School Committee Meeting Minutes 10/05/2020

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Farmington River Regional School District

Farmington River Elementary School

555 North Main Road, Otis, MA 01253

Via Zoom

Monday October 5, 2020 6:15 PM

Meeting #392



Members Present:  All Members Present


Guests:  Attached list


  1. Approval of Minutes: Some adjustments need to be made.  Teresa DellaGiustina will edit the minutes for approval in next month’s meeting.


  1. Discuss the creation of the budget schedule. Eric Jesner discussed the budget schedule that the school follows when producing the budget each year.  Eric presented a written document of the budget schedule that was approved by the School Committee in August of 2020.  Eric read through the document with all the Towns’ Select board, Finance members, and the School Committee.  The document is attached to the minutes.  Eric opened the floor for discussion.  Roger Brown (Chair of the Finance Board) spoke up and asked when or where the time is that the towns can give feedback to the budget.  Roger stated that the school’s budget is half of their expense base, and it would be valuable to have a feedback period.  Eric stressed that Chapter 70 monies are not released until the end of January, so the first week of February the draft of the budget is presented to the School Committee.  At that point, the School Committee then investigates the budget to adjust or make changes.  Roger feels that at this point maybe the Towns should be present to give their feedback.  Brian O’Rourke spoke up and stated that Jennifer Hibbins sent out an email last November stating there was a potential update on the budget.  Could this be possible and does the School work on the budget every month?  Eric stated that the budget does not get started until the end of November or beginning of December.  Jennifer Hibbins said she thought she could get the figures for the Sandisfield Select board in November but realized that the budget changed dramatically by January and that information would not be accurate.  Brian just wanted to get a handle on the budget process.  Brian stated that the insurance expense is the most critical data to look at, and a discussion on the health insurance seems to be out of the town’s control.  He would like to discuss that topic along with other topics earlier than what has been happening.  Brian would also like monthly updates by the School Committee.  Bill Hiller agrees with starting the budget process sooner.  Terry Gould asked if she could speak.  Terry feels it is cumbersome that the School Committee is being asked to put in extra work when they do not have the correct information until February.  She also feels that it is unfair to ask the School Committee to have monthly updates when the other departments do not have to follow suit.  Especially when the numbers are not accurate.  Brian O’Rourke stated that Sandisfield starts their budget in November.  All departments must have their budgets in by November 30th.  Terry wanted to remind Brian that he is asking for information that the School Committee can not produce until February.  Brian realizes that now.  Bill Hiller did ask if they all could see the draft of the budget in February along with the School Committee.  Eric would be more than happy to email the draft of the budget to the towns when they have the budget meeting in February.  Invitations will also be sent out to the towns for when there will be discussions of the budget in the School committee meetings.  Both towns agreed to this process and will be working more closely with the School Committee.


  1. Discussion on amending the assessment calculations for Sandisfield and Otis. A School Committee member asked to start a discussion to change the assessment time from 3 years to 5 years, in hopes to smooth the curve when there is a change in enrollment in the towns.  In the long run, there is not an overall effect, but it will make sure the shift in enrollment assessment will not be too large of a swing in a single year.  Jennifer Hibbins wanted to look into the process that Southern Berkshire went through when changing the time frame.  Eric will look into that further.  Jennifer thinks this is a good idea and is a benefit to both towns.  Roger Kohler also thinks it would be a good idea to soften the blow of the rising assessment payments.  Roger Brown spoke up and does not agree with plan.  He feels as if this plan is mortgaging the future, and we should not change the methodology that is in place.  Jessica Drenga asked if anyone would want to further this topic or not.  Bill Hiller does not think this is a good idea.  Both towns need to agree, and he does not see that happening.  Terry Gould thinks some research should be done by seeing how the assessment came about to begin with when the regionalization formed.  We should find the reasoning behind this method.  Brian O’Rourke wants to look into it before voting on it.  The Select board of both towns will discuss this further with more information provided by Eric.  Eric will do more research and get back in touch with both towns.


Jennifer Hibbins thanked all the Select board members and finance members from both towns for attending this meeting.  Bill Hiller also thanked the School Committee and mentioned that at any time they would like to talk about topics send an invite to the Select board.  They would be happy to attend a meeting.  Brian O’Rourke aged and said the Select board rearranged their meeting for tonight and would do so again if needed.


  1. Principal/Superintendent updates. Tom Nadolny stated that the hybrid method of learning is over and full time in person learning starts tomorrow Monday through Friday.  Remote only learners will continue as they have been.  We will be updating the Wellness Policy to reflect COVID-19 protocols.  This will be on the agenda in next month’s meeting for the Committee to approve.  The flu clinic is set up for October 15th 3-7 pm, here at Farmington River.  Flu shots are offered to the students and residents.  Flu shots are mandated by the state.  All students that are remote or in person need to have the flu shot.


Picture day is coming up on October 15th as well.  There are safety procedures set in place.  One photographer will be present, with a mask on, at all times.  There will not be a class photo.  The equipment will be disinfected between students.  The student will only have a certain amount of time to take the picture due to the removal of their mask.  Some parents were concerned about having picture day at all, but the parents do have the option of opting out from picture day.


Tom made the changes in the face covering policy that the School Committee wanted.  Gators and bandanas will not be allowed as acceptable face coverings.  PE and recess have been changed as well as far as wearing/not wearing face masks during class.  Carol Lombardo motioned to except the updated policy, Arlene second the motion.  The vote was unanimous to approve the updated face covering policy.


Tom did sign the school up for a new program introducing the students on acceptance of differences.  It is out of the ADL called There is no place for hate.  The program will start in a few weeks.  It comes with workbooks for the students to learn from.  It covers many topics such as gender differences, bullying, social justice, etcetera, and it comes with a virtual link as well.  The program was free.  Jennifer Hibbins asked Tom about the learning for staff as well on similar topics.  This was brought up in the past year and she wanted to follow up on it.  Tom did mention he could add some topics during a Professional Day.  Arlene asked if the Cultural Council could hang posters to go up in each classroom concerning diversity.  Tom thought it was a good idea.


Tom explained how Eric and Jeff put together blueprints of each room and went from room to room measuring the proper distance between each desk.  The only potential problem is if all the 1st graders return the classroom will not be able to accommodate all the students safely.


  1. Vote on the prior information provided to the Committee last month on solar power. Relay Power presentation.   Some members of the Committee are not convinced with this option at this point.  They felt the school would not benefit from this plan.  The Committee was hesitant on a 20-year payoff.  No members are interested at pursuing this right now.


  1. School Committee needs to vote on reallocating the budget lines to align with actual expenditures. Eric Jesner started the conversation on realloctating budget lines with actual expenditures.  This is for the FY20 budget.  Eric is not changing the expenditures; it is adjusting the budget, so it matches more closely to what our actual expenditures were.  Eric reviewed the budget with the School Committee and explained each change line by line.


There was a discussion on the movement of money ($288,000) from the General Fund to the Transportation Revolving Fund.  After an extended conversation about the many avenues to take with the surplus, the School Committee voted on moving $188,000 from the General Fund to the Transportation Revolving Fund incase an emergency payment arises.  An example is an unexpected special needs student, which happened to the school last year.  The Committee would not like to return to the towns and ask for more money if an occasion were to come about.  The School Committee voted to move $188,000 into the Revolving Fund and try to keep E&D as close to $200,000.  Carol Lombardo made a motion to accept all the transfers concerning the budget as well as the movement of $188,000 from the General Fund to the Regional Revolving Transportation Fund.  Arlene Tolopko second the motion, the vote was approved unanimously.


  1. Financial Updates. The prior topic was the financial update.


  1. A motion to adjourn was made by Carol Lombardo and second by Arlene Tolopko.  The vote was unanimous.  Meeting adjourned at 8:13pm


Respectfully Submitted,

Teresa DellaGiustina, School Committee Secretary