Revisions to the employee handbook have stirred some controversy, at least for two bus drivers who came to voice their opinions during the regular monthly meeting of the Milan Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees held Monday, October 22.
Present were board members Gregory Lewis, Edward Amberger, Timothy Tuttle, Linda Baker, and Randy Kirk, along with Superintendent Dr. Tom Reale.
Veteran bus drivers, Linda Hyde and Debra Hackman, addressed the board with concerns they had over revisions being made to the classified employee handbook regarding bus drivers. Hyde has been driving for Milan for 18 years, while Hackman has been with the corporation for 11 years. They stated that in line 8 of the job description that Southeastern Career Center bus drivers must accept substitute bus driver assignments if that is the only route they have.
They said that they had sent a request to John Ferguson, director of operations, and Dr. Reale requesting the line be removed from the description, to which they received a letter from Dr. Reale denying the request. Both Hyde and Hackman expressed concern that if they turned down an assignment to drive as a substitute bus driver, they would be fired. They read the letter that they received in response to their request from Dr. Reale.
"This tells me that if you (Dr. Reale) need me to run route 10 and I say no, then you can fire me," said Hyde, adding that she and Hackman feel as if they are being singled out and harassed.
Dr. Reale explained that they misunderstood the letter and that they would not be fired for turning down an assignment. However, by turning down an assignment, they would be surrendering their positions.
Hyde responded by saying that they were not being paid to be on call every day, and questioned why none of the other drivers were mandated to be substitutes and asked to be ‘grandfathered' as exempt from this one line of the description.
Another concern they had was not being called to substitute at the beginning of the school year when another driver was out sick for several days, adding that a driver who had just gotten her license during the previous summer was asked to cover the route.
Dr. Reale responded by saying that Hyde and Hackman had recently told Ferguson not to call them to substitute for regular routes, because they were not interested.
Hyde and Hackman also questioned why they were not permitted to take their buses home, as all other drivers, including special needs drivers, are permitted to do.
Dr. Reale recommended approval of the classified employee handbook that was passed out during the September meeting for review. Due to the controversy regarding line 8 of the handbook, a motion was approved to table the handbook so the board could take the subject and comments under additional advisement.
Karen Schmitt, middle school instructional aide, addressed the board about arranging a question-and-answer session for school board candidates. Kirk explained that all the candidates had been invited to participate in a public forum by the Ripley County Chamber of Commerce.
Dr. Reale stated that a first reading of a revision to policy #8020 took place during the September meeting saying that the Corporation would be responsible for the cost of extended criminal background checks for approved newly hired employees. Kirk expressed concern, by saying this is something that has not been done in the past and wanted to know why now. Tuttle explained that it was good business practice and would only apply to those people who are actually hired, not all applicants. The motion carried 5-0.
Dr. Reale presented the evaluation tools for certified employees to the board for approval, with the recommendation of the following models: 1 - Bluffton-Harrison teacher evaluation and development plan for teachers; 2 - Professional school counselor rubric for the counselors; 3 - School librarian evaluation rubric for the media director; 4 - ECSEC speech rubric for the speech therapist; 5 - RISE principal effectiveness framework for the principals; and 6 - Indiana superintendent evaluation process for the superintendent.
It was noted by Dr. Reale that the proposed teacher evaluation model complied with the state RISE requirements, but was amended to suit the needs of the school. Kirk questioned the changes from the state RISE model and the Bluffton-Harrison model and asked if teachers would still be required to attend the RISE training. It was explained that the student learning objective had been removed to alleviate some of the burden on teachers. The motion carried 4-0-1, with Kirk not voting.
In other news:
• The minutes of the public hearing and the regular meeting on September 17; the executive session on October 1, and the work session on October 15, were unanimously approved.
• The budget, levies and rates for 2013, as originally presented and advertised, were approved.
• A request from teachers to take 18 members of the high school student council to the Indianapolis Convention Center on November 3-4 for the student council convention was approved.
• The following fundraising requests were approved: - the girls' basketball teams to sell Christmas wreaths and greenery from Cool Springs Nursery - Spanish Club to sell pizza to students after school for the rest of the school year; - FFA to sell fruit and other items from the Florida Farm Bureau and coaches of the winter sports teams and team members to sell peelers.
• The following lease agreements were approved: Youth Wrestling League will use the wrestling room from 5:45 p.m. - 8:15 p.m., October 15, through March 15, at no charge; The Good News Club to use the elementary building, at no charge; and PeeWee Football League to use the high school cafeteria for their awards night at a cost of $75.00.
• A conference request from Appie Thompson was approved to attend the 2012 School Nurses' Conference in Indianapolis.
• The financial report was read with a motion made by Kirk to approve vendor checks #35234 through #35330, payroll checks #23127 through #23323, deposit advice # 38582 through #38824, and the financial report. The motion carried.
In the superintendent's report, Dr. Reale presented a high school class-size report with class numbers higher than 28 or less than 12 students. He said he has been working with the principal and guidance department to try and get a better balance for the second semester.
Reale also presented the results and recommended changes from an energy audit that was performed at the middle and high school recently. The audit was performed by an organization called "Energizing Indiana."
It was recommended to proceed with the short-term and medium-term options, which would yield a 35-percent savings with the anticipation of a payback within three years. Tuttle proposed taking a slow approach and establishing a good plan before implementation. No action was taken at this time.
In personnel news:
• Dr. Reale reported that he had accepted a letter of intent to retire at the end of the 2012-13 school year from Richard Dobson. He also noted that Renee Jackson had resigned her position as an instructional aide at the elementary school, effective October 5. A motion was made by Lewis to approve Lisa Ludwig for the aide's position vacated by Jackson. The motion carried.
• The board approved Brian Owens as the girls reserve basketball coach and Kelly Stutler as the girls freshman basketball coach.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:56 p.m. The next regular meeting of the Milan Board of School Trustees will be at 7 p.m., Monday, November 19, in the administration building.
Editor's note: Last month's Milan School Board story which was published in the Osgood Journal on October 9 stated that teachers would receive $75 per day under the new guidelines. The actual pay is $175 per day. We apologize for the error.