The Mineral Point School Board held its regularly monthly meeting Monday, tackling several large agenda items. Video is posted below. Continue reading past the video for more article text.
The Board heard a proposal from Superintendent Luke Francois regarding Mineral Point taking over the CESA #3 Alternative School, which is currently held in the old Mineral Point High School, across the street from Kwik Trip.
Francois received word from CESA #3 in May that, due to financial and logistical constraints, they would no longer be able to continue running the school. For many years, this learning environment has offered services to students in southwest Wisconsin who are not succeeding in a traditional classroom setting.
Francois presented the Board with a proposed budget to operate the school, which he called a budget neutral situation as projected. Under the current model in use, districts pre-purchase seats at the school for $8,500. After September 1, the price of a seat would rise to $10,000 and then be pro-rated as the school year went on if additional students were added. Francois stated more often than not, districts send more students than they initially anticipate to the Alternative School as situations develop as the school year moves on.
Most importantly, said Francois, there are many students each school year who would not receive a high school diploma without the services of the Alternative School. Students receive the diploma from their home school. The Mineral Point District usually has a handful of students each year at the Alternative School.
Because the school is in Mineral Point’s backyard, Francois stated it makes the most sense for the district to be the one to take it on during this transition period. He is hopeful that it can grow into other forms of alternative learning to meet the needs of diverse learners in Mineral Point and the surrounding area. Another bonus he mentioned is the district has already purchased Apex digital curriculum, which is a flat district fee and not a per-student fee, so that could be implemented for the Alternative School as well.
There were concerns from Board members regarding the lease of the current building, and should that fall through, would the alternative students be moved to current Mineral Point School District buildings? Francois stated he has no valid concerns about the lease agreement falling through.
In an Executive Session matter, the Board approved the addition of the Alternative School to Mineral Point.
–The Board heard from Dr. Sarah Fox who gave a brief update on the Excellence in Education Endowment Fund through the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin. Fox is a member of the Endowment Board of Directors which will oversee the endowment funds for education, as well as the community funds in general. They are two separate funds. In order to begin an Excellence in Education endowment, the minimum start up is $10,000, which Fox told the board was donated from the profits of the Super Snacks for Super Kids cookbook written by her and board member Julie Stephenson. The idea now is to grow this endowment fund to enhance educational opportunities for MP students above and beyond what the general operating budget can fund. Additional details will be rolling out shortly regarding ways to support this exciting endeavor.
–Unanimously approved the resignations of Heather Dampf, elementary administrative assistant, and Erin Vale, speech and language pathologist.
–Unanimously approved the hiring of Julie Witmer as speech and language pathologist.
–Held recognitions for state track participants and staff resignations.
–Francois presented the Board with its first look at a preliminary budget for the 2016-17 school year. He suggested the budget be brought back in July for a more in-depth discussion, but did point out some highlights. Important to note is the budget is preliminary, which means things will likely change between now and final approval later this year.
The Board has the discretion to pull items out of the list above as desired, but Francois stated, even with everything listed above included, he is projecting a flat budget for next year. He added the projected revenue is down, which is a reflection of the state budget, but the district has also reduced expenditures, which is a reflection of due diligence. He added that, in his five years at Mineral Point, this has been the most difficult budget to put together because it’s challenging to move the district forward while needing to work with such tight fiscal constraints.
–Kris McCoy, Instructional Technology & Information Specialist, gave a presentation to the Board sharing BrightBytes survey results, which were administered to staff, students, and parents to gain more information on how technology is being used in our district.
This is the 3rd year the district has been gathering data with this survey and McCoy stated she is most pleased with the upward trend of growth she has seen. Access to technology has moved to exemplary on the scale and technology skills have moved from proficient to advanced. She said the data from these surveys do help drive decision making with regards to the district’s technology plan, which is part of the larger Strategic Plan.
–The Board discussed whether or not to replace the elementary secretary position following Dampf’s resignation. Some Board members felt duties could be combined with other clerical positions already on staff.
Francois mentioned the elementary administrative assistant has a wide range of duties that warrant a full-time position, even handling some nursing tasks when the school nurse is at the other building.
Board President Larry Steffes said he would like to see a police liaison officer that could also serve as elementary secretary. That then led to discussion about the possibility of hiring two part time secretaries instead of one full time person. Wainwright stated he felt the lack of consistency in an assistant would be very hard on a principal and Stephenson added she felt it could also lead to security concerns because consistency and familiarity is vital in a safe school environment.
The Board approved by a 6-1 vote re-posting the elementary secretary position. Steffes voted no.
–The Board discussed the Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students from the Department of Education and the Department of Justice.
Schools across the country strive to create and sustain inclusive, supportive, safe, and nondiscriminatory communities for all students. In recent years, we have received an increasing number of questions from parents, teachers, principals, and school superintendents about civil rights protections for transgender students. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and its implementing regulations prohibit sex discrimination in educational programs and activities operated by recipients of Federal financial assistance.
This prohibition encompasses discrimination based on a student’s gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender status. This letter summarizes a school’s Title IX obligations regarding transgender students and explains how the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) evaluate a school’s compliance with these obligations.
Francois stated the State of Wisconsin, along with other states, have challenged the language that states a student must be allowed to use the bathroom and locker room of the gender they identify with and foresees this will be played out all the way up to the Supreme Court. The district already has several gender neutral restrooms in place. He recommends the district handle matters on a case by case basis until the government clarifies language, but added the district is obligated to follow the Department of Education’s recommendation.
Steffes expressed great concern with the policy and suggested the Board take a vote to not comply with Federal court decisions regarding this matter. Board member Lisa Hay stated the District has to follow the law and each Board member took an oath, as part of a public school board, to do so as well as welcome all students.
Francois suggested the possibility of having a Board appointed community committee to study this issue and solicit feedback. He also cautioned that, if the Board would vote to not follow the laws, there are consequences, which would likely include the loss of state and federal funding.
This was an item for information and discussion, so no action was taken.
–The Board voted to table until next month the Purchasing Policy first reading as new language was added, but did not make it in time for the Board packet this month.
–Approved the credit card statement with Kinch voting no.
–Approved the bills payable with Kinch voting no and Basting and Dolphin abstaining.
–Unanimously approved the budget amendments, which according to the Department of Public Instruction, needs to be done for audit reporting. All the items were already in the budget, but just needed to be reconciled to the proper account.
–After months of tabling the Board’s book study, unanimously approved discontinuing discussion surrounding the School Board Field Book.
–As Executive Session items, the Board heard concern over a possible teacher resignation and voted to hire a half time teacher to support the middle school. The Board did not approve the Southwest Health agreement regarding the Stadium Project, but did approve Southwest Health’s Stadium Project donation. Approved a compensation increase for the Communications Director, Joelle Doye.
–The next regular monthly meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 11 at 6:30 pm.