Board of Education, May 8, 2018

May 30th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Education
May 8, 2018

Present: Board members William Clawson, Lisa Cremer, Ayesha Bell Hardaway, and Heather Weingart; Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Treasurer Bryan Christman
Absent: Board member Jeff Isaacs

The meeting was called to order by Board Vice President William Clawson at 5:30 p.m. The agenda for this meeting can be found here.

The meeting began with recognition of student awards by Shaker Heights High School Principal Jonathan Kuenle and senior student Brian Jones Ford. The regular meeting followed:

  1. The minutes from the April 10 regular board meeting were approved unanimously.
  2. Recognition/Honors of Staff/Students: Ten Chinese language students placed either first, second or third in the Fifth Annual Ohio K-12 Chinese Speech and Essay Contest. The Theatre Arts Department and student performers of Carrie: The Musical were nominated for four Dazzle Awards. The Middle School eighth-grade team finished first and seventh-grade team took second at the PenOhio regional tournament on April 21. Senior Trisha Roy is a recipient of the Eminence Scholarship at The Ohio State University. Senior Daniel Crouse was awarded a National Merit Scholarship sponsored by Rockwell Automation. The Shaker Schools Communications Department received seven awards from the Ohio School Public Relations Association (OHSPRA), the most of any public school district in Ohio. Measuring What Matters was recognized as the top publication of its type in the state and The Shaker Connection was recognized as the top e-newsletter in Ohio. Sixty-two French language students earned recognition on the National French Contest. Northwestern University honored high school journalism teacher Natalie Sekicky with a Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award (DSTA). Ms. Sekicky is one of only five teachers nationwide who will receive the award this year. The SHHS Crew Team rowed their way to three gold, two silver, and one bronze medal at the 54th Hebda Cup Regatta in Wyandotte, Mich. Shaker Crew is one of only two public school crew teams in the state.
  3. Four senior student members presented the Superintendent’s Students Advisory Council Annual Update. Ms. Weingart asked several questions regarding the process used by this advisory council to recruit and choose new members and how student issues were resolved with the superintendent and communicated back to students. The students said the process was still informal. Mr. Clawson wished to learn if the “flex nights” program had been successful; the students felt this program had not reduced study loads. The students agreed to recommend changes for improvement. Ms. Cremer asked a question of the student group: Did they have recommendations regarding equity/discrimination in the school? Ose Arheghan, a member of this student advisory council and Shaker LWV Legacy Fellow, offered an account of discrimination and inequities that occur in hallways during transition between classrooms. She said incidents between students were usually resolved equitably by administrators, but that reports of incidents between students and school employees were not always handled as well. Dr. Hutchings said he was humbled by this honest report. The audience applauded this interchange.
  4. Dr. Hutchings presented his Superintendent’s Report, which included an update of the four options proposed at the April 10 meeting to address declining enrollment (you can see all four options by clicking on the Superintendent’s Report link). The update now includes the reduction of three administrative and two clerical positions in options #3 and #4.  Dr. Hutchings, Assistant Superintendent Terri Breeden, and Treasurer Bryan Christman offered to answer the board’s questions. Ms. Bell Hardaway and Ms. Weingart wondered why the details of positions reduced at each school did not match system-wide totals. Dr. Breeden and Mr. Christman answered questions about enrollment projections and the forecast methodology, which is based on U.S. Department of Education models using data specific to Shaker Heights. Reassignments are forecast between schools in order to match specific needs regarding class size, subject matter, and critical need, which is not apparent in the total number. Mr. Clawson said that the forecast methodology is based on three factors: birth rates, new households, and mobility; new households would be affected more by aging population in Shaker rather than new building, while mobility has been consistent for decades in Shaker. The school administration had tested the model on 10 years of historical data and found only 1 percent to 2 percent error to actual experience, so Shaker is very predictable. Ms. Cremer expressed alarm about the significant increase in class size resulting from the proposed attrition & reductions, specifically the documented correlation of student outcomes and class size. She also expressed the desire to prioritize retention of those who directly impact student outcomes. Dr. Breeden shared that Shaker counts “core teaching staff” for class size calculation, whereas any person with teaching licensure is counted nationally, with the result that Shaker’s ratio is above the national average. Dr. Hutchings stated that the Shaker Heights Teachers Association’s maximum is 25 students/class and that may be approached in the lower grades with the proposed reduction options. However, considering the Shaker student census has decreased about 10 percent  in the past five years, the ratio would fall naturally. He added that he does not want to adopt either of the two options under discussion but felt it necessary to plan from best to worst scenarios. Ms. Cremer asked if the board had to choose an option at this meeting. Dr. Hutchings replied the administration wanted to understand the goals and strategy of the board. Ms. Bell Hardaway supported Ms. Cremer’s goal of prioritizing student outcomes for any plan. Mr. Clawson asked the board to voice a preference of options in order to move forward and stated that option #3 presented a balanced approach dependent on the details of implementation. Ms. Cremer preferred option #1 or #2, Ms. Weingart and Ms. Bell Hardaway would support option #3 with emphasis on strategic attrition and requested details of this plan be developed.
  5. Mr. Clawson then opened the meeting for public comment and set some expectations and limits for comment; 13 audience members raised their hands to be included. Seven of the thirteen speakers–students, parents, and alumni–spoke in support of the theater department at the high school, which would be disproportionately impacted by the options for staff attrition/reduction. Three speakers were employees of the schools and voiced their concerns regarding the negative effect of the options on student outcomes. One parent spoke in support of the choir program. One student criticized the online health course. And one person introduced herself as a candidate for superintendent.
  6. An update on the Equity Task Force followed. (It was established in June 2017 and is part of the ongoing five-year Strategic Plan to remove barriers to help all students achieve at a higher level.) Two sessions were held this past month with 60 attendees, and a four-part series is planned with 44 participants. Ms. Cremer attended April 23, Ms. Bell Hardaway hosted May 6, and Ms. Weingart is one of the applicants.
  7. The updated Gifted Policy status was given by Dr. Breeden. The new policy is on second reading.
  8. The majority of the items for approval on the published agenda involved action on personnel matters, such as new appointments, changes in assignments, temporary employees, special assignments, and resignations, all of which were approved and are listed in detail on the published agenda. Six staff members were recommended for continuing contract status (tenure).
  9. The Capital Projects Updates were presented by Dr. Stephen Wilkins. Two bids for fire alarm updates and ADA improvements at the high school were rejected, with new bids requested, and one bid for Boulevard Elementary School facility improvements will also be rebid. The following projects were unanimously approved by the board: Mercer interior renovations of classroom space, Mercer exterior waterline replacement, Middle School exterior painting and soffit repairs, Boulevard and high school slate roof repairs and security upgrades, and district-wide Building Automation Systems (BAS) controls.
  10. The Board unanimously approved the resolution to formally appoint Dr. Stephen Wilkins as the interim superintendent for the District.
  11. Revision of board policies: first reading of an updated policy on Nondiscrimination, Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex/Sexual Harassment, Emergency Management and Safety Plans, Drug Testing for District Personnel Required to Hold a Commercial Driver’s License, Evaluation of Certified Staff (administrators both Certified and Classified), Admission of Homeless Students, Homeless Students, Student Absences and Excuses, Hazing and Bullying (Harassment, Intimidation, and Dating Violence) and second required reading of an updated policy on Programs for Students Who Are Gifted. There were no third readings requiring approval.
  12. Mr. Christman presented monthly financial and budget reports and highlighted what is happening as far as the state budget and Shaker funding (details of each financial report are included as exhibits to the published agenda available online). The expenditure activity for the month and for the fiscal year-to-date April 2018 was $5.1 million, or 6.8% more than the prior year amount, partially due to approximately $2 million of payments related to the Middle School roof and cafeteria ceiling projects. Expenditures were $2.3 million or 2.9% more than budget fiscal year-to-date, but $2,000 below budget as projected through fiscal year-end ($2.098 million unfavorable variance for cash expenditures offset by the projected favorable $2.1 million reduction in encumbrances). In summary, the district’s overall finances are on target with expectations at this time. The report was unanimously approved.
  13. At the recommendation of Mr. Christman and the district’s Finance & Audit Committee (which reviewed and reached consensus on the forecast on April 26, 2018), the board must direct the treasurer to file a copy of its Five-Year Financial Forecast with the Ohio Department of Education each year. The recommendation was unanimously approved.
  14. Dr. Hutchings presented the Superintendent’s Report for the board.
  15. Mr. Clawson moved that due to the length of the meeting and the late hour, that the board members’ reports could wait until the next meeting, scheduled June 12, 2018. The motion was unanimously approved.

The meeting adjourned at 9:22 p.m.
Frank Goforth

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