Friday, December 17, 2010

Board Adopts District Goals

When the new Board of Education took office in July, President Jim Hudson wanted to take a fresh look at our goals and make sure all Board members had a chance to give careful thought to the process. To that end, the Board held a planning workshop this past October, most of which was devoted to a discussion of how the schools help students cope with social issues in their daily lives.

At other times the Board also heard presentations on the District's global initiative, a facilities report, and the background for budget development. At the December meeting, Dr. Hudson presented a final version of the proposed goals for Board discussion.

Regarding a goal about Annual Professional Performance Review, Dr. Quattrone explained the background of Race to the Top requirements, which, among other changes, assigns a weight of 40% to student achievement results in all teacher evaluations. The district will negotiate the exact terms with the Bronxville Teachers Association as the law stipulates, and we must develop a new plan by next September.

There was also quite a bit of discussion about the learning environment and youthful behavior. The Board wanted to make sure parents were included in a discussion with Village officials and asked that a review of existing programs be kept current, to include such problems as cyber-bullying. The Board affirmed the importance of strong programs at all levels of the system, mentioning specifically the Elementary School program on courtesy, civility, and character.

Finally, with respect to finances, the Board declined to set a specific budget target for the coming year, nor did they link the budget to anticipated tax caps.
After modifications were made to reflect these concerns, the Board adopted these goals unanimously:
  1. By June 2011, through the collaborative examination of student work, the faculty will have established a district definition and assessment standards for critical thinking, creativity, innovation, and student initiative and responsibility.
  2. By June 2011, create and plan for the implementation of a new Annual Professional Performance Review process, consistent with new state requirements regarding teacher and principal evaluation, achievement accountability, appeals procedures, and data collection and analysis.
  3. Hold a joint dialogue about social issues and teenage behavior with students, parents, staff, the Board of Education, and Village Trustees.
  4. Study the need for and feasibility of regular forums or programs at the high school to promote high standards of personal conduct and healthy, safe, responsible behavior.
  5. Strengthen the continuity, connections, and consistency of school climate programs across the schools.
  6. Update the facilities master plan to address identified infrastructure needs and renovate Middle School science classrooms and the auditorium. Develop a funding approach to carry out the plan, including establishing a construction reserve.
  7. Develop a 2011 school budget that supports high quality teaching, programs, services, and operations.
  8. Provide a multi-year framework for budget planning that includes an analysis of per pupil costs, and projections/scenarios that address unfunded mandates, declining state aid, and the rising costs of compensation, retirement, and benefits.
The strategic questions associated with these goals can be found here.

Internal Auditors Review Facilities Controls

Each year the Board of Education selects an area for an internal audit. In the past, for example, the auditors examined co-curricular activities and strengthened controls by assigning a staff member to serve as the central treasurer for student activity accounts. For 2009-10, the Board asked its auditors to review facilities procedures, based on a risk assessment of the expenditures and level of activity in that area.

David Moran of Accume Partners delivered the report at the December meeting, following a prior session with the Board's audit committee. The auditor reviewed controls and procedures regarding supplies and equipment; purchased services contracts, preventive maintenance and work order systems; overtime; facilities use; and state requirements. Some of the specific recommendations for improvement included:

  1. Improve the documentation related to purchased service contracts;
  2. Make better use of a work order/room reservation system;
  3. Update the building conditions survey and facilities report card;
  4. Pre-approve all overtime requests;and
  5. Comply with prevailing wage requirements.
Assistant Superintendent Dan Carlin noted that most of the recommendations are already in place or in process. Recommended adjustments to requirements of documentation were implemented immediately. As a way of addressing several anticipated recommendations, School Dude, a new work order/preventive maintenance/room reservation system was installed this past summer. Our architects completed the Five Year Building and Conditions survey and presented it in October; the School Facilities Report card will be presented in January. The auditor expressed a high level of comfort with the management response to these issues and stated that "in many instances remedial action has already been implemented." Accume will forward its current risk assessment to the Board in January.

Accume's presentation can be found here.

Other News from the Board of Education

In addition to adopting district goals and hearing the internal audit report, the Bronxville Board of Education addressed several other issues of interest at its December meeting:
  • Dr. Quattrone thanked the PTA and the Council for their much-appreciated Holiday Tea; announced the Holiday Sings at the Elementary School and band, orchestra, and choral concerts at the secondary schools; recognized the two-week exchange with students from the Canary Islands, thanking Patrick Miele for his leadership efforts; and acknowledged the ninth grade community service project with the Andrus Center.
  • Mr. Carlin announced that we are nearing completion of the boiler project, and that the general contract should be done by mid-January. There are ongoing issues with the performance of one boiler, but the other three are providing sufficient heat as we work to fix that problem. although all tests indicate that the sound made by the boilers fall within acceptable levels, we are working with our architect to attenuate sound further, as requested by neighbors. Possible remedies include interior baffling, exterior shielding, or landscaping.
  • Mr. Carlin reported that he is projecting a $700,000 surplus in the current fiscal year, which would allow the District to offset the tax rate as it did last year. Pierre de St. Phalle, chair of the finance committee, described the goals the committee established for this year, encompassing budget guidance, investment policy, financial structures, and reporting formats. The goals can be found here.
  • Dr. Kehoe described the scope of duties performed by Securitas, our new security guard provider. The firm covers the fields and the building during off-hours and weekends, making full use of our surveillance cameras. Communication protocols with the Bronxville Police have also been arranged.
  • Dr. Cain, liaison to the Policy Board, described that group's effort to set up an evaluation and assessment framework for the district's global initiative.
  • Dr. Hudson shared his thoughts about a recent meeting about class size, requested by the PTA, Elementary Council officers, and several parents. Mr. Rugani, Dr. Quattrone, and Dr. Wilson also attended. The existing guidelines go back to 1992, and the policy is dated 1975, so there is a question about their continued relevance. Dr. Hudson said it may be more useful to replace the guidelines with principles and beliefs that affirm the value of small class sizes, especially in the primary grades, yet retain the flexibility to adapt to changing finances and enrollment fluctuations. Dr. Quattrone pointed out that we will have some real numbers to look at when the budget is presented.