New Trier Township High School District 203 Board of Education Meeting—November 16, 2017
Present: Board President Greg Robitaille, Board Vice President Lori Goldstein, Board Members: Cathleen Albrecht, Keith Dronen, Carol Ducommun, Marc Glucksman, Patrick O’Donoghue.
Administrators: Superintendent Paul Sally; Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Christopher Johnson; Secretary Superintendent Lou Anne Kelly; Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Peter Tragos; Principal (Winnetka) Denise Dubravec; Principal (Northfield) Paul Waechtler. Administrator Timothy Hayes (Assistant Superintendent for Student Services)
Significant Topics Discussed:
Monthly Construction Report:
Punch list in progress; 90% completed, working around student/staff occupancy; intend to finish over Winter Holiday break. Change order #27: $483,731 (including reconciliation of subcontractor mark-ups on a subcontractor by subcontractor basis, trade reallocations); project contingency dropped from $780k-$569k The total project cost now at $104,878,333, increased from $104,813,278. Still negotiating on credits. “Final, final” expected in January.
School Report Card:
Highlights: % of NTHS grads in college 16 months after graduation, freshmen on track for HS graduation, ACT/SAT scores all very strong, Know who the students are who don’t meet benchmarks, working with them, and know that test scores only one component, working on making kids “life ready.” Discussion included gender differences in math; teacher retention rate (21st in our 25-school cohort of top open enrollment suburban schools—Sally says that is mainly due to rigorous evaluation process, rather than excess retirements or leaving for other districts, and will be shown in next supervision evaluation report); financial data related to teacher salary (Board member comment that NTHS used to be in middle of the pack and now higher—Sally/Tragos responses that by far D203 has most teachers with Masters & significant experience, and also some differences in that D203 includes department/advisory heads in teaching staff, not administrative staff, and will provide historical comparisons on teacher salary at Board member request). School Climate Survey also discussed: focus continues to be on social and emotional safety at school and online; how useful survey is, especially with low response rate and timing.
School code has primary purpose that every student has access to education, secondarily, determining which district student should attend. Two changes from review of residency policy: 1) new verification questionnaire, 2) all incoming freshman families to provide documentation to affirm residency (neighboring districts do it, some do it every year). Board member Ducommon prompted discussion/inquiry: Since there is linkage between number of students attending NTHS and finances, wanted more data on how many residency verifications prompt request for additional info and how resolved and at what level (e.g., by registrar, by asst principal, what escalates up the chain). Follow up question from O’Donoghue—asking if any statistics showing this is an ongoing problem, questioning whether this analysis is worth time of administration, wondered how big an issue since should be able to easily tell if mailing address inside/outside district. Conclusion that would be worthwhile and not an administrative burden to collect data, mailing address doesn’t tell necessarily where student laying head at night on regular basis.
Public Hearing on 2017 Final Tax Levy:
No public comment. Board comments: O’Donoghue said he wished we didn’t have to tax in this weird way of guessing what we’ll need and mess around later with new property; would like to be clearer on here’s what we need and ask for that. Ducommon pointed out that new property is proxy for new homes & new students. Others pointed out that the process is dictated by the state and county and is based on our current best estimates. O’Donoghue said he agrees with all that, doesn’t have a solution, just wished it could be a better process. Robitaille pointed out, and O’Donoghue agreed, there is no solution Board can offer to that issue. Johnson pointed out that State just passed its first major school funding bill in 20 years and left this portion in tact so this portion will probably remain in tact for a while. Robitaille said in light of uncertainty we’re facing, historical cost increases, contractual commitments to staff and faculty, it’s a responsible levy. O’Donoghue asked how you could come up with a different number and Robitaille responded can’t come up with any number that is higher and wouldn’t go any lower. And Ducommon pointed out, and others agreed, number will be corrected by actual new property anyway and reduced.
Secondary part of levy discussion: Abatement of debt service on certain bonds. Bond and interest debt service not part of levy extension. Historically district has abated a portion of the bond and interest levy on bonds issued for NSSED construction in 2008 and has paid out of operations budget rather than out of separate bond and interest levy. Shows commitment to reduce taxes when possible. This abatement continues that process, amounts to about $200,000 a year. Have to take affirmative action to abate debt service because otherwise County calculates debt service due and levies for that amount.
Board first voted unanimously to abate debt service (about $200,000) on NSSED bonds issued in 2008, and then unanimously voted on and approved by all members: a 2017 tax levy of $102,077,295 to be divided up among different funds as follows:
Public Hearing on Drivers Ed Fee & Banked Time
Waivers repeat requests set to expire 2019, get onto spring legislative agenda for another 5 years: Drivers Ed Fee wavier—increases max to $500 (offset for total cost /student) from $250. Banked Time waiver – New Trier seeks to continue to waive the requirements that minutes must be accumulated between the regularly scheduled sessions for staff development of more than three hours, but less than five. NTHS needs to waive this requirement due to the ‘paired day’ structure of professional development in which they use two consecutive schools days (early release/late arrival). No public comment.
Summer 2018 Projects
Original list has been reduced, with several projects recommended for completion. The proposed work will be funded through issuance of working cash bonds (around $6,895,849, but not to exceed $7M), athletic tournament funds and a $1M donation (for the tennis court work). The projects now estimated to cost total of $7,895,849 and consist of athletic and parking lot improvements to Northfield campus (west parking lot, tennis courts and stadium restrooms, concessions and press box) and administrative improvements to Winnetka campus (offices for administrative services, social work and psych, and technology). The Project as discussed in September also included bleacher expansion in Northfield and adviser office improvements in Winnetka, but those projects are now recommended for postponement. Ducommon glad to see some estimates have come down since September and are more precise but sad bleacher expansion not included. Johnson said of all the improvements, the bleacher expansion was the one that would be least used, so that’s why it was taken out. If can bring other costs down, Johnson said may be possible to bring back bleacher expansion. O’Donoghue questioned what he thought was a high price ($1.5M for 4 acres) of west parking lot. Johnson/Dave Conway (Facilities Manager) response: Complete resurface, rebuild of that lot (including stone underneath), which had not been done since the 1990s, and even when done then didn’t do any subsurface work so stone underneath lot from 1960s and since in a flood plain, it is saturated. Also taking out island and putting in 71 spaces lost because of tennis courts. And stormwater retention required where changing elevation (not whole lot, as originally thought). Meant to be a conservative plan, hope when drill into details with Northfield about what’s required can get price down, emphasized that these are estimates right now. O’Donoghue emphasized that he still thinks price is high for parking lot.
Public Hearing: Resolution on Issuance of Working Cash Fund Bonds not to exceed $7,000,000 for Summer 2018 Projects
To fund projects discussed above. No public comments.
Keeps options open, not obligating to do anything; in December Board will vote on resolution to sell the bonds (either in public or private). If Board votes in December to sell bonds, then Johnson to sell bonds in January.
Other Items of Interest:
Board Member Reports:
Finance committee meeting
Board discussed that the committee discussed the Winnetka TIF situation and are adopting a wait & see approach with the village council. [There was no discussion of the substance of the issue, found this article which indicates that if Winnetka creates a TIF district, NTD203 may lose some tax dollars http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/winnetka/news/ct-wtk-tif-district-discussion-tl-1109-20171106-story.html
State legislative update: Property tax freeze bill passed house, tabled by Senate, could come up again in January. Monitoring very closely.
Voted on: The following w/all Board members voting ‘yes’: 2018-19 School Calendar modification, 2017 Tax Levy, Abate portion for bond & interest levy; Drivers Ed Fee/Banked time, Consent Agenda ( all yes – as amended)
Next meeting: December 18, 2017
Observer: Cindy Levine Meeting Length: 3 hr.
New Trier Township High School District 203 Board of Education Meeting—October 16, 2017
Present: Board President Greg Robitaille, Board Vice President Lori Goldstein, Board Members: Cathleen Albrecht, Keith Dronen, Marc Glucksman, Patrick O’Donoghue. Administrators: Superintendent Paul Sally; Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Christopher Johnson; Secretary Superintendent Lou Anne Kelly; Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Peter Tragos; Principal (Winnetka) Denise Dubravec; Principal (Northfield) Paul Waechtler. Absent: Board Member Carol Ducommun; Administrator Timothy Hayes (Assistant Superintendent for Student Services).
Significant Topics Discussed:
The Summer 2018 Project Update –Financing—and Votes on Resolutions Declaring Intent to Issue Bonds and Setting Date for Pubic Hearing on Bond Issuance. The Board discussed and voted on the resolution declaring its intention to issue $7,000,000 in working cash fund bonds for the Summer 2018 project and setting the date for a public hearing for November 20, 2017, on the issuance of these bonds. Note: this vote is a necessary first step for issuing bonds, but it does not obligate the Board with respect to the bond issuance or project. For background, the Summer 2018 Project is proposed to include:
Issues Referred to Other Committees or Organizations: None.
Other Items of Interest:
Voted on: Acceptance of Audit Report; Resolutions declaring intention to issue $7,000,000 in working cash fund bonds related to the Summer 2018 Project and Setting the Public Hearing on this bond issuance for the November 20, 2017, regularly scheduled Board meeting; Approval of 2017 Preliminary Tax Levy of $102,077,295 for operating funds and $9,379,129 for bond and interest and setting of public hearing on this tax levy at the November 20, 2017, regularly scheduled Board meeting; Consent agenda. All votes unanimous among those present, with Ducommun absent.
Next meeting: November 20, 2017
Observer: Siobhan Hill Meeting Length: 2 hours 11 minutes.
New Trier Township High School District 203 Board of Education Meeting—September 18, 2017
Present: Board President Robitaille, Board Vice President Goldstein; Board Members: Albrecht, Dronen, Ducommun, Glucksman, O’Donoghue. Administrators: Superintendent Paul Sally; Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Christopher Johnson; Secretary Superintendent Lou Anne Kelly; Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Peter Tragos; Assistant Superintendent for Student Services Timothy Hayes; Principal (Winnetka) Denise Dubravec; Principal (Northfield) Paul Waechtler (arrived late because of Freshmen Parent Adviser Night)
Significant Topics Discussed:
Construction Report: Majority of Phase 2 completed, turned over for occupancy on time for start of school year. Certain areas still in progress as planned, with most scheduled for completion in October; punch list development ongoing. None of remaining work expected to affect student experience. Estimated total project cost now at $104,980,718, compared to last Board meeting’s estimate of $104,786,293. The Board has been reviewing construction updates monthly and voting on change orders. As getting to end more certainty on costs, but still negotiating change orders so costs not final. Building Dedication (open to public) scheduled for October 15, 2017.
2017/18 Final Budget voted on. Slight increases in revenues tied to CPI. Balanced budget presented again during lowest 4-year growth of CPI (avg. 1.2%/yr) since 1960s. Budget process has evolved significantly with the implementation of Skyward, which comprehensively tracks salaries and benefits for all full-time positions and stipends, and an improved Forecast 5 long-range planning system, combined with a line-by-line review of 4000 revenue and expenditure accounts allowing the administration to compile a budget based on actual expenditures from last year and in-depth discussions with departments. Areas that have historically underspent have reduced budgets. Account balances have been set individually by the budgeting software or based on a review, rather than increased by a set percentage. There are some appearances of larger variances in some expenses but that is generally a result of new budget process rather than any material change to programs or staffing.
2018 Summer Project update. Proposed projects involve Northfield parking lot and tennis court resurfacing, additional tennis courts, Northfield athletic field improvements (new small building to house bathrooms and concessions, new press box and additional stadium seating capacity), and Winnetka office/support renovations. Expected total cost now at $8.5M, compared with $12M at time originally presented with 5-year plan in November 2016. A $1M donation has been offered for the tennis courts, covering most of its cost. Another $534K would be funded through a one-time use of athletic reserves, mostly from camps and tournaments. $7M would be financed through issuance of working cash bonds. The Board wanted more specific information on estimated costs, especially with respect to the office renovations, and put off a vote on authorizing going forward until more specific information received. Even when Board does vote on authorizing going forward with project, the Board will have to vote at various other points before work can start. Even though Board did not vote now on going forward, Mr. Robitaille indicated that if any Board member now thinks that he or she would not vote to go forward on any portion of project, he or she should say so now. LWVW Observer note: Observer did not see written project update that was given to Board members, so numbers in this observer report subject to confirmation.
$1M donation offered from Theodore Eckert Foundation for additional tennis courts in 2018 Summer Project voted on subject to district entering into a mutually agreed upon donation agreement with donor. Legal counsel and Donation Committee had reviewed donation offer, and committee had recommended accepting it. Statement read from committee acknowledging tennis coach Tad Eckert in both his dedication to his work as a tennis coach and his effort in securing this unsolicited donation.
Issues Referred to Other Committees or Organizations:
Board Member questions on Summer 2018 Project to administration.
Board Member Glucksman requested information from administration on health curriculum: how dynamic, how quickly reflects trends, etc.
Other Items of Interest:
New Trier Education Foundation presented check of $100K for Green Roof that was part of completed Phase 2 of construction.
Tresasurer’s report and financial reports for August 2017. Total revenues for 1st two months of fiscal year $44,316,224, 1.63% higher than this time last year. First round of property tax revenue mostly in. State funding approved, should begin in September. Operating expenditures $7,144,423 through August, 9.94% higher than last year’s $6,471,176. Tentative budget for operating expenditures slightly lower than 2016-17 fiscal year. Fund balances for all accounts $149,610,341 as of Aug. 31.
Testing Report. Avg. ACT composite score 27.8 for Class of 2017, identical to Class of 2016 and far exceeding national average. PLAN to ACT growth exceeded expected growth as in past. Mr. Tragos said he wants to look into the cohort who didn’t hit college/career readiness benchmarks and what factors are interfering with their ability to do well. Board members also expressed interest in that, and in why boys perform not nearly as well as girls in English testing (much wider separation than in math scores). Note: LWVW Observer did not have access to written report given to Board.
Public Act 100-0465, the recently enacted state school funding act, discussed. Contains evidence-based funding formula that aims to move all school districts to adequate levels of funding. A funding adequacy target is calculated by the State from 27 elements considered required to adequately educate students. The 27 elements include class size, number of elective teachers, intervention programs, guidance counselors, etc. What D.203 provides is more than adequate, with estimated adequacy level at 195-200%. While D.203 does not expect any increase in state funding that districts who fall short in the adequacy formula will get, D.203 also does not expect any decrease in state funding. But D.203 is in a special category of school districts above 110% adequacy level, which would allow petition under the act by 10% of registered district voters to put a referendum on the ballot to reduce taxes for educational purposes up to 10%. Such a referendum could only be considered in odd years, and only at the consolidated election in April, and is subject to other limitations as well.
Proposed Revision of Board Policy 6-300 (Graduation Requirements): first reading. Document given to Board members not in public documents so LWVW Observer does not know exactly what changes would be. Not voted on at this meeting.
Summer School report. Total enrollment (number of classes taken) for 2017 was 2077, slightly less than 2164 in 2016, while the number of students involved was 1694 (42.7% of all students) vs. 1658 (41.3% of all students) in 2016. Meant to be run at net $0, and close to that in 2017 at net $304. Looking to increase tuition 2% for 2018 to keep up with expenses. Greatest student enrollment was in sports classes (1370 students in 40 sections), followed by science (178 students, 9 sections), business education (109 students, 5 sections), English (102 students, 10 sections), Math (69 students, 5 sections), Social Studies (66 students, 4 sections), travel courses (55 students, 4 sections), Driver’s Ed (49 students, 3 sections), Kinetic Wellness (29 students,1 section), Applied Arts (29 students, 2 sections), and Art (21 students, 1 section) .
Consent Agenda: August bill list, Personnel Report, construction Change Order #25, ISBE Compensation Report, Financial Advisor Contract. Detail given to Board members not in public documents so LWVW Observer does not know details.
No comments made from public at meeting.
All votes taken were unanimously Yes.
Next meeting: October 16, 2017
Observer: Mary Lawlor Meeting Length:3.5 hours