Friday, November 2, 2007
Shorts from the Regional School Committee, October 23
· Medicare for retirees. Concord's Finance Director Tony Logalbo asked the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC) to incorporate Medicare in how healthcare claims are covered for retirees. He called it a housekeeping measure and said, "This is in no way a diminishment of services. It has to do with who pays, our pool or Medicare." Logalbo pointed out that Carlisle adopted this policy for other municipal employees in 1993.
"We provide group insurance to retirees, with lifetime health benefits. We pay 50% and they pay 50%." He said there are 63 retirees, and of the 25 who are not already enrolled in Medicare, nine are over the age of 65 and are eligible for Medicare. "It's a way to control our costs." Logalbo expects to see a $25,000 to $50,000 savings for the Regional School District.
· Budget troubles. The RSC is looking at a deficit of over $800,000 due to a large number of children who moved into the district over the summer with a need for of out-of-district special education placements, (See article on page 1). In an effort to bridge that gap, it was suggested that the instructional supplies budget be cut in half, freeing $234,000 which could be put towards the deficit. RSC member Jan McGinn voiced objections and the RSC decided to postpone any decision to cut instructional supplies until it had more information about what would be sacrificed. After a short discussion of other possible ways to come up with funds, the RSC decided to table the discussion until the next meeting on November 13.
· Transportation update. Transportation Manager Manley Boyce has started an anti-idling policy to minimize pollution caused by school buses waiting to leave. He expects to buy two buses this year and dispose of four, for a total fleet of approximately three dozen buses. Some are owned by the town of Concord and some by the Regional School District. The new buses will have a child-proof system which should eliminate the possibility of children being left on the bus. Boyce continues to try to balance the number of students on a bus. He said it was difficult to plan, particularly at the high school level. School Superintendent Brenda Finn congratulated Boyce on turning around the Transportation Department over the last two years, praising "his leadership and positive spirit."
· Capital projects. Facilities Manager Dave Anderson gave an overview of capital projects that have been completed at CCHS recently by showing many "before" and "after" photos. Four chemical fume hoods have been replaced and two have been added. There are new vented chemical storage cabinets in the science department, and Anderson noted, "The Fire Department is happy with that." There are new cabinets and sinks in several science labs. Asbestos has been removed and a new floor has been laid in the cafeteria. Anderson said, "It took three weeks to get the floor level." A 2001 CCHS graduate created the design of the tiles on the new floor. "The colors are vibrant," remarked Anderson. The upper gym floor was re-sanded and re-finished. There are two new trailers, one with two classrooms and the other seven offices for the counseling staff. Principal Peter Badalament said these have relieved a little of the overcrowding and helped with scheduling classes.
There are several projects in process. An energy management system upgrade will take three to four months. Software controls will be put in place to regulate heating in different areas of the school. Fire alarm upgrades will allow the Concord Fire Department greater communication in areas in the school. The transportation building replacement is planned for the spring. RSC Chair Michael Fitzgerald commended Anderson for his work.
· Staff training. Human Resources Administrator Kelly McCausland described a new four-hour training session for substitute teachers. She said the CCHS substitutes are a very diverse group, and over time they have gone from a supervisory role to a teaching role. The new program gives substitutes formal training on the school's emergency procedures, as well as general procedures and responsibilities, reporting requirements and confidentiality rules. Substitute teachers are given tips on classroom strategies and management. In addition, they are expected to follow the instructions left by the absent teacher so the class will continue to learn. McCausland gathered input from teachers for the new training program, which has received positive reviews.
A second initiative this year is a pilot program on wellness at work for faculty and staff. There will be talks on stress relief and eating healthfully, and yoga classes given by a CCHS teacher. Jon Kabat-Zinn, an author of books on mindfulness, will give a lecture on that subject to the staff. Other seminars will be given on lifestyle tips for the mind, body and soul, and others on achieving a balance between work and family. Finn said, "HR has been very responsive to the needs of the staff over the last several years." Strong appreciation was given by several RSC members to McCausland in her efforts to improve HR services.
· Student input. Two members of the Student Advisory Council, sophomore Marree Budris and senior Ian Carr, shared comments with the RSC. Budris thanked the RSC for approving student e-mail accounts, and asked that Challenge Days be continued this year. Challenge Days were part of the "Be the Change" Program that was brought to CCHS last spring. The program focuses on confronting and resolving issues based upon discrimination, prejudice, stress, violence, drugs and alcohol. RSC member Peter Fischelis stated, "Challenge Day is a powerful thingWe value your input."
Carr told the RSC that the new full-day freshman orientation centered around team-building was popular, "They felt it was a positive experience."
Carr also brought up the outbreak of thefts at the high school. He said the Student Senate is discussing an Honor Code to deter crime. RSC member Becky Shannon noted, "Some schools have put cameras all over the school. I don't think you want that."
· ACE Task Force disbanded. The members of the Adult Community Education Task Force were publicly thanked for their time and work leading to their recommendation that the ACE program be self-supporting.
© 2007 The