This recap has taken me FOREVER to post just because LIFE was getting in the way, but there was also a lot of background and history that needed to be rewatched to ensure the below information was accurate. Thank you for your patience.
The Coeur d’Alene School District regular board meeting was well-attended last Monday evening with members of the community, school board candidates, and the Lake City Navy Blues Select Choir to sing in memory of September 11th Patriot Day. After a beautiful rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, the board got down to business.
Public Comment – Bus Routes
The public comment was dominated by parents and grandparents upset that they were given a week’s notice that their child’s rural bus routes – routes that have been in place for at least 30 years – have been modified or removed, forcing the parents to drive their kids miles to the nearest bus stop or forcing the children to walk on dark, rural roads opening them up to cougar and bear attacks. The rural bus route changes were brought on by lack of bus drivers although new positions start at over $18 per hour. If you or anyone you know would like to apply for bus driving, see open positions here.
Midtown Meeting Expansion
In another episode of “That Costs More Than Expected,” the RFP for a Midtown Meeting Center expansion project closed with the lowest bid coming in higher than expected at $384,000. The question, however, is does the expansion project meet the criteria of a priority project as emphasized by Director of Operations Jeff Voeller when the district was reeling after the School Plant Facilities Levy loss in August, 2022 (and again in March, 2023)?
The public first heard of the desire to expand the Midtown Meeting Center in November 2022 when Jeff Voeller was going through priority projects to use the School Plant Facilities Levy money if the $25 million SPFL levy passed in March 2023. Voeller presented 2 lists: the highest priority projects to spend the $5 million they had in their funds, and the deferred projects for the next 5 years with a $25 million price tag. The Midtown Meeting Center expansion was not one of the priorities on either list. (Note: there are a few small Midtown repair projects on the 5-year list including roofing and flooring, but not an expansion.)
When Voeller mentioned the high price tag at Monday’s meeting, the trustees wondered if the expansion was the best way to spend money when there were other projects at school buildings with a higher priority level. It is possible to pay for another project but the caveat to switching focus to another project is that $300,000 of the funds is federal ESSER money and it must be spent by the end of the 2023 calendar year.
Besides the cost, Voeller explained that the Midtown expansion was necessary so that more people could gather in one place than the center can hold currently. When asked why the meetings couldn’t be held in a school’s auditorium the answer Superintendent Hocker said was it’s a hassle for the schools to work around this meeting and “it’s not best for the kids.”
The decision to approve/deny this project has been pushed out to the September 25th workshop.
Full discussion below.
FY23 Unaudited Actuals
Fiscal year 2023 has come to an end and the district has the final budget numbers with the district being $1.2 million OVER budget forcing them to use ESSER funds to cover the deficit.
Note: Adopted Budget is the budget when it was first adopted in August 2022. The Working Budget is the tracked changes to the budget throughout the year. Unaudited Total is the actual totals of expenditures at the year’s end but has not yet been audited by the outside auditing agency.
Major reasons for the deficit include:
□ Finance error in July/August 2022
□ Salary increases
The FY23 deficit was in the general fund balance which holds the funds that are not designated for specific expenditures. The working budget was $88.1 million but the district ended at $89.3 million, being forced to use ESSER funds to cover the deficit. The FY24 general fund budget is $98 million but they are hoping to be more on track with budgeting in this next year.
Student Dress Policy
Throughout the last school year, the Student Advisory Group (SAG) kept repeating that an update to the dress code was a student priority. The group worked with administrators to bring an updated draft policy to the board that would minimize dress codes to:
□ Students must wear a top, a bottom, and shoes,
□ Clothing cannot be pornographic and doesn’t intentionally show nipples, genitals, or buttocks,
□ and does not promote hate, illegal, or gang affiliations.
According to this draft policy, “students shall not be disciplined or removed from class as a consequence for wearing attire in violation of this policy unless the attire creates a substantial disruption to the educational environment, poses a hazard to the health or safety of others, or factors into a student behavior rule violation such as malicious harassment or the prohibition on harassment, intimidation, and bullying.”
The only corresponding enforcement would be a phone call or conference between the parents and principal if the student is in violation of the minimal dress policy.
The board was not thrilled with the lack of dress standards; Allie Anderton stated that the real world has some form of dress standards and students should learn to have some form of dress etiquette before being thrust into the world. Trent Derrick, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education, mentioned that this minimal dress code would put the responsibility onto the parents to ensure their kids leave the house and get to school in parent-approved clothing. If the kids change clothes between the house and school, the only way the administration would let their parents know is if the students don’t follow the basic rules listed out above.
Lesli agreed with Allie stating, “the staff dresses appropriately when they show up, [the board] dresses appropriately, there should be a standard of appropriate dress and a top, a bottom, and footwear? That could be anything. That could be a costume, are we ok with that because it’s a top, a bottom, and footwear? I appreciate that they want to show their individuality, that’s wonderful, as long as it’s appropriate for school. On [the student’s] social time, [they] have more flexibility but there has to be some standard [at school] and this [draft policy] seems to erase it all.”
Trent Derrick replied to Lesli and Allie with, “the question is…can our students handle that responsibility [of dressing standards]?
Superintendent Hocker suggested that the board pass this draft policy past the first reading and put it out to public comment for the next 30 days to get their opinions. The board did not take his suggestion, saying they would get creamed by parents if the put this thing out to public comment, and denied the draft outright, asking the administration to go back to the drawing board with some reasonable standards that the adults draft and they can use some of the students’ input instead of all.
Full discussion below.
Professional Development Plan
Annual summary of district professional development efforts which aligns with the new District Strategic Plan. All development efforts will cost money; full presentation here.
The Professional Learning Communities was the PLC at Work training. That training was held at the end of August at $447,300 that came out of ESSER funds.
The board approved last month to start paying Marzano Resources to change schools into “High-Reliability Schools.” The first year will cost $175,000 coming out of ESSER funds and, according to Superintendent Hocker, they will "have some funding challenges for future years."
Lab Host On-Site Development and Multi-tiered Systems of Support will be paid out of federal funds.
QPR stands for Question, Persuade, Refer: 3 simple steps anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide.