South Country Central School District Board Notes – March 27 and April 3

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The Board of Education’s March 27 business meeting commenced with a vote to fill the vice president’s seat, left vacant by former trustee Regina Hunt during the March 13 meeting. Jack Nix was unanimously voted to fill the position and was sworn in by District Clerk Christine Flynn. Mr. Nix thanked the trustees for their confidence and Ms. Hunt for being his mentor and said he will enjoy working closely with President Cheryl A. Felice. 

During this same meeting, the board also voted to adjust the district calendar to account for not using days embedded for inclement weather. Students will now have an additional day off, Thursday, May 23, which falls on Memorial Day weekend.

Director of Elementary Education Ms. Amy Brennan and district literacy coaches Keri Paolillo (Frank P. Long), Kim Gosselin (Brookhaven), Vicki Williams (Kreamer Street) and Jenn Hayhurst (Verne W. Critz) also delivered a presentation, “Showing All You’ve Learned Teaching for Transfer.” The panel discussed South Country’s approach to balance literacy through the use of units of study from Teachers College. Ms. Brennan explained how the components of standards, instruction, curriculum and assessments work together while letting the board’s priorities be the guide.

The April 3 workshop meeting opened with a statement from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Giani about recent errors in calculating the class rank for the Class of 2019’s top seniors. Dr. Giani noted that the error stemmed from issues identified in the student data management system dating as far back as 2014-15, as well as first semester “courses in progress” not being included into final GPA calculations. A review process has been completed, and students and their families were met with individually and presented with an updated copy of their transcript and class rank. A hand-calculated spreadsheet was also provided, which reflected courses and grades used in calculating the students’ final GPAs and ranks, along with a letter of explanation. Dr. Giani also noted that safeguards are now in place to eliminate future reoccurrence.

At both the March 27 and April 3 meetings, reports on the proposed 2019-2020 budget were presented. Dr. Giani and Assistant Superintendent for Personnel and General Administration Nelson Briggs delivered a report on staffing analysis for administration, elementary and secondary staff and non-instructional staff. He projected that there will be an overall districtwide staffing increase of 3.6 with a new administrative position opening for the South Haven Early Childhood Center. They noted that the current budget is program-driven and one that maintains small class sizes, fine and performing arts and interscholastic athletics programs and continued support of K-12 intervention programs. The 2019-2020 budget also includes staffing for the South Haven Early Childhood Center and possible pre-K transportation. The largest challenge to the budget is a projected 11 percent increase in transportation costs, contractual obligation increases totaling $1.7 million, decreased state aid, and the tax cap levy limit.

During the April 3 meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Management Services Dr. Sammy Gergis discussed the differences between the tax rate and the tax levy. He explained that the tax levy, determined by a complex, eight-step formula, is projected spending or taxpayer monies collected. Tax rate is the individual dollar rate per one hundred of assessed value of a given property that is used to calculate a tax bill. South Country’s allowable tax levy limit for the 2019-2020 school year is $62,240,685 or 3.36 percent, which is $2,022,996 over the 2018-2019 school year.

During an Expense and Revenue Update, Dr. Giani explained that to eliminate a gap in the projected budget, the board needs to continue the recommended Debt Service Appropriation of $600,000 (year 3 of 5 appropriations), appropriate $200,000 from the workers compensation reserve, appropriate $200,000 from the retirement contribution reserve and designate $3.9 million from the district Fund Balance. With these appropriations, the budget would total $134,600, 063. The adoption of the 2019-2020 budget is scheduled for April 17. The budget vote and election is May 21. 

For those considering a run for the board of education, there are three seats for a three-year term commencing July 1, 2019 and expiring June 30, 2022, and one seat to fill a vacancy for a term commencing May 22, 2019 and expiring June 30, 2021. The candidates receiving the highest number of votes will fill the three seats expiring on June 30, 2022. The candidate receiving the fourth highest number of votes will fill the term commencing on May 22, 2019 and expiring on June 30, 2021. 

The next board of education meeting will be held on April 17 at 7:30 p.m. Residents can view all of the district’s budget presentations on the district’s website under the Departments, then Business Office tabs of the homepage.