Note: School board meetings will now be recorded and posted online for viewing. The link to this meeting can be found here but it is only a partial meeting as the camera battery died:
The Mineral Point School Board met Monday night and approved the 2015-16 operating budget unanimously 7-0.
Superintendent Luke Francois stated there are no changes to the budget compared to what was approved preliminarily in July.
The mill rate has yet to be calculated because property values have yet to be received. This information will be available for the board to approve the levy which will be set next month.
Francois already stated that, even though the district’s overall expenditures compared to last year are less by 2.38%, the school portion of the tax levy will need to go up to compensate for loss of state aid. The projected increase as of now is 7.87%.
A list of reductions from this year to last includes: Staffing: 1.0 FTE Special Education and 1.0 health benefits for custodian; Health Insurance: 0.86% (projected 6% increase); Purchased services; Non-capital objects; Capital objects; Technology; Insurance; Special Education.
A list of new funding includes: All teacher and library service requests funded prioritized by need; Board approved capital maintenance and technology budgets; Elementary: Board approved math curriculum, workbooks for math and language arts with no family fees, Instructional Assistant for new student with special needs; Middle: 1.0 FTE 6th grade teacher added; High: BOOST consortium distance learning room upgrade (grant funded), Graphics Design art class; replacement wrestling mat; District: Increase from .5 to 1.0 FTE Communications Director, Replace internet wiring with fiber (erate funded), Replace closet switches (erate funded), Retire debt early for energy efficiency project using savings from energy conservation, Dental and vision insurance added.
These additions were a reallocation of current funds as expenditures are less than last year overall.
With approval of the budget, as part of that, the board also authorized exceeding the revenue limit for two reasons. The first is Energy Conservation and the second is the Community Service Fund. Both of these items are not new revenue limit exemptions as they were also in place last year.
–The updated version of the district’s Strategic Plan was approved 6-1 with Glenn Kinch voting no. The plan was revised over the last few months with the community stakeholders who were part of the original version. The administrative team then wrote action plans around focus areas.
The link to the updated version can be found here: https://mineralpointschools.org/mpsd/content/strategic-plan/
–Teachers Paige Grimm, Livia Doyle, Lynn Ross, Benita Schmitz, and Carla Rand, along with principal Brad Brogley, attended a Professional Learning Community (PLC) institute in Minneapolis, MN this past summer.
PLCs are the reason behind the need for Wednesday early releases for students. This time will be used each week for teachers to collaborate in their PLCs to discuss the best ways to help their students succeed at the highest level possible.
Brogley thanked the board for supporting this endeavor, stating there were 2,100 people at the institute from 30 different states and called the professional development the best in his 24 years of education.
Rand echoed this statement and said a PLC becomes what a district is and its entire way of functioning.
Grimm stated she found it important to note a PLC is not all about student learning, but also about teachers learning and the district becoming a community of learners.
Schmitz said everyone is involved in the PLC process and it’s about vertical conversations from top to bottom, using everyone’s different expertise.
Board member Julie Stephenson asked the teachers how the board can best support the PLC process and Grimm stated it is vital for the board to keep the Wednesday afternoon early release times as there needs to be designated time in order for this to succeed.
–School Police Liaison Officer Bill Ottoway and Brogley presented on a workshop they attended about Crisis Reality Training.
Ottoway said, “We take for granted something horrible won’t happen here, but we don’t know. The first thing that is asked by experts after an incident is, ‘What did you do to prevent it?'”
Ottoway went through different safety precautions that could be taken by the district, if it desires, to increase security.
Brogley added the district’s current safety plan is being looked over, free of charge, by the expert that presented at the training and feedback will be provided.
Board President Larry Steffes stated he believes Ottoway’s office should be near the entrance to the middle/high school so he is more aware of who is entering the building.
Francois stated that long term security improvements for both buildings will likely be looked at as part of a current long range study being conducted.
–A risk improvement survey was recently completed for the district by EMC Insurance. Based on the company’s findings, the following recommendations have already taken place, according to Maintenance Director Roger Palzkill who presented the report to the board:
Elementary: Another flammable cabinet will be ordered soon; The slide deck on the playground from a slide that was removed was left in place for teachers to stand on and supervise at recess, but guardrails would need to be added to make it safety compliant if it is to stay; Administration is meeting to develop a plan for concrete and asphalt; The sidewalk will be swept once a month with a broom attached to the skid loader to remove pea gravel; Administration is meeting to develop a plan for the playground to comply with the minimum and maximum requirements about openings on equipment to ensure a child’s head does not become lodged.
Middle/high: More step ladders will be purchased to ensure items stored on high shelves in classrooms can be reached safely; A fume hood was cleaned out and chemicals stored in appropriate areas; All fire extinguishers have been inspected and are up to date; Defective extension cords and plug devices have been disposed of; Equipment in the weight room will be moved so it is not blocking the doors to the electrical control room; Sidewalk concrete will be fixed as warranted.
–Based on a concern from a citizen, Communications Director Joelle Doye approached the board with the question of whether or not to publish the school board minutes in the Democrat Tribune.
Doye stated that, through her history going back eight years as former Editor of the Democrat Tribune, the district has never published its meeting minutes in the paper, but always publishes its agenda.
On the flip side, the City Council never publishes its agenda, but always publishes its minutes.
There is a cost to publish any legal notice.
Last year’s total district bill to the Democrat Tribune for publication services was $2,446.90. The highest it has been during the last four years was $3,582.66 in 2011-12, which was a referendum year so more legal notices were published.
Doye inquired as to what the City Council pays, on average, per month to have their minutes published and was told around $380, which varies depending on the length of the meeting. This resulted in her, conservatively, estimating the district would be paying an additional $5,000 to the newspaper each year for publication of its meetings.
The district is compliant with open meeting laws with its current practices. The newspaper always has a reporter at the meetings, Doye publishes meeting articles that are posted on the district website, and meetings are now being videoed for online viewing. These ways provide various opportunities to learn what transpired at the meetings.
The board agreed to carry on business as usual and not spend the additional money to publish the minutes in the newspaper.
–Doye presented a first draft of a Board Recognition Policy that will help to solidify the criteria for student and staff recognition at board meetings. Some board members wished to expand the scope of those being recognized, some wished to keep it as is, and some wished to eliminate it. Action will be taken next month.
–Francois provided enrollment projections for 2015-16. The actual numbers will be solidified this Friday during the third Friday count. 2014-15 saw a district total of 736 students with a full time equivalency (FTE) of 717 as early childhood and Pre K students do not count for a full time student as they do not attend school all day. 2015-16 shows an estimate of 718 students and 700 FTE.
For open enrollment, during 2014-15, 60 students enrolled in and 49 out. In 2015-16, it is projected those numbers will be 57 in and 48 out.
–The next regularly scheduled board meeting is set for Monday, October 12.