RSC meeting shorts, April 11

by Karina Coombs

While a second vote to close schools on three religious holidays in the 2017-18 academic calendars had been expected at the April 11 meeting of Concord-Carlisle Regional School (RSC) Committees, the topic was moved to a subsequent meeting. According to RSC Chair Bill Fink, the decision was made to allow for additional community participation in the discussion.

Calls for a Diversity Committee

Members of the audience sought clarification on the religious holiday policy and asked for the creation of a Diversity Committee. Fink thought that an advisory committee would be helpful and agreed that cultural proficiency was important. RSC Members Heather Bout and Robert Grom also expressed support for an advisory committee, with  RSC Member Wally Johnston pointing out that the topic was bigger than just the calendar decision and would need to be vetted for its legality. While he thought the incoming administration might want to create initiatives for professional development in this area, RSC member Daniel Conti stated that the school committees ultimately set the tone. 

Budget Subcommittee 

The RSC also discussed the formation of two new committees. Johnston outlined a three-member Budget Subcommittee that would have two Concord representatives, one Carlisle representative and a member of the Concord Finance Committee serving as a liaison. Meetings would be open to the public with budget recommendations brought to the entire school committees for votes. The committees voted unanimously to pursue, with the policy subcommittee tasked with creating the language for its incorporation. 

CCHS Campus Advisory Committee

Grom then presented the group with a preliminary draft for a CCHS Campus Advisory Committee that would consider the myriad organizations and individuals using the campus as well as consider future land usage projects. Grom explained that he wanted the document in circulation before the Concord Town Meeting on April 25 because of the Warrant regarding the  CCHS landfill remediation. He was asked to edit the document to ensure the inclusion of a community member from Carlisle. Concord Town Meeting voters subsequently approved funding for the CCHS landfill remediation. 

Payments made in lieu of vacation

Resuming the discussion of school employee vacation buyback from the March 24 meeting, Fink explained that he expected to see a continued decrease in the annual school budget line item, because of changes that have already been made to employee contracts and handbooks. The vacation buyback line item is currently nearly $300K, representing both Concord K-8 and the Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS). Payments in lieu of vacation represented contractual obligations or were based on state law for school employees such as bus drivers, tutors, secretaries, cafeteria employees and others said Fink, and did not involve teachers.

  Working with Concord School Committee Chairman Wally Johnston, Superintendent Diana Rigby and Deputy Superintendent John Flaherty, Fink said that they looked at budgets from the past ten years and were able to identify $280K out of the $300K as payments to these employees. And because of changes made in 2011 that no longer allow for the benefit of accruing vacation, Fink explained that these payments are declining and will continue to do so over time. Fink also explained that while senior school department staff did have vacation rollover—including Flaherty and Rigby—payouts required written approval from the school committees. He acknowledged, however, that the approval process had not been documented and when Rigby began her tenure nine years earlier, the process changed to verbal agreements from committee chairs and in some cases, senior staff authorizing each other’s payments. 

To ensure the authorization process is understood by new administrators and new members of the school committee, all parties have agreed that there is a need to document it going forward, as well as to identify any other “historic” practices that may be in place. ∆