Not much at all on tonight’s agenda — an update on the annual review of facilities and books/equipment required under the Williams case, and several contracts for services at June Jordan Small School for Equity.
But before I get to the actual recap of tonight’s Board meeting, I thought people might be interested in what the Board actually eats before meetings (there’s been some interest in that lately 🙂 —
Now on to the meeting: Several T-10 class security guards and their representatives from UESF came to speak during public comment about the impact of the Board’s decision last year to cut back the T-10’s hours from seven to six, for a savings of nearly $800,000 annually. The UESF argument is that the district has received roughly $9 million from the Edujobs bill but is not spending that money yet, even though their workers are suffering. The Superintendent’s argument is that the reduction in hours was agreed to by everyone last year, and that waiting to spend the Edujobs money is prudent until we know what kind of 2011-12 budget picture we are facing (that should become more clear in January).
I’m inclined to restore the five hours per week we cut from the T-10s, then preserve the remainder of the Edujobs money for future economic uncertainties. But it’s prudent to wait until we have a better idea of how bad 2011-12 will be.
There was a brief discussion about two consultant contracts for June Jordan Small School for Equity. This school has drawn some media attention for its low test scores and higher-than-average pupil spending. Under our Small Schools by Design policy, the school is now heading into its quadrennial re-evaluation, so Board members made some requests for data about student achievement and spending.
I worked with a parent from June Jordan who felt that it did an excellent job in working with the most at-risk students. Because of its small school size, students got more attention – much more than they normally would. My friend’s daughter was high risk also, and they worked hard with her to keep her motivated and in school. Of course their attrition rate would be high when the majority of their students are high risk.
And on the subject of feeding staff, I think it’s great that the staff get a meal when they’re required to stay so late. I’ve been at these late board meetings and I am impressed with how “on” the staff have been even at a late hour. I don’t agree that they should get school meals just because that’s what students get. There is no logic in that to me. I do agree with the point that teachers and staff that stay late for school-related meetings aren’t given a meal stipend, but I’m not sure what can be done about that, other than school PTAs including it in their budget to support staff.
Even though the Board of Education Commissioners make me so mad sometimes, having to eat school lunches is something I would NEVER make ANY of them do. Barbaric punishment.
Just for the record, there would be no need to add an extra caf worker (and most of them make nowhere near $50,000 per year) just for your meetings; the meals could be heated at Civic Center HS across the street from the district headquarters by the caf worker there at the end of the lunch shift, put into thermal bags and delivered by the contract delivery service that SNS already uses. This is exactly the kind of meal service currently provided for the pregnant students at Hilltop HS, so it certainly should be good enough for board members and staff.
We will have to agree to disagree on whether the Superintendent (who makes well up there in 6 figures annually) or his cabinet members (all of whom are also well compensated, especially as compared to teachers) should be entitled to expect a free catered meal before every board meeting. I mean, the teachers at my kids’ schools who served on SSC always stayed late for those meetings, but the schools were never able to afford to offer them a catered meal, and their work day started just as early (soemtimes earlier) than the district staff people. I’m just saying, it looks bad, even if the amount is relatively small, to be spending money on feeding those taking home hefty salaries, when that money could otherwise go to pay for something in the classroom.
@nestwife, a couple more responses: first, I’d actually be happy to have the school lunch as the meal served to board and staff, and in fact it’s been considered before. The problem is having a cafeteria employee prepare and transport the meal to the Board meeting in the late afternoon — there aren’t any SNS employees working at that hour, as you well know. And our two board staff members are consumed with meeting preparations at that hour (and already underpaid for the duties they are already expected to carry out, as you pointed out). $22,000 for catering is still cheaper than the $50,000 (with benefits) it would cost us to add another SNS cafeteria worker.
I disagree that we feed too many staff, and that those we feed should be expected to get their own dinners. The executive team (Supt, General Counsel, Deputy Supts) is required to attend our meetings, as are the Assistant Superintendents, the Board liaison and other senior cabinet members (our head of facilities, for example). These staff get to work by 8 a.m. and on Board meeting nights are often not excused until 9 p.m. or even later. (Last night’s agenda was unusually short and we still didn’t finish the meeting until after 8:30 p.m.).
People have asked why we don’t just get takeout pizzas and salads, since that would probably be cheaper than the caterer. Maybe, but not after you’ve added up the cost of all the paper products and staff time (see discussion above of underpaid and overworked Board staff members) required to order, set up and clean up afterwards.
One thing that has noticeably increased the price of the Board/staff meal is the decision several years ago to schedule our closed sessions on a different night than the regular board meeting. The tradeoff has been that we start the regular meetings much earlier and that all of the meetings have been easier on staff and others who have worked a full day before the meetings even get underway. But this decision probably increased the catering expenses by 30 percent or more.
It’s not a perfect system, and we’ve all made judgements about what is acceptable in this situation. Could we cut costs? Absolutely. Will there be unintended consequences? Yes. Right now, this is a reasonable compromise, but one that we need to continue to examine to make sure we’re spending public funds appropriately.
One other thing: I don’t have a problem with district funds being spent to provide food for the board members, and the one or two board staff who must stay at these meetings often late into the night; all of them are underpaid. However, I don’t see why district funds should be spent to provide dinner for other district staff who attend these meetings. Typically these are top level staffers, department heads who are well paid, as opposed to board members, who get $500 a month, or the board’s executive assistant, whose salary is nowhere near the six figures that most top level staff are earning. Is it too much to expect that these folks who earn twice what a starting teacher is paid (or more) should kick in some $$$ to help cover the cost of a catered meal, if it is being provided as a convenience to them? Or let them go out and buy their own dinner before the meeting.
@nestwife FYI they are chicken breasts, not chicken wings. I knew I’d get dinged on the soda.
With all due respect to our hard working and underpaid school board members, I think $22,000 for pre-meeting catering is the first expense which should be trimmed. Seriously, chicken wings? Chocolate cake? SODA??? It would be nice if our BOE members and staff modeled healthy eating for the students; none of the above mentioned items, which appear in your slideshow, meet the district’s own Wellness Policy standards.
Here’s an idea – why not serve board members the same food being offered to high school students in their cafeterias on the day of the meeting? If those meals are considered good enough for our lowest income and most vulnerable students, many of whom rely on school meals for most of their daily nutrition, they should certainly be considered good enough for school board members. At an adult price of $3.50 per meal, this has to be an enormous savings over the several hundred dollars per meeting now being spent on catered food.
I’d think the biggest concern about June Jordan would be its alarming attrition/dropout rate — shouldn’t that be raising red flags? I don’t know how it compares to the rates at other high schools that serve low-income, at-risk populations, but it seems like it should be a priority issue.