PIERMONT VILLAGE SCHOOL
SCHOOL BOARD MEETING
June 6, 2022
Attendance: School Board Chair Glen Meder, and School Board Members Vernon Jones, Becky Ackerman; Superintendent Laurie Melanson, Principal Bruce Labs, incoming principal Mary Ruth Hambrick, Business Administrator Kathryn Ducharme, SPED Director Jessica Piccone Robie, Tech Director James Marshall. Members of the public.
1. Meeting called to order at 6:34.
2. Sign Manifest
3. Agenda Review. No need for #13 per Laurie.
4. Approval of Minutes: Motion to approve minutes of May 17, 2022 meeting: Vernon
All in favor.
5. Invitation to Staff: Mary Ruth – field day today, all had a great time. The school program was wonderful. Said goodbye with the school community during the school music program to music teacher Laurel Dodge. All school hike tomorrow. “Wellness Wednesday” on Wednesday (stations with different health-related activities). Evacuation drill tomorrow with the police chief.
6. Public Input: None.
7. Review High School Tuition Policy: The reason for the agenda item is St Johnsbury Academy's tuition policy has gone up significantly enough to warrant discussion of increasing the district’s tuition cap to continue to allow Piermont kids to continue going to St J in the future. Laurie asked the attorney for an updated legal opinion: opinion has not changed - allowing parents to private pay additional tuition costs above the cap will put the district at risk of having to reimburse families who paid full tuition in the past for schools whose tuition rates were outside the PVS tuition cap policy. Laurie spoke to the director at St J and they cannot give PVS a break on their tuition rate but is hopeful PVS can increase its tuition cap to accommodate their rate. A copy of the letter to be attached to the minutes. Shaw says high school choice is an important reason for moving to Piermont. Parents in attendance with kids already at St J (who would not have to leave if the tuition cap wasn’t increased), voiced that choice is a thing that makes Piermont really special. Glen agrees and says that the cap was put in place 17 years ago to protect choice at some level and prevent all kids from being forced to go to one local school. Glen wonders what the tuition rate is for other schools outside of the ones we are familiar with (Rivendell, Oxbow, Woodsville). Discussion about how to get those numbers – “cost per pupil” is generally available online but is different from the tuition rate. The state may address the voucher question at some point as it is being discussed in many towns. If the risks of using this system were eliminated, the board would consider it.
Lee asks for the board to make a decision/statement right now about the one student going to St Johnsbury. Glen answers that we will be discussing the policy tonight and might make a decision about the policy tonight, but a policy is already in place and we would be talking about changing the policy, not just the individual student.
Question about tuition rates of other local schools – their increase in rates has been very conservative in recent years, only a small (3% or so) percentage. Need to find out what other area high schools are charging and if they may go up. Becky says she needs more information before making a decision she can feel good about. This discussion will continue.
8. Preschool: Bruce reiterated that he believes all-day preschool would be good for the kids, but again states that this is something that the new incoming principal and staff would have to take up. We already have half-day pre-K; would talk about expanding that to a full day.
9. Administrator Updates:
Jessica: Summer program. Nothing to add. Hopeful a new SPED teacher will be here to get up to speed before the start of the school year.
Bert: Bert is not in attendance, but Bruce says he wants to have items damaged in a lightning strike tested. Jessica mentions the ADA-accessible doors because they will be needed… Jessica says that the board should continue to discuss this because they will be needed going forward. The grant is for one door, Jessica suggests it be for the kindergarten door, but will need to be all doors eventually. Mary Ruth and Jessica to discuss which door makes the most sense. A security button is going to be added to the second door.
James: Re paging system… is still working on it, has some bugs and issues. Not hopeful for tomorrow but will keep working. Did a small wifi project with the high school and it worked so well that it was decided to buy new wireless access for all schools. Wifi coverage outside has been expanded significantly, excellent for safety issues since everyone has cell phones, it is also good for first responders.
Laurie: we are experiencing the labor shortage throughout the SAU. No applicants for elementary classroom positions. One serious contender for the third/fourth-grade position and went to another district for a better salary and benefits. Question about how insurance policies compare. Distributed a list of costs to employees for insurance. (Becky has the list.) Laurie had a regular call-in meeting with the state education commissioner, and found out that a local school district can determine with their school board and superintendent if they have a “critical shortage” and make alternative choices to fill vacant, necessary positions.
Kathryn: Not much change from a few weeks ago. Balance fund schedule updated, anything to be done with fund balances? Books need to be closed at the end of the month. There is an 81k fund balance – approximately 8k can be retained. Some can be retained, some can be returned. Glen asks do we need it for the ADA doors? 2500-3k per unit to install. Discussion about which doors to do first, how many can be done with the money available. Question about if interior doors cost the same as exterior doors. Doors need to be compliant first - the interior door in the lobby; the exterior kindergarten door; the far exterior door to the playground which is a double door, the interior door from K room to the gym; the gym door to lobby.
Motion to spend $12,000 to install the ADA doors discussed: Glen
All in favor.
Bruce: Wish list: scrubber replacement for floors – priced out, cost went up. It’s just old, doesn’t cut it anymore. Work on stage – Brill can do, don’t need a contractor. Will have a lift to get on the stage rather than a ramp for accessibility. Permanent fencing on the outside of the Gould building next door to protect kids from the asbestos on the outside of the building. Vernon asks how kids are getting access to a dusty inhalant. Bruce answers that the building is on the property line at the edge of the playground the issue was brought by a concerned parent, and safety being of utmost importance, decided to keep kids away from it. The carpeting in two rooms. Two windows in the math room need repair.
Motion to do everything on Bruce’s list: Glen
All in favor.
Kathryn asks what do you want to do with the remaining? Brief discussion. Everything is well funded. Vernon asks if we need to use that money to offer to get another teacher in here… What other teachers/staffing needs do we have and do we need to use those funds to be competitive and get teachers in here… is this the way we need to operate (off payment schedule) in order to get them in?
The remaining funds will be returned to voters.
Bruce: hoped to have some results from the recent academic testing. Will be presented to teachers next week, and have done pre-test and post-test studies to see how the kids are doing. The kids who previously were not reading are now; most if not all are at grade level. Everyone got involved with direct instruction, not just the SPED teachers. Bruce notes it is long held that when reading scores go up, math scores follow. Bruce is happy with the progress that has been made in spite of the pandemic.
10. Food Service Budget: Kathryn passed out history, the current rate for lunches is 2.10, no longer to be free lunches for all. Abby Group is asking for an increase of 15 cents. Applied for a grant SAU wide for delivery of certain foods because of supply chain issues. $19,000 was received, to be split between SAU schools based on enrollment. Piermont will get approximately $1,700 for specific, not processed, local foods.
11. Meal Prices:
Motion to increase lunch costs to $2.25: Vernon
All in favor.
12. Sign the FY2023 Grant General Assurances.
13. Approval to Apply for Federal Grants: Approval was given to Laurie to apply for grants.
14. Nominations/Resignations: Bruce nominates Nick Argy for SPED. He just completed his master's degree and is a local.
Motion to offer Nicholas Argy: Glen
All in favor.
15. Permission to Hire Over the Summer: Permission granted to Laurie by the school board to hire a third/fourth teacher and at least one IA position, possibly another two.
16. Other Business: Laurie says that one policy didn’t make the packet last month… Laurie brought for a first reading and will reappear at the August meeting.
Motion to approve first reading: Vernon
All in favor.
Glen thanks Bruce for helping us out during these last difficult years and wishes him well. Bruce says it’s been a pleasure. He adds that 5-8 grades did the service-learning center with Hulbert Center and they raised $387 for David’s House.
17. Public Input
18. Next meeting date: Tuesday, August 16, 6:30.
19. Non-public - not needed.
Becky moves to adjourn.
Glen seconds. All in favor.
Meeting adjourned 8:19 pm
Alison Gould Rose