BOE Meeting – Feb 15, 2022

Board of Education Meeting 2/15/22

A Emeka reminded audience about the mandate for masks, given that numerous members of the audience were unmasked.

  1. Member of the audience inquired about how this policy applies when people have disabilities that compromise their ability to wear a mask. A Emeka reiterated the policy that masks are mandated and the choice was to mask or leave (reminding everyone that the meeting is available via live stream). Two members of the audience left.

M Patton reported that when the Governor declares an end of the mask mandate, SSCSD will go mask optional. Encouraged parents to discuss the possible transition with students in advance in order to prepare them for a mask optional environment. Emphasized the importance of people being kind and respectful to all members, and that all choices must be treated with respect. Until additional guidance comes from the state or county, the district cannot comment on changes to mask policy and intends to share information with families as soon as it becomes available. He thanked the community for ongoing patience and support.

  1. There is an ample supply of rapid tests for all students, faculty, and staff. Encourage folks to reach out to their school’s main office if they need more.

A Emeka reminded audience again about the mask mandate. Numerous members of the audience expressed dissatisfaction with the policy and refused to put masks on. 

7:17pm Motion for 10 mins recess (passed with 5 yays, 4 nays)

Prior to return from recess, Dr. Patton reminded the public that the mask mandate will continue to be in place throughout the remainder of the meeting.

In advance of public comment, A Emeka reminded the audience that direct comments about personnel and trustees are not allowed.

7:38pm PUBLIC COMMENT:

  1. Ellen Moran: speaking in support of resolution. Supports teachers and school librarians. Wants to stress the importance of having a diverse set of books available to students. “No person should be allowed to dictate what another person’s child has access to.” Gratitude to the board for the policy that is in place to protect access to a diverse collection of books.
  2. Jason Mazzotti. Parent at Caroline St. Pleased with position that the SSCSD will go mask optional when given a chance. Noted that masks that impede learning (notetaker’s comment: he had no data), cited teachers union president here. Implore the board to protect the students who choose not to wear a mask. 
  3. Michelle King. Expressing concern that resolution is to silence people like her. Acknowledges good intentions of support, but concerned that there are no guidelines or parameters for how to condemn someone or whether a behavior is civil. 
  4. ? Sheffield. Received response from a FOIL request. Was told she would need to pay by page and to receive the curriculum. Regarding resolution, while she recognizes the importance of support of teachers, she does not support outside agendas of board members. Cited equity and inclusion concerns related to the cost of getting curriculum (RAL: It seems she does not understand the intent of equity and inclusion).
  5. Andrew Sheffield. Concerned about board transparency (e.g., what happened in the retreat – RAL: that was communicated out at the first meeting following the retreat.), and interest in what the board’s responsibilities roles are/are not. Stated that he wants to understand these roles so that he can understand how they can effectively communicate with and support the board, and what his role might be in case he runs for the board.
  6. Ted Cervini. Parent of HS, MS, and Elem school. States that he’s not anti-mask, but reports that he has observed that his children are distressed by masks. One child suffering in school, another experiencing headaches. Concerned about what the children have missed out on. Raised concerns about what the path will be if the governor extends the mask mandate.
  7. Melvin Winney. Tries to draw distinction between mandate and law. Raises question about financial benefit to the district for enforcing the mask mandate, stating “there’s no amount of money worth a child’s health.” (RAL: We are unaware of any financial benefit to the district for requiring masks.)
  8. Esther James. On 2/11 she reported she refused to wear a mask in the HS. Reports that she was given option to leave the school or sit in a room to do her work. Indicated this created anxiety. She expresses frustration that there are many places where she does not have to wear a mask but that she still has to wear one at school. 
  9. Didn’t identify. Another presenter expresses concerns about masks. Insert alt-right talking points that express a profound failure to understand how science works. Maybe ended with “Lets Go Brandon”?
  10. Carmela Frias. Concerned about masks and vaccines and the truth about COVID-19 and the victims of the vaccine. She has been to Washington DC for rallies. False dichotomies everywhere!
  11. Amelia Hurt. Sharing the ways that COVID-19 has affected her HS experience. Lists ways that she believes masks have negatively affected her experience in HS.

8:08pm JB reporting on NYSSBA webinar regarding the board’s role in curriculum. 

8:10pm Student rep reporting on district events

Patton congratulated MS students on Shrek the Musical

Health and Safety update: 

  1. Will keep community informed
  2. Rapid tests available upon request

ADMINISTRATIVE REPORTS

8:14pm Facilities and Operations 2022-2023

Broaden impact 

  1. Legacy planning (4-phase project)
  2. Painting program (freshly painted projects have a big impact on experience of a space)
    1. Focus so far has been at Dorothy Nolan and Lake Avenue
  3. Outdoor lunches
    1. Borrowed tables from NYRA for HS outdoor lunch program to mitigate COVID-19 transmission
  4. COVID-19 Operational Protocols
  5. Radio Communication Upgrades
    1. 100+ radios for HS, Lake, Maple, and Greenfield to enhance communication
  6. Geyser Road and Caroline Street gym revitalization
  7. Phase 2 of Great Outdoors Project (lighting, batting cages)
  8. Dorothy Nolan interior doors needed refurbishing (cost-saving given replacement is ~1k, expected to save ~100k)

Reporting out on taking ownership

77 full-time staff, and variable # summer workers (only 8 last summer, they need more!)

  1. Dept golf tournament has raised >7k for local charities
  2. Vehicle replacement plan and purchases reporting
  3. Spoke about Professional Development engagement for facilities (e.g., customer service, CPR, asbestos inspection)
  4. Building analytics – plan is to move to fully digital program for whole district (currently implemented in 3)
  5. Beautification plan 
    1. Ongoing work to improve curb appeal of the district buildings (mostly landscaping projects)
  6. Faciltron software – streamlined program for space allocation for both internal and external users. Hopeful that there will be opportunities for increased use in the years ahead (this is revenue neutral)
  7. Described cost-saving creative solution for cracked boiler at Dorothy Nolan. Gave sense of ownership to staff.
  8. 2021-2022 Challenges
    1. Staffing challenges, moisture at Greenfield, elevator at Lake, various HS issues, Maple Ave lift failure. A total of >150K in unexpected costs.

8:41pm 2022-2023 Budget Forecast

Reporting indicates that SSCSD is *not* demonstrating evidence of fiscal stress (not even approximate evidence). This is consistent with past years.

Reporting out on budget drivers (e.g., insurance costs, professional development, energy costs, etc)

Acknowledged the difference in budget approach across governor leadership (i.e., current governor has a budget approach that is favorable to schools and thus there is not much anticipation that there will be additional influx through negotiation).

For time being, state committed to continuing to subsidize school breakfast and lunch for all students

Proposal to have all school buses electric by 2027 (feasibility concerns continue to exist with this plan)

Summary of aid categories for governor’s proposal, which reflects an increase of ~880K. That said this represents a net decrease to the district because projections and actual budget are not perfectly aligned (e.g., the reason for this is unclear to me). The punchline is that we do not expect the projected budget to cover our costs.

Tax Levy Limit is 2.92%. Recommendation to propose a 2.9% increase.

2021-22 Budget is ~134M. If we were to do exactly what we did last year it would cost an additional ~3.6M (salaries, etc reflect increases)

Revenue stream is ~ 137M. Explained by approved budget and also:

  1. 2.9 Levy will yield another 2.6M
  2. State aid represents a reduction (44k)
  3. App Funds also down (191K)
  4. Anticipate minimal impact of interest

There is a 1.2M gap; provokes consideration of places for cost-saving (e.g., reduce furniture replacement, provide special ed services out of district, reduce professional development and curriculum renewal funds). Even with these efforts, there is a 600K expected gap, will produce more serious budget priorities conversations ahead.

Bus bond proposition –

Fleet of ~100 buses that have a life of ~10yrs

This year, like past years, we will need to replace 10-11 buses

Predictable budgeting 

2022-23 Facilities Bond Proposition

We rent bucket loaders every year to remove snow (~38K). Cost-savings associated with purchasing rather than renting (over the course of 25yrs of useful life, something like 670K).

Budget vote on May 17th!

NL asked question clarifying the anticipated difference between projected budget and expected budget

TK asked question clarifying the proposal for cost-saving in special ed services.

TK asked question clarifying the feasibility of budget goals (Answer: these will not be priorities until we identify how to close the budget gap).

9:33pm Discussion of resolution on supporting our educators (co-authored by JB, NL, TK)

CW asked about the timing, clarified from JB whether this is primarily about the last 2 years. Moved that this resolution should include additional folks (e.g., administrators, facilities, security staff, etc). Additionally proposed to strike some text. Proposed some additional changes to include “and staff”.

A Emeka clarified that “Educators” was used intentionally as an inclusive term for all members of the SSCSD employee community.

JB characterizes this as a non-binding and symbolic gesture. TK acknowledged subjectivity in the language, stated that as a document that does not grant power or establish policy, this subjectivity is not concerning.

DK asks fellow trustees in the future to provide opportunities for the board more broadly to discuss the content of a resolution before the resolution is drafted.

A Emeka acknowledged that she gave guidance to the authors of resolution to draft it.

CW made additional editorial suggestion (i.e., “freedom” to “autonomy”). This is agreed on by the co-authors. 

A Ellithorpe expresses gratitude to authors and to the district teachers. Says she wants to outline her concerns. Requested clarity about verbiage (does “adult stakeholder” include BOE trustees?). 

JB: Yes.

A Ellithorpe reads from a screenshot of a FB post that she brought with her and expresses distress about 2 board members “liking” the post. She claims that a term used in the post (“douchebag”) is a racial slur. She wants a common understanding of being kind, civil, and respectful, and thinks that “liking” an unrelated facebook post is evidence of incivility. 

JB notes that becoming a BOE member does not relinquish first amendment rights, and that social media unrelated to district business should not be a concern to the district.

A Emeka noted the need to discuss the resolution.

A Ellithorpe is very concerned about this lack of civility demonstrated by BOE members in their FB activity (“I would be remiss as a board member not bringing up this concern”).

JB inquired about whether there were specific concerns with the language of the resolution.

TK spoke to the subjectivity of the language used in this document. Notes that the language is intentionally about “endeavor” and “try,” given that everyone transgresses these ideals some of the time. Hope that the board can support this symbolic statement in order to acknowledge the efforts of those folks who really make this district run.

EB expressed appreciation for A Ellithorpe’s comments.

CW thanks coauthors and supports expressing gratitude for teachers.

10:01pm Motion to approve the consent agenda – passes unanimously (the resolution is approved by all board members, with the minor changes noted). 

SECOND PUBLIC COMMENT

  1. Kris DuBuque. Found it insulting that it was inferred that parents who don’t wear masks are setting a bad example for their students. Expressed appreciation for students at Ballston Spa. Notes that the resolution does not mention students.
  2. Patrick Pipino. Thanking the board for the resolution. Noted that he has 35 screenshots of members of the community calling his wife derogatory names for being caught in the crosshairs of the mask debate (based on at best a misinterpretation of what happened and at worst slander).
  3. Carmella Frias. Shared that she saw a meme on Saratoga DSA’s page. 
  4. Isabelle Pipino. Wanted to rise up in support of resolution. Shared that she’s enrolled in 3 excellent classes that address politicized and controversial topics. They’ve learned civil discourse and all students’ opinions are respected. Due to her experience in these classes she wants to speak in support of this resolution.
  5. Anthony Sarro. Stepfather at Maple Ave. Suggests mask mandate is unlawful. Masks are “scientifically proven to do nothing.” “This is the last time we’re going to tell you before we take legal action and you get thrown from your totalitarian pedestals.”
  6. Michelle King. Is a teacher and is against this resolution because “it does not say in any shape or form what we’re supporting.” Indicates that there are so many ways to show strong support of administrators.
  7. Rebecca Lynch. Wanted to thank the board for passing this resolution in support of teachers and staff. Our teachers deserve the respect from all of us
  8. Mary Marcolin. Masks are not healthy or safe. They create waste. Concerned that we don’t consider parents to be heros. Stated she wants to “take our schools back.” Concluded by straight up mocking teachers.

CW raised question to the policy committee about the potential utility of including mask-wearing in the code of conduct (I’m not clear what this is about)

TK asks whether the board policy gets so granular so as to be able to delineate offense

EB proposes a resolution to support our students, wanting to “recognize everyone’s right to choose.”

A Ellithorpe shared that she has drafted a resolution that she wants to distribute to the board. She says that the goal of the resolution would be symbolic of the BOE’s support of Superintendent Patton’s decision to follow Governor Hochul when the mask mandate expires. She distributes a hard copy of her resolution to the trustees. 

DK expressed gratitude to various organizations for donations and to the public for their support of the district.

CW cites Max Bieber, describing her experience as akin to the “Iron Cage,” negotiating the challenges of bureaucracy during this charged time. 

A Emeka reminds the board not to bring social media to the table, because it will derail the important work of the board. It has no place at the board table since it does not pertain to district business.

10:41pm Meeting adjourned.

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