2022 – February 9th – Live Notes from the HSE School Board Meeting

The following are my notes taken while watching the live Hamilton Southeastern School Board meeting on February 9th, 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.

The following are my notes taken while watching the live Hamilton Southeastern School Board meeting on February 9th, 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.

Prior to the start of tonight’s streamed meeting, the district had slides cycling that highlighted many of the recognitions that have been happening around the district. Great stuff!

2. Snapshots of Success – Fall Creek Jr. High Artists

From BoardDocs:

Our latest Snapshots of Success features Art Teacher Michelle Feeney and some of her talented students from Fall Creek Junior High. Feeney and her students collaborated with the Fishers Arts Council to present an exhibit entitled, “Embracing Black Culture.” They will talk about their work and experience of creating special exhibit open to the public during the month of February. The public is also invited to a special presentation and gallery opening on Feb. 11 from 6 -8 p.m. at City Hall.

The art exhibit from Fall Creek Junior High will on display this Friday at City Hall (as mentioned on BoardDocs). A video was played at the meeting:

Students from Fall Creek Junior High spoke at the meeting. While there were just a few speaking, there were roughly 175 kids from the school that participated in the project. There are some kids from outside of HSE that they included in their art display as well.

3. Consent Agenda

This includes:

  • 3.01 Board Minutes,
  • 3.02 Certified and Support Staff Reports
  • 3.03 Claims, Payrolls, 403(b) and 457 Salary Reduction Agreements

The Consent agenda contains general items that are often approved without discussion. As one board member stated, these are “usually includes mundane items”. Granted, these also contain things such as the people that have recently resigned, been hired, or been terminated.

Suzanne Thomas asked if the items could be discussed before voting to approve. Julie clarified that the standard process of addressing items is for there to be a motion to approve, discussion, and then voting. They did not yet have a motion.

Suzanne then asked if that items could be voted on separately. This topic  of voting on the items separately has come up several times in previous meetings. To vote on them separately, they must contact the board President and make the request prior to the start of the meeting. Nobody had done that, so the consent agenda items were to be voted on individually. My Comment: Personally, I’m not sure why they can’t motion and vote on the three sub-items individual being that they are listed in the agenda individually as are items in other sections (Informational Items and Action items). Regardless, the idea of voting separately has been discussed at several meetings and they’ve set their own rules.

Two primary areas of discussion came up with the Consent Agenda items. These are the Panorama Survey subscription renewal and an issue with item 3.02.

Panorama Survey

Charge for Panorama Survey subscription was questioned by Brad Boyer. The existing contract expired in December. The new contract would run through the 2023 school year (5 semesters).

Suzanne commented that the community has had lots of discussion on the survey. Some support it while some do not. She indicated that there is talk of a possible breach of private information, data being used inappropriately, and more. (I was not able to capture all of her criticisms of the system). Suzanne indicated that she believed that using an inhouse company might be better. She suggested something such as Survey Monkey. She said that she thought they [the district] had asked the community and that 37% or something said they were opting out of taking the survey. As such, she doesn’t feel the data is a true reflection of the community. With 37% opting out it isn’t a true representation.  (My Comment: Assuming 37% opted out (see below), then having 63% of an audience of over20,000 take a survey would be very statistically significant.)  

It was noted by the administration that the actual number is 3.46% that opted out of the last survey. It was stated that in total about 85.6% took the survey with 3.46% opting out and the rest were not available to take it or had other issues (such as being out sick).

Julie Chambers commented that they have discussed the survey. She indicated that the reason to use an outside source is that the data can be compared to national trends. If there is a decline, then you can compare to national numbers to see if it more of a localized issue or possibly a national trend.

Suzanne commented that there are several schools that have opted out of Panorama due to issues.

Julie stated that there are issues with doing your own survey as well. Doing your own survey would also remove the ability to do any comparisons of the data.

Janet Pritchett commented and questioned the accusation against the administration using the data in a way that is not appropriate, to which Suzanne responded that there have been public coverage of issues with Panorama.

Dr. Stokes stated that the questions from the survey are available to parents. When the survey was discussed in the past a concern had been raised. The one that was raised was regarding the use of open ended questions that could lead to topics being mentioned that require parental consent. The district removed the open-ended questions to address this concern. Dr. Stokes felt they had done their due diligence at listening to the community and making changes to the survey.

Dr. Kegley clarified that the contract is for the same as product, price, and all of the terms as used before. HSE did have changes made to the contract though. They had Panorama add extra security terms to the contract. Dr. Kegley read these changes in the terms at the meeting. These were focused on limiting any chance of identifying individual students and in keeping the data secure.

Brad Boyer commented that comparing our students to national averages that it can give a false sense of security. He said he has heard enough about Panorama from both sides to know the survey causes controversy, so he doesn’t believe it’s continued use is worth renewing the contract.

Michelle Fullhart said that Brad’s reasoning for dropping Panorama would also be a good reason to get rid of standardize testing…. She said that part of the history of the survey is that there was a time when parents and people were concerned about our kid being stressed. When kids are stressed, bad things can happen. The test helps the district to understand if kids are stressed. She indicated that the surveying had been done for many years with no issues. She sees it as a great source of information on how teacher and administration can be better.

It was also stated that Suzanne’s insinuation of a breach of the data is something that is dangerous to state when she is unaware of there having been an actual breach with the software. It was stated that such a statement could be seen as being libelous. (My comment: I’m not a legal person, so I don’t know if it is libelous; however, such insinuations shouldn’t be made based on hearsay.)

Brad Boyer thinks the district can do better. He simply doesn’t feel that Panorama is the tool they should be using.

Issue with 3.02.

Suzanne Thomas commented that there is a situation in 3.02 that she does not support. They do not talk about specific issues when they are related to personnel.  

Brad Boyer asked if they could talk philosophically about how they take on people and how they pay for people who take on extra roles.

Julie Chambers commented that their job is not to take on personnel matters. Their job is oversight.

There as a comment related to “If someone is doing a job that they are being paid for in a different tier.“

My comment: Note that this discussion was very vague. The actual issue was not stated, although in reviewing the items included in 3.02 of the agenda, I could speculate what the issue item is (but I won’t do that here). You can review the items on Board Docs.

Michelle Fullhart redirected the conversation a little by stating that they [the board members] get the data on Friday and have a chance to ask questions prior to the meeting. Such concerns should be raised with the board and/or administration between that time and the time of the meeting.

Brad Boyer commented that he had followed up with Dr. Stokes and that they didn’t feel that the response as insufficient.

Dr. Stokes responded to this statement. She stated that she doesn’t give “insufficient” information, she simply gives the facts. She indicated that this might cause disagreement, but that in this case she provided the facts she had.

Brad responded that he probably used the wrong words, but that he didn’t feel he got the information he needed. He did state that he feels that they can have discussions in the meeting. [That board members don’t have to try to get all of their answers prior, but they can have their meeting in the public (not with the public) to discuss issues they have.]

The conversation went back to the voting on the items separately. Julie commented that to separate the consent agenda items, a request must be prior to the meeting. She stated that this has been discussed before. She also indicated that nobody had indicated prior to this meeting that they wanted them separated.

Michelle commented that the consent agenda is the easiest part of the board meeting, but they’ve [the board] had issues over and over in the last few meetings.

Julie stated that they could vote on these individually if it is brought up to her (as the President) prior to the meeting.

Voted: Consent Agenda items passed 5-2 – Suzanne and Brad voted no.

4. Information Items – NONE for this Meeting –

5. Action Items

5.01 Request for Approval of Duke Easement Agreement for Deer Creek Elementary

This has been covered in previous meetings.

Duke is on time. They will start moving poles in February. Bad news is they don’t have an agreement in place. Noblesville and Duke are on board. Everyone agreed they are moving the poles. Not a perfect deal, but they are working together so that the poles are moved before school opens. It is basically getting a “stamp” on forms.

It was asked if they thought there was a chance of issues.  Answer was basically no.

No vote taken that I am aware of; however, this is moving forward.

5.02 Award Farm Lease

This has been discussed in past meetings as well, so I’ll not present details here.

Multiple bids on the two parcels of land the district owns. High bids were $175 an acre – which is $25 an acre more than the previous lease. $350 acre for the other parcel which is $90 over previous lease. Both of the highest bidders had farmed HSE properties before.

These are annual numbers (there was discussion on this as some board members assumed they were monthly). By leasing these properties for two years, the district doesn’t have to maintain the property which would have costs for mowing and other maintenance.

Brad Boyer asked to see the bidding information details. He was told he could be provided with that.

Michelle asked where these funds go. The answer was they go into the Operation Funds. The total amounts were calculated and stated. I did not catch them, but they are around $54,000.

It was asked about who does appraisals for renting the lend. It was stated that appraisals are not needed for renting land.  The comment regarding the rates was made, “It is significantly less than I’ve seen”.

My Comment: In the grand scheme of the district budgeting, these are a rounding error and the leasing is as much to remove the need for the district to focus on the land or spend money maintaining it for the next two years as it just sites there.

Motion passed 7-0.

5.03 Request for Bids to Install LED Lights at Fishers Elementary School

Board members had commented when visiting Fishers Elementary School that the lights weren’t very bright. Facilities tested lightening at FES and found the lighting is at about half the level is should be. The plan is to replace the lighting with LEDs. They replaced lights in one classroom with LEDs to prove the concepts and to verify that it would increase to the necessary levels. The teachers are asking when the other classrooms can be updated – so the test was successful!

It was asked if this spending could be delayed until they figure out what they are doing with FES. The answer was that the kids need it for being able to see better when reading and more.

This is not a part of the 10 year plan, but they have the funds to cover it. There will be c cost saving of a few hundred dollars per classroom in electricity, but that won’t cover the cost. The return on investment will be longer than desirable because they have to replace controls and other components as well as the lights.

This vote is to get approval is to get bids. They will bring the winning bid for approval to actually spend funds.

Board docs stated the following on this topic:

The Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) has set guidelines establishing minimum light levels required at schools. For classrooms, laboratories, study halls, lecture rooms, art rooms, offices, libraries, and shops, the IDOH requires a minimum level of 50 footcandles at the educational surface (desk heights). HSE Facilities took light readings at Fishers Elementary School and found many areas were not meeting the average minimum level of illumination. Due to this deficiency, HSE Facilities would like to replace the lights at FES with light-emitting diodes LEDs that have a higher lumen level. The lights we are recommending have been installed in several buildings throughout the District. The LEDs will increase the average footcandles in the classrooms bringing us to IDOH standards and improving visibility. HSE Facilities is estimating it would cost $260,000 to replace the lights and controls at FES.

As an added benefit, LEDs use a fraction of the energy as incandescent bulbs which will reduce the energy consumption at FES.

This item is being presented for action. HSE Facilities would like the School Board to grant us permission to seek bids to replace the lights at FES with LEDs.

Passed 7-0

5.04 Policy Second Reading:

The following policies are up for second reading:

  • I01.00 Curriculum, Development, Implementation, & Assessment;
  • J05.10 Animals on School Property;

The following policies were pulled because the policy committee had new members and were not able to meet due to the snow days (elearning days) this past week. As such, the following five items were pulled from the agenda. Two people had signed up for public comments chose not to because the following were pulled:

  • I02.00 Curriculum Goal; – rescind
  • I02.01 Curriculum Development; – rescind
  • I03.00 Implementation of Curriculum; – rescind
  • I04.00 Assessment of Curriculum; – rescind
  • I09.00 Animals in Classrooms- rescind

I01.00 Curriculum, Development, Implementation, & Assessment;

J05.10 Animals on School Property;

Brad Boyer asked if the district had ever had a miniature horse as a service animal. The answer was that they had not. There was a bit of banter around the topic.

This was added and another rescinded.

Passed 7-0

6. Board President – Board President Update

Julie Chambers, Board President, thanked teachers and staff. She acknowledged that three eLearning date in a row were not easy. She said thank you.

She wanted the board to know that her and Sarah Donsbach were invited to attend the Legislative Day to meet with legislators to talk.

The next Board work session is on the referendum and will be from5:30 to 7:30 PM on Tuesday, February 15th. This is a beginning discussion on time lines, what a referendum is, what it can affect. It is a work session. No decisions are planned to be made on numbers. This meeting is just the very first step. The meeting will not be recorded or streamed.

Julie commented to the board to remember that if there are things on the agenda that are issues, they should bring them up with her in advance so that they can help work to make the meetings run smoothly.

Suzanne asked if the Board could get a Board update from the HSEL (public library) committee member on what is happening at the HEPL public library and on the construction at the library. She asked if Julie could expand her thought process on this or if they could expand on when Mr. Myers would come to give an update.

Julie responded that this is not on the calendar now, but she talked to Mr. Myers at the last HEPL meeting and is looking to possibly have him this summer.

The HEPL Library Discussion (heading added by me so this section is easier to find)

Susanne commented that if she wondered if there were board members at the meeting, or if the board members that were at the meeting were there as parents or representing the board.

Julie clarified that she was just there to observe.

Suzanne indicated that a very strong topic is that the person on the HEPL board for HSE School is a representative of the HSE School Board (I assume this is in reference to Mr. Myers, who is the person placed on the public library board by the HSE School Board). Her understanding is that this person is an extension, an “arm”, a representative of Hamilton Southeastern Schools and that they will think and put kids first and foremost. Suzanne stated, “It was my understanding that we had board members that spoke against moving pornographic material to a place, a restricted area of the library, and I kind of find that a little bit offensive that we as a Board and as a school district, are not really, not supporting that.

Julie indicated that this topics is not part of the board president update. She stated they can have those discussions, but it is not on the agenda. The question of when the library rep would do an update was answered. She went on to state the issues happening at the HEPL does not directly affect HSE Schools, it is a public library issue for the public library, HEPL board to handle.

Julie indicated that the topic was not on the agenda and would not be on the next agenda. She then ended her President’s report and turned the meeting over to Dr. Stokes.

NOTE: My comment: The board has to be careful discussing items that are not on the agenda. They can get into trouble if they talk about some items that was not announced prior to the meeting, which allows the public to be present to ask to comment. That is why side topics tend to get shut down. My understanding is that any board member has the ability to ask the President to add an item to the agenda as long as they do it prior to the meeting.

7. Superintendent’s Report – Matters of Corporation Interest

Dr. Stokes thanked teachers, staff, Mayor, community, families, and others.

Since we’ve been back from break, the administration has been conducting assessments for those who have language as a second language…. (She said more on this, but I missed it).

Some community members have brought up dyslexia awareness. The administration has agreed to have materials available to the teachers by February 18th and they are on track to do that.

eLearning and Holidays

There is an elearning day coming February 18th.

February 21st is Presidents Day, which is a day with No school.

At the high schools, on March 3rd only students who are taking the SAT will be in the buildings in person. The SAT is the new assessment for High School kids. The test takes all hands on deck to administer the test. This is only Juniors taking the test. The rest of the students at the high school will be on eLearning.

HSEF Game Day

February 18th is the HSE Foundation Game Day fund raiser. Suzanne and Michelle are the Board reps for this event. Michelle commented that there are four ways to get involved. These are listed on the HSE Foundation website. There are virtual options for some of the events such as the Trivia teams.

Library Book Checkouts

Dr. Stokes also shared that they are investigating ways for giving parents notice on books kids check out of the library. The library uses Destiny. They can give parents information on how to log into a child’s account in the same way you can log into Skylert. It would require parents to log in to check what has been checked out. They would like to be able to give alerts, but right now there is no way to do that at this time. More will come about this in a K-6 newsletter and a future Friday update.

Other Superintendent Reported Items

She commented it would be great to support the FCJH art event on Friday if people can come out to the City Hall (see Spotlight at beginning of this report).

There is a catered black-tie event that will be giving out a few thousand dollars in scholarships. There are tickets available for the public for sale. I didn’t catch the details on this.

7.02 March 9, 2022, DRAFT Agenda

Dr. Stokes highlighted a few items. This included approving a number of items.

After comments

Discussion of Snow Days was brought up. Calendars will likely be on March 9th’s agenda, which is when snow days would be discussed.

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