The meeting was called to order at 7:00 PM. All members were present.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance, Board President Mark Steen asked for a moment of silence in memory of victims of school violence in Parkland, Florida. Mr. Steen assured the community that the district continuously reviews its security procedures. In the wake of the recent school shooting, the board and the administration are working with the Wilmette Police Department to discuss procedures and will keep the public informed. Mr. Steen also said that the district will not be formally participating in any of the school walkout days being planned nationwide. The district is striving to balance the need for student safety with civic duty.
The minutes of the January 22 regular and executive session meetings were approved.
During the first public comment period, Anne Stevens addressed the board regarding the planned national walkout days. She reiterated her written communication to the board that the walkouts are intended to be led by students. She said that she hopes the educators and principals will give students an opportunity to discuss how to respond to the recent school shooting in Florida, stating that even the youngest community members are affected. She said that allowing these voices to rise is a chance to strengthen our community.
Facility Development Committee: Alice Schaff reported. The committee has been reviewing bid documents for the Highcrest renovation. Construction on the secure entrance and office relocation will start in June and be completed over the summer in time for the start of school in Fall 2018. The 4 classroom addition is targeted for completion in December 2018.
School Finance Committee: Frank Panzica reported. The committee has developed an improved reporting format. They also began discussing fund balances and reserves for future planning.
Strategy Committee: Alice Schaff reported on three initiatives.
(1) Instrumental music – they have reviewed results of a survey sent to students and parents about band/orchestra scheduling. The majority of respondents preferred keeping the before-school option vs. scheduling band/orchestra as a related arts class during the school day. Respondents felt that sectionals are very important but did express concern about students missing instructional time in academic classes. The committee will continue looking at options for sectionals to address these concerns.
(2) Kindergarten enrichment (KE) – The committee continues to look at space and operating costs for offering tuition-based before/after school kindergarten enrichment. A survey was sent to parents to assess interest in KE and the proposed tuition rate. 650 parents responded and 70% said they would participate in KE at their home school. 69% would be willing to pay $6,500 tuition. Despite the overall positive response, some respondents commented that the price is too high. The committee will survey the broader community for opinions about the cost of offering free kindergarten as soon as possible, offering tuition based KE converting to full day kindergarten over 5 years and tuition based KE converting to full day kindergarten over 10 years.
(3) Student growth – the committee has been studying assessment of student growth. A report was presented later in the evening by the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Ms. Lee.
Insurance Advisory Committee: Lisa Schneider-Fabes reported. There are no changes for the plan year June 1 - May 31. The HMO premium will increase slightly and PPO will have slight decrease with no change in high deductible PPO. Open enrollment is in April. Flu shots will again be offered but the committee has decided to drop wellness screenings due to lack of interest. Ms. Schneider-Fabes said the committee is looking at the option of making Insurance Advisory a board liaison vs. committee role.
Board Liaison Reports
CRC - the last CRC meeting was canceled due to weather so there is no report.
Educational Foundation: Jon Cesaretti reported. Trivia night raised $50,000 for Gripp Grants. The Foundation is planning two additional fundraisers - a screening of Princess Bride at Wilmette Theater and a pub crawl. Deadline to apply for next round of Gripp Grants is in March.
Legislative Update: Tracy Kearney reported on the Governor’s budget address. The Governor is proposing that Teachers Retirement System costs shift from the state to local districts by 25% per year over each of the next 4 years. Should this proposal be adopted, the state would save $490 million in first year, but costs to local districts would increase by the same amount. The Governor said the state would provide tools to offset these costs but gave no specifics. Legislators from both parties have concerns about this proposal. The Senate was back in session last week and the House convenes this week. No legislation is expected before the April session.
Dr. Lechner reviewed the subjects of written communication items received including school safety, participation in school walkout days and full day kindergarten. He noted that Kristen Dean, Board President for Youth Connection, informed the district that Youth Connection will be dissolving itself at the end of the current school year.
He reported that results of a survey done in partnership with the village board and library are now available on the district website. He was pleased to report that community members have a very positive view of education in the district, even those without children in the schools.
The summer enrichment program is open for registration until March 9. Some of the most popular classes are filling quickly.
The District 39 Angel Fund provides assistance to families in need of support and is entirely funded by private donations. On March 8th Valley Lodge tavern will be donating 15% of every purchase to the Angel Fund. To participate, access a flyer on the D39 website and show an electronic or printed copy at the restaurant.
Parents and teachers were invited to attend a Township technology expo on April 28 from 8:30 – noon at New Trier’s Winnetka Campus. Three breakout sessions will be offered and more details are on the website.
Two FOIA requests were received. One was for 2017-18 Teacher Salary Schedule for Wilmette Public Schools District 39 and one requested information regarding individuals contacting the district regarding various school climate initiatives.
Dr. Lechner announced that he will retire at the end of his current contract on June 30, 2019. Mr. Steen said how fortunate the District has been to have had Dr. Lechner’s leadership over the last 12 years. Mr. Steen noted that Dr. Lechner’s improvements will continue to benefit children long into the future. Many stakeholders will be involved in the selection of next superintendent. The Board will shortly begin interviewing firms to conduct nationwide search.
Strategic Plan Updates
Personalized Learning - Ms. Lee reported on Personalized Learning, a new strategic initiative. The team is currently meeting twice a month. At this stage they have worked to define personalized learning which differs from differentiation in the role that a learner plays. The next step is for the team to conduct site visits of schools implementing various personalized learning delivery models.
Student Growth - Ms. Lee gave a presentation reporting on the second year of implementation of this strategic initiative. Currently, the district has a multi-tier approach to students with learning and behavior needs called Response to Intervention. They are working to create a similar model for all students that addresses the intersection of achievement and growth which will be called Response to Growth Intervention. They will use student, school and district data to promote growth for all learners. MAP testing will provide quantitative data. Qualitative learner profile data will also be considered including personal traits, academic indicators, learning skills and non-cognitive factors. Teachers will be able to determine instructional groupings based on student goals including in-class differentiation, small group instruction, and additional 1:1 support. A guidance document will be ready in June for Fall 2018 implementation. Board members commented that they were excited to see the initiative launch and thanked Ms. Lee and her team for their work. In response to a question, Ms. Lee explained that teachers will have three MAP data points to look at this spring and results will carry over into the fall. Mr. Steen commented that this is one tool for measuring growth but that we also need to reinforce the mindset that every student should be growing at appropriate level
Summer 2018 Construction Project Bids - there are currently 36 bidders on the HMS secure entrance and four-classroom addition. The secure front entrance and office area to be completed before school starts.
Board Policy - the board reviewed the Second and Final Reading of Revised Board of Education Policies 6:150, 6:160, 6:170, 6:180, 6:190, 6:200, 6:210 and 7:180 Mr. Steen asked that policy 6:190 be pulled from the consent agenda for a third read.
Erin Stone responded to Dr. Lechner’s retirement announcement, thanking him for her family’s experience.
The Consent Agenda was approved including Second and Final Reading of Revised Board of Education Policies 6:150, 6:160, 6:170, 6:180, 6:200, 6:210 and 7:180
The board approved an additional reading of Revised Board of Education Policy 6:190
There was no old business, new business or good and welfare.
The meeting was Adjourned to Executive Session.
Respectfully submitted, Anne Sullivan
Mikaelian Education Center
615 Locust Road
(Note that I was unable to attend in person so this is based on the video feed of the meeting.)
All Board Members were in attendance. The meeting began on time and the Board adjourned to Executive Session at 8:58 PM.
Public Comment session was held at the beginning of the meeting. Mark Steen, Board President, requested that everyone be courteous and reminded speakers that they had 3 minutes to speak and 1 additional minute during the second public comment period. The only topic covered by the public speakers was with respect to the band/orchestra program at HMS and WJHS.
At the second public comment period, Beth Drucker spoke about role of D39 as a leader for other school districts including New Trier, Evanston and Go Green Illinois Schools (an organization that represents 60 school districts will be visiting D39) and requested person be appointed to review sustainability across the district.
Many topics were discussed by the Board. The following are the items which may be of interest to the LWV:
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
Present: Mark Steen, President; Frank Panzica, Vice President; Board members: Alice D. Schaff, Jon Cesaretti, Lisa Schneider-Fabes, Tracy Kearney. Absent: Ellen Sternweiler
Significant Topics Discussed:
Public Comment Periods
During the first public comment period, 20 community members addressed the board about extending the 2017 levy. The board’s practice has been to extend the levy each year to the maximum amount allowed by law, which is the combination of CPI and an estimate of new property growth in the Village. 14 community members spoke in favor of extending the levy to keep pace with inflation and 6 spoke in favor of freezing the levy this year. (See below for additional explanation of the tax levy) In the second public comment period 3 additional community members spoke in support of extending the levy.
Three community members also spoke about the instrumental music program. During the October 23 meeting, President Mark Steen suggested that the Board look at the program and whether or not students should be given grades and/or pulled out for sectionals. The community members spoke in support of continuing both practices.
Fiscal Year 2017 Financial Audit
The Auditor presented the annual financial audit. They issued an unmodified opinion on the district’s financial statements. The district is fiscally stable moving forward. They have completed the federal single audit and the ISBE required regulatory report. D39 received a score of 4.0 out of 4 on the financial profile score. The Board members had the following comments: Mr. Cesaretti said he wants to make pension data more accessible to the public so that they can better understand it and asked the auditor if they could work together on this. Mr. Panzica asked if the district’s reserve level affects the ISBE score. The auditor said that 2 of the 5 components are related to reserves – cash on hand and revenue to fund balance ratio. 2018-2019
Draft Student Fees
All fees will remain the same as last year except an increase in 7th grade ipad fee by $10 to include cost of insurance. Of note is that the fee for late bus registration will now be charged only to families who are allowed to register after school has started if there is space available. Families who do not register by this year’s July 13 cut off will not be able to be added to a bus route until September 15.
2018-2019 Solicitation of Bids for Highcrest Addition
The District sought the Board’s approval to go to bid for construction of a 4 classroom addition to Highcrest at an estimated cost of $5,241,212. Board member Mrs. Kearny requested that the cost of air conditioning be broken out separately in the bid as a potential cost saving option. Dr. Lechner said his practice has been to have air conditioning in any new construction/buildings but agreed to having air conditioning broken out.
2017 Fall Assessment Report
Ms. Lee gave a report on assessment results for prior year PARCC and Performance Series testing. This is the final report on Performance Series as the District is now using MAP. The findings from both assessments confirmed that D39 students performed as expected, far exceeding national norms on Performance Series. The number of students meeting or exceeding expectations on PARCC exceeded state norms and were comparable to other New Trier feeder districts. The Board asked that percentages of students exceeding expectations be broken out separately since that is the most relevant measure for District 39 students. They also asked questions about the student growth targets presented by Ms. Lee which she said will be addressed more effectively by MAP. Mr. Panzicka also pointed out that there are notable gender differences in ELA performance with girls significantly outperforming boys. This is an issue that needs to continue to be monitored and a plan provided for closing the gap.
Fiscal year 2017 Levy
Superintendent Dr. Ray Lechner said that he, and the Board of Education, received more than 100 emails both for and against extending the levy. He made a presentation intended to clarify information about the levy for the Board and community members. He explained the levy process, the district’s financial philosophy and illustrated the financial impact of several scenarios, including the state legislature’s consideration of a two-year property tax freeze. Dr. Lechner said that an individual taxpayer’s bills do not change by the percentage change in the District’s levy due to fluctuating property values and the impact of new construction. A change in a taxpayer’s tax bill reflects the change in an individual’s property tax bill relative to the total property value in the district. The district’s philosophy has always been to “live within our means” as much as possible. He said the district is very fiscally responsible with one of the lowest costs per pupil in equivalent districts and the lowest of all New Trier feeders. As much as possible, the District connects expenses to revenue and is one of the only districts to tie employee salary increases to CPI. The district also tries to maintain a fund balance of 30% of total expenditures while other districts target 50%. The financial impact of freezing the levy, combined with a two-year property tax freeze, would cause the fund balance to drop below 30% in three years. By extending the levy, the fund balance can be maintained until 2022 even with a property tax freeze.
Following Dr. Lechner’s remarks, Board members asked questions about the district’s assumptions. Several members discussed the $13.6 million projected capital expense for a 4-phase construction project at Highcrest. Any phase of the project could be cut if state conditions caused a future drop in the fund balance. For several years the District has budgeted for state funding limitations that have not come to fruition. That money has been spent on capital projects, not kept in reserves. However, Dr. Lechner said that the projects, including science labs, Learning Commons and the 1:1 learning program were important to keep the district competitive. The Board said that public attention has resulted in a closer examination of the levy process which is beneficial to the community.
Board Policy Review
The Board was asked to approve the first reading of changes to several Board of Education policies. Mr. Steen noted that Policy 2:230 makes changes to guidelines for public comment at board meetings. Comment time will be reduced to 3 minutes per individual. If an individual chooses to speak in the first comment period and again in the second comment period, they will be accorded 3 minutes in the first and an additional 1 minute in the second period. There will no longer be a limit of 15 minutes per topic. The second reading of this policy will take place at the December board meeting and the Board will vote on its approval. If the policy change is approved the rules will be in effect for the December meeting. Mr. Steen noted that these changes had been discussed and agreed upon by the entire board at the committee of the whole meeting.
Issues Referred to Other Committees or Organizations:
Ms. Kearney suggested that the Board introduce a policy or practice regarding when written communication is included in the board packet. Current practice is to include items submitted to the full board Board that are received by the Friday before the packet is posted. Ms. Kearney noted that she does not think there is a written policy regarding this practice. She noted that Dr. Lechner was not copied on some of the items in this month’s communication and it was noted that any communication to the full board must be included by law. She noted that items a board member forwards to Ray or the President for their review or information should not be included in the packet. She believes a policy is needed so that the public understands the procedure and deadline to have their communication included in the packet. Referred to Committee of Whole
Other Items of Interest:
Votes: The Consent Agenda including the following items was unanimously approved: Approval of the Personnel Report, Acceptance of the Fiscal Year 2017 Audit, Approval of the 2018-2019 Solicitation of Bids for Highcrest Addition, and Approval as a First Reading Revised Board of Education Policies 2:230, 6:70, 6:80, 6:100, 6:110, 6:120 and 6:140.
Next meeting: December 18, 2017
Observer: Anne Sullivan Meeting Length: 3 hours