School board considers negotiation teams

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In other business, the Marshall County school board considered management and negotiating teams for discussions with the Marshall County Education Association, which represents the teachers.

Director of schools Stan Curtis reported that the number of people on the management team is governed by the average daily attendance for all County schools combined. This number was 4,997, which meant that there could be four people on the management team. He recommended Roy Dukes, Mitchell Byrd, Lyn Stacey, and Janet Wiles, and the board approved this.

The board then had to choose whom to put on the negotiating team. Dukes is not eligible, so board member Curt Denton moved to put Curtis on the team, and this was carried as an amendment to the motion made by Mark Wilkerson to put Byrd, Stacey, and Wiles on the team.

"One of us (board members) should try to be here for every negotiating session," said board member Mike Keny, and this was greeted by applause from the teachers in the audience.

School fundraisers were also on the agenda. Board members were handed a list of 462 different fundraisers for which approval was sought.

"It's a necessary evil, but it's staggering how many there are," said Keny. "I applaud everybody who got this list together. We're talking about a profit of $480,000.

"I hope we can start chipping away at this, with the board to take some responsibility instead of asking students and teachers to raise money," Keny continued.

This remark was greeted by applause from the teachers and parents in the audience.

"Every teacher would love not to have to do them," said Curtis. "I'd love to see us cut down."

"It's going to take small steps," Keny said.

Curtis pointed out that he had not approved the Quarters for Veterans fundraiser at Chapel Hill Elementary School. "It did not align with board policy that fundraisers must raise money for school activities," he said.

"We could still raise money for veterans by putting it through the parent-teacher organization," board member Kristen Gold pointed out.

Curtis also recommended not doing a "scratch-off" type of fundraiser, and chairwoman Ann Tears concurred.

Bids for oil, gas, diesel and tires for school buses were discussed by the board.

"There's a tremendous opportunity for efficiencies and money saving here," said board member Craig Michael, who asked if the fuel bid was "cost-plus."

Budget director Wiles explained that it was the fuel company's cost, plus three and one-half cents per gallon. Wiles said she had requested the company provide documentation to verify its cost.

"This was the only fuel bid," said Michael Frey, the new supervisor of transportation. "I guess the larger companies don't want us. We did mail bid invitations to four or five companies. There was only one tire bid, too, not counting the one from the Co-op that came two weeks late."

"That doesn't sound right," said Michael. "There's got to be a reason why. Should we change our approach?"

"I'd be glad to talk to surrounding counties," said Curtis.

"Yes," said Michael. "Why not schedule a meeting with surrounding directors? There's obviously room to be more efficient."

"I've got a new idea on the tires," Frey said. At a transportation committee meeting the following week he told Michael and Curt Denton that he had been talking to a company that sells retreads.

"They've got to go on the back," said Denton. "Personally I'm not big on any kind of re-caps - if they separate it affects the fender well. I know Hickman County is big on them."

"Let's bring it up at the next transportation meeting," Curtis said. "We're not wanting to sacrifice safety."

Staying on the subject of transportation, charges for the use of vans and buses were debated at the board meeting.

"As far as gas consumption is concerned, we're charging too much right now," said Keny. "We're charging 50 cents a mile for a van trip. Let's lower that and save these folks money. If we can help them out, it's the first step to cutting back on fundraisers."

"Just charge for the fuel and the driver," suggested Denton. "Set it at 7 mpg for buses and 20 mpg for vans."

"Let the transportation committee consider it and come back with a proposal," said Gold.

"Whatever we do, make it retroactive to the start of the school year," said Keny in conclusion.

The transportation committee did not have a quorum for their meeting on Aug. 17, but Denton and Michael discussed changes with Frey. When the school board meets again for a work session, they are going to propose charging 30 cents per mile for a van and 40 cents per mile for a bus - unless fuel prices go back up.

"How is the cost of transport affecting each sport?" asked Michael.

"It's killing golf and tennis and cross country," Frey answered. "Chapel Hill has five coaches with CDLs so they don't have to pay for drivers and they're saving big time. Other schools are looking into cheaper ways to get kids to matches, for instance, parents transporting them."

"We had to do that one year at Hampshire," Curtis said. "I was a nervous wreck! It was the most difficult year of my principalship."

"I don't like it either," said Michael.

Wilkerson made a report on the legislative conference.

"The requirements are going to double," he said, referring to the Tennessee Diploma Project. "The state tests are going to be much tougher - the standard will be higher. There will be a 30 percent increase in what kids need to know. The number of credits required for graduation increase: starting with this year's freshmen, they will need 22 credits to graduate from high school. They will have a math class every year."

"Yes," said Curtis. "We've had to schedule different this year."

The American Diploma Project, now adopted in 30 states including Tennessee, proposes four specific actions: 1) Align standards and assessments with the knowledge and skills required beyond high school.

2) Require all high school students to take challenging courses that actually prepare them for life after high school.

3) Build college and work-ready measures into statewide accountability systems.

4) Hold schools accountable for graduating students who are college and/or workforce ready, and hold postsecondary accountable for students' success once enrolled.

Regional business roundtable discussions held in Tennessee in 2007 revealed that what companies needed were workers who had: 1) Stronger math and science skills, but especially have mastered basic math.

2) Stronger communication skills, including both verbal skills and writing skills.

3) Ability to work in teams to solve real world problems; to be able to think, apply, and use what they know

4) A strong work ethic; be at work regularly and be on time.

Finally the school board received a report from the director. Curtis handed each board member a notebook of his responses to their evaluation of his first year in office.

Curtis reported that an additional kindergarten class was needed for the County's children, and he proposed putting it at Westhills Elementary School where there's space available. The board approved Curtis' request to post the kindergarten teacher position.

Curtis also reminded the board that the minimum wage had been increased by law, which meant the school system would have to pay $51 per day for uncertified substitute teachers. In order to keep the budget basically the same, Curtis proposed going down on what was paid to certified substitute teachers from $55 to $54 per day, and the board agreed.

"At this point with taxpayer money, we don't need to be doing anything that costs more," Curtis said.

The design of the digital display sign for Lewisburg Middle School, sponsored by Waste Management Inc. and displaying their logo, was approved with no significant discussion.

The sign was a subject of controversy when it was first proposed at the February school board meeting.

Other schools in the area that have digital display signs include Chapel Hill Elementary.

CHES principal Dean Delk told the Tribune that their sign cost $19,500 two years ago, including a five-year extended warranty. Delk said that Chapel Hill parents found sign very useful as a source of up-to-the-minute information. The CHES sign was fully funded by money raised in the community.

"It would be nice if the school board had a new sign," remarked Denton, reminding those present that the Board of Education's sign could be seen by all the southbound traffic on the bypass.