school board meeting

Highlights of the Nov. 27 Board of Education Meeting

Elizabeth Hennessy from Raymond James provided an overview on the District’s outstanding debt. Two of the four bonds are callable in January of 2019. This includes $15,645,000 for the 2009A Series and $2,905,000 for the 2009B Series. By refunding the Series 2009A bonds, the total savings could be $1,604,250 or net present value savings of $1,391,065. By refunding the Series 2009B bonds, the total savings could be $605,520 or net present value savings of $325,664. Ms. Hennessy also provided a 10-year, 15-year, and 20-year option for additional DSEB bonds. Option I, which includes new money and refunding keeps the final maturity at 2028, which is the final maturity of the current non-referendum debt. Options II and III would result in an extension of the debt service extension base beyond the current final maturity and increase the annual payment amount by the consumer price index annually. The 10-year option would generate $1.4M, the 15-year option would generate $3.3M, and the 20-year option would generate $5.3M.  All of these options in conjunction with the refunding would result in net savings.

Dr. Lisa Leali, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, Robert Collins, Principal of Middle School North, and Robert Natale, Principal of Middle School South, gave a presentation on student achievement at the middle school level. Dr. Leali said the District focuses on a whole child approach to education. She emphasized the importance of creating a school environment in which children want to come to school. Wanting to come to school plays a significant role in student achievement.

In terms of tests, she said the District continues to outperform the state on the PARCC test. In 2017, Middle School South was at the 86th percentile and Middle School North was at the 83rd percentile for English/Language Arts and Math combined compared to public schools statewide. In addition to state tests, all students set personal goals, which are measured. Last year, 83 percent of middle school students met their goals. However, the District continues to see achievement gaps among Hispanic, low-income and Special Education students.

She spoke briefly about English Language Learners (ELL). The District traditionally transitions about 25% of ELL students out of its services. But because state standards changed, the District only transitioned 10% of ELLs out of services last year.

Both principals, Robert Natale and Robert Collins, spoke about the high rate (85 percent) of middle school students who are engaged in extracurricular activities. The “activity bus” has made it far easier for students to participate in afterschool programs. They spoke about the environments of their schools where emphasis is placed on students feeling at home.

District Superintendent Nick Brown reported on the results of a staff assessment performed by HUMANeX to help gauge the District’s climate and culture. He was pleased that the number of staff participating in the survey increased from 282 in 2015 to 433 in 2017.  He was also pleased that the percentage of staff who reported they were highly satisfied and engaged in their jobs was 75.75%. The industry standard is about 65%.

Abe Singh, Director of Finance and Business Operations, gave a brief report on 2018-2019 student fees. The District’s recommendation is that the student fees stay the same as last year, with the small exception of the lunch meals, which would increase by 10 cents. The small increase in the lunch fee is due to the guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture “Equity in School Lunch Pricing” provision that went into effect on July 1, 2011. The provision is part of the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which requires schools participating in the National School Lunch Program to provide the same level of support for lunches served to those students that are not eligible for free or reduced price lunches as they are for those eligible for free lunches. This disclaimer takes the price increase off the shoulders of the district. The 2018-2019 student fees will be an action item on the December 11 agenda.

Board President Sonali Patil led a discussion about the Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP), the 10-year plan to address the short and long-term needs of the District. She said that the kindergarten school at the Sullivan Center will provide some temporary relief for the significant space limitations experienced by the elementary schools, but it will provide no relief for the middle schools. She asked the board members for their thoughts on the District’s next steps. The board members were in agreement that space limitations were a significant problem that needed to be addressed. There was general agreement that the space limitations at the middle schools should be prioritized. The discussion will continue at the next meeting.