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Saturday, March 3, 2012

EPSD votes Yes on 1% Tax Levy

March 1, 2012: Englewood Board of Education votes on Preliminary Budget

Dr. Carlisle and the Business Administrator were to present a more fleshed out version of the budget tonight. This was the second Public Budget Meeting.  They were like 2 students who had not completed their homework. Dr. Carlisle made a presentation of what to expect from the completed budget. This article was basically constructed of the notes I took. My thoughts are in red.

8 Turnaround Principles
1. climate and culture - He said that when he came here there was a lot of negativity. The middle school was in chaos, the high school was dysfunctional and order was needed. He thinks the bridge program did a lot to alleviate that. He said that there are now receptionists in every building for welcoming parents. He admits that the website has to be improved and that he is currently encouraging Caryn Furst to get more stuff in there. He wants her to sell the product. (When I signed up for the new digital newsletter some of the schools were left off the list when the prompt asked for the relationship to the schools. DMHS was not there as a choice, neither was the Eagle or Bridge programs.)
2. Principal Leadership - Dr. Carlisle defended the decision to move Principals
  • Dwight Morrow High School - P. Elbert to the high school. He said that he was a good fit because he already knew the children. He credits his move to the high school as changing the climate there. He said that they are blending the two sides of the campus together, it is not perfect, but they are working on it. Students report that the bells are ringing now. That is a positive. It is difficult to ascertain just how effective Mr. Elbert is since Dr. Carlisle is on premises. It is a strange arrangement. Regardless of what Dr. Carlisle says, it seems a strained arrangement. The community does not see the fact that Mr. Elbert knows the children as a positive. These are the same students that were in his care when he was removed from principal of the middle school because it was a failing school.
  • Janis E. Dismus Middle School - He praised Lamar Thomas and his leadership at Janis E. Dismus Middle School. He said that he has not gotten a single complaint out of the middle school since Lamar took over. It should be noted here that Mr. Thomas was not first choice. A woman from NYC declined the job after attending a meeting with parents this summer. Mr. Thomas was slated to be Assistant Principal. He stepped up to the plate and is doing the job. We are still waiting for the resolution that will make Mr. Thomas Principal. It is obvious that the  climate of the school has improved. The attitude, school spirit and self esteem seems much healthier.
  • Superintendent's Office At High School - He reminded us that his office has also moved to the 2nd floor at the high school. He reports that everything has changed on that floor under his watchful eye.
  • Quarles Early Childhood Learning Center - He asserted that this was the best fit for Marsha Howard. He suggested that she does well with this age group.
3. Quality of Instruction - 
4. Standards based curriculum He spoke vaguely about the Common Core State Standards and suggested to Glenn Garrison that either his state or his did not adopt it. By the way, it was Dr. Carlisle's home state of Texas and not Glenn Garrison's home state of North Carolina, that did not adopt the Common Core State Standards. He mentioned that "Core Certification" would be tied to assessments.
5. Effective use of data
  • He talked about the book Driven by Data: A Practical Guide to Improve Instruction that he
    distributed to all principals and the Board of Education earlier in the school year. 
  • He did not mention how he had used any Data Driven information to determine how to structure the budget so as to maximize student achievement.
6. Effective staffing practices
  • . He mentioned that they had to use better Job Descriptions
  •   Supervision had to be provided
  •   The Boost - He said that he had given the district a boost when he came but now it is time to pull   back.
7.  Academically focused family and community engagement - He mentioned that he had challenged students to perform better on the standardized tests than Teaneck students. Teaneck was chosen because of the close proximity.  He said that they have to start treating the youngsters like our own children.
8.  Redesigning of School time - We have to use time more wisely. He said that some of the new faces we were introduced to last year would not be around next year. Class size in Quarles was compared to that of private schools and that the classes would be larger next year.  He suggested that there would be changes in the classes at DMHS and the Alternative School. Program. There was no explanation as to what this meant.

This year's New Buzz Words and Phrases
Not Just What you spend...but it is how well it is spent...Changing the way the money is spent is by far the most important means of actually changing the behavior of schools and the school systems. He talked of a meeting with Acting Commissioner Cerf and how he was impressed by his cabinet.

The Business Administrator took over and repeated a story that loosely detailed our Funding History. It seems that Englewood was spoiled because they got used to the Equity and Excellence money from the state that was used to fund the Academy. Spending was not 
adjusted to compensate for the end of this money. 
She presented some base assumptions - 
  • Student enrollment is flat and would remain so
  • Continue Majority of the programs
  • Operations Cost were increasing
  • The move from Liberty - They did not talk about that crazy lease signed with St. Cecilia
  • Charter School Represents a cost increase of 785,000
  • Contracts with 3 bargaining units coming up
  • $270,000 grant program is ending and they wish to keep the program (they did not identify program)
  • Health Benefits increasing
  • Fuel and Energy Cost increasing
  • Facilities and infrastructures (She noted that she was impressed with the way the facilities looked. I don't know what she expected.)
  • Staff resource levels -  (We assume this means the extra teachers that we picked up last year who had not been provided for in the 2011 - 2012 budget. They did not specifically mention the outsourcing of anyone. The rumor was that secretaries, aides, substitutes, and even the child study team would be outsourced. This seems like something that should have been included if it will truly happen.)
  • Alter work schedules (This was not explained)
  • A better management of "extra duty" stipends  (no elaborations here)
She said that the focus in 2012 - 2013 would be on Creating the New Normal  This New Normal would involve a reduction in expenditures in order to regain surplus. She said that down the road we would recoup our money from the tax increase. She repeated that the key is how well you spend the money.
She gave us another calendar schedule detailing the timeline for submission of the budget to the state and preparing it for the vote in April. 
  • 3/1 Adopt Budget
  • 3/2 Submit formal state document
  • 3/22 Get approval from the County office
  • 2/29 public hearing 2012 -2013 Budget
  • 3/30 Last day to present Budget to the County
  • 4/17 Vote on the Budget by the public
At this point Dr. Carlisle diverted attention to the public (less than 10 people) to an explanation of how Rosemary Seitel presented the Technology Committee at February 23 meeting in his absence. He repeated the correction of the Library specialist's data pertaining to the number of books to students throughout the district. He apologized for the low number of books to students at DMHS. He said that the library is humming with activity from both sides of the campus. A visiting speaker supposedly commented that, "the students were the most focused and well behaved students of any school she has been in." He attributed this to our "circle of colors" as they relate to student behavior. (I don't know what that means)

Privilege of the floor was opened and Mr. Popkin wanted to know what the board was signing tonight.
He held last year's budget in his hand and asked how costs had been reduced through retirement. Mr. Popkin was very specific in his questions and Dr.  Carlisle, the BA and the Board were extremely vague. They grew annoyed with him and there was a little shouting. Mr. Popkin accused them of bullying and Dr. Carlisle accused that old man of bullying. Dr. Carlisle basically suggested that school boards should not have to put up with people from the public who insist on having their questions answered. Mr. Popkin was at the heart of the matter They should have just admitted that they were voting tonight because of the timeline for submission above. The presentation had an awful lot to be desired in terms of detail. We had no better idea of how the money would be spent than before we came. There were also inconsistencies. They told Mr. Popkins that there were no line items. Later on, after privilege of the floor, they said the board had seen the line items.

This is how the Board of Education Voted on the 1% tax Levy.
In time we will catch up?
Garrison III.....Yes

Leaving the board this year are 
Miriam Lubarr and  Shirley Smith.
Henry Pruitt is running for office again in April. Why did he vote for a 1% tax levy?
Meanwhile, we were befuddled. The New Normal cannot possibly be put to paper before the final document is submitted to the County for approval. They don't even have any figures yet. Dr. Carlisle's contract is also part of the budget. We hope it does not complicate things like it did last year. I have never voted against a school budget. I guess I always just trusted that the board knew what they were doing. I no longer feel the same about that. The is always a first time for everything.

                                                How are the children?