The meeting began with a presentation by PTO President Wendy Elman and Treasurer Katie Agam. This year, the PTO raised $65,000 for the schools. Ms. Elman said that with books and programming, the PTO’s overall contribution came to approximately $86,000. Board of Education President Sonali Patil thanked the PTO for all of its efforts on behalf of the District.
Dr. Mark Friedman and Dr. Anne Noland of BWP Associates discussed their strategy for recruiting candidates for several key positions at Hawthorn. They are conducting searches for a new Principal at Townline Elementary, the District’s Director of Teaching and Learning, the Interim Superintendent, and the Superintendent. The search for the Superintendent will begin in August. BWP Associates will launch an advertising campaign as well as gather community input through several community engagement meetings and a community survey. They will begin screening interviews in November. The Board will interview the final two or three candidates with the goal to appoint a new superintendent by December/January. The new superintendent would begin at Hawthorn on July 1, 2019.
Director of Finance and Business Operations Abe Singh gave a presentation on the 2018-2019 tentative budget. He said the goal is to have a finalized draft of the budget for the public hearing on August 13. The adoption of the budget is scheduled for September 17. The budget is due to the tax extension office on September 28.
Mr. Singh discussed Hawthorn’s Fund Balance. He said that while a Fund Balance should ideally grow every year, Hawthorn’s Fund Balance is decreasing due to the District’s growth and the fact that the District’s revenue doesn’t match the financial needs of that growth. The District had an operational deficit of approximately $3 million in 2015, $467,000 in 2016 and $1.7 million in 2017.
He also discussed Hawthorn’s cash reserve. He said that if $12 million of the District’s cash reserve of $13.1 million were to be used to fund the building of the kindergarten facility at the Sullivan Center, the cash reserve would be reduced to $1 million within a few years. He noted that it is important for a school district to have enough cash reserves to cover unforeseen emergencies and avoid short term borrowing. Right now, Hawthorn has two and a half months in its reserves.
District Superintendent Nick Brown was asked whether it would be appropriate to charge tuition for Hawthorn’s full day kindergarten program. Several districts in close proximity to Hawthorn charge tuition or charge a registration fee. He said that when the full-day program started it was agreed that the program would be free since many families within the District could not afford the tuition of $4,000, and it was part of the strategic plan to offer such opportunities to all families. It also supports the strategic plan goal of expanding early intervention opportunities to all students as well as equitable access to high quality programs for all students. The full day tuition program was available in only two buildings previously. He said that full day kindergarten was one of the best things that could be offered to Hawthorn families.
Ms. Patil led a discussion on value engineering for the kindergarten building construction. She said that since the bids for the construction of the kindergarten building came in about $2.7 million over the projected $12 million cost, Lamp, Inc. looked at ways to reduce costs. The Board reviewed a list of items that could be deleted or altered to reduce costs. The list included items totaling about $500,000. The Board either accepted or declined to accept the changes for each item.
The Board discussed possible revisions to the Educational Facilities Master Plan. Some Board members expressed concern about using funds from the limited cash reserve for the construction of the kindergarten building at the Sullivan Center. Options discussed included using only a portion of the Fund Balance for the kindergarten building. A different idea put forward was to include only the kindergarten building on the referendum to help ensure that it passed. The discussion will continue at the June 25 board meeting.
In her President’s Report, Ms. Patil thanked Mr. Brown for serving as the District’s Superintendent. She said that she appreciated his availability and his focus on the students. She paraphrased one of his mottos: “It’s all about the kids. The rest is noise and it will sort itself out.”