school board meeting

Highlights of the October 23 Board of Education Meeting

Dr. James Tohme, Principal of the School of Dual Language, and a group of students gave an interactive presentation called “Learning the Dual Way” at the October 23 Board of Education meeting. Students gave an example of a lesson taught in Spanish and received enthusiastic applause.

The presentation was followed by a discussion about the kindergarten school at the Sullivan Center. Representatives from DLR Group, LAMP Incorporated, and Lisa Leali, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, responded to board members’ questions about the design. The discussion included the flexibility of the design, potential cost savings in the design development phase and student teacher ratios.  The building is designed with 18 classroom spaces and four maker spaces that can be used as classrooms to accommodate future growth. The design allows for lower than 25:1 ratios using 16 classrooms using the last three years’ average of kindergarten enrollment.  The studio spaces are classroom spaces used for art and activity spaces for kindergarteners until enrollment grows to the level where those spaces are needed for general education classrooms. The representatives explained that the building featured several rooms that could easily be used as classrooms allowing for growth and possible lower student teacher ratios should the board decide to make that investment in additional teachers. The design, which had been created with the input and support of kindergarten teachers, meets the board guidance of:

  • Teacher ratios below 25:1
  • The ability to be a two-story building
  • Not to worry about the wetland on the site
  • Space for additions in the future if needed
  • Make the building as flexible as possible for future use
  • Dedicated space for small group instruction
  • Sufficient outdoor play/facility area
  • Discussion of traditional vs pre-fab construction

These guidelines were provided at the June 12, 2017 school board meeting before the design phase began.  The board also discussed reviewing research on student teacher ratios.

Additionally, the representatives said there is room for another section of classrooms to be added to address population challenges in years to come. The Board approved (5 to 2) the schematic design for the new school.

Superintendent Nick Brown discussed placement options for the students moving into several new subdivisions, including the Residences of Cuneo Mansion and Gardens, Woodland Chase and Mellody Farms. Mr. Brown reiterated his earlier recommendation that the students from the Cuneo project attend Elementary North and Middle School North. He explained that both Middle School North and Middle School South are full and lack space, but Middle School North can use space at John Powers.  He recommended that students of Woodland Chase and Mellody Farms attend Aspen and Middle School South.  The board asked to see how these placements would affect demographics at the schools before they vote on this issue.

Abe Singh, Director of Finance and Business Operations, gave a presentation on the proposed 2017 Tax Levy, which must be filed with the county by the fourth Tuesday of December. The levy for 2017 proposes a 4.95% increase, equal to a request of $2,074,124 over the 2017 extension. The total levy request for 2017 is $43,976,241, with a probable estimated extension of $43,123,571. While the district is asking for this amount, the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) limits the increase in property tax extension to 5% or the increase in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less. The 2016 CPI was 2.1%. The levy calculations are based on the consumer price index, new construction, levy adjustment and equalized assessed valuation. The levy is an action item to be voted on at the 11/13 board meeting.

Mr. Singh also spoke about the renewal of Lakeside Transportation’s contract. He said that the bus company’s proposal asks for an estimated $333,000 increase over last year. Mr. Singh said that he would meet with the school districts Hawthorn partners with for bus service to obtain their feedback and then come back to the board.

The discussion on the Educational Facilities Master Plan survey was tabled due to lack of time. The board will hold a special meeting to address the survey.