The following are my notes taken while watching the live Hamilton Southeastern School Board meeting on April 27th, 2022. Because my notes are taken live, there might be typos, transcription errors, and things misheard. As such, for the most accurate information, you can find the recorded video of the meeting on the HSE Schools website at https://www.hseschools.org/meet-hse/board.
Any opinions expressed are my own and are subject to change as I learn more information. I try to indicate when I’m expressing my opinion versus what is stated in the meeting so that the difference is clear.
Julie Chambers was absent from the meeting, so Vice President Sarah Donsbach ran the meeting.
2.0 – Snapshots of Success: Fishers Sound
This year, Fishers Sound had an undefeated 2022 competition season. They wrapped up the year with a State Championship title at the Indiana State School Music Association competition, winning in the Large School Unisex Division. They were also awarded with Best Vocals and Best Visual. The choir is led by Therese Tazioli.
It was mentioned that the upgrade to the sound and lighting systems at FHS has made a big difference in production quality. It was stated that the school hosts an event and the upgrade in the equipment has increased the interest in participation.
Parent spoke and commended Ms. Tazioli. He indicated his background in professional quality art productions and said basically that the level of what Tazioli does is at the level of industry professional.
3. Consent Agenda
- Board Minutes
- Certified and Support Staff Reports
- Juneteenth Holiday
Suzanne talked. Said she had no objections. She mentioned that she talked about Juneteenth at the last meeting and the flags she ordered for the others were in and she passed them out. (My Comment: This entire flag “gift thing” is a little odd for a school board meeting. Not sure why it needed to be done in the meeting in public after talking about it last month. Seemed a bit…..political).
Consent agenda passed 6-0
School Messenger has been the mass communication platform (Skylert) for the last 13 years. Jeff Harrison presented ParentSquare as a replacement for Skylert. It does what Skylert does, but also does more. Parents can select a translation language. This is clunky in Skylert and can only be set to one language per household. With the new software each person in a family can set a preferred language.
There are 47,000 contacts in Skylert (multiple kids count individually).These contacts are managed by the district.
There is an App as well as a web interface for ParentSquare. Notifications stay within the app. You can look at archives. Parents can set time for notifications/alerts to arrive. Emergency notices override settings. You can also get a daily digest.
One of the current uses of Skylerts is used to send testing results as a secure document. There are limitations. Only one page can be sent securely through Skylert. Things like NWEA are multiple pages, so this causes issue sand extra work. With ParentSquare, multiple pages can be sent securely. Additionally, page sent — such as testing results — are archived in the app, so they can be found and viewed later.
The features mentioned up to this point the district would roll out with the product. Other features that might be used later include newsletter support, custom forms (such as one-off permission slips for field trips). Schools can do surveys and polls. For example, the PTO at one school provides a tshirt to every student. A survey could be sent to get size information from each child’s family.
Community groups can be created. Example used of HSE athletics could set up a group that can then be used to send alerts. These community groups could include people outside the school system. Standard groups can also be created that are determined by the district. These could be setup for groups such as We The People, choir, football team, etc. The district would give the group leaders a way of using it. This could replace the need for using things like Remind.
Office staff could work with PTOs to create things like sign-ups. This allows the signups to be done in-house instead of through a third party product like Signup Genius. Teachers can also use the ParentSquare app to do volunteer signups. Parent- signups for things like conference could be done as well.
While there was a request to try to roll this out as soon as August, they are looking to ease into this out.
Parents can set their preferences for one app, and then it comes to them.
Board Q&A Comments
It was explained to a board member that Skyward is grading and such, Skylerts is for mass communication, and Canvas is an assignment collaboration type tool. Only Skylert is being replaced by ParentSquare.
>> Does the software allow video, graphics, and other information be shared?
Links can be embedded. There is a rich text editor. The school can also do posts and send a link to the post. This allows the post to be updated if there is an error.
It was stated that Mt. Vernon schools has been used and they are pleased with it.
>> Can digital signatures can be used in the system?
Response was that digitally signing can be used, and the district could save the signed items.
>> Can who read a message be seen?
Yes, there are delivery options, plus there is better information on likes, commenting, and more.
>> Is there a safety thing that keeps data safe?
Jeff commented that distribution lists are separate, and the data is secure. (My Comment: It wasn’t stated where the data is stored or whether this is hosted/controlled by the district or the ParentSquare software owners.)
>> Surveys – Is this the end of Survey Monkey? This is to be seen.
>> Can community members that don’t have kids in school get alerts on things like plays and other stuff?
Yes. That would be community groups. This can be things like athletics and performing arts. So yes.
>> Has the tech team talked to other school districts of similar size that are using this software?
Noblesville is rolling it out and is pleased. Other schools in the area are also using it in the area.
>> Can ParentSquare data be connected between organizations?
Yes. Groups like the Y use it. A person can use a single login and associate the different groups/organizations they belong to.
>> What is cost?
The cost is $4.50 per student annually. That is about double of Skylert. The funding for this comes out of technology budget. (( My Opinion – At 22,000 students, this is a $100,000 cost, so the increase is less than $50,000. That’s not huge for what is being gained. )
4.02 Online Academy MOU
There are approximately 50 kids involved in this. They are only offering this in grades 9 to 12. Same plan/offering as was done this year. MOU is not attached to the BoardDocs. Dr. Kegley said bid was almost identical to last years, but with a different pricing structure.
Board Q&A /Comments
>> What do we allow in this online course? What does the day look like for these students? How do the synchronous and such rules work?
These are virtual students, so the synchronous and such doesn’t apply. This falls under virtual schooling, which is State funded at 85% of in-person students. HSE would send some of the funds to the Online Academy to cover courses kids take and pocket the rest.
A board member pushed for what a “day” for these kids looked like. It was stated this includes synchronous and virtual classes. (My comment: My understanding is to think of this as a kid doing a virtual school outside of HSE, but that HSE is skimming some of the money and letting the kid say they are associated with HSE. The kids are counted as HSE, their grades come back to HSE, but they are taught by CISE (online outside of HSE).)
>> Can kids that do virtual do extracurricular at HSE?
Same rules as last year. (so the answer is pretty much no although he didn’t’ say it. )
5.01 2022-2023, 2023-2024 & 2024-2025 School Calendars
Three years of different calendars were presented at the last meeting. Biggest thing was start date for the 23 and 24 school years. I’m not going to include all the details on what they look at for calendars here. That’s been said before. Things like:
- Start first week in midweek for younger students
- Balance semesters
- End first semester by winter break
- Provide time between end of year and graduation to allow for things to be cleaned up
There was some clarification from DoE on what can be counted as days, what counts as virtual, and more. Two things to keep an eye on:
- This year they did the required SAT for Juniors. They let the rest of the high school have a eLearning day. If eLearning days are used elsewhere, then this would exceed the three allowed. There is language that if 50% of the students are in-person, then depending on how they do the day for the other students, then they might be able to count the day as one of the in-person 180. They might be able to do something like shift seniors to eLearning on the SAT day or something. Q&A: Michelle wondered if this DoE considered the SAT testing and rules around it. This might be something that needs follow-up on since other schools are going to have the same issue. If teachers are needed to proctor the exam and such, then this might also be a case where the DoE needs to do a special waiver for.
- In April of 2024 we will be under a full solar eclipse. When they did this the last time, it was an eventful day. This could be a fuller (darker) experience. The board will have to talk about this. This event is the Monday after spring break, so they could move the Friday to Monday. Dr. Kegley said he likes the educational aspect of it (23-24 calendar – April 8th) so it thinks it should stay. Q&A – It was stated that they board might be able to move the pre-Friday to post-Monday. Dr. Kegley stated that this is not what he is recommending and that families plan their vacations, so moving that day should be thought carefully about. The issue is that the kids might be riding the bus at the time. There is a chance that the day could be given a special waiver since it is a highly unusual event. An early release date might also be a possibility. Ultimately this is a topic to be aware of and to consider in the future.
For the 2022-23 calendar, two flex days were added and one eLearning day was removed. The flex days are so if there is inclement weather, they can make those up.
Same person that spoke earlier. He is concerned that politics as invaded. He sees issues related to the calendar reflecting this. He hates to see summer shortened because of the urgency to try to finish a semester before winter break. Said there is more schoolwork and more demand on kids and the quantity of schoolwork kids are expected to do now. The decision to move from a traditional calendar to block schedule should be reviewed. Academically, does the district have any data showing block schedule is better. Can the board provide data? Seems like fall break could be reduced. Christmas break could be shaved, and kids could still get out by Memorial Day and lengthen summer.
(My comments: There have been a lot of heated board/community meetings in the past on the calendar including one at Cumberland Elementary School that had a lot of people. There are no good answers to a calendar, but the reality is that the 180 State requirement doesn’t give a lot of options. Additionally, the board has discussed learning loss over breaks longer than 2 weeks in the past (which winter break pushes) and thus the impact that could have on testing. I don’t think any smart board member would want to touch changing Fall Break again at this point. The reality is, the calendar is a no-win topic.
Board Q&A / Comments
Suzanne – 2023-24 calendar – People want out before Memorial day. Staff wants spacing before graduation. Other people want to start later in August. If everyone supports one draft or the other, then okay. What if they combined the two calendars? Can they start around the 9th and get out before Memorial Day? Can they move the flex days after Memorial Day? If there are snow days, then kids would have to go after Memorial Day.
The 2024-25 calendar is similar to next years. Because of the rules, there really aren’t a lot of options to shift things around. Only way to improve end date would be to remove the flex date.
Because of the State rules on eLearning, if there is a snow day going forward, then if kids will need to be learning synchronously (online) at least 50% of the day, in order for the day to count as a school day (Virtual Day). There won’t be the option to simply give assignments for kids to do on their own (eLearning Day).
Note Virtual Days are not the same as eLearning Day. Virtual Days have synchronous learning. If snow days are moved to the end, then it is more likely there would be synchronous (virtual) learning days – kids would need to be online.
As to Fall break, if it is two days, families take the week and miss school anyway.
Some families schedule a week of vacation the week of Memorial Day. If the Flex Days are needed and they are at the end of the year, then there could be Finals happening after Memorial Day.
Suzanne mentioned that when it comes to graduation, there should be other places. She mentioned Lucas and Colosseum. We have two schools and do two graduations, so things like Lucas are expensive. Things like using the Colosseum are often used in the evening, and that would be extremely hard to do with two graduations. Moving graduation locations is not a trivial thing.
Dr. Kegley asked if moving the start of the year was something the board was considering.
Suzanne stated she would like to see the school shift to the end of August and simply go into June. She would like to see everything pushed that way, but it isn’t how the schools are right now.
MOTION to approve 2022-23 as presented, draft A as presented for 2023-24, and the draft of 2024-25. (Motion by Suzanne, seconded by Michelle).
There was an added discussion on finals at high schools. I don’t include it here. There was a comment about kids taking all finals in the past on a single day. I need to go back and listen to these because it sounded like there might have been an odd comment made.
VOTE: Calendars passed 6-0
5.02 Transportation Driver Trainees
$19.50 per hour rate requested for bus driver training. This figure is less than what a CDL driver makes, but higher than the lower rates of the department (such as garages help or bus attendants. The driver rate starts around $23.
5.03 GO Bond Hearing #2
These hearings include the LRE second hearing because cost of the project is $14 million. The transportation center, Durbin Elementary changes, and about $4 million for other project updates that are in the 10-year plan. Because these are over $1 million they have to be presented as a public bond meeting.
- Approval of Lantern Road Elementary Project Resolution
- Approval of Transportation Center Project Resolution
- Approval of District Maintenance Projects Resolution
- Approval of Durbin Elementary Project Resolution
- Approval of Preliminary Determination Resolution for Lantern Road Elementary Project
There are a number of documents posted on Board Docs related to this including preliminary financial determination documents. There are a lot of interesting numbers such as school debt numbers, net value of taxable property in district ($8.56 billion), and much more. Maximum interest rate 5%.
Biggest point is that the district plans to pay of the bonds in a year, the tax rate for families will not change from what it currently is (no tax increase to cover these bonds).
Some discussion on referendums and such related to capital projects. If a building costs more than a certain amount, then it requires special referendum and other legal processes. For HSE this is around $17 million-ish. Deer Creek Elementary wasn’t going to increase the tax rate, so it didn’t require being taken to a referendum. Because there is no tax increase on the rate, that is the impact beyond what the district is at currently.
5.04 High School Academy Lease Agreement
The High School Academy is operated off school property. The two year lease expired, and the owner of the property changed, so they need a new lease. The district was presented with a 3 and a 5 year option. The 3 year lease is better for the district because the program is growing, and a larger space might be needed. Five years is more cost effective but is a bit too long.
The district currently leases the space that houses our High School Academy programming. This lease is a 3-year extension with an annual increase in cost of roughly 3.73%, or $2,500 in Year 1 and similar increases in Years 2 & 3. The length of this lease is appropriate as Dr. Stokes and her team work through the long-term capital plan for the district. Administration respectfully requests approval of this lease and to allow the Chief Financial Officer to execute signatures electronically on behalf of the district.
Asked board to approve the lease agreement so the program can continue. This is in a multitenant building, but there is no access to the Academy from any other tenants. It was asked why there was an escalation in price versus simply averaging across 3 years. It was stated that the increments are how standard leases are done to account for increased costs in property taxes and such.
6. Board President – Board President’s Update
- Administration Professional Day
- National Nurse Day is May 6th. School Nurse Day is May 11th.
- Mrs. Ray in food service has a last day coming up.
- Closing in on the last six weeks of school. Commended the staff that the district had not closed at all this year because of Covid. (My comment: less than 4 weeks left)
7. Superintendent’s Report – Matters of Corporation Interest
Thursday is Children’s Mental Health Day. There will be a Parents Support night at Fishers High School in the CCA (Door 19th) from 6:00 to 7:30 on Thursday.
FHS Band selected for Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in 23-24.
FHS placed Second in National We the People.
Find the Bus runs for three more weeks. This is a way to get future Kindergarteners engaged. There is a riddle online to help people find the bus.
Next week is Teacher Appreciation week. Mentioned Foundation’s HSEFoundation.org has a “Thank an Educator” program to honor educator. (The $10 fee will provide a cookie and help fund the cost).
Finishing iLearn assessments this week. Make-up sessions next week. eLearning is Friday, April 29th (this Friday). NWEA is then after that.
Next meeting’s agenda: Policies coming for first reading. Matching funds requests from a couple of schools (This program needs to go away and the district needs to simply be paying for things like playground updates in full).
Review of curriculum is on May 9th and 10th. Suzanne stated that this doesn’t give time to review and then provide input before the board meeting that is like 24 hours later. Michelle mentioned that The next board meeting after this, however, is in June which pushes out the time for materials to be ordered. Suzanne commented that this was mentioned to only be like 17 parents in the committee. This was updated to be 10 or 11 parents. She pushed to ask for more time.
Michelle commented that this has been the process for many, many years. It is also the board that approves the curriculum, not the public. She asked what publishers were narrowed down to. This was discussed and the publishers mentioned. There are a few things still being resolved that will be available in the public review as well. If you are a school on probation, you have to select from a list. That doesn’t apply to HSE. The books being reviewed have to meet state standards.
Brad asked what happens if there are thousands reviewing and providing feedback. What is the process. How quickly do things need to be approved and such? This was covered in a bit of detail. The fees and such have to be determined as well since those get published in June. Didn’t know what the procurement timeline was. Brad said, if there was a thousand people saying “this stinks” do they have time to delay the ordering? The response was that if they delayed, then they would likely delay to next year. K-6 literacy and 7-12 world languages is the curriculum being reviewed. Other topics like STEM, math, and such then when does that come up? There is a rotation for these that they follow unless something changes. There might be math changes next year. Janet proposed that they tentatively plan for action at one of the Work Sessions. This is something they will need to look at.
Michelle asked for an enrollment update, including kindergarten as well as on the academy (for the next meeting)
# # #