Darnell Young

Smith-Green to participate in Race to the Top

Darnell encouraged School Board President Tanya Young and Churubusco Teacher’s Association President Mark Cheshier to sign the letter of intent to participate in the program. Both agreed. 

Darnell said by participating, Smith-Green will be eligible for at least $60,000 in federal money. The funds are designed to reward school districts who adopt standards and assessments of those standards that prepare students to succeed in the workplace and college prep and to compete in a global economy, Darnell said. Funds will also help districts build data systems that measure student growth and success, and may be used to recruit and reward effective teachers and principals.  

After signing the Race to the Top letter, the Board moved on to other business. Superintendent Darnell recommended that the Board eliminate the High Ability/Gifted-Talented Coordinator/Secondary Level Literacy Coach Position at the end of the 2009-2010 school year. 

Dr. Cheryl Thomas currently fills the position, which will be eliminated to streamline administrative positions. Dr. Thomas will have a teaching position available to her for next year, if she wishes to take it, Darnell said. 

The duties of the K-12 HA/GT Coordinator will be assigned to the newly created assistant principal position at the elementary level. High School Principal Austin Couch will directly supervise the secondary level (grades 6-12) literacy program. 

Darnell assured the Board that no programs or services available for students this year will be dropped or affected in the years to come based on eliminating the position. 

Funds received for the high ability grant from the Department of Education–approximately $30,000–will be assigned to pay, in part, for the elementary assistant principal position. 

The Board approved the elimination of the HA/GT Coordinator position with a 4-0 vote. Boardmember Rick Trump was not in attendance. 

 In other Board news:

The Board began the meeting with some new year’s business including elections, designations and appointments. Tanya Young will remain School Board President, while Mike Sturgis was elected Vice President and Nick Uecker was elected Secretary. In addition, Yvonne Bianski will serve as Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer for the District as well as be authorized to sign checks, while Jodi Royer will be Extracurricular Treasurer, and Superintendent Steve Darnell will serve as Recording Secretary and will be authorized to sign checks, contracts, agreements and purchase orders. 

• The Board will continue to meet the first and third Monday of each month, and Board members will be paid $2000 annual salary.

• The Board will retain the law firm of Mefford, Weber and Blythe, P.C. as the corporation legal counsel with W. Erik Weber serving as lead counsel.

• Boardmembers were appointed as representatives to various organizations: Smith-Green Charitable Trust: Rick Trump; Churubusco Park Board: Tanya Young; Smith-Green West Allen Special Education Cooperative: Cathy Petrie; Churubusco High School Athletic Advisory Committee: Nick Uecker; Smith-Green Wellness Committee: Mike Sturgis; Eagle Garden Committee: Cathy Petrie;

• Due to low attendance rates, the 2010-2011 calendar will automatically designate the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Friday before spring break as vacation days. Nancy Becker, Director of Special Education, said other school systems around the area have seen a positive effect on attendance records by allowing a vacation day before these holidays. Boardmember Cathy Petrie opposed the days off, saying she was concerned that with the addition of these vacation days and possible weather make-up days, the date for graduation could be pushed into mid-June.

“There are no snow days that are waived anymore,” Petrie said. “In my dark ages of being a student here, they were waived for us so we could still get out on time and graduate, but it is my understanding that this is no longer the case.”

Boardmember Nick Uecker said he would like to see numbers and percentages of absences on those days. He said he was also concerned that students and parents may then take advantage of the new vacation days and end up leaving for vacation a day earlier–Tuesday before Thanksgiving and Thursday before Spring Break–and still miss school. The Board approved the calendar with a 3-1 vote.

• Former Director of Business and Technology Adam Skiles gave a 2010 Budget Report.

Skiles said Smith-Green’s $250 million assessed value increased by $8.4 million–a 3.47 percent increase–from 2009 to 2010. Assessed values had been decreasing in previous years.

The Corporation also received appropriations from the State, which inevitably presented reductions to the advertised budget. The Capital Projects Fund (CPF) appropriation was reduced by $470,263, while the General Fund was reduced by $738,900 from the 2010 Advertised Budget. Overall, the Corporation was granted a 1.23 percent increase in appropriations from 2009 to 2010, although the CPF and General Fund took major hits. 

Skiles presented a list of budget concerns, including a declining Average Daily Membership (ADM). The ADM has decreased by 205.87 since the 2000-2001 school year, but Skiles said the downward trend is slowing. In addition to ADM concerns, the General Fund and CPF were calculated without an operating balance. Therefore, if the Corporation spends all the money in these funds, there will be no cash balance left.

• Superintendent Steve Darnell gave a report regarding the S tate reductions to K-12 education funding and the impact on Smith-Green. Darnell said the Department of Education received official notice on December 31, 2009, that the State plans to cut $300 million in K-12 education funding. Each school’s general fund comes directly from the State–rather than from property taxes. Smith-Green will see a 5.22 percent reduction, meaning the Corporation must reduce the General Fund by $414,415 to maintain a cash balance.

Darnell recommended places within the budget to reduce and reallocate money. By reallocating key salaries from the transportation fund, rather than from the General Fund, the Corporation can shave $50,000 off of the General Fund, he said. Darnell also proposed a $110,000 reduction from professional development, summer school, travel and the Business Manager position.

“My goal is to work with the administration and the CTA to find places to cut,” Darnell said. “We do not want to eliminate positions, because they are critical for student achievement. I think we can get this done.”

• An Executive Session was held preceding the regular Board meeting to discuss “strategy with respect to…initiation of litigation or litigation that is either pending or has been threatened specifically in writing,” and to “discuss a job performance evaluation of individual employees [that] does not apply to a discussion of the salary, compensation or benefits of employees during a budget process.”

The next regular scheduled School Board meeting will be Monday, January 18 at 7 p.m.

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