Here is the update for the school board meeting of January 11, 2011.
The superintendent reported that there were 8 Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) investigations since the last board meeting, with 5 being "founded" and 3 "unfounded."
The superintendent also took some time to discuss her progress toward achieving her goals thus far this year. The goals were categorized into student achievement, finances, and community relations. It is worthwhile to view the videotape once it is posted on www.howelltv.org, but suffice it to say that I personally appreciated the time taken to enumerate and elaborate on these goals. I felt that it advanced the board's goal of increased transparency and accountability while at the same time enlightening us on the many initiatives underway in the district. The public can only see so much of what is happening in the district, usually confined to our own child(ren) and/or individual school, but we are one community and I enjoyed seeing "the bigger picture." It gave me an increased measure of pride in our district. I, again personally, think it is time very well spent at the dais and, while it may add a bit to the superintendent's plate and the board's business, the payoff is great and I hope to see this continue.
There have been some minor committee staffing changes since last meeting. John Van Noy will no longer be a member of the Policy Committee, but will continue as Chair of Finance, and Mary Cerretani will be taking Mr. Van Noy's seat on Policy.
Mr. Sanasac gave an update on the use of the Southard School building as it progresses toward a "community center." The building is getting a good deal of use, from PAL, Head Start/Acelaro, a local church, and some others, and Mr. Sanasac projected that the building would bring revenue into the school district of about $140K to $180K.
The "major" announcement to me was that the Legislature, at the end of this "lame duck" session, passed a bill that would allow the Annual School Election to be moved from April to November. The Governor signed the bill into law today, to take effect immediately according to the version I read.
The law does not mandate the election be moved but sets up procedures whereby it can be moved, by vote of the school board, the town council or the voters. The law also eliminates the budget vote for school districts that move their election to November provided the budget comes in at or below the 2% cap.
The law sets up procedures for regional school districts to move their election to November as well. The local Howell school district election can be held in November even if the regional school district election remains in April, under the law.
It is projected that moving the election to November, along with the general election, will save about $25K - $30K on the school district's budget, because we would not have to pay for election workers and the like. In addition, the thought is that there will be greater voter turnout at the general election than is historically the case for April school elections alone, so more people will participate in school election vote.
However, the only thing you would be voting on if the election moves to November would be the election of board members and not the budget, assuming it is at or below the allowed 2% cap. If there are additional questions, including permission to exceed the 2% cap, the public would vote on those items but not the "underlying" budget, as I understand the law.
I would be very interested to know your opinion on this issue. Do you want the election moved to November? If so, do you want that to occur for the cost savings? For the increased participation by public? For both reasons?
Do you want the election to remain in April and, if so, why?
Do you want to retain the right to vote on the budget, regardless of whether it is at or below the 2% cap?
I always invite your feedback but I would particularly appreciate hearing from you on this specific issue, as I am sure the school board and town council would as well.
Finally, please set aside March 24, 2011 to attend the Parent Academy. It sounds as though another excellent program is being put together by Dr. Bandlow and many others, including teachers, administrators and PTA/PTOs (I hope I didn't miss anyone). There may be a "celebrity" speaker this year; perhaps a former Giants football player whose name escapes me at the moment. Stay tuned for further details.