Call to Order
The special meeting of the Board of Trustees of School District No. 26, Lockwood Schools, Yellowstone County, was duly held in the Board Room, 1932 U.S. Highway 87, Billings, Montana on Monday, February 6, 2006. Chairperson Teresa Stroebe led those present in the Pledge of Allegiance and called the meeting to order at 7:02 p.m.
Trustees and officers present were Trustees: Thomas Jones, Sue Vinton, Teresa Stroebe, Barbara Forrester Frank, Gayle Walker and Tim Trafford, Superintendent Eileen Johnson and District Clerk Diane Brook. Trustee Greg Bochy were absent.
Registered guest present was Evelyn Pyburn from Yellowstone County News. Carlotta Hecker was also present.
Public Comment: Evelyn Pyburn commented that she had recently attended a city/county meeting where she encountered the fact that sub-dividers can donate land to schools as well as land for trails and parks. She said the county thought no schools were interested in land donations at this time.
Superintendent Johnson said she would look into it.
Thomas Jones moved to hire Tamela Deim as a paraprofessional. Sue Vinton seconded the motion. Thomas Jones asked if Ms. Deim had completed a fingerprint background check. Eileen said yes. Thomas Jones, Barbara Forrester Frank, Sue Vinton, Teresa Stroebe, Tim Trafford, and Gayle Walker voted yes; the motion passed six to zero.
Sue Vinton moved to hire Carrie Schmidt as a sixth grade volleyball coach. Gayle Walker seconded the motion. Sue asked if she had started today. Eileen said yes. Thomas Jones, Barbara Forrester Frank, Sue Vinton, Teresa Stroebe, Tim Trafford, and Gayle Walker voted yes; the motion passed six to zero. Eileen noted for the record that Carrie Schmidt is one of our teachers.
Chairperson Teresa Stroebe advised those present that a survey has been done without any public funds being used. The survey was done for the Lockwood Steering Committee.
Tim Trafford asked who had paid for the survey and what business had been contracted to develop the survey and tally the results.
Teresa responded that the Montana Children’s Endowment paid for it. The endowment is for the purpose of youth and small learning environments and Learning Star. SilverTip Business Solutions by Torie Lynch in Bozeman is doing the survey. They have a website and Teresa has information about them should anyone want it.
Teresa distributed the survey to board members. She advised that it had been handed out at the recent Community Planning Meeting, and many respondents had turned them in to Wyeth Friday after the meeting. The deadline for responses is about two or three weeks.
LOCKWOOD FACILITIES AND FUTURE GROWTH
Eileen distributed copies of her draft working document to trustees. She advised that there are some serious concerns that need to be looked at before they do anything. She said everyone is aware that she wants classroom space very badly, but she is very concerned about ongoing operating costs for the space. Under current conditions, we could not fund the additional costs. This is a concern unless things change with funding.
Mrs. Johnson said she has been just trying to brainstorm some ideas. She suggested maybe doing something small with just ten or fifteen classrooms. Eileen commented we had all hoped more would come out of the special legislative session than what actually did transpire.
Teresa suggested going through the document item by item. She commented that at some point they may want to record plusses and minuses on the white board to keep the discussion on track.
There was a brief discussion of a previous improvement plan that had been in 2002 in connection with the Goals 2000 grant.
Supt. Johnson advised that they have a plan for changing the delivery of Title 1 services to students. Next year they would like have teachers paid from Title 1 funds in regular classrooms for at-risk students. They would to discontinue having Title 1 tutors. In order to implement this plan, we will need more classrooms. We may move the aide stations and re-configure existing space to facilitate this new plan, which we feel is educationally sound for the students.
Eileen said, “Even if we don’t get one more child, we need more space.”
The readiness kindergarten program was eliminated this year due to space constraints.
Eileen said we are going to be hard put just to keep the staff we have next year [due to budget concerns]. She advised that we might have to bring in some modular classrooms if all day every day kindergarten is funded by the 2007 Legislature. We would need at least five more classrooms for kindergarten.
Carlotta Hecker said state certified modulars can be more economical and energy efficient than they were in the past. Several schools have put them up.
The trustees reviewed Eileen’s draft informational document and provided these suggestions and additions:
Quantify the number of classrooms needed for all day every day kindergarten (5), and Title 1 needs (3).
Demonstrate the conservative attitude of the school district in the past by showing how well we have used, changed, and retrofitted existing space. Explain that the primary science room is a converted hallway/closet. Provide more detail as to what the uses were for areas that have been converted to provide more educational space. An example of this would be as follows: this counselor’s office used to be a main entryway.
Move the last four bullets on Page 4 to Page 3 as they fit better as a response to the question of the need for construction.
Show the increase in kindergarten students as 52 more this year than last year.
Add the following to Page 5, under the question: How will the public interest be served? Lockwood Schools has an excellent learning environment, so it is a sought after place to live and be educated. This in itself causes growth and extends the tax base. We want to continue to live up to and build on our reputation as a remarkable school.
Next to each bullet on Page 3, provide information about the need it will solve.
Include cost estimates for the items wherever possible.
Explain what may need to happen if we do not build. Examples would be: elimination of programs, art on a cart, music on a cart, and tutoring in the halls. Remind people that we already had to cut readiness kindergarten.
Availability of school space for community use is an important piece to include.
The consensus was that doing nothing is not an option and should not be included as one.
Other items discussed were:
Providing early intervention education because studies have shown how effective it is.
Addressing space issues by going to a full-year split schedule.
This had been investigated by the Lockwood Schools about ten years ago.
One small entity wanting to do it would be difficult: Union staff issues, air conditioning issues, scheduling and coordinating with other area schools.
How much classroom space would be gained?
It would take a great deal of time to get everything put together for a scheduling change. It would take an extreme amount of work and time to develop a cost benefit analysis.
A positive aspect is that regression is usually less due to smaller breaks in the school schedule.
It would provide like environments between the old buildings and the new building.
It would enhance the viability of the rest of the buildings and extend functional usefulness of the older buildings.
One preliminary cost estimate was $1.8 million.
Out-of District Students:
Space would not be made available if we no longer had out-of district students, because there are not enough students in any one classroom to make that difference.
Teresa said Lance Melton of MTSBA suggested that the bond state that it is contingent on the attorney general’s opinion due to the MQEC lawsuit still in effect.
Ballot wording is very important so voters know this is exactly what you will get for your money.
The advertisement for a request for credentials from architects has been put in the Billings Gazette. We will review and select those that we want to interview. We will give those we want to interview the packet of information about the building project.
They will come to us during the interview process with some ideas and proposals. It is a competitive business. It is usual to pay nine to thirteen percent for architectural fees for a project. We may be able to reduce this by having drawings that belong to us.
Barbara Forrester Frank said she did not think the board had made it clear to the public that having many more programs is a cause for the space issues. It is difficult for people to understand why more space is needed if we do not have a large increase in students, so explaining the added programs is important. They also need to know that special education has grown significantly because of student needs.
Teresa said she doesn’t want to put a bond issue out there and have it go down; then we have to start over.
Sue Vinton said we don’t have an answer for how we are going to operate this building even if we get the bond funding.
Eileen said she doesn’t have an answer either. School funding has been so difficult and unsure of the past several years. It is difficult to predict what our general fund will be in the future and what it can support.
Sue said it is a major concern.
Teresa said considering what has already happened with school funding and the overcrowding we have been living with, what do we do?
Eileen said presently we have no other way to fund the operating costs. She said we could fill up eight classrooms tomorrow morning without added staff. It would make a better learning environment.
Teresa said no matter what we do, we cannot let go of this and we need to engage more people. We need the endurance, and we need to make a commitment to get more people involved. If they are not coming, we need to go looking for them.
Eileen said maybe we could go back to the idea that each of them will bring someone to a meeting.
Thomas said sometimes trying to get public involvement gets disheartening.
There were 3,600 invitations sent out for the Community Planning Meeting, and they got 50 people to attend one day and 30 the next.
Sue was wondering due to these operating cost concerns, should we go back to just renovating the existing footprint.
Tim said the operating cost is only about one percent of the budget. He doesn’t feel that it is significant enough to be a “deal-breaker.”
Sue said I want to be able to answer questions as they are posed to me. What is our answer?
Teresa said we have to have the perspective of the voters, and the public is not here.
Thomas suggested that Eileen show the square footage figures she used when calculating the additional operating costs.
Gayle said do you really think we are going to have our ducks in a row by June 6?
Sue said I am torn, and I don’t want to impede the progress we have made. But I still have a lot of questions. I do want this to happen, but I’m unsure. The operating cost is a concern.
Eileen advised that it would be 2008 before the new school would be ready to open and the present funding structure could change significantly by that time.
Thomas said the operating costs were kind of “off his radar screen” until tonight.
He said maybe waiting until November is the right answer, but he really thinks having the election in June is the right answer. He would be extremely upset with waiting to run the bond any time beyond November.
Tim thinks we have to have a plan for community involvement. We have to stick with the momentum we are building right now.
Thomas said at the last meeting we did vote to bring in architects and have a bond attorney.
Sue said she prefers the November election date, but she would like to continue with the first half of the timeline through the March 14, 2006 meeting.
Teresa said she thought there was consensus to keep moving forward with the timeline until they can decide when they will run the bond.
Carlotta told the trustees, “Quit cutting yourselves short. You really know why we need these classrooms.” She suggested that the trustees write down their answers when they get home. She said, “You will find that you really do have them.”
Evelyn Pyburn suggested having Plan A and Plan B. Plan A is to run the bond and Plan B would be in case the bond levy fails.
Sue asked if it would be possible to conduct an exit poll after the bond election, so they would have a measure of public reaction.
Barbara reminded everyone that last year they had passed a policy to establish board goals and objectives, and they still don’t have them.
Teresa advised that she had distributed a board evaluation packet to the trustees. She asked them to complete the board evaluation in the packet and come up with board goals.
It was noted that MTSBA does provide training for this process.
Sue Vinton moved to adjourn at 9:20 p.m. Thomas Jones seconded the motion. Thomas Jones, Barbara Forrester Frank, Sue Vinton, Teresa Stroebe, Tim Trafford, and Gayle Walker voted yes; the motion passed six to zero.
Teresa Stroebe, Chairperson Diane M. Brook, District Clerk