TRSU board OKs half-time buildings coordinator

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

During last Thursday’s meeting of the Two Rivers Supervisory Union, Green Mountain School Board chair Joe Fromberger revisited topics he has been adamant about in the past: who pays for what and who controls what.

GMUSD board chair Joe Fromberger explains why he objects to the word “assessment” in describing the district’s payments for its transportation program. Photos courtesy Okemo Valley TV

Fromberger twice expressed his opinion that each of the two districts with the TRSU should run its transportation and the administration of its physical plant, even as he sees those functions increasingly moving under TRSU control.

During a discussion of current financials by Business Manager Cheryl Hammond, Fromberger objected to the use of the word “assessment” in describing the payment made by the GM district to the SU to cover transportation costs.

This stems from a state requirement that money that pays for transportation expenses must pass through supervisory unions. Fromberger wanted a wording change to recognize that the district purchased its buses, then gave the money from property taxes to the central office to make the loan payments.

The TRSU board discusses the move to create a new position to coordinate physical plant issues

Hammond told Fromberger that “assessment” is a standard term in the state’s accounting system, so the SU has to use it.

“As long as we fully understand who pays for what,” said Fromberger.

“That’s an argument,” said Hammond.

Later during a discussion of the 2021/22 budget, Fromberger told the meeting — made up of three board members from each of the two districts that make up TRSU — that he disagreed with an administration request to create a $40,000-a-year, half-time “buildings, grounds and security” position to coordinate facilities directors in the five schools of the SU.

Superintendent Lauren Fierman said that the position would save time and money by being a central point of contact for information — like air quality numbers — from all the schools while taking advantage of bulk ordering and other savings of scale. Hammond also noted that the position could have helped with problems like the boiler room flood that closed Chester-Andover Elementary for the fall semester of 2018.

But Fromberger was concerned and said that each school should control the operation of its facilities rather than having central office supervision. In response to a question about the use of the words “supervisor” and “coordinator” to describe the position, Fierman said the job would be to coordinate efforts and direct supervision over the individual facilities directors would remain with each school principal.

Superintendent Lauren Fierman explains that supervision of maintenance staff will remain in the hands of each building’s principal

While he remained opposed to the idea, Fromberger said he would vote in favor of the new position because the GMUSD board (in a meeting warned as the Finance Committee) had directed TRSU board members to do so. Jeff Hance and Rick Alexander had not attended that meeting and did not know about the board’s direction.

After the meeting, Fromberger told The Telegraph that while the Finance Committee was probably beyond its authority to act as the board unless the meeting was warned as a board meeting, he recognized that six of 11 members were in favor of the new position and there was no point in belaboring it but he wanted to go on record as personally opposing it.  Ludlow-Mount Holly board members Dan Buckley and Dave Venter voted no favoring a coordinator for each district rather than one for the supervisory union.

In addition to the new position, the board also approved increasing the director of technology from .8 to full time and creating a new .4 registrar position to manage student data in Power School across the two districts and handle residency checks.

Late filing penalty and budget increase

Business manager Cheryl Hammond explained she is working to get the IRS penalty reduced

Hammond told the board that the IRS is levying a penalty for the late filing of a health insurance report for 2018. She noted that the report missed the initial filing date but was on time for the final completion deadline. The fine is $22,950 and Hammond says she is working to see if that can be reduced. She noted that the 2019 report was filed on time and the 2020 will be.

Fierman told the board that the SU budget would rise by 15.72 percent — most of which is due to a $780,000 increase in providing special education and that the amount of the special education block grant, which will pay for some of the hike, will not be known until Dec. 27.

At the GM board meeting on Nov. 19, Fierman said that the jump was mostly due to increases in transportation and tuition for students who attend special programs outside the districts.

Curriculum director reports on work

Supervisory Union Curriculum Director Anne Gardner detailed her recent work with teachers covering the K-12 proficiency-based English language arts curriculum. In January, they will move over the K-12 math curriculum.

Curriculum Director Anne Gardner explains what she is doing in working on in curriculum, coaching and professional development for staff

Gardner described these as “fully aligned,” meaning that they are constructed starting with what will be expected of a graduating senior and working backward in steps to establish which proficiencies should be reached at each grade level.  She also noted that the middle/high school foreign language proficiencies are now aligned with national standards.

Gardner also outlined what’s happening with coaching and mentoring of teachers as well as ongoing work on professional development. Gardner’s newsletter can be found here.

Covid and annual meetings

At the start of the meeting  Fromberger asked that the board talk about an email he had received from the Secretary of State’s office regarding annual meetings and how they might be handled during the pandemic.

He said that the board has the option of putting the business of the meeting on an Australian ballot. Normally the voters would have to make that decision, but in light of the pandemic, the legislature passed a temporary law to make an exception to the statute that governs such meetings. The question will be on the Jan. 6 TRSU meeting agenda to give the board enough time to warn it properly.

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