ACS Board of Education Reorganization Meeting Bonanza
Miss out on the July 11th BOE meeting? You're not alone. While 18 members of the public were in attendance, I'm told about a dozen people arriving later than 6pm were unable to get into the building as it was unintentionally locked. This was brought up to the board during public commentary and will not be an issue going forward.
The meeting was called to order on time at 6pm EST and after the pledge Sabrina Gaylord and Mark Sisson took their oath of office. Dr. Schuelein also took an oath. Brian Perkins was voted in as Board President again with Pat Howland as Vice President. They also took oaths. The meeting was very oath heavy for a little bit. Good news is that everyone swore to uphold the U. S. Constitution and the NY State Constitution and to perform the duties of their respective offices. The NY State Constitution is 46 pages long in pdf format, and I'm sure they all read the whole thing. No one would swear an oath to something they hadn't read in full. Surely.
Following the oathy part Dr. Schuelein gave the Superintendent's Report. He stated the summer SOAR program was now in full swing and gave thanks to Kim Fanton and staff. Interviews were underway for the soon-to-be vacant Director of Pupil Services position. There are presently 2 candidates which should be coming in for community interviews later this week with a timeline to appoint a candidate before the next school year. Dr. Schuelein also stated that there would be an announcement about the change in school tax collection due to the local bank closing, and information will be sent out to the community shorty. It sounds like tax checks will just need to be mailed directly to the school in the future.
Dr. Schuelein also addressed, following the many questions from the last board meeting, that communication was very important to the district, that they are working to improve, and that there is still work to do. Dr. Schuelein stated: "We must do better, and we will." He went on to state that anyone with questions or concerns can reach out to him via phone, email, stop into see him in office or when he is out being "walked by his dog." Dr. Schuelein can be reached at 607-478-8491, ext. 221 or 222 (It's listed as both) or at firstname.lastname@example.org and his office is where the superintendent's office has been since approximately forever. His dog has appeared to be friendly when I've seen him out-and-about and even has a cool light up collar for easy visibility.
Following Dr. Schuelein's statements the Public Commentary was opened to those in attendance. Tom Davis began his question by asking Board President Perkins to answer the questions from the previous meeting. With agreement from all those present he did so. Brian read a letter that will be linked here as soon as it's officially posted, probably tomorrow.
A synopsis of that letter would be that President Perkins welcomes public comments and thinks community involvement is important. Mrs. Brown, who posed the questions, was reached out to and met with the superintendent the same week as the previous meeting to discuss her concerns. Pertaining to the superintendent not buying a house in the village (though he does presently reside in Andover) the board has discussed the terms of his contract with him, and they have confidence that Dr. Schuelein is dedicated to his position.
Perkins went on to also address the question about why we have an Assistant Superintendent (Ms. Slavinski). He stated that the position was integral in getting grant funding, coordinating programs and curricula, and has been essential to the ACS partnership with the Harvard Rural Schools Program. However, he did go on to say that the necessity of all positions is reviewed annually, and Dr. Schuelein has been working on a full evaluation.
The vaping situation at the school was another question brought up at the last board meeting. Perkins addressed this by saying that the health and safety of students is key, and any vaping incidents have been dealt with in accordance with school guidelines. He hoped that it would be further addressed in the new code of conduct.
As relating to staff complaints and concerns brought to the administration Perkins stated that the Board is kept aware and that they have been addressed. Perkins went on to state that the board cannot legally disclose any specific personnel information. So, as to Molly Carlin's questions about why she was not hired on in her position or why other teachers have left, that cannot be disclosed to the public as it is legally required to be kept confidential.
The letter, read by Perkins, went on to welcome feedback and invite continued community involvement. I was going to put the board contact information here, but it appears to be missing from the website, but I suppose you can email it to the clerk and she can pass it along. Maybe? Here is a link to the BOE informational page.
Following the letter reading Jen Joyce went on to fully explain the covid relief funding, per previous public request. It was all you could ask for in a funding presentation. There are 3 separate funding acts, 2020 CARES Act, CRISSA, and The American Rescue plan. In total these acts supplied emergency relief as well as ongoing funds in 7 different areas. These funds are all on different timelines with some already having expired and others slated to expire in 2023 and 2024.
To receive these covid relief funds essentially the school submits a plan for the funds, which are then approved, the school then does whatever the plan was, pays for it, and then submits for reimbursement for the money spent. Spending the money on anything other than what the original plan outlined can result in the reimbursement not coming through, so that's something they're very careful about. Funds have been used for things like PPE, laptops, classroom furniture, scuba and garden club, metal health salaries, an additional temporary cleaner and a bunch of other stuff. There was a survey sent out in June of 2021 to see what the needs of the school and community were and of the 2000-ish surveys sent out only 89 responses were received which is approximately a 4% response rate. Jen invited folks to email or call her if they needed further explanation as she'd be happy to explain more one-on-one.
Dr. Schulein broke in here to address the question posed at the last meeting about the 2022 senior trip funds. He stated that the funds were used for 3 shorter day trips, in addition to senior hoodies. The class of 2022 also donated a sizable sum to the class of 2023 for their prom. The final amount of approximately $2,000 was donated to Andover Central School in memory of those lost at Uvalde for the purposes of school security.
Following that the floor was turned back over to Tom Davis, the original public commentor. No worries I forgot about that too 'cuz this is a long article already. Tom made some commentary on the first paragraph of the letter being in need of softening. Ms. Weber spoke next and questioned if Amy Brown met with Dr. Schuelein why don't we get the answers to the questions she posed? Perkins went on to explain that the questions were answered directly to the person who had posed them. Another member of the public asked if this is how questions to the board are normally answered and if this is standard board practice. That question was not answered, but Perkins did say he'd look into it. When queried why questions asked at a public meeting were answered privately Perkins clarified that the board meeting was a "private meeting held publicly."
Devin Davis went on to point out that if 16 teachers out of the approximately 45 in the district were leaving this year that was a turnover rate over 35% which seemed abnormally high. She asked if the board was worried about that and what the board was doing to retain teachers or recruit new ones. President Perkins did reply that he was indeed worried about the turnover, and they're doing their best to hire the best teachers that they can. It was noted that all except for one administrative job and one teaching job had been filled at this time and that there have been ongoing recruitment efforts.
Don Bowey (Bouey? Maybe) asked the board what they were doing about current employee engagement and retention. He specifically asked about on-going surveys and went on to state that there appeared to be a systemic issue that needed to be addressed. President Perkins did reply that there had been surveys in 2021 and 2022 that he knew of, but results from the 2022 survey were not in. These surveys are anonymous and help to facilitate conversations between the administration and the teachers' union. The questions on the survey are formulated in cooperation between the administration and teachers' union as well.
Ms. Geer addressed the board and stated that the last strategic plan for the school was written 7 years ago and felt that it was more than time for a new one. Apparently, this kind of thing is normally done every 5 years, and it's a bit overdue.
The final question to the board during the public commentary was asking if there was a way to get a list of positions that are double encumbered as well as a list of teachers who were resigning, fired, or resigning in leu of termination. Perkins stated that the list of resignations would be public knowledge as the acceptance of their resignations was a matter of public record in the board minutes; however, the other information may not be able to be made public.
So, I went through my notes from last meeting's questions, and the ones not answered in full were primarily personnel related (which the board will not be answering) or related to Dr. Schuelein personally (which he did invite you to email him so have at it). The only questions outside of that I saw that were quite obviously skipped were why are we moving the 6th graders upstairs and clarification on why the teachers' union grievance was rejected.
The meeting did not end at this point. This novel of an article could honestly go on and on aaaaand...it will. So, following the public commentary there was a presentation by Hunt Architects and Bernard P. Donegan, Inc. on a proposed capital project relating to the roof repair. The three dudes all showed up in suits looking very professional and gave a power point presentation that could put even the most hyper toddler to sleep although my husband said the "spreadsheet slides were captivating." He's a huge nerd though. Jen Joyce also said she enjoyed them very much, which I guess is her job.
The proposed project had two options. Option one featured a repaired roof, a fully renovated pool area which would bring the pool up to regulation size, and a skylight and new ceiling in the library. The budget for that was $8.9 million. The second option was a repaired roof with a renovated pool (not brought up to regulation size), and a fully remodeled library with skylight and renovated courtyard space. The price tag for option two was a steal at $8.7 million.
The numbers sounded big and expensive and very expensive. However, a nice accountant looking financial advisor guy with those amazing spreadsheets that Jen and my husband liked so much explained that the state would reimburse 94% of that cost. He repeated at least 3 times that there would be no tax impact so it's clear that was a selling point. The reason for doing the pool and library renovations during the roof repair is that these areas would be impacted or unusable during construction and as the funds allocated from the capitol reserve were not sufficient to repair the roof due to increased costs a bond would need to be taken out for the work anyhoo so might as well. I took some pictures of the slides which I'll include below, and hopefully you enjoy them.
Following the presentation, the board dialogue section commenced. There was board dialogue with Pat Howland asking for an update on the progress towards a teacher's union contract. Dr. Schuelein said things were moving along, and they had a meeting scheduled for tomorrow for further discussions.
The Consent Agenda then began in earnest with certified personnel resolutions. Newly minted board member Sabrina Gaylord motioned that "P1. Approve to end the Long-Term Substitute Special Education Teacher appointment of Molly Carlin effective August 31, 2022" be moved for later vote. The rest of the stuff was approved. The later vote on Molly Carlin's position ended in a 4/1* vote with Sabrina voting against the motion. The motion did pass.
There was nothing else exciting other than Amy Halbert being appointed as the Cook/Manager. One can only hope her cookies are as good as Carol's.
This meeting was a solid 0/10. The meeting adjourned for executive session at 7:21 which is about 22 minutes too long for me personally. It was good to see so many folks at the meeting again, but there could have been more folks which was a bummer. It was easy to forget by the end of the meeting that there were two new board members sworn in which is a pretty cool event. Congrats to Sabrina and Mark. I guess the spreadsheets were also a highlight for some people as well. Overall, the meeting was informative and mostly ok.
*Correction was made as it was previously reported as 3/1, but apparently I can't count.
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