Live Reporting of the Nov. 10 Saline Board of Education Meeting

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The following is live reporting of the Saline Area Schools Board of Education meeting.

Public Comment

None.

Administrative Comment

Superintendent Scot Graden thanked students and staff for their work to mitigate COVID-19.

Student Rep Comment

Student Rep. Noah Sochu reported that Joe Biden won the student vote in a poll at the high school, taking 67.9 percent of the vote. 

He also toured Hornet Hutch and will begin submitting reports around the district to the school district's website.

Board Comment

Trustee Jennifer Steben attended the MASB legislative priorities meeting. She attended the MASB stability session on long-term budget forecasting.

Trustee Tim Austin congratulated the three elected board members. Austin said Foundation for Saline Area Schools raised more than $10,000 with the Friday Night Lights event.

Trustee Paul Hynek said the MASB talk on equity was very good.

Trustee Michael McVey commented on the innovation lab and tech support staff in the district. He said he was impressed with the guidance provided to teachers.

Trustee Susan Estep was pleased the incoming trustees registered for MASB sessions. Estep said the MASB is creating a new DEI-focused program for board members. Estep said the Department of Education is revising anti-bullying framework. As policy chair for the Saline board, she hopes to explore changes that have been made.

Recognition of the National Merit Scholarship Semi-finalists

Principal David Raft recognized the National Merit Scholarship semi-finalists.

They are Brian P. Ashton, Regina K. Duerst, Ava Sarah N. Hajratwala, Cameron M. Huber,  Sangjun Kang, Kandhan S. Nadarajah, Aubrey J. Parisi, Emma K. Rigg,  Isaac H. Smith, Kyle J. Socha, and Thomas J. Walsh,

Saline Middle School Athletics Presentation

Coaches Sandy Stafford (cross country), Chris DeFant (volleyball) and Joe Welton (football) spoke about the challenges faced by Saline Middle School athletes this fall. They were also joined by several students who expressed their appreciation to the board for allowing students to participate in athletics this year.

Budget Amendment

Assistant Superintendent for Finance Miranda Owsley recommended an amended budget. The current budget was created in May, when there were many unknowns.

Revenues are up by $2.15 million. Expenditures are down about $750,000 despite a $600,000 increase in maintenance and operations.

"The next months are critical with winter coming," Owsley said. "We have negotiations coming due."

Owsley said further amendment may be required in June.

"While this remains really positive you want to keep remembering that we're going to do what we need to do to keep education rolling forward," Owsley said.

She said the district is being cautious because the district doesn't know whether it will receive more federal funding and it doesn't know if it can count on consistent state funding.

Superintendent Scot Graden said he thanked the education unions for working with the district.

"At the moment we most needed it, we did not make reductions because we were able to work together and build trust," Graden said. 

Return To School

Graden noted there was a case in the high school today.

"There are times when we cannot fully socially distance, 100 percent," Graden said. "In the general sense, we are seeing compliance."

Local COVID numbers look better than regional numbers, Graden said.

Graden said the district's COVID-19 dashboard looked "relatively clean." 

"I'm proud of our community. That being said, it is all around us," Graden said.

Graden said the county's daily cases/100,000 is concerning.

Graden said in the district rubric, the district is nearing medium and high-risk scenarios. The district COVID-19 team meets Friday.

"There's no doubt we are on the brink," Graden said. "Holidays are coming. Cold weather is going to occur. People are going to be inside more."

There's no change to the instruction plans for now.

The community survey closed Sunday. There hasn't been much movement among parents, based on preliminary views of the survey. Graden isn't anticipating much movement on assignments, but there are pinch points with larger class sizes and transportation.

Placement will be announced by Nov. 23.

The district's COVID-19 team meets Friday.

Policy Committee Update

The district's Policy Committee of the Whole met Monday to talk about board policies, according to Trustee Estep. Trustee Steben and Estep have recommended changes to the board procedures to make MASB meetings mandatory. The language has been softened.

They also discussed the DEI advisory committee policy. The policy structure will be similar to the sex-ed advisory committee. There will be representatives from each building, student body, parents/guardians, and the board. Discussion is expected to continue into January and February.

Finance Committee Update

The board's finance committee met eight days ago to discuss the general fund amendment and the sinking fund. There's about $1.2 million left in the sinking fund, which can be used for devices, buses, security equipment, according to Trustee Dennis Valenti.

The third series of the sinking fund priorities have not yet been identified.

"We're in pretty good shape. We have been good stewards of that money in terms of keeping our hard assets in shape," Valenti said.

On the general fund issue, Valenti pointed out recent surpluses that are building the fund balance up to almost 10 percent. But he said the budgets are bolstered by one-time funds from the federal government.

"We don't want to deceive ourselves into thinking we're running surpluses year after year, when in reality we have a structural deficit," Valenti. "Things could go bad in the coming year."

Valenti said a Wall Street Journal article saying states are facing the greatest cash crunch since the Great Depression.

"There are tough times to come," Valenti said. "So there's good news, but be cautious."

Closed Session

The board entered closed session to discuss collective bargaining.

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