The Superintendent Advisory Council (SAC) is a meeting between the Hamilton Southeastern Schools superintendent, Dr. Stokes, and members representing each of the HSE school PTOs as well as community representatives for each of the HSE school board meetings. These meetings provide a chance for Dr. Stokes to communicate information to a group of parents across the entire district and to get feedback as well. While I attended these meetings in the past as a PTO representative, I currently attend as a representative of a board member.
The following are my notes from the November 16th meeting that took place at Central Office. Please excuse the “roughness” of the notes as they are just that – my notes that I’m sharing with you!
Justin Hirnisey presented on the HSE Foundation. Justin is the executive director of the foundation.
Justin presented on two events related to the HSEF.
- Game Day 2022. Plan is for Game Day to be in-person this year on February 18th at Conner Prairie. The Foundation is hoping for sponsorships again from each of the PTOs in the amount of $450 (which covers a table and includes 6 tickets). They also are asking for each PTO to donate a themed basket with a value of at least $150. (The theme is a suggestion). PTOs can work with Foundation to avoid duplicate themes on baskets if they want. There is a form sent to the PTOs. Auction will launch mid to late February. The Foundation provides monetary prizes to the PTO baskets that raise the most money in donations.
The Game Day silent auction will go live in February a little before the actual Game Day event. There are a large number of items beyond the themed baskets. Although it wasn’t stated, Local businesses can donate items of value to the Foundation to include in the auction as well. Lower priced items are likely to be grouped. All funds raised from the auction go to the support the Foundation including covering the cost of teacher and other grants.
- Giving Tuesday is also coming up on November 11th. This is a simple fundraiser where people simply make a donation to the foundation on November 11th either online or otherwise. They can then post a picture or video with the hashtag #HSEFunselfie and @hsefoundation proclaiming they donated. It’s a simple way to give to eh foundation and support the schools
Justin commented briefly on how the Foundation uses money including the statement that grants are a big part of what they do. The Foundation recently handed out 30 grants across the district.
The following are a number of items that members of the SAC have asked about (prior to this meeting). Dr. Stokes and the administration provided information on each.
The Move from DES to DCE (update)
There have been questions regarding the move from Durbin to Deer Creek. They will be talking to teacher’s union tonight about how the staff will move. There is also accommodation for the 2021-22 budget to help support some of the changes in the building such as a bigger library and possible needs for additional furniture.
PTO Support at Deer Creek Elementary School
While not of interest to the general public, the question of having the district schools contribute to the Deer Creek Elementary School PTO is was raised. In the past, the schools within the district have donated funds when a new school opens to help the PTO get started. Similar donations are being requested for Deer Creek Elementary.
It has been pointed out that Deer Creek is not a new PTO , but rather the Durbin Elementary School PTO with a new school name. Southeastern Elementary PTO was associated to a completely new school that had to form as a completely new organization (PTO). As one PTO leaders stated, when SES’s PTO started, they didn’t have paper or pencils nor anything to do fundraisers such as a school carnival with. As such, the situation was different than DCE.
It was stated that Deer Creek will be larger than Durbin. There will be more students. Of course, while not stated, there will also be more parents to help raise funds going forward.
The admin will consider the issue and with the PTO President to determine what needs to be done regarding this topic. It was stated that because DCE is taking over kids from other schools, the PTO president might want to reach out to those schools and work on the agreement with them. Ultimately, the PTOs are independent organizations unassociated directly with the schools. As such, it was clearly stated that the HSE Administration has no authority to be involved with funding.
For those curious, each school donated $500 to the SEE PTO when it started.
It was asked within the SAC meeting what level of funds had. While that wasn’t answered, it is likely that even though Durbin is a smaller school, it likely has as much in funds as some of the Junior High Schools. That’s speculation on my part based on having ran the RJH PTO for two years.
Nothing was decided about contributing to the Deer Creek PTO within the SAC meeting. While I served several years on PTO boards, I’m currently not on a PTO board, so my opinion is not relevant in this case. I will say what others won’t want to say publicly, which is that this is not a new PTO, but rather one that is simply shifting locations. It is my opinion that the inner-district donations should be reserved solely for new PTOs starting from scratch. It is also my opinion, that the amount of those donations should go down based on the large number of schools.
Feeder System within the District(update)
Matt Kegley talked about this. Chaired a committee in April looking into this. There were findings and recommendations from that. He did a presentation to the board this past April on the findings. There were pieces that are still pieces on the table and “in doubt”. Questions like, what is going to happen in other areas of the district? Would redistricting need to happen.
At the October meeting on the 10-year plan, Fishers Elementary came up. There are scenarios in the work that the committee did that took into consideration if FES was no longer an elementary or if it moved. The board determined in October they needed to look closer at FES and its future. The board plans to do this in December. Dr. Kegley suggested the board look at the April information as they look at FES.
With the opening of DCE and future of FES, this could change redistricting and such. It makes sense to wait until those are solidified until reviewing the feeder system again.
The administration knows the population at Hamilton Southeaster Intermediate and Junior High (HIJH) is high. Dr. Kegley commented that they don’t have any current plans on redefining boundaries for junior highs. They are looking at HIJH and Southeastern Elementary to add extra support for the second semester since they know both have increased enrollment. They are working to get through this year and then work to make long term decisions.
- Will transportation be offered next year to kids that were supposed to go to HIJ that chose to go to Fall Creek?
The Fall Creek Junior High plan was expected to go away, but with house building in the area, they expect that plan to continue. They don’t expect to expand the offering beyond those already in the divisions it is offered and possibly new divisions. They do plan, at some point, to sunset it.
- Where is the admin support coming from?
The admin will hire the help and it will just be for second semester.
Redefining Boundaries (update)
There was an internal committee meeting (admin) to work through different options to present to the public for their input and future development. A fourth (D) option was given
The major concerns raised in the feedback included that Deerpath (?) division was split. There was also discussion about HIJH that was raised in the discussion. A third issue was regarding proximity – the issue of driving passed other schools.
There was a public work session on the feedback, scenarios, and such. They are now narrowed down and focusing mainly on Scenario C and D. They are now focused on more of the details. This includes who is moving, who is impacted, what transportation is happening, what type of ‘choice’ like what happened with HIJH students being able to go to Fall Creek. They are working on these specific details to bring to a work session on the 1st (?) so that they can make a recommendation at the December board meeting. Hope is to get final approval at that meeting so people will know what is happening next Fall.
A lot of information is already provided on line. If you have questions, it might already be asked online.
As Dr. Stokes indicated, “the elephant in the room” tends to be masks.
There is never going to be a decision that a superintendent that people will 100% agree with. Dr. Stokes indicated that ever decision she makes will be made by information they have on hand, the brainpower in the admin building, along with industry experts, parents, and all other data available.
At the last board meeting Dr. Stokes covered the reasons she they can’t go mask optional now. (See my write up of those reasonings at @@@@@.
The current plan is that to go masks optional in the second semester. There are a lot of factors that can impact this. Dr. Stokes commented on many of the things she mentioned at the board meeting.
Some of the reasons for not dropping it now.
- While kids can get vaccinated now (5-11). It would be mid-December before your child would be fully vaccinated. With back-ups, the more likely date is later.
- What about the kids that are not 5? There are pre-school kids in the district. There are considerations on what those kids need to do.
- The teachers and staff have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. Teachers have not been required to be vaccinated. There is information “out there” on guidance for businesses that might also impact schools (e.g. business mandate for those with over 100 people). Right now, there is no mandating happening from the HSE Administration. Dr. Stokes stated that someone at a higher position than her would have to make that mandate – it isn’t going to be her (e.g. politician).
- There have been questions about teachers not wearing masks that are not vaccinated. It has been stated that this could impact kids. The administration is considering this.
- People have asked what metric is going to be used. – The metric used will be one that does not cause them to violate Indiana code.
- Why do we contact trace? If they are asymptomatic, then why do you make them go home? If the school violates contact tracing or other state and federal rules, then the school district can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. It is illegal for the school to not contact trace. It isn’t a choice at this time. They are still working out what the metrics.
- The other issue is related to the 20% threshold. The district must report to the state when attendance is down by 20% or more. IC 512 – 1-2-2
- School districts don’t make up rules just because they can. There are laws they have to follow. The laws require safe environments being created.
- There are other reasons such as the federal rules for masks on public transportation (including school buses) that are in place.
- Dr. Stokes commented that the administration isn’t taking the mask – or any other decision – lightly.
The nurse in the room stated — If a student is positive in a classroom, then if all kids in class are wearing a mask, then they don’t have to contact trace. When you go masks optional, you run the risk of more kids being sent home if there is a positive case.
If it is mask optional and there is one kid in the room that is not masked, then any unvaccinated kids would need to be contact traced.
The return to in-person instruction plan is still planned to be presented at the December meeting. That plan should have an “if….then” component such as “If we have masks optional, then this….”
- What is driving the decision to go masks optional? Is it that the shots are available for kids?
No, it isn’t just the kids getting vaccinated. The issue that kids who choose virtual or in-person because of masks, can’t change that decision until the semester change.
A question was asked regarding the need for parents to send in vaccination information for kids.
If a kid is a close contact, the school nurses will go to the state registration plan see who they need to contact about quarantines and such.
- If a child gets quarantined, what happens?
It was stated that if a student is quarantined, they have an option to zoom into the classroom. They assignments will be on Canvas. The zoom and such is driven by the teachers. It is not planned to by synchronous plans like last year. Zooming might only be at limited times. There is no point zooming into a lab for example. At the higher grades, teachers can simply open zoom, but they might not be teaching to it.
- Where is the rule that a masked vaccinated person doesn’t have to be quarantined?
The CDC and the state department of health. The school is getting a lot of this guidance from the State, which gets it from the CDC.
- One class has had to quarantine, but other classes didn’t. Kids at home aren’t distancing.
The idea is that quarantined kids should be separated from other kids at home. The school can only rely on parents to do the best they can. There is no perfect solution.
- Students who are virtual are not allowed to participate in extracurricular. If they go to masks optional, does this change students ability to participate in activities?
They started the year masks-optional, and this rule was in place then. The mindset was that the virtual option was for kids who did not want to really come to the school. They plan to keep the virtual kids excluded from extracurricular activities because they can’t predict how the rest of the semester will go.
- If the parent is willing to take the risk, can they let their virtual kid come to extracurriculars with a mask…..?
If you are going virtual, you have your reasons for keeping the kids virtual and to keep those kids away from others. They assume that is still true.
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