TRSU exec committee holds last meeting Defers spending approval, Powden evaluation for new board

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2018 Telegraph Publishing LLC

TRSU Executive Committee meets for the last time. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

At its last meeting before disbanding, the Two Rivers Supervisory Union Executive Committee on Thursday declined to approve a number of administration requests including TRSU job descriptions, a curriculum management program and other purchases totaling $130,000 – one of which had been removed from the SU budget this spring.

The money would have come from Act 46 transition funds.

Apparently unbeknownst to the committee, the Act 46 statute mandates that transition grants be paid to the districts (Page 11, Paragraph 3) – not to the Supervisory Union. During the Act 46 process, it was said that the money – less the costs of consultants and legal work – would be split between the new Green Mountain Unified School and Ludlow Mountain Holly Unified Union districts. On Tuesday, a representative of the Agency of Education confirmed that the district boards are to get these funds.

With the merger that created these districts taking effect on July 1, the eight-member Executive Committee and the 22-member full SU board will be replaced by a single six-member panel beginning next month.

Committee members questioned many of the expenditures for which Superintendent Meg Powden proposed to use $130,000 of the Transition Facilitation Grant. These included:

  • a three-day “Leadership Retreat” at the Killington Mountain resort for $7,650;
  • a TRSU board retreat for $3,500;
  • $6,000 for purchase of 130 to 140 copies of Leaders of Their Own Learning to be mandatory reading by teachers and administration. Powden said they hoped to save some money by buying the books used from Amazon.

Among the information technology purchases proposed by the administration were:

  • $10,000 for website software;
  • $9,250 for personalized learning plan software and
  • $20,000 for an Ivisions Timeclock to help with payroll processing of hourly employees. Committee member Angela Benson Ciufo noted that the business office was asked to look into using a payroll service but had not reported back.

Also on the list was:

  • $21,600 for compensating the work of the “Curriculum/Professional Development Committee.” That would amount to $1,200 for 18 teachers. According to Powden, those teachers have volunteered their time in the past. She did not say whether this would be an ongoing expense in future budgets.

Finally, Powden asked for flexible classroom furniture to be used for staff development in a space at its Fletcher Farm headquarters. That $6,000 purchase was taken out of the SU budget earlier this year.

Baltimore representative Wayne Wheelock objected to several of the proposed purchases, and said they should go before the new board. Other members agreed to defer the decision.

Powden also told the board that some of the money had already been spent — in advance of their approval — on an Ivision software component.

Online system for curriculum problem proposed

Curriculum director Michael Eppolito told the committee that keeping the curriculum consistent across the schools in the SU has been a struggle and that a lot of work gets put into developing it. then it ends up in a binder, forgotten on the shelf.

“Over the years we have not been good at creating durable curriculum,” said Eppolito. “It’s not good practice for any teacher not to know what they should be teaching. There’s no accountability built in … unless I walk into a classroom and ask to see the paper lesson plan, there’s no way to know.”

According to Eppolito, the solution to this is an online curriculum management system called Ogment that will allow teachers to build lesson plans that align with curriculum and for the administration to track their progress. The program, which is licensed for $10,000 per year, was cut from the budget last year, said Eppolito. But, he added, the software company will give it to the school system for the first year, followed by a five-year contract for $43,000, which includes discounts.

Eppolito was asking the committee to bless the first year, but the incoming board would have to budget it for the following years. LMHUUSD board chair Paul Orzechowsky asked if the company could make a presentation at the next meeting and GMUSD board chair Marilyn Mahusky suggested deferring action until then. Both Orzechowsky and Mahusky will be serving on the new board.

In Powden’s transition grant spending plan, $25,800 was earmarked for Ogment, and now that will have to be decided by the next board.

Hire approved after the fact

Powden told the committee that the central office had done a search for a board-certified behavior specialist to run the new autism program at Ludlow Elementary School and proposed to hire Alison Stone.

“I remember Mary’s presentation,” said Joe Fromberger, who will be a member of the new board, “but I don’t remember the board approving this position.”

“I thought the board did,” said Powden.

“What the board approved was moving forward with planning,” said Mahusky

Board chair Bob Herbst read from the minutes of the May meeting. “Dr. Bont moved to proceed with the planning of the Autism Program and have Ms. Barton report back at the June 7, 2018 meeting. Mr. Wheelock seconded. The motion carried unanimously.”

Barton was not at the meeting to report, so the committee discussed whether it should approve the hire to keep program on track to be up in the fall. Mahusky asked how much Stone would be paid but Powden said she didn’t know. Herbst interjected that the position was in the budget, but did not explain how it was budgeted before being proposed. The committee approved the hire as of July 1, 2018.

Superintendent evaluation

Herbst suggested that the agenda item for discussion of the superintendent’s evaluation be skipped as there was an executive session scheduled for that. The session was held without Powden in attendance. Mahusky later told The Telegraph that no action was taken and that the next board would take up where this board left off.

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  1. J. Smart says:

    1. Every time this woman speaks, the truth is suspect.
    2. $7600.00 for a “retreat”.
    3. Who hired this problem?
    Things have to change.

  2. Otis Nelson says:

    Wow! More proof that Meg Powden is not what this supervisory needs! Maybe we can get someone in there that knows how to take directions from a board or at the least one that that knows how to read the minutes from the meetings!! Totally unacceptable!!!