning with about 25 parents. Ms. Manos said that next week they will be going to one at the Hanscom Middle School. Ms. Hessler said that on Sunday she attended the Link-Up with Lincoln for families new to Lincoln held at Pierce House and that all town committees were represented. Ms. Dobrow said that she and Ms. Manos attended the PTA meeting on Tuesday and provided an update on the budget.

  3. Public Comments
    Ms. Dobrow passed on a question which she received from Todd Helmus by e-mail: �Does the base budget include adequate funding for building repairs as needs arise and for ongoing maintenance such that there will be no further deterioration of the facilities?� Ms. Bottan said that budgeting sufficient money for building maintenance is always an issue. She said there is a $30,000 line item for repair and maintenance which has to cover five different buildings. She also said that there are pending requests before the Capital Planning Committee for $113,000 in maintenance, $50,000 for classroom rehabilitation, and $50,000 in technology.

  4. Consent Agenda
    None.

  5. Time Scheduled Appointments
    1. FY�07 Budget Discussion
      Document: FY�07Gap Closing-Third Discussion, December 6, 2005, Central Office

      Mr. Brandmeyer said that last week the administration put forth some reductions to close the gap and tonight they will present another series of potential reductions that gets the District to the Finance Committee�s target base budget. Mr. Brandmeyer said that he was looking to the School Committee for thought and guidelines for the base budget proposal to be voted on December 15 as well as thoughts about a potential override.

      Ms. Bottan reviewed the prior budget discussions noting that there was a $513,482 gap in the preliminary budget proposal which grew to $530,328 when a new special education expense was discovered. At the December 1 School Committee meeting cuts of $337,000 were discussed with $116,000 in curriculum and instruction and $221,000 in operations. Mr. Brandmeyer said that of the cuts discussed on December 1, he had determined not to go forward with eliminating a bus, a potential savings of $47,000, in order to offer seats to all who need them and because of safety concerns.

      Ms. Bottan put forth $134,200 cuts in program for discussion. The Administrative Team of Judith Glassman, Donica Hadley, Gian Criscitiello, Teresa Watts, Diane Trueblood, and Lynne Fagin joined the discussion at this time. Regarding the proposal to reduce 14 tutor hours and 20 assistant hours per week in the preschool saving $21,900, Ms. Fagin said that this would be savings from combining the extended portion of the day for Lincoln and Hanscom students. The Hanscom Integrated Preschool is on the Lincoln campus so no changes in transportation are involved. She said that this shift is based on known enrollment for next year and that fewer Lincoln students will need an extended day next year.

      For the extended year program, proposed reductions were to reduce 12 hours of nurse time and 28 teacher hours and reduce preparation time saving $24,000. Ms. Watts said that based on known students for this program, there will be slightly reduced age span allowing reduction from three groups to two groups which permits reducing staffing by one teacher. She said there much of last year�s staff is returning so that not as many prep days are needed. For the summer program, nursing services for the Lincoln and Hanscom campuses will be combined with the nurse at Lincoln.. She said that last summer there were nurses on each campus but that this was hard to cover.

      Regarding the proposal to reduce a .5 FTE social worker saving $25,000. Ms. Glassman said that this would result in less flexibility in providing short-term counseling to regular education students and cut down on social counseling and lunch time groups. She said that the highest priority would be given to special education students for whom social worker services is part of their IEP. There are 26 students whose IEPs call for social worker services. There would still be 2.4 FTE social workers in the budget. $25,000 represents the minimum savings from this possible cut. Ms. Manos asked whether there would be sufficient coverage for dealing with students� behavior issues. Ms. Trueblood said that social workers are one of several resources for dealing with behavior problems of children without IEPs but that the psychologist can also deal with behavior problems as well as other staff members being trained in behavior consultation.

      Regarding the proposal to reduce 63 hours per week of tutor time saving $25,000, Ms. Trueblood said that the impact would be in early intervention and remedial programs for students that are not on IEPs. There would less flexibility in providing extra help to students not on IEPs who need it. There will still be 224 hours of tutor time left. This proposal was primarily driven by the known needs of the population and could change if the special education population changes. When Ms. Manos expressed concern about not being able to provide early intervention for students who need it, Mr. Brandmeyer said that this responsibility will shift to classroom teachers. Ms. Manos suggested that the cut in tutors could be of a smaller magnitude. Ms. Watts said that in prior years as the special education population has become smaller there have been cuts in tutor hours. Next year�s special education population is projected to be more or less level with this year�s.

      Regarding the proposal to reduce the library assistant�s time by .25 FTE saving $7,500, Ms. Hadley said that the time of school-wide assistants who work in the library could be used to cover this loss. This year there is a full time librarian, a full time library assistant, and school-wide assistants who sometimes do clerical work in the library and cover the desk.

      Regarding the proposal to reduce classroom assistants by 20 hours per week saving $9,400, Mr. Criscitiello said that the classroom assistants serve grades one to five, currently spend from 9 to 15 hours per week in particular classrooms depending on the grade, class size, and the needs of the students. Under this proposal, their time in classrooms would be reduced to from 8 to 14 hours per week.

      Ms. Hadley said that $2,400 could be saved by beginning Kindergarten long days in September rather than October, thus eliminating the need for a kindergarten bus run on two days. She said that the teachers are at school during this time, they usually use this time for assessment, and they can find other time for assessment. The additional short days in September were for transition but students should be able to make this transition because there are still many short days.

      Ms. Bottan described $50,000 savings in administration. $40,000 could be saved by reducing Lincoln to two administrators. This could be two principals or a principal and an assistant principal. Mr. Brandmeyer said that the district work plan includes looking at the leadership model. He said that with Ms. Glassman�s retirement and Ms. Hadley�s relocation there will be changes in the composition of the team. He said that he could still study the leadership structure and come to the School Committee with a recommendation on January 12 but that he would also be comfortable planning on a two administrator model now. The Committee discussed whether to recommend proceeding with the two person leadership model now or whether Mr. Brandmeyer should further study the leadership model and come back with a recommendation on January 12. Ms. Dobrow expressed concern that if a recommendation was made January 12, this would delay advertising for new leadership in an already tight market. They discussed the timetable for conducting search for people to fill leadership positions, the need to begin the search, whether they could still defend the three person model from a budgetary standpoint in light of other reductions, what the district would lose by going to a two person model, and that a move to a two person model would be partly due to budgetary pressure but also due to personnel changes. The sense of the Committee was that planning for a two person model should proceed at this time.

      Mr. Bottan said that the additional administrative savings could be achieved by reducing consumables by $5,000 and shifting to more electronic forms of communication saving $5,000. The consumable reductions would be administrative consumables for the central office and the Lincoln administration. The shift to electronic communication would mean that certain communications to parents would only be available by e-mail.

      Ms. Bottan proposed to further close the budget gap by using $35,000 from the Special Revenue Circuit Breaker Fund and by applying $35,000 from the Town�s Chapter 70 allocation. The use of the $35,000 in Circuit Breaker funding would leave $110,000 for use in FY�08.

      Mr. Picker asked whether the Finance Committee had provided any guidance on projecting a 20% increase in utilities. Ms. Dobrow said that no guidance was given by the Finance Committee., but that it was suggested at the Finance Committee meeting the previous evening that it would be optimal if all town agencies were to use the same formula for projecting energy costs. The town is using a different formula projecting a 15% increase and library is using a third formula. Mr. Picker also asked whether the Finance Committee had provided any assurance about providing assistance if there turn out to be more than the projected number of students. Ms. Dobrow said that the Finance Committee has not yet discussed this.

      Mr. Naso provided answers to a number of questions posed by the School Committee at their December 1 meeting. The proposal to eliminate a bus was re-examined and this proposal was dropped. Ms. Bottan said that the Lincoln bus capacity is 578 seats and that 476 seats are taken. Doherty� conducted a few rider-ship counts and found that 61 to 65% of total riders were riding to and from school. The Committee discussed whether it would be worthwhile to gather data on different days and across time. Ms. Bottan may continue to collect rider-ship information for consideration next year.

      Mr. Naso said that he attempted to find comparative data on professional development funding. He said that the Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE) compiles information regarding professional development based on end of year reports from school districts. He said that all districts may not submit this data in the same way. In particular some districts may include only direct costs such as tuition reimbursement, memberships, registrations, and contracted services. Other districts may include indirect costs such as the cost of substitutes and extra teacher days for professional development. With this caveat, Mr. Naso said that he had some data from the DOE for FY2003. He said that in 2003 Lincoln spent $171 for professional development per pupil, Newton was in the high end of the range with $261 per pupil, DOE recommended $125 per pupil, and that some districts were under $100 per pupil. Mr. Naso said that, if $8,000 is reduced for professional development, $90,000 will remain resulting in $132 per student of only direct costs, still leaving Lincoln above the recommended level.

      Mr. Naso said that changing the delivery model for middle school from the team model to a departmental model was considered and rejected since it would require a major cultural shift, would preempt the current middle school improvement efforts, would not allow sufficient time to prepare for a change, and probably would not yield much savings.

      Mr. Naso addressed funds allocated to the principal�s account for enrichment. He said that the principal�s account for enrichment was created this year to allow this money to be allocated in the spring when needs are known. The number was created based on a per pupil amount. Mr. Brandmeyer said that enrichment may be a misnomer as this money for instruction. This money has been in other places in the budget at other times. In an override passed two years ago $20,000 was for enrichment programs which partly covered the spring dramatic production covering material and performance rights but not staffing. In response to the suggestion that some of this money be allocated for the fall dramatic production, Mr. Brandmeyer said that the purpose of the principal�s account is to allow some discretion at the building level, and not to micromanage from the central office.

      Ms. Bottan spoke about energy conservation and methodologies for utilities projection. She said that Mr. Picker is helping her to utilize average degree day data in these projections. Also, a consulting firm, Patterson Associates, is using last year�s consumption rates to project unit costs. She said that a citizen with expertise has also offered to help with projecting utility costs and a Finance Committee member has also offered to help. She said that yesterday temperatures on the school thermostats were reduced. Evening temperatures were reduced from 60 to 55 degrees. Temperatures during the day were reduced from 74 to 69 degrees. Ms. Bottan is going to see how this goes. Ms. Hadley said that the Smith Building has a few wings that tend to be cooler than the rest of the school. Ms. Dobrow suggested that a communication be sent home suggesting that students dress warmly.

      Mr. Brandmeyer said that a recommendation has been made to reduce consumables and printed matter. This recommendation, however, referred to consumables and durable goods that have instructional not administrative uses. Therefore, the administration is not recommending a deflation factor for these areas.

      Ms. Bottan reviewed the next steps in the budget process. At its December 15 meeting the School Committee will vote on the base budget. On January 8 the town joint budget hearing will be held. On January 12 the School Committee will vote on its preferred budget. On January 19 a town joint budget hearing will be held.

      Ms. Dobrow said that things may change and perhaps some items on the reduction list may be able to be restored. She also said that it is clear that the town is talking about an override. She suggested that the Committee provide guidance on what might be restored and what might be the subject of an override.

      Mr. Picker said that the proposed initiatives, which have been put aside while attention was focused on reducing the gap, should come back into thinking about what might be restored or about what might be the subject of an override proposal. He said that there may be items on the initiative list which are more worthy than items which were cut. He also suggested that the number of students served by a program is a factor which should be considered. The Committee discussed their desire to keep any potential override request as small as is reasonable.

    2. Communications Subcommittee Update
      Document: Reference and Provide Documents used in SC Meetings, October 26, 2005, Communications Subcommittee

      Ms. Manos and Richard Jewett presented a proposal on behalf of the Communications Subcommittee to list documents discussed at School Committee meetings on the agenda and in the minutes. The Committee discussed who would do the additional work. The Committee also discussed the fact that often the agenda is published before documents are written, that there are sometimes errors in the documents, that the documents are produced to facilitate School Committee discussion and are not intended to stand alone, and that there is a risk of documents being taken out of context. They also considered that the process is the School Committee discussion, not the documents, and that people should come to the School Committee meetings if they are interested in understanding what is discussed.

      Mr. Brandmeyer said that he had discussed the proposal with legal counsel who said that what the Committee is currently doing is fully compliant with the law. He also checked with the Lincoln Selectmen about their procedure and learned that they use the same procedure as the School Committee. Mr. Brandmeyer noted that the School Committee publishes its agenda prior to meetings, posts it on the web, produces a detailed agenda, and detailed minutes. He said that supporting documents are available under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and that the School Committee makes these documents available at its meetings. He said the Subcommittees statement on its model agenda goes beyond what they law requires by stating that documents can be obtained from the Superintendents Secretary rather than that they may be obtained by FOIA request. Ms. Manos said that under the Subcommittees proposal it would be up to the discretion of the superintendent and the chair whether documents would be distributed prior to School Committee meetings.

      Mr. Brandmeyer said that he also conducted an informal survey of other superintendents. Of 32 other towns, 12 distribute agenda packet materials at the time of the meeting, 13 do not distribute agenda packet materials at the time of the meeting, and 6 sometimes distribute agenda packet materials at the time of the meeting. One district distributed agenda packet material before the meeting, 3 sometimes distributed agenda packet materials before the meeting, and 28 did not distribute agenda packet material before the meeting. Nine districts did not permit public discussion on most matters at their meetings, 14 did permit public discussion on most matters, and 7 permitted public discussion sometimes depending on the issue. Thirty districts had a time for public participation on their agenda, 1 did not and one did not answer this question.

      Mr. Picker moved that the School Committee reference documents discussed in its minutes. Ms. Hessler seconded the motion. All members voted in favor of the motion. It was also suggested that the agendas could be improved so that the titles for discussion more clearly inform the reader of what is going to be discussed.

  6. Superintendents Report
    None.

  7. Curriculum
    None.

  8. Policy
    None.

  9. Budget and Financial
    1. Warrant Approval
      Not considered.

  10. Old Business
    Ms. Dobrow said she has received a submission for the Town Annual Report from Ms. Manos and other members with ideas for the report should send them to her before the weekend.

  11. New Business
    Ms. Rogers announced that she has formally submitted her resignation from the School Committee so that her seat can be filled in the March election. She is happy to continue to serve until March and will be glad to continue if her seat is not filled. She is resigning because as of the coming summer she will no longer be a resident of Lincoln.

  12. Approval of Minutes
    Ms. Dobrow moved that the minutes of December 1, 2005 be accepted as amended. Ms. Hessler seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

  13. Adjournment
    Ms. Dobrow moved that the School Committee adjourn to executive session not to return to open meeting for the purpose 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
    The Committee adjourned to Executive Session at 9:55 P.M.

Respectfully submitted,
Sara Rolley, School Committee Recording Secretary