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.