The PLT#3 School Board held a special meeting on Thursday, May 30 as a dry run for their public forum to discuss cost-saving measures which will be held on Thursday, June 6 at 6 PM in the middle school commons. Board President James Melton will lead the presentation, during the open forum followed by a question and answer session. The forum will be webcast live on Aroundptown.com.
The main thrust of the meeting was to give board members an opportunity to discuss and add input to the presentation. Melton quickly went through the slides which outlined the multiple options the board is considering. The basic options are to rearrange the elementary schools into attendance centers, close an elementary school, or put a tax referendum on the ballot. Melton has said he hopes the board can make a decision by July but that no changes will be made until the 2020-2021 school year.
Melton had one slide which he commented was a representation of a cyclical problem within the district and is at the heart of the financial woes. The district has had declining enrollment for almost 2 decades, which leads to lower revenue for the district, which leads to difficulty in increasing staff salaries, which leads to low staff retention, which leads to poor test scores. Melton said the one variable the board has control over is staff salaries, which is why the board is focusing on cost savings in areas other than teacher salaries in hopes of attracting and keeping teachers.
Melton reiterated that if the district does nothing and continues to run a deficit it will eventually become bankrupt, which he added no one wants to see.
Another topic of discussion was the number of class sections for third through fifth grades for the 2019-2020 school year. During the fall of 2018 it was decided to have just two sections of both 4th and 5th grades, but that decision had been questioned by parents. At a previous board meeting Melton was informed that several of the teachers in those grades had been involved in the discussion to determine the number of sections. He revealed after speaking to several teachers that many of them were not part of the discussions and therefore offered the board two options. The first, to develop criteria to serve as a guide in making the decision, or to just move forward with a majority decision of the board on whether to change the number of sections.
Melton said that federal guidelines suggest grades 3-5 should contain no more than 25 students. After discussion the board agreed to have three sections of both 4th and 5th grades for the upcoming year and to work on developing a policy for determining future decisions. Based on the original decision to have just two sections at the 4th and 5th grade levels a teacher was released through a reduction in force notice. The teacher was contacted after the board’s decision about staying with the district but had already accepted a position at another district. Since the meeting one new teacher has been hired and another is being sought.
A final topic during the meeting was presentation by 6-12 campus principal Keith Stewart and Tampico Elementary school principal Jim Geer on the pros and cons of moving the fifth grade to the PLT Middle School. Stewart said the idea for moving the fifth grade is not necessarily a cost-cutting measure although it could affect an attendance center option being considered. He added that he felt it could benefit students in various ways both socially and academically.
The presentation sparked several questions and conversations among board members with no consensus.
Click to view presentation https://1drv.ms/p/s!AjhvMvAQxN0_hSvdAluGIOkZkYC8
One final bit of business was Melton proposing a change in the boards future agendas which would allow the public to comment at two different times during the meeting. The first opportunity would occur at the beginning of the meeting and a second would occur after executive session. Executive session has always been held as the final agenda item, but will be moved to the middle of the agenda. After executive session the board would discuss and vote on old and new business. No members had an objection to the change with Melton saying it will be instituted during the regular June board meeting.