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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Notes From November 2013 Four Hour Long Pickens County School Board Meeting

November 2013 SDPC Board Meeting

Boy Scouts led Pledge Of Allegiance

Dr.Nesbitt gave a presentation on technology today's children are growing up with. Confusing and lengthy video with a child not listening as an adult asked child to do certain tasks and child didn't really listen. The video was pitched as "how well children interact with technology" and it came across as a bad example.

Presentation points:
• Education environment is significantly different from just 5 years ago and future generation's work and educational environment will be driven by "iPad like technology".

• Forest Acres Elementary demonstrated software developed for teacher/student academic interaction, highlighting a math application & showing smart board uses. Technology turns classroom teaching into immediately available "app" children can access at home. VUROOM.COM

• Gettys Middle "Bring Your Own Device" pilot program, 120 participated, used secure internet to protect access, kids used an array of tools, broadens access & lowers cost, limited discipline issues with increased sharing and collaboration.

• Liberty High School featured technology innovations and indicated kids prefer their own device to an issued device because the district won't update and will limit use. Students indicated sharing was no problem where some may not have a device. Enhances learning through visual hands on. Coach Stewart from Liberty High School demonstrated his AP History Class' use of Wikispaces to collaborate on answers. He stated that whereas students used to write a sentence or two … now they write paragraphs because they have a consensus about the topic.
• Public Input
• Philip Smith, Liberty asked for a follow up on Pickens High School bullying case brought before the board at last month's meeting. Mr. Smith also relayed a story where he stated that several Liberty Middle School parents had contacted him about:
On November 7, 2013 Liberty Middle School was having girls basketball tryouts. The girls were trying out at the gym at the school.

The chorus had a concert that evening, so the tryouts were moved to Liberty First Baptist Church family life center. The girls were allowed to call the parents to let them that they were having to go to the church for tryouts that day. The girls were told they were being bussed to the church. A parent called up to the school to verify that they were going to be going by bus and was told that they were.

A student texted their mother at 3:20PM and told her that they had been driven to the church by Principal Edwards and 3 other faculty in their personal cars. The parent made some calls and found out that they did not notify and parents of this. The parent called the school district and talked to Mr. Skelton and he said he would have to find out from the school. Mr. Edwards called the parent and told them that he had taken 2 girls in his car, and three other teachers had taken the rest of the girls. The parent informed him that he nor any of the others had her permission or her knowledge of them driving them over there. Edwards said it was a last minute decision of his to transport them to the church in their personal cars.
• Mr. Smith communicated to the board that he was also concerned about the insurance liability.

• Superintendent Kelly Pew commented on Mr Smith's issues with two simple statements that both matters had been addressed.
Fund Balance discussion/seminar - Clark Webb, school district accounting firm
• Tax revenue is trailing 2012 by $100k, salaries up due to step raises and custodial additions, purchased services down, supplies moderating, property sales transferred into capital expenditures.

• Fund balance usually gets attention. Powerpoint presentation on " What The "Fund Balance" is NOT
• Not a checking account,
• Not a savings account
• Not a surplus
• Not a rainy day fund
• When revenue equals expenditures fund balance is unchanged.

• Recommendation is to have two months operating exenses in the general fund, or 17-25%.

• SDPC's goal is ~20%

• SDPC has used sound financial strategy to survive economic hardship, yet faces challenges. (Healthcare listed as number one, and retirement as number two issues)
Board member, Alex Saitta commented:
• Can't give everyone, including people working less than 15 hrs/wk - medical insurance

• District needs stronger budget management, and needs to cut lower priority items

• Problem with culture, Department Heads don't know what things cost, teach them to manage budgets
Board member Judy Edwards commented:
• "We've cut as deep as we can" & "Budget cuts are impacting morale." & "We have to do what other districts are doing."
Board member, Jimmy Gillespie:
• Appreciates District accounting firm Clark Webb's service.
Instructional Committee:
• Staffing standards reviews: standards are clear, some schools are high

• When the new committee is formed, actions can be taken on the recommendations of the committee.
Staff Political Participation:
• Policy change: No campaigning during working hours.

• Policy approved on 2nd reading
Discussion Of Sale of Gettys Middle:
• Board member, Alex Saitta made a motion to sell Gettys for $250K to Campbell Young.

• Board member, Jim Shelton asked to table the motion until a formal appraisal was received.
Board member, Judy Edwards seconded.

COTU NOTE: Is the property actually going to go for the appraised amount or sit and rot? It's clear that Edwards and Shelton have been told to WAIT and see what the 7th school board member result will be so they can build 2nd middle school on Gettys property.
• Board member Alex Saitta, against delaying the sale because past buildings were sold at significantly lower than appraised value and we may lose an opportunity.

Board member Jimmy Gillespie: "We lost a deal on Pickens Middle, we won't get the appraised amount."

Motion to sell Gettys was abled by 4-2 vote (Shelton, Trotter, Edwards, Cooper voted to delay sale of Gettys by tabling offer)
Student Appeal:
• Trotter moved to not hear appeal
• Gillespie wants to hear if for nothing to have precedent
• Hearing appeal passed 3-2 with Board member Herbert Cooper abstaining / Board will hear appeal

A Home-school request:
• Allowed by unanimous vote
Pickens School Property Price change:
Board member Alex Saitta moved to reduce price to $99k and put up a sign with a price. 
• Board member Judy Edwards: "This hasn't been reviewed with realtor, if selling real estate is important for funding the district, then we should look at the $9MM interest to be returned to taxpayers in 20 years

• Reduced price failed 3-3
New Business:
• Chairperson Ben Trotter: Should review mileage policy and spending.

• District accountant, Mr. Clark made a comment that mileage is not itemized separate from travel, so this is a manual and intense effort.

COTU NOTE: If you're on retainer, do it!
• Board member Alex Saitta: We need to control rising costs, give ideas/insights into the costs, one recession from collapse

• Board member Judy Edwards: travel is required, we don't need to know what the expenses are, they are what they are. We should see if pay is in line with other's costs and other districts.

COTU NOTE: Yes, Edwards actually said, 
"We don't need to know what the expenses are."
Local Board Approved Courses
List of pre-approved courses

• 2 Fine Arts Courses (1) media editing (1) guitar

• Career & Tech Center: VEX Robotics course
Board member, Alex Saitta asked to narrow course offerings in High School, saying there were too many electives, and that they cut into resources for core courses.

Admin response: "Course requests drive offerings, we need to meet 24 credit hour requirements for electives, need to expand career field exposure through electives for pathways opportunities, all electives are driven by teacher requests, higher learning organizations require more than just 24 hours."

• All items passed except guitar ensemble at EHS

Calendar Discussion
• Proposed Early Release Time instead of whole day teacher in service days: Tuesdays that count as instructional day, but used for development while kids sent home early

COTU NOTE: Half days are a waste of time and a nightmare for working parents.
Motion to review & tweak calendar in Public Relations committee

Board member Judy Edwards: not going to impact kids learning if they are released two days, better to give teachers time.

Admin response: "Often teachers stay to 5:00 or 5:30 to do planning."
COTU note: Rarely does one see teacher cars in any school parking lot at 4PM much less 5PM.

Calendar approved: Passed 4-2, Saitta & Gillespie against

Policy changes:

• Using Tech in Classroom (Bring Your Own Device), sent to committee, but given 1st reading … will need 2nd reading to become new policy.

• Dr Pew: "Hope was for Board to approve BYOD policy before holidays to enable purchases etc to support use in classroom."

Clarified that issue must be handled properly by two readings in separate meetings and that first reading was tonight and it will be sent to a committee to analyze. There will be no December meeting. Next meeting will be last Monday in January.

COTU NOTE: Confused as to why parents would need the school district to dictate a Christmas list … an iPad, iPod Touch etc should be a NUMBER ONE PRIORITY for parents this Christmas.

• Board member, Alex Saitta: Big picture problem is revenue decline & expense increases, people on Board will want to raise taxes which is a disregard for the public who has been squeezed more than public school environment, people should be friendly to the public, WE WILL see more charter schools, school choice, and homeschooling if we continue to make the public angry.

• Board member Judy Edwards motioned to end meeting early and adjourn. Not every board member had spoken.

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