By Gail Callahan
During a relatively short—71 minutes—School Board meeting on Nov. 14 the town Community School Board Directors discussed the summer school program, budget planning, and the approval of an audit report.
The meeting started with a presentation by Shelburne Community School (SCS) staffers Sue Schaefer and Laura Davenport about the effectiveness of the SCS’s summer school program. Davenport noted that as the number of children who are now eligible for free or reduced lunch increased, so has enrollment in the summer school program. During several points in the meeting, School Board members asked questions about that piece of data. According to information from the meeting, 52 students out of the 93 who attended summer school were eligible for free or reduced lunch. Schaefer and Davenport also noted that many of the students who attended the program “raved” about the food.
Davenport told School Board members that SCS’s summer program is three weeks and runs four hours each day sessions are offered. Originally, the scheme was open to pupils who were on 504 or Independent Education Plans. Now, classes are available to all Shelburne students, Davenport said.
Schaefer and Davenport also addressed the rising cost of the program. Last year, sessions were budgeted at about $2,900; this year the figure jumped to $3,041. School personnel attributed the increase to a rise in transportation. Students could receive bus rides to and from the school. Additionally, some scholarships were offered to children to attend Live Yers so they would be at school for most of the day.
The discussion then turned from a financial one to the benefits students received from attending the program. SCS Co-Principal Allan Miller outlined for Board members how students succeeded after participating. School Board member Robert Finn questioned Davenport and Schaefer about students who attended summer school and their use of those tools during the academic year. Both noted an increase in confidence in students, noting that the kids felt ready when studying a new concept in math, and also how children who experienced behavior issues became leaders and demonstrated kindness. According to Davenport and Schaefer, literacy and math were two areas which were targeted for academic improvement. According to information from SCS close to 20 percent of students who attended summer school showed marked academic improvement.
School personnel hopes to grow the program so more students can attend. Miller noted that if all of the students who received invitations did come to summer school, it was feared the project would run over-budget. Miller also noted the stigma that once existed about attending summer school is gone and that its worth is demonstrated as students succeed in the classroom.
Moving away from the summer school discussion, School Directors talked about Shelburne’s baseline budget for fiscal year 2013-14. According to School Board Chairman Russ Caffry that figure is up 3.86 percent from last year. Caffry also pointed out that the CSSU spending plan is initially showing a jump of 5.7 percent. A baseline budget is a starting point for Board members. That figure can increase or decrease throughout the process and the Board considers so-called “Decision Packets,” Caffry explained.
Referring to Shelburne’s increase Caffry stated, “I’m glad it’s not the 5.7 percent that CSSU has.”
He said Shelburne’s increase is linked to a rise in health insurance and an increase in salaries and benefits in teacher contracts. He noted there are several upcoming budget meetings for the School Board. The schedule discussed at the Nov. 14 meeting: Nov. 29, 7:30 am, in the Community School Middle School Art Room; Dec. 5, Dec. 12, and Jan. 9. Most of the budget meetings are slated for 7:30 am at SCS. A joint meeting with town officials is slated for Jan. 28 at 7 pm in the Town offices. It’s also likely the School Board will hold a budget forum in early to mid-January. Caffry noted the next “Carousel” meeting of the Board is set for Feb. 13 at CVU.
Near the close of the meeting, the School Board accepted the independent auditing report, noting it was “very clean.”