School Committee Meeting Minutes 06/03/2019

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Farmington River Regional School District

Farmington River Elementary School

555 North Main Road, Otis, MA 01253

Monday June 3, 2019

Minutes #373


Members Present:  Nicholas DellaGiustina, Jessica Drenga,, Deb Fogel, Jennifer Hibbins, Carol Lombardo, Billie Pachulski,  John Skrip, Arlene Tolopko, Thomas Nadolny, and Eric Jesner


Absent:  none


Guests:  See attached list


Call to order:  The meeting was called to order at 7:00 P.M. by Thomas Nadolny.

Reorganization of School Committee:  Mr. Nadolny led off the meeting by asking the Committee for nominations for President.  Jess Dregna motioned for Nicholas DellaGiustina for President, Arlene Tolopko seconded the motioned.  Vote was unanimous.  Nicholas then asked for nominations for Vice President.  Jess Drenga nominated Carol Lombardo.  Billie Pachulski seconded the motion.  Arlene nominated Jess Drenga.  Carol won the vote 6-1.  Nominations for School Committee Secretary:  Jess Drenga motioned to nominate Teresa DellaGiustina, Carol Lombardo seconded the nomination, and the vote was unanimous for Teresa DellaGiustina as School Committee Secretary.

Community Discussion:  None

  1. Approval of Minutes #372. Carol Lombardo motioned to accept Minutes #372 as submitted, Arlene Tolopko seconded the minutes.  Vote by School Committee was unanimous.


  1. Discussion on the Paraprofessional Union: Alex the MA Teacher’s Association to the Union was in to discuss the Paraprofessional Union.  The Union would be under the Teacher’s Association umbrella but a separate contract.  This includes the Paraprofessionals and the Cafeteria Staff.  Alex passed out Laurie Flower’s letter to the School Board.  The letter is just a formality to ask for the School Committee’s volunteer approval.  If the School Committee votes it down, they then go to the Department of Labor, they come down run a vote and the union passes.  Nicholas asked if voted yes, does the union start for the 2020-2021 school year because there is not a contract in place.  Alex’s reply was no.  It would start as of 2019-2020.  Once the contract is agreed upon, the contents will be retroactive, if needed, back to the beginning of the 2019-2020 school years.  There were some concerns of retroactive payments, which were not accounted for in this coming school budget.  Alex’s response was that a one year contract and a three year contract can be done at the same time.  This still doesn’t help the issue of retroactive pay on the already established budget for 2019-2020.  Also, until the contract is in place, all work actions and pay will be conducted as usual.  Jess Drenga asked about contract negotiations being on the same cycle as the Teacher’s negotiations.  Alex said that is up to the School Committee and the Para Union members, and Jamie Foster, the Chair of the Teacher’s Association.  Alex did explain that this is a contract for Paraprofessionals and Cafeteria workers only.  If Maintenance members what to be in it, a new contract would have to be created adding them to the contract.  The only workers that are not allowed in the union are Administration and the staff that have confidential material and can conduct evaluations.  The only Administration worker that is allowed to participate is the Business Manager’s Assistant.  At this point, Jess Drenga motioned to accept the Paraprofessional and Cafeteria Workers request to be part of the Teacher’s Union under an umbrella with a separate contract.  Carol Lombardo seconded the motion.  The vote passes 6-1.  Alex will get back in touch with the School Committee once a contract has been written to start negotiations.


  1. Discussion and vote on the outcome of the 2019-2020 budgets. Nicholas notified all School Committee Members that the Town of Sandisfield turned down the school budget.  Unfortunately the turn out for the meeting lacked the votes of the families’ who have children that attend Farmington River.  According to Billie Pachulski and Jennifer Hibbins, who attended the meeting, most of the complaints or concerns were about the amount of money spent on food and transportation.  Jennifer did ask if a discussion on food could be brought up.  Eric explained that the total cost to run the entire program is roughly $105,000.  This includes labor, food and supplies.  We do get money back from the federal and state as reimbursement, along with the cost of school children and staff paying for their lunches and breakfasts.  When you take that money out the balance was $40,000.  This amount is what the residents contribute to.  Jen did ask if some of the money in the $40,000 comes from families that do not pay their lunch bills.  Eric explained that the percentage of unpaid lunches is very minimal.  Nicholas did state that we are not charging our students the required lunch price.  The School Committee does take into consideration the Department of Education and families.  The Committee does raise the amount of school lunches by $0.10 each year.  This still does not bring us up to the state recommended cost, but if you have a larger family in school and the lunch rate is $3.00 meal, that could be anywhere between $9-$15 a day for just lunch.  Milk is separate and breakfast is offered as well.  The prices reflect families that are not eligible for free or reduced lunch.  At that point, it may be harder to collect the unpaid balances due.


Jennifer also brought up busing.  Jennifer asked if we only have one company that offers busing for our students.  Eric responded that we do bid out for different busing companies, but we only ever get one bid each year.  Dufour is the only company that will transport our students.  Jen also asked what the requirements are for transporting the students.  Eric explained that we are required to provide transportation to any child 2 miles or more from the school.  This is through high school.  The other issue is we do not have sidewalks for the children to walk on to walk to school or bus stops.  Another factor we have is the transporting our Middle and High School students going to Lee and Great Barrington.  The School already reduced a bus this year. If we reduce another bus, students will be on the bus for over an hour.  This was explained by Thomas Nadolny.

Eric continued with financial updates.  He asked the School Committee to increase the budget that we are spending out of School Choice.  School Choice has a revolving account.  This account does not affect the actual budget.  The School gets in money for the incoming School Choice students.  Eric would like $8000 to come out of this account to pay for a new Math curriculum.  The original plan was to expose 4th -6th Grades with this new Math program.  After thinking it through, it would be better to introduce K-6th instead.

Jess Drenga motioned to increase School Choice budget by $8000 for a new Math curriculum for K-6th Grades.  Billie Pachulski seconded the motion.  The votes were unanimous to approve increasing the School Choice budget by $8000 for the Math curriculum.

Jennifer Hibbins asked if the School Committee can invite the Sandisfield Selectmen to come and visit Farmington River School, in hopes they can see why the School’s budget is what it is.  Nicholas was fine with this suggestion, and he noted that the Sandisfield Selectmen have been invited on several occasions, but chose to send the Town Administrator in their place.  Jennifer will follow up on this meeting.

Nicholas motioned to except the School budget reduction of $29,373, reducing Sandisfield’s portion $11,404.  Billie Pachulski seconded the motion.  The votes were unanimous to reduce the budget by $29,373.

Jennifer Hibbins asked what happens if Sandisfield does not accept this budget.  If the Selectmen vote it down and the budget must be presented to the public again in a Special Town Meeting.  If the budget does not pass, the budget comes back to School Committee.  If the School Committee feels the budget cannot be reduced further, a joint Special Town Meeting between the two towns (Otis & Sandisfield) will be held.  They will vote as one body.  Then if the budget is voted down again, a special 1:12 budget, which is the minimal contribution of money the towns have to pay.  Take that number divide it by 12 and that is the contribution from each town.  Sandisfield has 45 days to hold a Special Town Meeting from the time they are informed of the outcome of the School Committee’s vote.  Another factor; if there is not a budget in place by July 1st, the school budget automatically follows the 1:12 budget until the matter is rectified.

Tom Nadolny gave a few updates on the past month.  The 3th Grade finished their Stars Grant to the Audubon.  They went to the CT River to explore plants and bugs, etc.

The School concert went well.  The 5th Grade had a fundraiser cookout to help support their trip to Fort Ticonderoga.  They fulfilled their goal and the cookout was a success for all.

The School had the final Professional Day.  The programming taught the staff how to apply tourniquets to children and adults if a bad situation where ever to come to Farmington River.  There are now tourniquets here at the school.  The training was called Stop the Bleed.

MCAS are now over.

Field Day was changed to June 10th due to scheduling issues.  The Spring Play was a success.  The students were excited and performed well.  They all had a great time.

Graduation is coming up on June 13th.

Field trips are coming up, 6th Grade Boston Trip, 5th Grade is going to Fort Ticonderoga, and the 4th Grade is going to the Mount.

Jess Drenga asked about the number of graduation students.  Where will they be attending school next year.  The numbers are 9 students are going to Lee and 3 are going to Great Barrington.  Tom stated that this is a major turn.  Most families sent their children to Great Barrington.


  1. Vote to enter Executive Session. Nicholas DellaGiustina motioned to move into Executive Session, only to come back to adjourn out of School Committee Meeting.  Carol Lombardo seconded the motion.  Vote passed unanimously.


Respectfully written,


Teresa DellaGiustina, School Committee Secretary