Due to the power outage that swept through our community this week, the 9/12/17 Board meeting was moved to 9/14/17. We started the meeting at 8pm in a very warm Board room, which seemed appropriate given how the week had gone.
The power is back on at all of our schools!!!!
During my comments, I shared my appreciation for our amazing staff and all that they took on during this week. Noel Maloof, Jason Ware, Allison Goodman, LoWanda Bowman, and their teams in the Operations Department worked tirelessly to assess and repair buildings, protect our food from spoilage, plan for student meals, and accommodate bus routes to closed roads while planning and providing emergency transportation for Westchester. Courtney Burnett repeatedly jumped into action at all hours to ensure appropriate planning and communications occurred. The administrative team worked relentlessly to ensure we did everything we could to serve students, including a herculean effort by principals Rochelle Lofstrand, Billy Heaton, Arlethea Williams, and Johnathan Clark to figure out all of the logistics required to host Clairemont students at RMS and Westchester students at DHS (we ended up only needing the latter). The DHS and Westchester teachers and staff jumped into action in order to ensure Westchester students didn’t just have a sufficient experience at DHS but instead had an amazing, memorable experience. The City of Decatur staff, police, and fire & rescue folks were always available to jump in and support the school district in any way needed. Obviously, the Georgia Power crews from throughout the country were heroes for dropping everything at their homes to come help our community recover. And, finally, I especially appreciated the parents who kept me entertained on Facebook! 😉 It truly took a village, far beyond those mentioned above, to get through this, and this trial was an exceptional example of what makes Decatur great.
Board Chair Caiola shared the gratefulness she has heard throughout the community for our real-time, informative communications during the power outage. She expressed how great it was to see the community pull together. She recognized the great honor bestowed upon DEF Executive Director Gail Rothmann by her selection to represent Georgia on the National School Foundations Association’s Industry Leadership
Our Equity Director, Dr. Lillie Huddleston, provided an update on disproportionality reduction. She discussed the RFP process and timeline for our Equity Needs Assessment. She explained the District Equity Task Force we are forming and how they, along with school-based equity teams and leaders, will develop the District Educational Equity Action Plan.
In an effort to provide better benefits to our staff at an optimal cost we engaged in a robust process to identify new benefits providers. Through an extensive RFP and staff engagement process, we have identified providers for all employee benefit areas. Our Executive Director of Staff Support, David Adams, presented the results of this project in collaboration with the vendor who we engaged to assist with this process. Open enrollment will start next month so the Staff Support Department and vendors helping us with the process will be visiting all of our schools to explain the changes to employees and meet with them 1-on-1 to answer questions and provide information.
Dr. Huddleston then provided an update on Title IX. She explained her plans as the district’s incoming Title IX Coordinator, including identifying Title IX liaisons at each school. While a district is only required to have a single Title IX Coordinator, we feel it is best for Decatur to identify resources at every school in order to ensure we are optimally serving students.
The Board discussed their DOE-required training plans for the upcoming year. We are going to try to focus on local training customized to our needs and focused on practice rather than philosophy. We discussed the importance of equity training as the Board supports equity initiatives throughout the district.
The Board has been discussing barriers to getting great people to volunteer extensive time to serve on the Board; such as the cost of childcare while participating in meetings. Currently, the $50/meeting stipend the Board receives is codified in the City of Decatur charter. The Board authorized me to work with the City to have this language changed to more closely match the language used for City Commissioners. In short, language that allows the Board to set their stipends, reimbursements, etc.
We engaged in an extensive discussion of the project at Talley Street. Courtney Burnett, Director of Community and Government Relations, presented a chart showing the overall timeline for all of the major aspects of this project, including construction, school boundaries, staffing, etc. She shared that this spring we plan to kick off the process of naming the school, which will include extensive community input and will ultimately be decided by the Board.
A consultant from Cooperative Strategies, the company that assisted us with the lead up to the Talley Street project, joined us virtually to discuss their recommendations for the boundary setting process.
Noel Maloof, Executive Director of Operations, provided an overview of LEED standards and the impact on the project. The Board agreed that pursuing LEED certification is the direction we want to go.
Having reached 10:30 pm, the architects from Perkins & Will were kind enough to condense their presentation. (Interestingly, we learned that Perkins & Will has 13 staff who live in our school district, so they have an especially personal interest in the success of the project at Talley Street.) The architects presented information about the steering committee input, discussed the site and considerations regarding site use, and explained building design philosophies and concepts.
The Board adjourned to executive session at about 11:30 and wrapped up the meeting at 12:48 (yes, A.M.). As you can see from the length of this summary, it was a “meaty” meeting with lots of great discussion. More details on many of these subjects are available in the applicable item on the agenda.
Who was there: All five Board members, Superintendent
What official actions were taken: Approval of consent agenda