I attended the August 16, 2022 School of the Osage Board of Education meeting at 5:45 p.m.
The following is a summary of that meeting.
The Board of Education consists of President BJ Page, Vice President Darrick Steen, and Board Members Mary Whitman, Alison Schneider, Kathy Vance, Stacy Neal, and Todd Miller. Whitman and Miller were absent, but Miller was present virtually on an iPad.
The meeting was held in the Fieldhouse. The Board was in their familiar shoe horn formation, but I did notice they were using microphones that were turned on. It’s called progress, folks.
I arrived toward the end of the Tax Levy Hearing which preceded the Regular Open Session.
During the Consent Agenda, Board member Stacy Neal asked if they could pull items B, C, and H from the Consent Agenda. The Consent Agenda was then approved without those items.
(A Consent Agenda is used to make meetings move more quickly by grouping a series of items that everyone will agree on together so one vote can pass them all at once.)
Item B was Approval of Minutes from the Finance and Policy Committee Meeting held on August 9, 2022.
Neal mentioned she had been ill when that committee meeting was scheduled and she asked why the meeting had not been rescheduled or postponed the same way other committee meetings were rescheduled when Board members couldn’t make them. She asked how the Finance and Policy Committee could meet with only one Board committee member present?
Alison Schneider stated that the staff members are committee members so they are part of the Committee too.
Neal responded that there needs to be at least two Board members present for it to be considered a Board Committee meeting. It was her opinion that this may have been a Committee meeting, but it was not a Board Committee meeting.
Darrick Steen didn’t agree with her and mentioned there were two Board members at the Committee meeting (Schneider and Steen), but Stacy Neal pointed out to him that one of those Board members (Schneider) is not a member of that Committee.
(As an aside, this whole idea of Committees was implemented at the beginning of 2022. They have the following committees. Let me know if I missed some:
- Finance and Policy Committee
- Student Excellence and Family Engagement Committee
- Strategic Planning and Communication Committee
- School of the Osage Legacy Recognition Ad Hoc Committee
- Facilities, Operation and Safety Committee
They meet at a variety of times and locations during the week. If you thought it was hard for parents to make it to the monthly Open Session Board of Education meeting, imagine how hard it would be for parents to attend Committee meetings that are scattered across the calendar. It’s interesting to note that quite a few of the Committee meetings have been postponed or rescheduled because their own members couldn’t make it to them.
The basic idea of Committees isn’t a bad one, because it can give staff members greater input during Committee meetings than they might be able to contribute at a full Board meeting. However, the concern is that most of the discussion and district business might be conducted at the Committee level with items moved from Committee to the Board of Education for approval as a fait accompli. It could become an easy way to move issues and decision-making away from the parent-attended Board of Education meetings and into small Committees who meet at the Archive Room at 1:37 p.m.)
Stacy Neal touched on this very issue as she began to question the stated purposes and scope of some of the Board Committees. She felt the scope of the committees should be very explicit and well-defined. The stated purpose and scope of each Committee should be aligned together. Her concern was that the Committees might be addressing issues that should actually be heard at a full meeting of the Board of Education. As an example, Neal asked if every issue should be handled by the Finance Committee since everything costs money?
Alison Schneider responded, “Pretty much.” Neal told her, “That’s not okay.” Schneider said, “I don’t see your problem with it.”
(I’m going to assume this is Alison’s legendary sense of humor kicking in.)
Alison Schneider made a motion to approve the Finance Committee minutes, Vance seconded, and they were approved 5-1 with Neal voting against.
Item C was the Approval of the Strategic Planning and Communications Committee Minutes.
Board Member Stacy Neal read from the stated purpose of the committee and noted that part of it was to oversee the implementation of the Communication Plan. She wondered how the Committee could implement a plan that has not yet been approved by the Board?
Darrick Steen made a motion to approve the minutes, Miller seconded, and they were approved 5-0 with Neal abstaining.
The final consent agenda item (H) Neal wanted to discuss was the School Continuation Plan.
Neal mentioned that taking ESSER III money required the district to have a School Continuance Plan. She compared the 2022 and 2023 plans and observed that signage had been removed. She asked if this would meant signage for COVID-19 would be coming down in all of the buildings? She noted that references to contact tracing were removed and asked if the school would still quarantine? Neal wanted an affirmative statement from the Administration that they would not be quarantining students or staff.
Nelson and Yoder agreed, but Deputy Superintendent Yoder said the Health Department would still quarantine.
Board Member Neal pointed out that recent court decisions have rules that only elected governmental bodies can quarantine people. Health Departments do not have the authority to require masks or quarantine people.
Superintendent Nelson confirmed that the Health Department will not be involved. Nelson confirmed that there will be no quarantining by the school district.
Neal asked that the policy revision log reflect that School of the Osage would not quarantine its students or staff.
Alison Schneider agreed with the change regarding COVID, but wanted the school district to retain the quarantine policy for influenza, lice, or some other unexpected pandemic. She wanted the policy change to be specific only to COVID.
Stacy Neal made a motion that School of the Osage would not quarantine its students or staff, Miller seconded, and it passed 5-0 with Schneider abstaining.
During Public Comment, a parent came forward to speak. She asked the Board to take a closer look at planning and counseling at Osage High School. She has been frustrated with getting necessary classes for her children. She felt that there was an imbalance regarding which AP courses were available for certain class periods. While she was raising good issues, she was also very complimentary about the school. Nobody told her that her time was expired and she was allowed to finish her comments at her own pace.
In New Business, the Board decided to keep the tax levy rate the same ($3.299 per $100)
Darrick Steen mentioned that the tax levy has not changed for four or five years. He stated that his opinion was that “the tax rate needs to always match the need of the school.” Steen made the motion to keep the tax levy at 3.299, seconded by Miller, and approved 6-0.
The next item was Contracts/MOU/Change Orders/Bids/Grants.
First up was Anethum Consulting. Executive Director St. John stated this was a consultant (Dr. Julie Dill) for federal funds and grants. Stacy Neal asked if there was a “not to exceed” amount for the contract? St. John didn’t think there was one, but she didn’t anticipate the costs would be more than a few thousand dollars.
This contract was approved 6-0.
Next was Osage Proposal. This was a contract with Dr. JoAnn Sternke from Excellence in Leadership. Looking at the contract, this individual would be contracted for $750 to help the Board of Education draft Superintendent Nelson’s evaluation. An additional $5,230 would be paid to have JoAnn visit from Wisconsin on September 18-21 to facilitate Strategic Plan Focus Groups for the school district.
This was approved 6-0.
The next agreement was C-MO Therapy Services for a certified Occupational Therapy Assistant.
This was approved 6-0.
The final agreement was with Heartland Payment Systems. This was a renewal for My Schoolbucks and Mosaic.
It was approved 6-0.
The next item was the Communication Plan Approval.
Corey Toenjes was recently hired as the Director of Communications for the school district. He presented the proposed Communication Plan to the Board. He discussed developing a branding guide for School of the Osage, publishing a District Magazine twice a year, communicating with local media and social media, starting an alumni golf tournament, and getting student interns involved in the communication operation. It sounded like he had quite a few interesting ideas. I wondered if he thought the Board of Education should post video of their meetings online?
The Communications Plan was approved 6-0.
The Facility Usage request was taken off the agenda. Everyone then watched the MSBA Monthly Message video. I won’t punish you with a recap of that.
The Board of Education discussed a September 20, 2022 date for their next meeting and went into closed session.
And that was that.