Meeting Highlights: Monday February 22, 2016
2016-2017 Budget. The major presentation and discussion at the meeting by Superintendent Matt Spelker was the second report on the school district budget. Non-property tax revenue is projected to be about $900,000 (about $49,000 (6%) larger than 2015, including a $4,600 increase in state aid). Major expense increases include an about 9% to 11% increase in health benefits (no increase in dental benefit expenses) and 2.6% increase in Harding Township Educational Association faculty salaries. The budget currently estimates the local tax levy to increase overall by 2.9%.
Salaries and benefits for faculty and administration amount to about 80% of the budget. The discretionary (about 20%) portion of the budget includes funding for a number of educational and other enhancements, including Honeywell Instant Alert, staff professional development, curriculum development, and capital improvements (which will be outlined to the board at a future meeting). The tentative total budget will be presented to the Board and public on March 21st.
Instruction. Board Vice President John Flynn, Chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Committee, reported that the details of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests have not as yet been received. The faculty does not yet have the necessary results for individual students such that individualized guidance could be provided. Mr. Flynn also reported that the Committee was discussing ways of incentivizing faculty for academic-related grant writing opportunities, possibly incorporating such a concept in a future union contract.
Personnel and Management. The Board is advertising for a new interim business administrator. The current interim administrator, Robert Brown, cannot hold this position for more than two years. The Board expressed its regrets in losing Mr. Brown.
Other business. At their second meeting, the Board unanimously approved reading the changes in eight policies that were reported in the March Thumbnail. Board President Davor Gjivoje announced that the Three Year District Curriculum Council Plan would be presented at the March 7th Board meeting. He also announced that the Board would go into executive session to discuss the Madison sending receiving contract.
Meeting Highlights: Monday March 7, 2016
Curriculum. Harding school Principal and Director of Curriculum Mary Donohue presented the results of a study by the Harding Curriculum Council that began last October. IN addition to the Principles as Chair, the Curriculum Council is composed of six faculty covering the elementary school and the middle school, academic areas including science and social studies, special education, and the President of the Board of Education, Davor Gjivore.
Focusing on the Harding School mission statement, Ms. Donohue described how the Council developed a three-year program (to begin in the Fall of 2016) to address and enhance the non-cognitive skills of students in order to ensure an individual’s longterm success. The three-year plan addresses “grit, tenacity, and perseverance.” Ms. Donohue described current educational research as demonstrating that addressing these three non-cognitive quantities can establish a “growth mindset” in academics for students. In this growth mindset, students are encouraged, for example, to embrace challenges, rather than avoid challenges: to learn from constructive criticism, rather than to ignore useful feedback: to be inspired to do better by others’ successes, rather than to be threatened by others’ success, and to persist despite obstacles rather than to give up easily due to obstacles.
The monthly curriculum presentation at the April 11th Board meeting will be devoted to the “Rubicon/Atlas” on-line curriculum management tool. Ms. Donohue will describe for the Board and Harding public the use of this web-based curriculum management device in the school, and its importance for Harding education.
Madison sending-receiving contract. Board Vice President John Flynn and Superintendent Matt Spelker announced the finalization of the Madison sending receiving contract. The Board voted unanimously to accept the contract. Madison has been the receiving district for Harding high school students since the early 1970s. This new contract is for six years, covering the 2014-2015 school year retroactively and extending through the 2019-2020 school year. Financially, the contract establishes a fixed Harding cost of $1.575M/yea, independent of student numbers, for the initial three years (including the retroactive 2014-2015 year), and a fixed cost of $1.6M/year for each of the final three years. (For reference the Madison cost was $1.647M for the 2013-2014 school year) In addition to the fiscal terms, Mr. Flynn also remarked that the contract includes policy changes that enhance the sending-receiving relationship in terms of such factors as coordination of curricula and tracking the performance of Harding high school students.
Budget Detailed Harding School 2016-2017 budget presentation will be at the Board meeting on March 21st. Public hearing on the budget will occur at the Board meeting on April 25th. (Note: the purpose of this brief report is to help Harding residents connect with the School by highlighting significant items addressed by the Board and is not “meeting minutes”. Minutes are filed by the Board Secretary and placed on the Harding School website for all to view, generally about a month after the meeting date.)