Woodbridge Board of Education Meeting Dec 15, 2008

This evening will have the regularly scheduled Woodbridge Board of Education meeting. I’ve attended several of the meetings this year and watched as they’ve attempted to start using a program called eMeeting to manage the documents of the meetings.

An advantage of this is that documents which had to be printed before can be viewed from board members laptops. The downside of this is that unless you have a laptop with you that supports broadband wireless like EDVO, 3G or EDGE networks, or until the school works out issues of allowing citizens access to the schools WiFi network during meeting, unless they print out documents, which sort of defeats a key goal of eMeeting, then you probably can’t view the documents.

That is, with one additional caveat. Another advantage of eMeeting is that the documents are generally available online prior to the meeting. For example, most of the Woodbridge Board of Education Meetings are available online. You can read the agenda for this evening’s meeting and see key documents.

For example, this evening, Dr. Stella is scheduled to talk about a visit of thirty educators from the Shandong Province in China. A message to parents presenting the opportunity to help serve as hosts is included in the documents available online for this evenings meeting.

Another key issue to be discussed will be the 2009/2010 budget proposal. I’ve already had the opportunity to look at the budget. As it currently stands, the proposal is for the budget grow by 1.84% from about $11.7 million to $11.9 million. Some of that is because of the 7% increase in medical insurance, which adds $126,224 to the budget.

Other topics include the curriculum committee’s discussion about the Tri-State Consortium and upcoming curriculum and professional development initiatives. Policy updates, facility reports and financial reports are also available at the eMeeting site.

So, even though I don’t expect to be able to go online during the meeting, I will have access to many of the reports on my laptop. It would be great if more people would check reports like this and then attend meetings in their school districts.

Update 1:
They have managed to provide WiFi here, so I am managing to live blog, at least a little bit. The meeting started off with a call to order and Pledge of Allegiance.

For correspondence, there was a letter from Sen. Crisco recognizing Bunny Yesner. There was a discussion about the great role she played in the school and thoughts about how to honor her.

Dr. Stella spoke about the visiting educators from China as well as a business association that visited the school to encourage a winter vacation readers challenge.

The discussion moved on to the budget.

Update 2:
Dr. Stella started off by talking about the goal of attaining high performance and reaching 21st century skills, while at the same time not unnecessarily burdening taxpayers. There was a lot of discussion about funding of health insurance issues, both for current employees and for retirees.

The focus on professional development was emphasized, which makes a lot of sense. Approximately 80% of the budget is personnel related, so it makes sense that the school seeks to continue its most valuable asset.

Update 3:
During the discussion about the budget, the topic of the schools accounting software came up. Currently, the software is being hosted by the town and shared with the school. However, the town is moving to hosting the accounting software on an ASP. In doing so, the town will start sharing the costs with the school district. This has led to a lengthy discussion about the pros and cons of the software, service agreements, the possibility of sharing the service with Amity school district.

Update 4:
The discussion moves on from budget to additional related issues. Dr. Stella speaks about the Tri-State consortium. Back in 2005, the Tri-State Consortium did an analysis of the school district. Dr. Stella has participated in doing analysis in other schools and he wants to encourage members of the staff to visit other schools. This would include training in the staff in program evaluation.

This opened up a discussion about what should go on with respect to the evaluation by Tri-State. Dr. Stella is seeking to get people more involved in Tri-State. This raises issues of timing with staff focusing program evaluation versus preparing for a visit by Tri-State to evaluate the school.

Update 5:
Carl notes that the five year budget had been projecting an increase of 5% for this year, and the 1.8% is, in part, due to good management by the administration. “Those costs that can be managed are being well managed.” At the same time, there was a recognition that some of the success in keeping the budget under control can be attributed to fortunate development in some mandated costs.

The budget was passed by the board and greeted with applause.

Update 6:
The PTO provided an update on their activities, including fundraising for the Kucinskas Memorial Loop. This was followed by a facilities committee report. A key focus is a three kilowatt solar array that has been granted to the town through the clean energy program. This array would be about ten feet by forty feet. The town would have the option to buy an additional kilowatt worth of panels, which would be matched. Issues about how the design and building of the solar array was discussed including where it should go, how it should be supported, and what additional costs there might be for the school.

Other benefits of the solar panels includes how they can be integrated into the curriculum. There was also a discussion about the pool drain. It is a different type of pool drain than those that have been problematic in other areas. There has been a discussion about whether or not an exemption could be granted or what kind of modifications were needed.

It was noted that the Recreation Department has just sent out an update that the pool will be closed from December to March to address this issue.

This was followed by a discussion of the curriculum committee. My batteries are about to die, so I will end the liveblogging here.

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At the beginning of the

Issues about how the design