PLEASE NOTE: While reading the article below and the discussion surrounding firearms in school/on school grounds, the majority vote of the board to draft a resolution in support does nothing at this time to state law that is currently in effect. No firearms are allowed on/in school property, or within 1000 feet of, as per current state law.

Meeting video can be found here:

The Mineral Point School Board met for three hours Monday night and much discussion centered around the agenda item of cameras in the classroom and advocacy for an authorized person, in addition to police liaison, carrying a weapon.

Cameras were the first item discussed. Superintendent Luke Francois stated that two years ago, cameras were placed in hallways, the exterior, and school entrances. Last summer, an additional 11 cameras were added in other high traffic areas for a total of 27 cameras at both buildings.

Police Liaison Bill Ottoway stated the cameras are used approximately once a week to investigate various offenses, but he did not feel there is a need for cameras to be placed in every classroom stating we trust teachers to teach the students. He said he could see a need for more cameras in certain areas, but not classrooms.

Francois stated he believed attracting and retaining quality teachers could be problematic with cameras in every classroom.

Board member Glenn Kinch wondered if the classroom video cameras could have footage streamed to the school website so parents would be able to check in on their students throughout the day. Ottoway said the current camera video is streamed to the police department.

Francois mentioned there is a larger cost to consider than just the 60 classroom cameras themselves–there would also need to be an infrastructure update to support the addition of this many cameras.

Ottoway did say cameras help with liability issues, which is a positive. It’s hard for someone to try and make a claim when the camera proves otherwise.

Board member Lisa Hay moved that the camera discussion be tabled until the board looks at the big picture for the budget next year to see what, if any, additional cameras are needed.

A heated discussion ensued surrounding the issue of additional weapons on school grounds.

Board President Larry Steffes said Ottoway is at school just a few days a week and believed the district could do better than that in providing protection for students.

Kinch stated he would like to see a resolution drafted by the board to be sent to state lawmakers that would indicate the Mineral Point School Board would be in favor of repealing the current 1000 foot gun free zone surrounding schools, as well as allowing individuals who possess a concealed carry permit the ability to have their firearms on school grounds and inside school buildings.

Hay expressed great concern with this stating she believes more guns are not the solution and the general public should leave their guns at home when visiting schools.

Ottoway stated that gun free zones attract shooters because there is a higher likelihood of defenseless people inside.

Gary Roberts, of the Mineral Point Police Department, suggested making Ottoway’s presence at school a five day per week position, saying with his training and background, he would be the biggest asset to have in school.

A motion was made to not draft the resolution proposed by Kinch and this motion failed 4-3 with Hay, Matt Lindsey, and Julie Stephenson voting yes and Kinch, Steffes, Jeff Basting, and Larry Dolphin voting no.

A motion was then made to support Kinch’s resolution with Kinch, Basting, Dolphin, and Steffes voting yes and Hay, Lindsey, and Stephenson voting no.

A resolution to be sent to lawmakers will be drafted and brought back for the January board meeting. This will allow a month for board members to gather input from the community and the police department.

Even if a resolution is passed by the board, firearms are still not allowed on school grounds. A change would need to come from the state level in order for this to be permissible.

Other business:

– The board approved the internal transfer of Amanda Ingwell to the Pre K/EC instructional assistant position. Francois stated she is taking a pay reduction to make the move, which she desired. The position is 29 hours per week and not benefit eligible. Kinch questioned the need for the position, especially in the morning hours when there are fewer students. Elementary principal Brad Brogley said there are higher need students in the morning. The hiring passed with Kinch and Dolphin voting no.

Instructional assistant Tami Krueger-Chappell, who is currently working at the high school, will transfer to fill Ingwell’s former position at the elementary.

To fill Chappell’s position, the board voted on the candidate of Cait Finley. Finley will be working one on one with a student with high medical needs at the rate of $11.92 per hour. Kinch abstained.

– Three calendar proposals for 2016-17 were brought forward for consideration–one with 176 days, one with 178, and one with 180, all meeting the minimum instructional minute requirement by DPI and all beginning on September 1 and ending on June 2.

The bell schedule would remain the same as this year from 8 am to 3:25 pm, except on Wednesdays when there is the 2 pm dismissal.

All options were presented to staff and families of students for input on a survey. Of respondents, 56% preferred the 176 day option, 33% the 178 day, and 11% the 180.

There are only three inclement weather days built into the 176 model, five into the 178, and seven into the 180. Any more snow days used than built in would need to be made up.

Other differences in the calendars are more subtle, such as having a day of no school at the end of October, which middle school principal Vickie Dahl said she has heard from staff they feel is a good idea because otherwise the time from the start of school until Thanksgiving is too long without a break. She also pointed to a date at the end of February because of so many students being gone for state wrestling each year.

The board voted to table the calendar approval and wished to talk to staff further to see how they feel.

– The board unanimously approved amending the budget to properly code the stadium project expenditure from Fund 10 to Fund 38.

– At a previous meeting, the board approved a no-cost long-term facility plan study be conducted by Nexus and Mike David, Jeff Mangan, and Hans Noel were present to showcase their preliminary report and answer questions.

Nexus is an Energy Services Company, which claims they can be objective because they are not a vendor or manufacturer. In addition, only certain companies who have achieved this ESC status are legally qualified to perform certain energy efficiency projects.

If the board would desire to conduct such a long-term facility plan with Nexus, the results they promise in savings would be guaranteed at the conclusion.

Nexus said they are conscious of the fact projects like this are designed to improve safety and security, address facility needs, provide quality learning environments, reduce utility and operating costs, not take money from classrooms to implement the project, and minimize the local tax impact.

Facilities rank high in determining student performance, they said, right behind involved parents and inspiring teachers.

Some items briefly touched on in the preliminary report included: LED lighting upgrades, increasing fresh air levels and updating heating and cooling systems, roof repair, secure entrance remodels, outside traffic circulation update at the elementary, an elementary feasibility assessment–new structure vs. existing structure, and 21st century learning spaces to encourage collaboration not isolation.

The next step, if the board would choose, would be a comprehensive audit of the district’s facilities.

Hay stated it might make sense to look at such a study because it is known some big ticket items, like new elementary boilers, are needed. Lumping such a project with others might make sense fiscally.

The board unanimously agreed to put a long term plan out for bids to Nexus and other vendors at no cost to the district.

– The board tabled the allocation of surplus in the budget until more information is available about needs as the school year progresses. After final aid estimates and property valuation was known the district has $177,953 in surplus.

– The board tabled the approval of the financial audit for 2014-15 to the January meeting so a representative from Johnson Block could be present to answer any questions.

– The board approved using the Wisconsin Association of School Boards’ free survey tool to learn which areas of governance the board is in agreement with and which areas require more discussion at a local level. Kinch voted no.

– The board unanimously approved the formation of an operational endowment fund with the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin. The board’s strategic plan states the district will show evidence of an operational endowment fund by the end of the 2015-16 school year. The district has investigated the Madison Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin and both are viable options with more similarities than differences.

Francois recommended the Madison Community Foundation based on his personal preference and familiarity.

Hay mentioned the community of Mineral Point also explored an endowment and chose the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin over the Madison Community Foundation.

– The board approved moving Superintendent Francois’ mid-year evaluation to February with Basting and Kinch voting no.

The item was set for discussion at this meeting, but Hay noted the official board policy shows spring as the timeline for the evaluation and said December is not spring.

– Francois gave a brief Taher Food Service report stating revenues are up over the projected amount so far this school year by approximately $1400 with expenditures $1500 less than projected. However, meal participation is down 14 from the anticipated amount.

– Due to the length of the meeting, the School Board Field Book study discussion was tabled.

– Following closed session, the board reconvened in open session announcing their approval of high school principal Mitch Wainwright’s request for credit reimbursement.

– The next regularly scheduled board meeting is set for Monday, January 11 at 6:30 pm.