I attended the Regular Meeting of the Wilmette Public Schools and the Public Hearing on 2017 Levy on December 18, 2017 at 7:00 PM. The following is my report of those meetings.
The meeting was called to order at 7:00 PM by the Board President Mark Steen. All D39 Board members were present. Mr. Steen noted some procedural changes for the meeting. The Board voted on new procedures designed to allow as many members of the public to comment. In summary, the new procedures limit a speaker to a total of four minutes – three minutes during the first public comment period and one minute during the second public comment period. A member of the public who did not speak during the first public comment period would still get the full three minutes during the second public comment period. These rules were then voted on and approved. The stated purpose of the policy change was to allow as many members of the public to speak while still conducting a productive board meeting.
Mr. Steen also noted that the meeting would be a little unusual as the Board would be adjourning to hold the Public Hearing on the 2017 Levy and then reconvening to complete the Regular Meeting agenda. Mr. Steen requested that members of the public show respect during the public comment periods as everyone is a neighbor. He encouraged people to only speak when recognized and to refrain from other displays such as clapping or booing.
The Board then approved the minutes from the November 13 Regular and Executive Session meetings and approved the following Board policy revisions:
2:230 (Public Participation at Board of Education Meetings and Petitions to the Board)
6:70 (Religious Holidays)
6:80 (Controversial Issues)
6:100 (Resources for Teachers: Animals
6:110 (Truant’s Alternative and Optional Education Programs)
6.120 (Special Education)
6:140 (Education of Homeless Children)
I have appended a copy of the policy changes to this report since they relate to public participation in board meetings.
Adjourn to Public Hearing on 2017 Levy
The Board then moved to adjourn to the public hearing on the 2017 Levy. Dr. Lechner provided an overview including a presentation which provided highlights of the levy process. Ms. Buscemi then provided more details regarding the 2017 Levy.
The Board members then had an opportunity to ask questions of Ms. Buscemi and Dr. Lechner regarding the 2017 Levy Presentation. The questions focused on clarifying assumptions as well as a discussion regarding expense trimming. The Board will be doing a “deep dive” into expenditures in 2018 to determine if there are areas where expenses could be reduced. Mr. Steen reflected that they had a robust conversation.
Mr. Steen then opened the floor for public comments. He reminded the public that this was not a question and answer session. If questions were asked of the board, answers would be provided at a later time. Several members of the public spoke regarding the tax levy. There were also some comments on the school calendar and the band/orchestra program. The speakers generally followed the new policy limiting comments to three minutes (although one speaker did continue speaking when told that time was up) and the other attendees were generally respectful.
Adjourn to Regular Meeting (9:05 PM)
Mr. Steen then made a motion to return to the Regular Meeting of the Board.
The meeting resumed with Board Reports:
o Facility Development Committee Update – the committee covered two topics. First, HMS construction update. Park District has approved and Village approval is next. Bids are due in February 2018 on the first phase of the HMS project. Second, Kindergarten Enrichment and facility needs. An analysis is underway and there will be a report in the spring.
o School Finance Committee Update – committee discussed tax levy and various impacts of different scenarios; also discussed student fees and FY 2019 budget calendar to allow time for public discussion; tax appeals; and containment of excess pension payments. New business – devolving deeper into the district costs – action item for next year; reserve will also be added as an action item.
o Committee of the Whole – discussed written communication policies but did not come to conclusion; current practice is that Board President or Board Secretary respond as soon as possible to written questions; Board members may choose to not respond; the Board is continuing to discuss this issue.
o Community Review Committee – Committee is focusing on personalized learning and what that means to D39.
o Educational Foundation Update – the Foundation had a busy first half of the year including two fundraisers; Science Olympiad under way; trivia night is coming up; 6 Gripp grants for $11,134 gifted back to D39 schools; and annual appeal just went out to supporters.
o Legislative Update – pension obligations and property freeze continue to be the main issues in Springfield. Also noted that D39 Board Member, Tracy Kearney, has been appointed to the TRS Board.
The meeting continued with Information Items presented by Dr. Lechner. The Board received a significant amount of communications regarding the 2017 Levy. Other communications regarded the band program. Dr. Lechner noted that 2018-2019 Kindergarten Registration opens in January and forms are available at elementary schools and will be on line after Winter Break. One FOIA request was also received.
Board Business Discussion
o 2018-2019 Draft School Calendar – will be voted on at the next meeting; Dr. Lechner pointed out the aligning calendar with New Trier drives most of the calendar items.
o Fiscal Year 2019 Student Fees – fees are remaining same other than for 7th Grade fees which will be increased to include IPad insurance.
o Clarifying D39 Teacher Pension Obligations – report was provided by Dr. Lechner based on community questions regarding teacher pensions in particular excess salary payments.
o Property Tax Assessment Appeal Resolutions – two appeals this month – one residential and one commercial.
Second Public Comment Period
Mr. Steen reminded speakers that they have one minute if they previously spoke. Comments were related to: school calendar; band program, NT Township Trustee representative spoke about an upcoming tax appeal process session and reduction of tax levy. Mark Steen was very forceful with enforcement of the one minute requirement for people who spoke during the previous public comment period.
o Consent Agenda – consent agenda items were approved by roll call
Approve the Personnel Report
Approve the Fiscal Year 2019 Student Fees
Approve the Bills for Payment o Adopt the 2017 Levy – approved by roll call with Ms. Kearney voting no.
o Approve the Residential (No. 1712-01) Property Tax Assessment Appeal Resolution – approved by roll call with Ms. Kearney voting no.
o Approve the Commercial (No. 1712-02) Property Tax Assessment Appeal Resolution – approved by roll call with Tracy Kearney voting no.
There were no other meeting topics and the Board adjourned to Executive Session to discuss specific personnel matters. I did not remain for the adjournment of the Regular Meeting after the Executive Session.
Respectfully submitted by Rhona DiCamillo