Below are my rough notes from the January 12th, 2022 Hamilton Southeastern School Board meeting. This is not comprehensive even though it is long. Also, these notes were taken live and thus might have errors or I might have misheard something. For the most accurate coverage, watch the recorded video of the meeting on the HSESchools web site.
Any opinions expressed are my own unless otherwise stated. I reserve the right to change my opinion at any time based on any additional information I might learn.
2.0. Snapshots of Success – Foundation Grant Winners
This is the 20th year of the HSE Foundation supporting HSE Schools. They were this meeting’s spotlight. Some details on HSEF that were posted on Board docs:
- This school year marks the 20th anniversary of HSEF making an impact within our local schools. The Foundation has awarded nearly $2 million in staff and student-led grants and scholarships since its inception in 2001.
- HSEF Student Board members had the opportunity to select a grant project to fund last fall, through HSE Trustees Legacy Fund which was created by current and past members of the Board of School Trustees.
- This May HSEF and its community partners will award more than $60,000 in scholarships between FHS and HSE students. Tigers and Royals alumni of all ages are also encouraged to join the online community and interactive directory by visiting TigersandRoyals.org.
- HSEF also supports a variety of district initiatives in the areas of mental health, food insecurity, and umbrella services.
- Fundraisers like Game Day 2022 benefit these programs.
Thirty teacher grants were given out. They are now reviewing student grants ideas that were submitted. The two student HSEF board members presented information on things the foundation has done including the giving of $60,000 in scholarships that will be given out as well as mention of the Southeastern Elementary School Monarch butterfly garden. See the video for all the details!
Here is the video they presented with the Spotlight:
Tidbit: Where do you find out about programs like being on the board of the HSEF as a student? Response was to work though the guidance offices. They should be able to help you apply.
Michelle Fullhart is the current School ;Board representative on the HSEF. She commended that kids on the board. She stated they have the meetings early, before school and these kids attend.
Also mentioned was TigersandRoyals.org, which is an interactive directory being created for HSE Schools alumni. Tigers Royals Alumni & Friends is a network for alumni, teachers, parents, and other friends of HSE.
Justin commented that if you are passionate about something that will help students ranging from food insecurities to anything else, reach out to the foundation.
3.0 Reorganization of the Board / Election of Officers
Every January the school board elects the officers that will lead the board for the year. Michelle Fullhart made a motion for a slate. Brad Boyer then motioned for a different slate. The change in the President of the board each year is not an unusual thing.
Michelle Fullhart’s proposed slate (which was later approved):
- President – Julie Chambers
- Vice President – Sarah Donsbach
- Secretary – Janet Pritchett
Brad Boyer’s proposed slate:
- Julie Chambers as President
- Suzanne Thomas as Vice President
- Brad Boyer as Secretary
Suzanne Thomas suggested a possible third slate:
- Julie Chambers as President
- Sarah Donsbach as Vice President
- Brad Boyer as Secretary
The discussion was that they would like to have a newer person on the board so that there is not the chance that the next public election of board members could remove the entire leadership.
Michelle Fullhart commented that Brad Boyer’s slate has two people who didn’t vote for the superintendent. Brad Boyer pointed out that he had stated that while he didn’t vote for Dr. Stokes, that he had stated that he would be fully supportive of the superintendent, and he stated that he believed his actions since the vote have shown that.
Brad Boyer mentioned his slate provided more diversity to the board on ideas and people by “having a man on the board”.
Julie commented that Sarah D understands Robert’s Rules, has flexibility, and more. She indicated that Janet brings her knowledge of the board and relationship with Dr. Stokes so she would make the transition easier by being on the board leadership.
There were other comments as well.
They voted for the first slate. It passed 5-2 with Brad and Suzanne Thomas voting no. I assume this was because they were in more in favor of the third slate based on the discussion.
Other 3.x Items
In addition to electing officers, a number of other actions occur that are mostly just formalities. These include:
- The appointment of Corporation Treasurer, Deputy Treasurer, and Set Bonds for Staff
- Approved with no issues
- Board Member Conflict of Interest
- No real discussion on these. These are documents that can be found on Board Docs. It is interesting that Michelle Fullhart is the only one that listed possible conflicts. I would expect that since the school works with legal, financial, and other organizations that any work that members of the board do with such organizations would be declared in their conflict of interest forms.
- Approval of all current policies
- Again, standard item done every January. Passed 7-0
- Approval of dates and times for the next 12 months.
- Julie mentioned that there were a few changes that were made that will be posted. Some dates have asterisks for board meetings. They are going to try to streamline some meetings. A meeting with an asterisk is one that might be determined to be unnecessary. The dates and times are on BoardDocs. It was noted that to add a meeting, they must give 48-hour notice. They can cancel a meeting at any time.
Again, most of these items are formalities.
4. Consent Agenda
The consent agenda items are general items that are approved at each school board meeting. In the last couple of meetings these have gotten more attention (which I believe to be good), but they often are skimmed over. The documents placed on Board Docs for these items are worth skimming through. They include a lot of information ranging from specific expenditures, staff payments, resignations, staff leaves, and much more. It also includes the board meeting minutes from the previous board meeting.
- 4.01 Board Minutes
- Suzanne asked if a note could be added to future minutes that references that if more information is needed, they can go to the video with a link.
- Julie commented that to add a link to the minutes would imply legally that the linked item is an official part of the minutes, which would raise a lot of issues.
- The minutes are not intended to be a detailed narrative of what happens in the meetings. They generally are expected to include the agenda, action items, and any decisions that were made. I’ve looked at a few other districts and our minutes are about the same.
- 4.02 Certified and Support Staff Reports
- 4.03 Claims, Payrolls, 403(b) and 457 Salary Reduction Agreements
- 4.04 Salary Correction
- It was noted that there was a minor correction of “like a cent”. Because it was a change, the board has to approve it – even if it is as small as a penny.
Brad Boyer asked if they could vote separately on the Consent items. It was stated that they need to request that in advance. Passed 7-0.
XXX – New Staff Members
Two new administrators were introduced.
5. Public Comments
The public comments are generally presented during the posted agenda items.
6. Information Items
Informational items are presented to the board for their information. Generally (but not always) Informational items won’t be voted on nor do they generally require board member actions. Most items that require board action are presented once as informational and then presented a second time (at a future meeting) for the boar to take action. There are times when the board will take action on an item that was presented as information. This is generally when there is a time sensitive action that needs to happen. (Note: Having said that, several items were voted on and approved in this meeting.)
For those that haven’t attended a lot of school board meetings, this board meeting felts like old times. The list of informational items was more in line with what an average school board meeting covers and what school board members spend most of their time doing – approving a lot of odd construction, replacement, or maintenance items across the district. For those that are considering a future run as a school board member, note that these discussions are where more of your time is spent rather than in things like curriculum and what is actually happening on a daily basis within the schools.
6.01 Riverside Tennis Courts – Replacement
From Board Docs:
We are seeking permission to relocate the tennis courts at Riverside. The current tennis courts have degraded due to unfavorable soil conditions. The new location will be on higher ground which will prevent the same issues that negatively impacted the original courts. We have allocated $1,000,000 in the 10-year plan for the replacement of these courts.
My notes from the meeting:
Tennis courts have been patched over the years and aren’t holding up. The cost covers the cost of the new courts and demolition of the old ones. The new location should alleviate the issues with water. How is settlement and such a problem? Water is intruding from the surface, plus they think it is being impacted by the water table related to the flood plain. The current location made for easy access to the courts, but if they replaced them at that location, they would have more issues in the future.
15 to 18 years is the average life of asphalt, so the life of the existing courts is near the end. I believe the plan is to do asphalt; however, they stated they could look at pressed concrete as an alternative. Concrete generally lasts 20 to 30 years.
Brad Asked if drainage was included in these types of projects. The response was that 15 to 20 years ago it was less common. Adding stabilization and drainage is a part of the current recommendation.
Just a couple of years ago, the PTO built a pavilion (outdoor learning center) that has access through the tennis court. The level of the pavilion had to be raised to keep to minimize the slop of the connecting sidewalk to be within accessibility standards. I raised this issue to a board member and was glad to see it mentioned. They will be taking into consideration what to do with the pavilion as well. Having had parents donate to create the outdoor learning space (using matching funds from the district), the district should work to make sure that investment isn’t lost. (I was the President of the PTO when the project was done. The Riverside community did a lot to provide the funds to make the pavilion happen, so (in my opinion) it should be maintained and retained with appropropriate accessibility for all kids.
Michelle asked about plans for the tennis teams during construction. The old courts will not go away until the new courts are ready to use.
The schedule that was presented for this project is:
6.02 Durbin Remodel
The current plan is to only move FOCUS to Durbin.
From Board Docs:
We are seeking permission to remodel a section of Durbin Elementary to house the FOCUS Day program. This program is currently housed at FCJ. As part of the FCJ renovation that is currently underway, the FOCUS section of the building is being turned into general education classrooms to alleviate overcrowding. The FOCUS Day program houses approximately 40 exceptional learners. A section of Durbin will need to be remodeled to accommodate this program. Classrooms, office spaces, and large restrooms will need to be updated to accommodate the program. We have allocated $2,200,000 in the 10-year plan to fund this renovation when we initially thought three programs were going to be placed at Durbin. With the change of scope and only one program now moving to Durbin, the new anticipated cost of the project is expected to be $1,500,000.
My notes from the meeting:
Plan is to have final design and board approval in January. They would put the project up for bid in February and March. Renovation for Durbin would happen in June/July for classes to start in August of this year. There was a question as to what the empty (non-yellow) squares would be used for. Right now, the answer is they would not be used. The coloring in the chart, however, is really focused on showing which areas would receive renovations. The white rooms could still be used by the district. They simply aren’t planned for updates in this project.
It was stated that they are doing the minimum change to the building to maintain its functionality. If needed in the future, they might need to shift this back to an elementary school. The white space is not closed off, it is functional. It is simply not space that is being used for the FOCUS program. Dr. Stokes mentioned that they could use the rooms for professional development space, but right now it sounded like there were no plans.
It was reiterated that only FOCUS is being considered for the Durbin building at this time. The other programs that had been mentioned in the past to move do Durbin are not a part of the current plans.
Susanne asked about the FOCUS program (Foundations of Characteristics Unique to Success). It is a service that is provided for students that qualify for special education programs. (My comment: This program has been discussed in the past and there is more information about it online.) It was stated tha the cafeteria would still be used for food preparation. Things like the cafeteria are currently functioning and will continue to function. It was stated that the white space on the image is not going away, it simply isn’t getting renovated.
Sarah D asked if changes to bathroom would impact septic intake at the site….. The response was that the usage of the septic system will be drastically reduced at the site….
There are around 40 students that participate in the FOCUS program at this time, but the number fluctuates.
6.03 Expand Parking at Transportation Center
From Board docs:
We are seeking permission to expand the transportation center parking lot. It currently has a capacity of 198 buses, but our fleet is over 300 buses. The expansion will allow for more buses to be parked securely overnight, increased efficacy, addressing drainage issues, and creating overflow parking for bus drivers and additional administration spots. We have allocated $5,500,000 in the 10-year plan for this expansion.
More buses mean more parking spaces needed. $5.5 million. Wow that seems like a lot! This was, however, already allocated in the 10 year plan, which means the expense shouldn’t be a surprise to the board or anyone following the numbers.
The district currently has 199 spaces for over 300 buses. Buses get parked along fences and other areas. Some buses will still need to be parked over at Fishers High School. They are also planning in case future growth is needed. Cost would also include additional security cameras, lightings, cross walks, and such.
If they are asked to do an RFP for a full design/architecting of this project, it will delay the start of the project for 2 or 3 months, which means the project could not start his year because asphalt plants close in the winter. If they go with CSO who did the preliminary planning, they can start on the project now. CSO was involved with the initial estimate of $5.5 used in the budget.
Brad Boyer asked for clarification on CSO and what the district owes. The response was that CSO has done the preliminary design and that work has been paid for. If bids go out for the full design, the CSO work should be able to be given to anyone hired for the full design of the project. It was stated that we don’t legally have to do an RFP.
There have been numerous accidents in the bus area this year as a result of the cramped space. The only impact of delaying this for quotes is possibly a hit on the insurance. Cramped space is the current issues.
Julie asked, if the district went with the preliminary plan from CSO would they get the project done this year? They would be able to get the new asphalt added. New bus driver / overflow lot and transportation bus lot expansion would be phase one. It was asked if waiting two weeks for approval would impact the project. It was stated that this likely wouldn’t have substantial impact if they went with CSO; however, construction already gets impacted by a lot of stuff, so keeping as much buffer as possible helps improve getting it done sooner.
Michelle asked if the RFP would only be for the architect or for all of it. They stated they would still put bids out for the asphalt.
Michelle asked where the electric conduits would go and for a status on the electric buses. The response was that if they can plan for future elected buses, it is cheaper to add what is needed now as they do these updates rather than to have to rip up things in the future to add it. They should see the electric bus in the June/July time frame.
Suzanne motioned to approve this, Janet second it. Brad Boyer commented that they saw something earlier that could cause this to have to completely change this. Julie commented that the work (asphalt, construction costs, and such) has to still be put out for bid. The motion is to use CSO as the designer. The School Board is not approving to spend $5.5 million on a new lot in the motion that was made.
Motion passed 6-1 with Brad Boyer saying no.
6.04 Duke Reimbursement Agreement for Deer Creek Elementary
There is information on this online.
Michelle made am motion to approve. Sarah PR seconded. Passed 7-0.
6.05 Replace Chillers at Fishers Elementary School
Brad made a motion to approve with a second by someone else.
Suzanne asked about the future of Fishers Elementary and its impact on this expenditure. With the future of Fishers Elementary changing, will the chillers have to be moved, changed, or impacted by a decision regarding renovation or rebuilt? Response was if they rebuild the building or expand the building, then the equipment will likely be salvaged. If they don’t add on to the building, then the chillers they are adding are good. If they add on to the buildings, they would have to add additional capacity to what is there.
Vote to approve expense passed 7-0.
6.06 Replace Chiller at HSE High School
Over 30 years old (34 years old). Want to replace as part of the 10 year plan. They want to go out for bids. It was asked what waiting one more year would do. The response was that it would cascade replacements planned for future years.
It was stated that the projects being presented at the meeting were aligned with the 2022 budget. This is funded by the general obligation bonds. They are approving the projects to be able to get bids. The bonds get approved later that will cover the cost of these. The spending will be approved later. Harry Delks commented that they need to be getting bids approved because it will take months to get the chillers.
Suzanne asked what would happen if the bonds are not approved. The short answer is that the schools will close because we won’t have money. The bonds are budgeted and planned.
My comment: Bonds are a normal part of the school budgeting and spending process. The question should be “are these in the 10 year plan and the current budget?” Since the board approved the budget, and it takes into account the 10 year plan. Big projects are a topic that should really have been covered when the budget was approved as well as with the regular reviews of the 10 year plan…..
6.07 Request Bids to Replace/Add Lights to Varsity Baseball/Softball Field
HSE Facilities is seeking permission to request bids to replace the lights and poles on the varsity baseball and softball fields at Hamilton Southeastern High School. Discussions on lights. Softball fields are smaller, so they have fewer lights.
To do all four fields at HSE HS would be around $1.3 million. To be equitable with FHS they would need to look at doing the FHS fields as well. They scaled this project back to what is proposed to be fair and budget conscious. FHS JV fields don’t have lights. If they replace or change them there, then they would need to also look at Fishers High School. They are only focused on the two fields at HSE HS.
Michelle brough up the tennis courts. She asked for them to consider the lighting on the tennis courts. Suzanne added to this discussion. This discussion was considered a tangent, so Julie tabled it for a future agenda.
From Board Docs:
HSE Facilities is seeking permission to request bids to replace the lights and poles on the varsity baseball and softball fields at Hamilton Southeastern High School. Athletics has requested the lights on their fields be updated. The poles on the varsity baseball fields were installed in 1989. In order to replace the lights, it is also recommended to replace the poles. The current lights do not have enough foot candles to meet minimum recommendations from the IHSAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). We initially allocated $1,350,000 in the 10-Year Buildings & Grounds plan to replace the poles and lights on the varsity and junior varsity baseball and softball fields. It was decided to only replace the lights on the varsity fields, changing the estimate to $650,000.
The board asked that Facilities also get bids for doing the JV fields as well simply for consideration.
Vote to approve moving forward with these items passed 7-0.
6.08 Replace Pool Boilers at Fishers High School
From Board Docs:
HSE Facilities is seeking permission to request bids to replace the pool boilers at Fishers High School. The current pool boilers were installed in the same mechanical room as the pool chemicals. This has caused them to age quickly, and they need replacement. When we replace these boilers, they will be relocated in a separate room to avoid this issue from recurring. Once ordered, these boilers have an estimated 10-week lead time before arrival. We have allocated $225,000 in the 10-Year Buildings & Grounds Plan to replace these boilers.
Suzanne asked that if the boilers weren’t included in the same room as the chemicals, then they would have gotten more life out of the boilers. Response – yes.
Motion to approve passed 7-0. This is to do the bidding process.
6.09 Board Goals
Board goals are also an informational item. There was a slide presentation on this topic. Those slides are on BoardDocs (and posted below).
The following are a few points I pulled from this discussion by the Board. Main areas of the goals were communication, academics and operations.
Regarding goals around communication:
- Creating standardized school newsletters. Move towards school branded newsletters using the same software and template. Brook School Elementary uses the template they are looking to use. One of the goals, however, is to streamline the templates and code used for the newsletters. Michelle commented that the BSE newsletter had a lot of good links and such.
- Creating an Admin newsletter for internal communication. It was asked who would write this. This could be from various areas including administration, principals, and other areas within the school system. Could have things like HR information. The objective is to provide timely information to help the administrators. Administrators could submit things to be in the newsletter. (Administrators in the context includes principals and others running the school district).
- Surveying internal stakeholders and community to improve communication.
- Web Pages – It was asked that Web sites be updated to make things easier to find. It was stated that a board member has had trouble finding things on the web site, so they should look at making things easier to find. Dr. Stokes commented that this seems to be a common issue with many web sites, but perhaps they can come up with a document or something to help direct people. It was stated by a board member that sometimes you have to go to the school site rather than the district site.
- There was a request by a board member to make the sites across schools similar for access to items. My comment: We just paid for a web site redesign that raised questions when it was started. It seemed like a key point of the redesign that we paid for was to do exactly that. It worked to an extent, but requires the schools to actually update the information in the same way….
- It was asked if we are failing as a district as some people in the community are stating? The ranks shown in the slides are comparing us against other schools in the same year, so HSE’s position should be positioned similarly.
- See slides.
Public Comment: One Person from the public spoke
<Person 1: (I only caught some of this) >
Public would like to have more opportunities to engage and give feedback. Indicated web site is easy to use. He commented that it was stated that curriculum is listed on the web site and asked if that was the case. He indicated that “the Public” is supportive of the guideposts and such. They would like to evaluate what has happened in the last 6 years and why we did fall with the last administration.
My comment: People should imply they speak for everyone. “The Public” implies they are representing everyone and that is not the case. Regarding curriculum, it was repeated and clarified that 9 through 12 is still being worked on, but that lower grades are completed and have been available online. Many teachers also post daily assignments and related information in Canvas (which parents can access).
It also doesn’t seem clear as to what data is being referenced to indicate HSE has fallen or failed in the last 6 years.
7. Action Items – NONE
No action items were presented in tonight’s board meeting.
8. Superintendent’s Report / Matter of Corporate Interest
Dr. Stokes mentioned that this is School Board month.
She also mentioned that HSE was awarded $460k+ for a Stop the Violence grant. This will be used to maintain safe schools. Threat assessment, PBIS, crisis response are areas this will be targeting.
No school on Monday for MLK Day.
Library Books –
Dr. Stokes mentioned that there is a board policy I03.02 that speaks to the process for concerns related to the library or instructional materials.
The admin has added to the process. The director of educational technology along with two directors have a list of all the electronic books available in the library. They have gone to the principals to ask about the process for vetting books. The principals have updated what they are doing, but know they must follow board policy as well.
Going forward, the Exec Directors must now review and approve a book list before the CFO will approve the payment.
Dr. Stokes stated that she had four books removed from the library for 30 days in line with Board process. She did not state what these books were. No community members have filed any complain in that time. The Superintendent has the right to therefore decide what to do with those books. Dr. Stokes didn’t want to get into the details around censorship and such during the board meeting, but she did comment that the district has a diverse set of students that are served, so not all books will meet every kid’s needs.
It was asked – If you pulled books, did anything get said to the community to know the books were pulled? The response was that a book generally doesn’t get pulled until there is a complaint. Dr. Stokes took the initiative with the four books. She has not yet decided what to do with those books, but per policy she can decide.
It was again indicated there is a policy and process that can be followed for those that have an issue with a book.
In regard to Covid, they are watching the data and tracking it daily. If there is ever a need to go virtual, they would make that on a building by building decision. If something happened to have to go virtual, they want to give as much lead-time and such as possible. Dr. Kegley commented that they would follow what they had done in the past — They have a plan in place to go virtual at various levels if necessary. The principals are continuing to look at this in case it is needed.
Michelle Fullhart asked – If they have to go virtual is it most likely a staffing issue? Dr. Stokes said if it happens it could be a quarantined classroom, staffing, or anything. She had said earlier that they were working to keep kids in schools.
Dr. Stokes thanked Zach for getting our kids to school – even if it means he is driving a bus. She thanked the admin team for going out and helping schools to do whatever is needed. It was mentioned that some of the admin team have even taught in the classes – including Dr. Kegley.
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