BOE Meeting – March 8, 2022

SSCSD Board of Education Meeting Notes (SEEN)
March 8, 2022
Notes by Rebecca Lynch
View the meeting. Read the Meeting Agenda.

Trustees Present: Anjie Emeka (President), Erika Borman, John Ellis, Amanda Ellithorpe, Dean Kolligian, Tony Krackeler, Natalya Lakhtakia, Connie Woytowich (attending virtually)

Trustees Absent: John Brueggemann

7:07pm Motion to re-enter public session – passes unanimously

7:08pm Pledge of Allegiance

Motion to accept agenda – passes unanimously

7:09pm Recognition of the Girls Gymnastics Team for their 20th consecutive year as Section II champions (certificates presented to each athlete by Superintendent Patton)

Recognition of Community Care Pediatrics postponed until next meeting due to district physician being unable to attend

7:21pm Public Comment #1

  • Lisa Adams: she is questioning that she had to put in a FOIL request to get information on the curriculum that her 11th grade son is being taught. She is also upset that she was told there would be a charge for her FOIL request and thinks it shows a lack of partnership between the district and parents. 
  • Sharon Dominguez: she is also questioning the FOIL requests and thinks it would be more efficient to have curriculum documents available on the district website so that they are accessible to parents at all times. 
  • Mark Crockett: he thinks the district not having curriculum on the website shows a lack of transparency and that there are many reasons why we want to know what is being taught to our kids. When he has asked about it, he is told to talk to the applicable teachers, but he cannot talk to the teachers because he’s the grandparent, not the parent (note-taker’s comment: he could always ask his child or his grandchildren to find out what they are learning). He also put in a FOIL request and doesn’t see why curriculum information is “treated like national security.”
  • Paul Kelly: He watched the previous BOE meeting and thinks that any good intentions backfired and caused more division, because he did now know what the impetus for the resolution was or why only part of the board was involved in writing it. He thinks it should have been a public discussion (note-taker’s comment: the discussion about the resolution supporting teachers did take place in public at the two most recent board meetings and was passed unanimously by the board.  Additionally, the many impetuses have been communicated publicly). He thinks that board members should “act with respect always” and then proceeds to denigrate an individual who made public comments at the previous meeting and complain about said individual’s facebook posts (note-taker’s comment: said individual is not affiliated with the district or the board of education). 

(Note-taker’s comment: Information on curriculum standards and learning goals is readily available on the district website. Additionally, the district follows the NYS standards for what is taught and when. That information is available online as well.)

7:30pm Board Committee Reports

  • NL: Policy Committee – they met on 2/28 and reviewed multiple HR policies and the code of conduct.  The HR policies will be on the next agenda.  The code of conduct includes information about students following health and safety guidelines from the district, as well as not bullying or harassing others.
  • DK: Property Committee – they met on 2/28, updates provided on Legacy Project and Great Outdoors Project 
  • TK: Finance Committee – they met on 2/28 and all topics covered there were also covered at the Budget Workshop on 3/1. Superintendent and Board member Evaluation Committee – they have  evaluation forms which will go to the superintendent by mid-April and the board after that. 

7:36pm Student Representative Report – provided highlights from each school

7:37pm Superintendent’s Report (Dr. Patton)

  • Health and Safety Update:  the transition to masks being optional happened last Weds and has gone very smoothly. Thank you to everyone, everyone has been very respectful and positive cases continue to go down, with only about 12 new cases reported last week. The district continues to collaborate with the County Department of Health and our BOCES region and is keeping up with the latest guidance. 
  • The HS drama club is performing “Into the Woods” from 3/17-3/19 and everyone is encouraged to come out and see it.
  • Athletic Director (McPartland) presents a merger proposal to create a girls hockey team in conjunction with about 9 other local schools. 

Food Services Presentation (Eric Bush – Director of School Lunch)

  • Org chart shows district employees and contracted-out services through BOCES, which is a change from having it be all done by district employees
  • Redesigned look of monthly menu, new items, NYS products, local products (including apples from Saratoga Apple)
  • They have hired 20 new employees since July 2021, which is 38% of their workforce. Through a partnership with the transportation department, they have created 7 job share positions, where people work for food services in the 3.5 hours between the am and pm bus runs
  • There has been a drastic increase in student participation for breakfast and lunch since it has become free to students (note-taker’s comment: in showing a picture of a student holding a lunch tray, the picture selected was of a student wearing a “thin blue line” mask). 
  • There have been special food tastings and harvest of the month offerings
  • Plans for next year include upgrading to a new Point Of Sale system
  • The biggest unknown is whether meals will continue to be able to be provided free to students. It has really helped students, parents, and the district as a whole and they would really love it to continue.
  • Question from Amanda: If lunch does not continue to be subsidized next year, do we know what participation would look like? EB: There is no way to predict the future like that. 

(Note-taker’s comment: I am now the only person remaining at this meeting who is not a district board member, a BOCES board member, or a district employee. Everyone else has left.)

8:12pm Budget Update Presentation (Joe Greco)

  • 2022-23 Budget Gap Analysis – estimated budget gap of $141,263
  • Lisa Cutting provides updates on the FTE faculty positions that are listed as reducing the total on the expenditures side
  • Adjustments will be made to restore reductions or add new things if the district gets more aid from the state
  • Areas slated for reductions: special education placements, furniture replacements, curriculum renewal, professional development, 5% reduction to all building/department budgets
  • Budget Goals: #1 – Modern Teaching & Learning, #2 – Student Support Services, #3 – Infrastructure Planning & Operations. The items under these goals are what will be funded first if there is enough state aid left over after restoring some of the reductions. 
  • Question from Anjie: Why does it seem like furniture replacement always gets de-prioritized? JG: some of it has been or will be replaced through legacy project and covid relief funds. 
  • Question from Amanda: When do we find out if we are getting the additional funding? JG: After the state budget comes out on 4/1. AE: Is there going to be discussion as to what we will do with that money if we get it? JG: Yes, it will be allocated accordingly, as was stated in the presentation. 

8:29pm Modifications to the consent agenda – modifications read by Amanda (acting VP in JB’s absence)

8:31pm Motion to approve consent agenda – passes unanimously

8:32pm Public Comment #2 – no public comments

  • Patton announces that Steve Grandin is here. He currently serves as Saratoga’s representative on the WSWHE BOCES board, and his nomination to be the candidate at the 4/26 election was just approved by the Board. We appreciate his service.
  • Steve Grandin: he appreciates being nominated again. Saratoga is hugely important to BOCES. He thanks everyone and looks forward to serving for three more years. 

8:36pm Agenda Planning

  • EB: going back to the public comment concerns about FOIL requests and having access to materials, will the board be discussing that? When did the district start charging for FOILs? Are we discussing providing this information to our families and community members? It doesn’t seem fair.
  • Patton: Our curriculum is tied to NYS standards. Lisa can provide an update on all the work that we’re doing to get the requested information together. It has been an enormous amount of work, and some of it has started already. Tim Hilker has been inundated with FOILs, and there have been repeated requests from the same people and the same groups of people. These take hours and hours to fulfill and are taking away from Tim’s regular duties. The district attorney recommended charging for the FOILS due to the enormous amount of time involved. They are receiving 10 times more requests now than ever before, and the requests are overwhelming Tim’s office. They are not sure what the end goal of these requests are. This is why they have been encouraging parents to talk to the teachers if they want to learn more about what their children are being taught. The district needs to figure out what to do, because the FOIL process is not sustainable as is. Lisa is also following up with some families to try to determine what exactly they are looking for, because some of the requests are so open-ended that the district cannot figure out what is being requested. Patton will have Tim provide an update to the board on the status of FOIL requests at the next meeting. 
  • CW: would like to propose creating a subgroup to work on requesting a bylaw change for NYSSBA, due to what she views as an inadequacy of the NYSSBA timeline of collecting data from board members on the issues that are directly impacting their schools. A survey on legislative priorities is currently done once a year, but she thinks it should be done more often. In order to have this changed, she was told by NYSSBA that there would need to be a change to the bylaws. This is not district business, but she is bringing it up here for the purpose of transparency. 
  • Anjie: she would like to clarify that this is indeed not district business and would be happening outside of regular business and is not subject to open meetings laws. The current timeline for NYSSBA polling is because NYSSBA uses the results from that to set their annual legislative advocacy plans and agenda. If the board members are polled more often, what will the results be used for? Also, to submit this to be voted on at the NYSSBA delegate convention, it does not need the full Board’s approval, but only the Board president to sign and submit it. CW should take the lead and ask for volunteers to work with her on this via email, and Anjie will provide support as needed. 
  • DK: appreciates that Patton and Cutting are working to make the curriculum more accessible. He notes that municipalities often charge for FOILs, due to the time and effort it takes to fulfill them, and that this is common practice. 
  • Amanda: Since the community isn’t here, it would be helpful if we communicated to them with an update on the curriculum transparency efforts and FOIL charges, and also put that information on the district website (note-taker’s comment: this member of the community is still here. If other community members are so concerned about what is happening at the district and school board, it might be beneficial for them to remain for the entire meeting as well. Additionally, the district does not need to have most state and federal laws listed on the website – why add this one?). 
  • Patton: The FOIL charges are provided to individuals when they make a request, and then they have the opportunity to decide whether or not to move forward with the FOIL. They are not hidden charges. The dilemma is that the requestors aren’t clear on what they’re looking for. It might be helpful to educate on what a FOIL request is and what it entails, and how to help the community get the information they want (note-taker’s comment: much of the information is already accessible online if one looks for it). 
  • Cutting: the course guide for the HS is published every year and posted on the district website. This has an overview of what is taught in every class. Teachers also put out syllabuses for their classes at the start of the year. Canvas pages are also available where parents can see what is being taught to their children. For elementary school children, the work they are doing is posted on SeeSaw, and nothing is being hidden from their parents
  • Anjie: acknowledges that some of the discontent could be a product of the pandemic and people feeling disconnected from each other and the schools. Now that parents are allowed back in the buildings, that might help. 
  • EB: acknowledges that the curriculum information might be available to students and parents, per Lisa’s explanation, but wonders how a grandparent or the community-at-large could get access to this information (note-taker’s comment: they could ask the student/parent. If they do not know a student/parent, what need would they have to get this level of detail about specific assignments?).

9:01pm Board Member Comments

  • DK: kudos to the gymnastics team, and to Joe and Tim for their great job on the budget information
  • TK: everyone has an obligation to reach out to their representatives and push for free meals for students to continue. He is going to contact his legislator tomorrow. 
  • EB: echoes the others, and also would like to look at the software goals and special ed placement goals more in depth
  • Amanda: spouts platitudes about being happy for “normalcy” to be returning
  • CW: thanks to Dave and Lucas for arranging for her to attend the meeting virtually. 

9:07pm Motion to adjourn – passes unanimously

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