2021 – December 8th – Live Notes from the HSE School Board Meeting (Part 1)

The December 8th Hamilton Southeastern School Board meeting had a long agenda and proved to be a long meeting. Below are my rough notes from this meeting. Note that I had a couple of glitches, so missed a few things in the meeting, so this is not comprehensive even though it is long. Also note that these notes were taken live and thus might have errors or I may 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 – HSF Academy Student-Work Program

HSE school board meetings generally start with a snapshot of success. The following is the description of the snapshot for the HSF Academy Student Work Program that was taken from Board docs:

The Hamilton Southeastern Fishers Academy is exposing students to real-life opportunities. Students are able to work various jobs in the community and within the school corporation. You’ll hear from two students in the Snapshots of Success’ video feature that are working in HSE Food Services. Academy Director Reggie Simmons and School Counselor/Work-based Learning Coordinator Bandon Cloud will be on-hand to answer questions about how the Academy is connecting students with job opportunities.

A video was played during the meeting. That video can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8LWMdwK6P0

Dr. Stokes asked if there was a way to use this program to get some students inspired to possibly go into education.

This program is for kids in 9 to 12th grades. There are about 120 kids in the program. They just had 15 evening slots open for the program as well, which would take the program to 135 positions. The academy gets kids that are working in a deficit in regard to their education. It works to get those kids across the line (graduating) over 95% of the time. The evening slots allow kids to work and take some of their classes in the evening.

Brad Boyer asked if they could accommodate more kids if it was needed. The response was that they have to have a 15:1 program (1 teacher for every 15 kids), kids have to be referred because they are struggling, and there are other qualifications. Mr. Simmons commented that they are particular with the students that come into the program because they want to make sure they can be successful if they are in the program. Mr. Cloud said there is a pretty hefty waiting list within both high schools. When Michelle Fullhart asked how big the waiting list is, they indicated that it was at least the size of the current enrollment. This means they have enough kids that they could double their size if they took all kids. The holdback is that the state regulations require they have a 15:1 ration of teacher to kids. It wasn’t stated, but I took this to mean that it would require hiring more teachers and the funds to cover the cost of those teachers.

3. Consent Agenda

The consent agenda is a set of general items such as payment approvals, staffing changes, and previous board meeting approval. The HSE School Board usually rubber stamp votes to approve these items (which I’ve questioned in the past) At this meeting, the consent agenda received a great deal of attention with each item being voted on individually. It is worth noting that even though the consent agenda got more attention, it wasn’t on things like teacher resignations or what is happening with the HIJH principal, rather it was on things like approving payments for services already rendered and paying some of the positions more money.

This item includes the following:

  • 3.01 Board Minutes,
    • Suzanne Thomas asked that the board meetings be modified to include a comment regarding the vote against 3.03 in the last meeting that included her and Brad Boyer voting against approval. She motioned for the amendment; Boyer seconded. Vote was 2: 5 against amending, so minutes did not change.
    • Michelle Fullhart voted to approve minutes as presented, Julie seconded. Thomas asked to discuss. She commented on the money being paid for restorative practices and (again on) the desire to have the minute amended. She repeated that she was voting against the specific payment. Fullhart commented that minutes are not really to contain the “why” of a meeting, but really about tracking the results of the decisions made. Fullhart also stated that she would have possibly voted positively on amending if the wording had been different.
    • Brad Boyer commented he was glad that the consent agenda items were being separated.
    • Janet Pritchett indicated that being that much of the items in the consent agenda are mundane, there is usually limited if any discussion, which is why they’ve tended to be lumped together for voting.
    • The Board voted on the approval with a slight adjustment to indicate there was a discussion, but not the details. I’m not sure what the final results really were.
    • Passed 7-0
  • 3.02 Certified and Support Staff Reports
    • Passed 7-0
  • 3.03 Claims, Payrolls, 403(b) and 457 Salary Reduction Agreements
    • Suzanne Thomas asked that a specific item be pulled out and that her notes and comment be put into records, into the board minutes. Thomas pointed out a $6,000+ payment to an organization that she thought was being replaced with a less controversial business. Child Advocates Undoing Racism. She stated if this is not removed then she will vote no.
    • Boyer confirmed that this is a vote to approve paying for services already received.
    • Julie Chambers commented that they can’t really pull out individual items.
    • Suzanne Thomas said that she 100% agrees with paying vendors that have rendered services, but she believed that the district had said they were changing from this vendor. (My comment: Based on her comment, I’m not sure why she would vote against this time if it were pulled out.)
    • Vote 7-0 passed.  Lots of grandstanding, for a unanimous vote.
  • 3.04 Prepay Authority
    • Passed 7-0
  • 3.05 Administrative and Non-Certified Salaries
    • Passed 7-0
    • Suzanne again asked that her comments be included with the board minutes. She moved to attach her comments to the meeting to include, “The salary comment recommendations are being submitted…. Doesn’t believe with some of the non-merit increases given to administrators. Also commented on the lower salaries are way below a livable wage and should be increased. (I don’t have the exact wording for all of this)
    • Dr. Stokes said that they had a range that they wanted to give to staff in the various positions, but they have to be responsible with the money the district has, so they just couldn’t do the top of the range. (My comment: Schools have a limited budget. They can’t simply increase spending in one area without getting the money from somewhere else.
    • Julie Chambers commented that there was an implication that the rest of the board is not taking salaries seriously. She clearly disagreed with such implications.
    • \MY COMMENT: I do agree that the lower level positions are under paid. In a recent post, I asked about the number of substitutes because I was curious as to what it would take to do an increase. The number is roughly 110 subs are needed on a daily basis. To do a 25% increase in pay for all subs for all days, it would cost just under half a million dollars (That’s a $25 per increase, which is actually a bit more than 25%). Adding a 10 to 20% increase for other roles (food services, bus drivers) would likely be about the same. Where can a million dollars be shifted from? I’d suggest the referendum dollars be used and do a ‘temporary’ increase that lasts as long as the referendum is in place. The reality is that the referendum has increased each year due to increased assessed values. The $1 million for these increases would be a redirection of 5% of the referendum funds, which the assessed value increase would cover.
    • Note: I don’t know if Suzanne Thomas’ comments are being attached to minutes or not. I am one for transparency and the sharing of information. I started my coverage of the meetings and pushed for meetings to be recorded because of the lack of details in the school board minutes. Having said that, the minutes should reflect the board decisions and any action items that need to be followed up on. I also believe it is nice to know who voted for or against something. While I’d like to see the “why” of votes, I’m not sure the minute are the right place for that information. The board is a singular ‘unit’. Once the board makes a decision (a vote), they are expected to stand behind that decision as a whole.

4. Public Comments

Done during various sections.

5.01 Policy First Reading:

The policy readings in this meeting were informational items, meaning there was not vote for approval happening at this meeting. The policies being presented for first review were:

  • I01.00 Curriculum, Development, Implementation, & Assessment;
    • A number of policies are being rescinded and combined into one.
  • J05.10 Animals on School Property;
    • This is also a number of policies being rescinded and combined into one policy.
  • I02.00 Curriculum Goal;
  • I02.01 Curriculum Development;
  • I03.00 Implementation of Curriculum;
  • I04.00 Assessment of Curriculum; I09.00 Animals in Classrooms

It was commented that there were policies that were pulled from the agenda. Policies on surveys and access to curriculum were pulled from the agenda because state legislation might be talking on those topics. It was considered best to wait until after the legislation sessions happen to determine what might be required to changed. This policy will likely be pushed to February.

*** Public Comments ***

(I only caught bits and pieces of these)

(1) Eaton – She seems to need to speak at every meeting.
Mentioned vagueness of one. Suggested more structure is needed. Scope and sequencing of curriculum seemed to be missing from one. Administration is only going to periodically report to the board on curriculum assessment. Suggested a more defined timeline for reporting for more transparency. Asked why would board want to wait so long since “periodical” is too long.

(2) xxx
Attended 12/1/2021 policy meeting I01.00 was discussed. Was dismayed that all the board members were against one of the other board members. Commented that it was disappointing that the board stating they were waiting to get suggestions for curriculum from the administration rather than taking an active role in its development. Suggested the board should be more involved and possibly give feedback monthly. Commented that board represents parents and students. Wants policy to define regular reporting to the board.

My comment: Board members are generally not trained and educated on creating curriculum. The administration and educators in the school system are. Best to have those trained do the job.

(3) xxxx
5.01 Curriculum again. Said one of the existing policies is not being included. I10.02 (?). Resulting policy reads like jargon. Stated the existing goal were stated better in the existing policy. Said that having a policy without stating what the goals should be seems empty. (didn’t get a lot of this)

My comment: Goals are not the same thing as a policy.

(4) xxxx
Speaking on curriculum… Stated that it will be the number one thing people are voting for in the next election. Thought that representation was what people were voting for in the past. Commented on state law – suppose to teach each kid equally. Not suppose to treat any differently on things like race, gender, and such. He commented that there is a lot of redundancy. He is hearing people say that kids are having topics repeated in school in multiple years. Stated that it sounds like there is a lack of cohesiveness in what is taking place. He Googled responsibilities of board members and learned that the number one thing is curriculum overview. Apparently the board shook their heads at this comment because he stated “you can shake your heads, but that is what comes up”. He stated that it was board’s responsibility to do procedures. He called out the President for a statement, which Janet said she did not say. It was noted that you aren’t supposed to call out individuals when speaking at board meetings, to which the comment “I said president, I didn’t say a person’s name” was basically stated.

My comment: You can use Google to find that aliens have been consulting with leaders in the White House. That doesn’t make it true. Board members do policy, not procedures. These are not the same thing. Board members are not qualified to develop curriculum.

*** Board member discussion and comments ***

Brad Boyer stated that he’d like someone to comment about policy versus procedure. He said policies are intended to be a bit vague so that the procedures can be more detailed. The admin puts the “meat on the bones” when they create the procedures. Boyer doesn’t know if every policy has a procedure or how these are cataloged. Boyer stated that many of the public comments were on what the procedures are expected to do — he asked how the procedures are built and such. My comment: To clarify: Procedures are created by the administration, Policies generally by the board.

Julie commented on the use of “periodically”. She stated that the work session they just had was discussion and reporting on things happening. She commented that in the work sessions they get a lot of the feedback on these items that the administration is expected to report about. If the Board stated that the administration needed to report to them each quarter, then would the admin report when things come up at other times? Things like curriculum don’t’ change as frequently monthly… She stated what I mentioned above but in a different manner: If board members were to sit in a room and dictate to professional educators on things that the admin is experts on, that would be insulting. The board has oversight. She went on to state that the board can have sessions and meetings when they need more information. This happens all the time.

Another board member commented that there are things that come up that the entire board won’t agree on, but once they take a vote they then move forward. The board can ask the President to bring up a topic. Bringing up a topic might not cause a topic to move forward, but then it might.

Julie Chambers further qualified that the board isn’t going to put “on the third of each month the board is going to do meet on blah” because that is a procedure – not a policy. The board does policies.

The policies are a guiderail for the procedures that will be developed.

It was noted that there are tabs in BoardDocs for policies and procedures. There is not a one-to-one between polices and procedures. In some cases there are links between the two on the site. My comment: If you are unaware, Boarddocs is an online site containing a lot of the school documentation including board meeting minutes, school policies, school procedures, and much more).

Michelle Fullhart commented that it is 100% wrong that the board does procedure. The Board does not do procedure, so whoever made that statement, it was not true. She also commented about I0.02 (?) not being in the policy with its list of goals. She stated that the Portrait of a Graduate initiative that the district has worked on for years addresses a lot of the information that were raised in that policy.

Janet Pritchett clarified that the Portrait of a Graduate is a Goal, not a policy. My comment: I’ve covered Portrait of a Graduate on Facebook and other posts in the past. There is also information on the HSESchools site about it. While I don’t believe it has been officially ‘approved’ by the board, I believe that the district is working to address/target the items within it.

Thomas commented that this is a first read. Indicated that maybe goals could still be added. It was again clarified that goals are not a policy thing, and that policies should be a general framework to be compliant with state standards. Goals should be done in other areas.

District goals will come up the beginning of next year. There are goals. They are not policies.

So at this point do you have the phrase “Policies, procedures, and goals Oh My!” with the thought of thought of wizards and yellow brick roads? My comment: The confusion of policies and procedures is one that I’ve seen come up regularly from people who don’t follow school board or truly understand the school board role. Most people don’t understand that school board don’t do procedures – that is the administration.

Brad Boyer commented that teacher are generally rule followers. He stated that it is important for the board to set the policies so that the procedures can be created around them to help the teachers. Boyer commented that the board did present goals in July, but they weren’t approved. Dr. Stokes commented that the goals were ran by school principals and that overall they are on board with them.

Dr. Stokes commented on the public comment about topics being repeated to students in multiple grades. She stated that state standards are redundant. Some things are repeated intentionally. There are standards by design that tend to look redundant. That’s a part of how learning works.

Michelle Fullhart commented that the board can’t set their own curriculum because there are state standards to be followed.

Thomas tried to clarify that “schools can’t create curriculum”. It was stated that schools follow state standards. Schools can choose things like books to use, but the State defines what the overall curriculum is.

A lot of the curriculum information has been posted online. It was stated that the 9-12 curriculum information should be posted the beginning of the year (I assume this meant calendar year). There is a 9-12 course guide that shows all the courses that can be seen at the schools. They are looking to create this course guide as a web page that can be navigated easier. Again, it was stated that there is information at all the schools that parents can go and look at. (My comment: so it isn’t hidden, just not as easy to access as we’d like – but it will get easier).

5.02 In-Person Instruction Plan

This was an informational item. Not vote.

Dr. Kelgley presented on the in-person instruction plan. The DoE requires that the return to instruction plan be reviewed every 6 months with a chance for public comments being provided. This meeting is the last chance for the HSE in-person plan to be reviewed within the current 6 months window. Most recent revisions to the instruction plan are on the HSESchools web site.

One new change they will be adding is that they have recently finalized a walk-in vaccination clinic that will be at Fishers High School from 3:30 to 7:30 on 12/17. Anyone 5 and up can be vaccinated. If you are under 18, you must be accompanied by an adult. Basically a ‘pop-up’ shop. This is just for Covid-19.

*** Public Comments ***

My comment: I didn’t do a good job of catching these speaker’s comments. In short – the two speakers appear to be anti-mask. Odd that these two speakers felt the need to remove their masks to talk, when most other speakers did not. In my opinion, the type of information being presented should be presented prior to a board meeting. By the time there is a meeting, the board is not going time to have really consider thoughts or references.

(1) Smith
Said thanks for updating the public on the in-person plan. Commented about segregation and distancing of students based on their health choices. Commented that HSE is failing to follow what others are doing. Not showing that mask work. Still finding information on masks not being good. Stated that if HSE doesn’t take a stand and do what is right for the children, this will never end. Policy should be transparent to the science. Optional masking should be considered. Natural immunity matters. Stated that CDC vaccine doesn’t stop transmission or spread. Stated that unvaccinated kids are not the problem. There are several options that families can choose (such as being virtual or in-person), and families should be able to choose to not mask. (My comment: two districts just announced they are going back to mandatory masks.)

(2) Dan “the doctor”
Asking board to look beyond health departments. Indicated health departments are wrong. Commented that positive test results don’t matter and that controls put in place have been shown not to work. There is no justification for discrimination of anyone based on vaccine status. If anything, the vaccines are increasing the spread. My comment: Lots of comments I missed on this one due to connection, but others commented on social media about the comments.

Again – I missed a bit of the public comments from these two speakers.

*** Board questions or comments ***

One of the board members engaged with the second speaker, which generally isn’t done. Thomas asked a question as to whether other illnesses have gone down. Within his response, he stated that masks don’t stop the submicron level particles, so the masks (including N95) don’t really help these. He stated that the viruses can’t be filtered.  (My comment: It’s always interesting to see the credentials of the “doctors” who speak at school board meetings.)

Thomas asked what is expected to happen after winter break?

Janet commented that she cannot go against what the Indiana Health Department is suggesting.

Dr. Stokes stated that she doesn’t expect the administrators to go against the State, which says they have to do contact tracing. It can be a class B misdemeanor if the school does not do contact tracing, so they will not risk being charged. Dr. Stokes went on t state that there are codes about safety and different health things that happen in the buildings. If certain things happen, then it could close down the school. While there are lots of thoughts and opinions for individuals, she is making the decisions that are going to do the best to keep all 21,500 kids in school.

Dr. Stokes said they still plan to look at mask optional next calendar year. This won’t happen on day 1 (January 5th) because there is generally an uptick in positivity after the holidays. Positivity rate or the number of kids out on quarantine could put a school back into masking in the classroom. They will share more of this before January 1st in a Friday update.

(( I missed a few comment here, but I don’t believe anything new was stated. ))

5.03 GMP for Fall Creek Jr. High Renovation

This was an informational item. (But, a vote was done and passed 7-0)

The Fall Creek Junior High renovation project was budgeted at $17 million. They are looking to approve a contract with Hagerman, Inc. for a maximum of just over $14 million for the hard costs along with soft costs that bring this up to a few dollars under the $17 million budget. There is one item that was not included (a new press box that was over $100k?). If they can get the contract approved, then things can start to move forward.

The soft costs are things like architect fees, technology items, cost of bonds to finance, etc. total of soft costs is around $2.9 million. These are not in the hard cost construction items or $14 million number above. There is contingency built into the plan. If they come in under the $17 million, then they will try to work the press box into the project as well, they just don’t want to commit to it at this time.

Suzanne Thomas asked for clarification about the spending: This project is not something new, it is something that has been in discussion and that was put into design a long time ago. If approved tonight it means they can start construction in December.

It was asked how the construction would impact staff and students. They’ve worked to develop a very complicated phase in plan. They described some of the plan, which involved moving people around in the school. There will be teachers that will be moved during some of the construction. The key point was that the principal (and school) has been involved with the planning.

While this was an informational item, the board went ahead and approved with a 7-0 vote.

6.01 Grounds Agreement Between HSE Schools and the City of Fishers

Nothing changed on this from the last meeting. This was approved.

My comments: I still find this odd expense since it was stated that the City’s work was done as an offset for the dollars taken by TIFs. More importantly, it was asked at the last meeting that Facilities get quotes from others so that they district would have the comparison and show that due diligence was done. Nothing was stated about this, no other quotes were mentioned, and simply put, it does not appear that this happened. In my opinion, this absolutely should have been done and is a failure on the board’s part to not have followed up.

6.02 Temporary Loan for Food Service

Food services continues to receive property taxes and other fees. They pay staff, but don’t receive any revenues. They are receiving a higher rate from the government to cover spending through June 30th.

My comment: This item might seem odd for those that don’t follow the school. Many school costs happen throughout the year; however, government payments to schools often happen at certain times. As such, there are times when money will be shifted (internally loaned) to cover the costs of something (such as food services) until the government funds are received. This isn’t an indication that food services is “in trouble”, but really simply a work-around to be able to spend money before expected funds are received. (This is what has been explained in the past, so if something has changed, feel free to let me know.)

Suzanne asked how the loan gets paid back? It is from operations and will get paid back next December.

The loan was approved 7-0.

6.03 Teacher Appreciation Grant

From Board docs:
The State of Indiana allocates monies in the biennium for the Teacher Appreciation Grant (TAG). This year, HSE received $792,126.86 TAG. The amount is based on a base rate multiplied by the number of students in the district. Indiana Code 20-28-8-28 provides the definition of classroom teacher and the TAG guidelines require that only classroom teachers, defined as those instructing students 50% or more of the time, are eligible to receive the TAG stipend. The law also requires that there be a 25% differential in compensation for effective and highly effective We received the teacher appreciation grant money from the state on December 5th and have 20 business days to pay it out to certified staff who qualify. We are asking for board approval this evening to distribute these funds to teachers who qualify in a special pay on December 17th.

  • Effective = $575.75
  • Effective part-time = $287.88
  • Highly Effective = $719.69
  • Highly Effective part-time = $359.84

From the meeting:

Those teachers that are excluded from the fund are generally rewarded from the education fund. For the 215 excluded it will cost roughly $190,000 to $230,000 from the education fund. This is money that would come from schools funds – not from the grant.

This bonus payment is not a guarantee for future years. Some of the people who were excluded from the TAG bonus included speech pathologist, teacher librarians, and others that are not in a “classroom setting”. The guidance that came with the grant excludes some of these excluded positions specifically by name.

My thought: Did the administration / board include the $190,000 to $230,000 in the budget? If the answer is no, then where is this money coming from?

Within the discussion, Brad Boyer finally asked if we have these funds in the budget? The funds were not budgeted; however, it was stated that the funds are available due to the staffing shortages.

Suzanne Thomas asked if a cap should be included on this to limit how much is used for the bonus. It was stated that the math would prevent it from going over the $230 for 215 people. In fact, at the highest rate of roughly $720, the maximum should be less than $154,800. It was indicated that the higher numbers proposed were because admin bonuses were originally included. The admin is not part of the 215 that were approved.

Passed 7-0

My comment: One of the most interesting things I’ve noted about our school administration in the years I’ve followed the board closely is how they can “find” money when there is something they want, but can’t find it when it is not of direct interest. For example, they were never able to find money to fully cover playgrounds or to pump up the lower level position pay (mentioned earlier), but they could find it for bonuses. (To be clear, I’m not against these bonuses.). My point is on how funding can be found for one thing (bonuses or multi-million dollar admin building renovations) but not for others (playgrounds, recycling).

To be continued….

I had a lot of notes from this meeting. You can continue with the rest of my live notes at the following link:  (LINK WILL BE ADDED WHEN PART 2 IS POSTED)

2021 – December 8th – Live Notes from the HE School Board Meeting (Part 2)

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