Lyme Elementary School
approved w/changes, 1/26/17
Board Members Present: Jay Davis, Elizabeth Glenshaw, Heidi Lange, Sam Levey, Paul Mayo, Steve Toulmin. Staff Members Present: Jeff Valence, Mike Harris. 11 public attendees. Recorded by R. Lohr
1. Call to Order
Chair Glenshaw called the meeting to order at 7:06 PM.
2. Business Requiring Discussion
A. Full Day Kindergarten
Chair Glenshaw summarized the Lyme Budget Committee meeting held on January 10 that was attended by about 30 people. Concern was expressed at the meeting about costs in Lyme. The school budget is a 5.8% increase and 4.4% of the increase is due to high school tuition. Other issues raised at the Committee meeting included the number of teachers, class room sizes, and tax increases. The Committee passed an advisory vote and the school district will present the budget to the Budget Committee publicly next week on January 18 at 7:00 PM.
There may be a petitioned warrant article to designate Rivendell as the designated high school for Lyme students, but the Board discussed that high school choice reduces the high school cost because other schools are less than Hanover High School. The Lyme School Board will talk with high schools regarding tuition levels. The questions at the Committee meeting were mostly from the public attendees rather than Committee members.
Principal Valence distributed a document regarding historical enrollment in the first grade. There was a discussion about adding a literacy teacher to the full day kindergarten costs, which will cost $18,000 added to $58,115 for the kindergarten teacher. A chart showed that every six years the class size for the first grade was above 21 students so the Board wants to create a reserve fund to cover the cost of possible kindergarten class splits in the future. In 2016 terms, the cost of adding a second kindergarten class was estimated at $138, 477.
The principal explained the need for the early literacy teacher and the class size options. The class size guidelines are 24 students but are also dependent on class dynamics. Currently there are 16 kindergarten students expected and traditionally the school has picked up 0-6 kindergarten students during the summer. In eight of 34 years there were 24 or more first graders at Lyme School. The class room split at 25 students is required by the fire code. Principal Valence voiced concern for jeopardizing the quality of education for the entire school if the full day kindergarten program was large enough to require a split and impacts the rest of the school budget. The idea of creating a reserve account for the potential kindergarten class split was intended to avoid a tax whiplash in some years.
A community forum is planned by the full day kindergarten group on February 2. The group discussed the educational aspect of full day kindergarten and the principal plans to speak about the educational and play program that will be planned. A visit to another school kindergarten program is planned for the principal and kindergarten teacher.
Board member Jay Davis requested that the Warrant Article and public references do not call the Lyme School kindergarten program “half day” because it represents 64% of the school day. The full day kindergarten group expressed interest in exploring a collateral account for the potential class split in the future rather than adding an amount to the Warrant Article. Cascading articles were recommended to address the full day kindergarten and creation of a reserve account. An Enrollment Stabilization Reserve was created in prior years to address soft splits in other grades at the Lyme School.
The deadline for submitting the petition warrant article is February 7 to the school district office and 25 signatures are required (and some additional signatures to cover any invalidated names).
The full day kindergarten group asked if the Board is looking at other options for kindergarten and how it might support the program at the school deliberative session. The Board has been looking at child care in the community but has not had a significant dialogue about it or made any decisions on the issue. Special education is a school responsibility for children aged 3-21. The Board and administration was thanked by the full day kindergarten group. The Board will meet after February 7 to discuss the deliberative session presentation. Superintendent Harris will review the Warrant Article language for the full day kindergarten group.
B. Proposed FY 18 Budget
The Board discussed reductions to the proposed FY 18 Lyme School budget. Options to lower the amount paid for high school tuition were discussed. It was suggested that a dialogue about a bus be opened with St. Johnsbury Academy even though the distance is a challenge for Lyme high school students. A survey about high school transportation was suggested. Rivendell is about $5,000 less per student compared to Hanover High School and St. Johnsbury is substantially less as well.
The Board discussed the custodial position in response to the increased size of the school. It was suggested that it would be easier to raise funds for the science program than for a custodian. Various science organizations would be approached to partner on school science programs rather than seeking general grants to support the science program. It was recognized that the administration restructure plan would increase costs but it is intended to increase cost efficiency. It was felt that putting the science program on a Warrant Article was not a great idea because the community expects the School Board to make and explain such decisions rather than pass them on to the voters.
If the teacher contract agreement is finalized the total proposed budget would increase by 6.5% compared to last year’s budget. Reducing the science program $43,000 and the retirement $9,000 would provide a lower school budget to the Budget Committee.
The Board discussed various perspectives of the pending full day kindergarten program and how they would develop language to show support. Principal Valence could cite emotional and social aspects of full day kindergarten but there appears to be mixed evidence that any academic benefits of a couple of additional kindergarten hours would be realized by the socioeconomic population represented by Lyme families.
With the science and retirement reductions to the budget, the increase without the teacher contract would be 5.19% and the teacher agreement would be a .7% increase in the budget. The noncontrollable expenses represent 4.6% of the budget increases. When full day kindergarten was added to the other budget aspects there would be about a 7% increase above last year. After the reductions that the Board discussed, the proposed budget was $6,801,327 (without teacher agreement or full day kindergarten).
The Board will discuss the message regarding the budget and full day kindergarten on the January 26 and following meeting.
A motion to adjourn was made and seconded (Steve Toulmin, Jay Davis). The motion was passed unanimously. The meeting adjourned at 10:10 PM.
The next Lyme School Board meeting will on January 26th so that the Board may meet to discuss contract ratification.