BOE Meeting – March 24, 2022

SSCSD Board of Education Meeting Notes (SEEN)
March 24, 2022
Notes by Lisa Glazer
View the meeting. Read the Meeting Agenda.

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

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

7:08 Acceptance of agenda – passes unanimously

7:09 Recognition

  • Recognition of Athlete State Championships 
    • Indoor Track and Field – shot put champion
    • Boys Alpine Skiing Team – 3 skiers on the team
  • Community Care Pediatrics team of volunteers
    • Dr. Cirenza is the school district physician and has consulted with the district throughout the pandemic
    • Through these efforts we provided over 1300 shots to children in the community

7:24 Public Comment #1

  • Mark Crockett: Talking about academic excellence and merit. Highlights that 40% of middle schoolers are not on grade level. Claims we are closing doors to students by eliminating honors classes. Also questioning why we are eliminating valedictorians and salutatorians and top 10 students. Ends by saying that when he was growing up his parents taught him that when someone is speaking to you, you look at them.

7:26 Board Committee Reports

  • Finance Advisory Committee
    • TK: At the last meeting, they discussed an ongoing internal audit (by Questar). Report should come out fairly soon. Discussed which issue-specific audits district wants. Employee attendance will be done this year and extra classroom activity funds will likely be done next year. Also discussed comments submitted by Tim and Joe last week about the budget workshop. Discussed Apps and software and what efforts are being made to get data on effectiveness – these efforts are always ongoing. 
  • Policy Advisory Committee
    • NL: 11 policies and pre-regulations for first read tonight related to staffing
  • Property Administration Advisory Committee
    • DK: Adjustments to lighting at East and West Side Rec
  • Superintendent Evaluation Form Committee

7:32 Administrative Reports and Presentations

  • Superintendent’s Comments
    • High School Musical “Into the Woods” Production
    • Teen Excellence Awards Recognition
      • Tuesday Morning Patton and Tsao were at SUNY Adirondack to recognize two graduating seniors who were selected for leadership skills, academics, and commitment to community service
  • Informal Recognition of Dr. Barbara Messier whose retirement is on tonight’s consent agenda effective July 31. There is a large group of Lake Ave faculty who surprised her at the meeting to show support. She was the principal of Lake Ave for 22 years. Patton highlights the bittersweet moment and thanks her for everything she’s done for the students of Saratoga Springs.
  • Budget Development Update Timothy Hilker and Joseph Greco
    • MP: State approves budget April 1 so this is the final update before state budget is passed
    • MP: Goal for district to make final recommendations of budget on April 12 (later not from TH: if budget not approved on the 12th, they may have to meet over break in order to meet the deadline)
    • JG: Overview of Grants  
      • Title Grants – primarily to support buildings with free and reduced lunch. Each one is an individual application. We have Title I, II, III, and IV. Some has to be distributed to non-public schools where Saratoga students may be attending.
      • McKinney-Vento – to support homeless children
      • IDEA 611 and 619 – special education and related services (also to non-publics)
      • Universal Pre-K – we don’t actually have the money – it goes to those programs
      • New Grants as well (above are all yearly grants)
        • Includes COVID related grants both state and federal (go until September 2023 or 2024 (the one that focuses on learning loss)
        • Money has gone to things like: tutoring, summer enrichment, support staff like social workers and counselors
        • These grants will swell in money influx in 2022 and then will go away so we need to use them for things that won’t need repeated funding (e.g. furniture). 
        • There is a fair amount of federal accountability tracking on how much is being allocated amongst a variety of buckets
    • TH: Macro view of what it costs to what it costs to run the district
      • 2019: 134.8 million; 2020: 137.9 million; 2021: 140.2 Million
      • Budget Gap Analysis
        • They are continuing to work on eliminating the budget gap – as of right now, we have a  budget surplus of almost 90K
        • We fall below average in per-pupil spending amongst neighboring district
        • Looking at about 1.91% budget over budget increase for 2022-2023 which is below average for our district over the past 7 years
        • Decision Points for the board given expected surplus:
          • Option 1: fund budget priorities
          • Option 2: Decrease Tax Levy by 0.10% (from 2.9% to 2.8% increase over last year)
          • Option 3: Decrease Appropriated Fund Balance (reduce reliance on this fund)
          • Or some combo
    • Questions from Board
      • NL: supports option 1 to support co-teach model.  This is good for students and good for educators.  Reducing the tax levy has almost negligible impact on tax payers.
      • DK: reflects on COVID relief funds – allocating some of the additional funds to some areas of reductions amongst general fund
      • AmEl: asks what the integrated co-teach money would go to. Answer: 6 positions of which the surplus would cover 2
      • JB: agrees not to look at reducing tax levy as an option. Also agrees we should look at a short term expenditure.
      • JE: asks about audits of the money use that might result in having to return funds. Answer: very unlikely – info was slow to come but is comprehensive.
      • AnEm: agrees to put money toward co-teach. Asks about the possibility of more state aid. Answer: unlikely to get more.
      • EB: Asks about what state is asking for descriptions of allocation for stimulus funds. Also asks for more info about option 3.
      • CW: asks about the possibility of funding budget priorities and also decreasing tax levy. Answer: yes there can be a combo.
      • TK: makes an argument not to consider option 3 at this time. Makes the point that our per pupil spending and tax levy are already low relative to neighboring districts so also supports option 1
      • EB: Asks if we get any surprise funds – would there be time to review that before the next meeting? Answer: there will be time between April 1 and the meeting on April 12. Could possibly have a workshop session in between if there are any surprises. 
      • AnEm points out that lowering tax levy could have negative longer term effects and that we are very healthy right now and therefore argues to keep tax levy where it is
    • Meet the Candidates night will be May 4

8:34 Modifications to Consent Agenda – JB reads modifications including 

  • Roll Call Vote on specific items (including voter propositions to be considered on May 17). Passes unanimously
  • JB asks about AP exam fees
  • Unanimous consent of agenda

8:38 Public Comment #2: None

8:39 Agenda Planning

  • CW has an item and admits that she did seek pre-support which she now knows is not allowed and she won’t do again
    • Board be supplied with a list of instructional services from outside sources. Had asked before and was asked to be more specific. So now doing it specifically
      • Name, cost, purposes, end dates/duration, effect on student achievement
      • Examples: Generation Ready, American Reading Company, Second Step, Birthmeyer
      • Says it is in no way a lack of trust rather just a request for more information to make important decisions around finance
      • Asking to do this perhaps after election
    • DK – speaks in support 
    • JB: thanks CW for responsible stewardship especially concerning academic return on investment. He wants to make sure that the scope of the inquiry is workable and productive. JB Asks TH and JG about this.
    • TH: asks if there is a difference between a consultant and a service provider and is it centered around things that are curricular in nature? Asks how deep they should go. Says they have it but also wants to make the best use of their time.
    • TK: Reiterates question of consultant vs service provider. Also asks CW why she thinks the list of providers is “remarkable.” CW demures but also says it’s more than she is used to seeing. TK says to play devil’s advocate is it possible that she has more info as a board member here as opposed to her perspective as a teacher in another district. 
    • CW says that this is still taxpayer dollars and she wants to understand and be a good student.
    • TH: consultant vs service provider. Says that its very broad if we look at service providers (e.g. psych evals for specific reasons). CW says she would exclude something like that. 
    • AnEm: Says she is hearing the concern that their primary concern is finances of the district but also that their job is more at the macro as opposed to the micro level
    • NL: Says CW’s proposal is more quantitative but that there is a lot of qualitative information necessary to understand this. Asks if this could be a reflective presentation for the upcoming year as they look to set board priorities for the next year. 
    • AmEl: Echoes qualitative piece and thinks that Connie is interested in that (purpose). Doesn’t think it needs to wait for a full presentation. Supports CW asking this and is frustrated for her. Says that it was told it was too macro but now is told its too micro.
    • JB: offers a few steps for the process: Board members to learn more about how things work before sending district staff on a quest for comprehensive information. Says he is protective of district staff and to think about our carrying capacity.
    • DK: Says what other board members are suggesting is what CW already asked for. 
    • TH: says he can run a report easily to say who is paid and how much but a longer process to include length of engagement and purpose of engagement
    • AE: asks about how many vendors we are talking about. TH says that it would help to have specific criteria because many things are linked under similar codes and 60% of the 2000 relate to instruction. So potentially hundreds of vendors (may be a $25 fee for something)
    • CW asks if it can be narrowed to professional development
    • AE: recap – to look specifically at professional development and people who are helping students in the classroom
    • JB: says please teach us what you can
    • AE: suggests a lot of time is spent at the table doing things that are not as valuable but that this learning would be valuable

9:08 Board Member Comments

  • JB wants to respond to public comment – thinking about the top 10 students. Says it can sometimes seem like decisions come out of nowhere for folks who aren’t aware of every discussion of the board. JB mentions that this is the result of the work of a task force that had been worked on with many stakeholders (including students). He remembers that the case made to the board was that the “top 10” actually hurt some academic achievement. Says there could be better communication when things like this actually go into practice to help people better understand. 
  • JB also commends Dr. Messier for always being at board meetings and staying through them and thanks her for her time
  • TK also honors Dr. Messier
  • DK: praised Dr. Messier for having a southern accent.  Points out girls hockey merger which was approved at tonight’s meeting combining school districts for the team. Also congratulations to tenured teachers. Also point outs donation acceptances – $1422 for athletic equipment from fancloth; $14,850 to purchase interactive touch screen for blue streak hall of fame presentations.
  • AE: commends drama club for “Into the Woods”

9:17 Motion to Adjourn

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