[updated 13-Aug: Moved WCBs to the top]
Working Cash Bonds will be discussed tonight. Keep in mind this is a 20-year loan (I believe). From BoardDocs:
In February, 2012, the Board approved the Resolution indicating their intent to issue Working Cash Bonds in an amount not to exceed $14,500,000. The purpose of the Bonds was to provide money to undertake certain construction projects including HVAC, energy efficiency, technology upgrades and a transportation facility. Administration is now seeking Board approval to issue approximately $9,800,000 in Working Cash Fund Bonds. […] It has been estimated by Stifel Nicolaus that the tax increase on a $150,000 home will be a 5¢ increase for 20 years ($22.50/per year).
I must confess, when the agenda was posted on BoardDocs, I skimmed through it looking for an agenda item to change policy 270.01. Alas, there is no agenda item for that. What is even more strange is that the a very full list of future meetings (at the bottom of the agenda) does not list any special meetings in August; I believe Dr. Wiegand indicated to me that there would be one on the 20th (budget stuff) and one on the 27th (possible first reading of policy 270.01 draft, possible high school options presentation, and something else).
So what is on the agenda?
Aside from the Academic Spotlight, Recognitions and Upcoming Events, the first thing on the “New Business” section is a report on Mentoring and Volunteers from Lauren Smith. Looks like last year was very positive in this sense. As a member of 1-to-1 Mentoring, the numbers are “feel good”, but I also very much want to see Orlando Thomas’s statement of acquiring 100 new mentors this coming year err on the side of being too conservative. With all the churches and volunteer organizations/efforts in our town, 100 new mentors should be easy-peasy! And I personally see mentors and volunteers as such a huge positive for our school district.
The next item is a proposal to change the legal limit at which purchases and bids must go through the RFP process – Administration wants to raise the limit from $10,000 to $25,000. As a taxpayer, I would be able to support this %100 if (and only if) I felt I could keep the district accountable and felt confident with the level of fiscal transparency, and more important, proactive reporting. The district has dipped their toes into the transparency waters by putting check registers and initial RFPs online, and I am thankful for that. I personally think there is still a little more work to be done before the level of trust between the district and the voting public is at a sufficient level where these kinds of caps become arbitrary. But hey, maybe only a small handful of us feel that way. Rather makes me wonder if many other folks even care. 🙂
The third item (C) is a presentation by Orlando Thomas on the topic of High School Climate. The short line-item description perhaps does not do justice to the entire presentation. I’ll try to be brief. I can already hear the mind shutters closing when the term “social justice” is uttered, so I beg you work with me for a minute and I’ll see if this sounds good or not. On paper, it sounds like Unit 4 is finally (after 10 years) taking to heart Dr. Mark Aber’s recommendations about school climate and doing something about it. The district appears ready to attack issues of behavior, delinquency and discipline by incorporating a number of innovative alternatives instead of straight-out punitive measures. For me, I found the presentation to kind of jump from one place to another, but it did a relatively good job of describing acronyms (except RTI – never spelled that one out) and concepts. Unit 4 is going to utilize resources from ACCESS Initiative (from which Dr. Mark Aber is receiving a goodly amount of dollars, I believe) and Community Elements, both members of the Champaign Community Coalition. While I was glad to find the results of brainstorming to be fruitful in terms of not doing things the same old way, I was discouraged to find a lack of down-to-the-ground, real-normal-people involvement. See my paragraph above about mentors and volunteers.
Following in those footsteps, the last “New Business” item is a summary report of discipline over the past 4 years. Overall, there seems to be a slight downward trend in the number of suspensions, but not dramatically so. There are some interesting outliers; harassment was up 50% last year; 33 suspensions at Barkstall two years ago, triple the number (11) at Garden Hills the same year; 75 suspensions at BTW and 63 at R.E.A.D.Y. (just shy of the middle school numbers). For me personally, my expectation is that these numbers should be dropping much faster – with all the programs and alternatives in place, I expect much fewer numbers overall here.
Next up, Action Agenda. To kick off this section, Dr. Susan Zola will be presenting on the Choice RFP. I know, some of you are rolling your eyes, perhaps with good reason. 🙂 This happens to be an area I am keenly interested in, but I do not want to belabor it too much. For starters, we have a rare look at a whole ton of public information about Alves’ Choice Program – the submitted Proposal from his company is a whopping 54 pages (faxed, printed and then scanned – egads!! and some of the pages are sideways!). If one is so inclined, one could read the entire thing and get a much more comprehensive understanding of what this program is supposed to do. There are also interesting elements about the “on-line” portion of the program. While some of it was indeed online for the previous school year (hosted at Alve’s own site), the interface was still horrible. Now apparently Alves has hired a Software Engineer and proposes a $92,000 project to create (Phase I – $27,000) and implement (Phase II – $65,000) this program. *palmface*
Nothing for Ken Kleber’s Administrative Appointment section.
The last Action Item is the Working Cash Bond (WCB). After all the hoopla surrounding this topic, the Administration is finally moving forward with $10mil instead of the original $14.5mil. I still don’t get how a new transportation facility is going to come out of this. The attached legal paper (with the obligatory legalese) does not spell out what the money will be used for at all, only to say “for the aforementioned” purposes. That’s helpful. However, on a positive note, it is exciting that some of these projects are already underway and I am quite certain that many students and staff will appreciate the benefits of improved HVAC an maybe even other upgrades. The technology piece….. we’ll see.
The Consent Agenda is filled with more things to spend money on. 🙂 Driver Ed cars (really, we need to buy two brand-new Fords at the price of $43,000?? What about buying a 2-year old model?), a $17,000 hot kitchen cabinet, a $3mil Title I grant application, outsourcing busing of high school students to MTD for $300,000, etc.