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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

BOE Meet Focuses on Student Activity Budgeting, Enrollment and Athletic Policies

BOE Meet Focuses on Student Activity Budgeting, Enrollment and Athletic Policies
(Appeared on New Canaan 10/19)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

The New Canaan Board of Education met Monday evening October 18 to discuss budgeting against Student Activity Accounts, present staffing and enrollment figures/projections and provide a quarterly financial report. The Board also tweaked and approved Policy 6400 related to athlete conduct. The session was held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School.

Called to order by BOE Chair Nick Williams, the session opened with public commentary from parent Natalie Portman, who expressed concern about plans to build a new bus operation center to house drivers and administrators when the needs of children being bussed should be prioritized. “Our kids are being forced to endure packed buses. We really need to be taking a look at the whole busing system.” She urged that construction be shelved, which the Board noted.

Director of Finance and Operations Michael Lagas presented budget targets for June 30, 2012 for Student Activity Accounts. The budget proposal aims to eliminate nearly $36K as compared to a 6/30/10 operating balance of $198,347. The proposal was broken down by class year as well as by activity with certain items highlighted as concerns with regard to whether enough or too little funding had been dedicated.

The chief Activity Accounts issue discussed by the Board was the suggestion that funding be determined at a set percentage versus reviewing historical spending by activity over the past 2-3 years and setting funding accordingly. Board Member Jim Kucharczyk also questioned why there were balances dedicated to certain programs that didn’t seem to require an abundant level of funding. Board Member Alison Bedula cautioned that the budgeting be done as accurately as possible so that parents don’t have to cover shortfalls out of their own pockets. NCHS Assistant Principal Ari Rothman suggested moving towards amounts that are actually needed versus what each group wants and recalibrating as necessary. Further discussion is planned.

With regard to Staff Utilization and Enrollment, Assistant Superintendent Steve Swerdlick presented a comprehensive summary. A highlight was that K-12 enrollment in New Canaan Public Schools had reached 4,096, the highest level in 30 years, though enrollment has been fluctuating between 4,000 and 4,100 for the past seven years. The high school experienced the largest increase, with 56 more students this school year than in 2009-10. Enrollment in Special Education was down from two years ago, which Swerdlick attributed to the staff’s efforts to reach students before they require special ed. Staffing shortages in the areas of science, math and world languages could be possible if overall enrollment increases continue.

Lagas provided Operating Budget Measurements for the quarter ending September 30, 2010, indicating that, with 75% of the year remaining, 77.3% of the operating budget for expenditures and 68.4% for contracted services remains.

Finally, Athletic Policy #6400, after brief Board discussion and agreed-to minor changes in language, was unanimously passed. Further, it was recommended that policy highlights be provided to student athletes, particularly as the athletes will be required to sign and confirm their understanding of the new policies.