Call to Order
The special meeting of the Board of Trustees of School District No. 26, Lockwood Schools, Yellowstone County, was duly held in the Board Room, 1932 U.S. Highway 87, Billings, Montana on Monday, July 25, 2005. Chairperson Teresa Stroebe led those present in the Pledge of Allegiance and called the meeting to order at 6:37 p.m.
Trustees and officers present were Trustees: Thomas Jones, Susanne Vinton, Teresa Stroebe, Greg Bochy, and Gayle Walker (arrived at 6:50 p.m.), Superintendent Eileen Johnson and District Clerk Diane Brook. Trustees Tim Trafford and Barbara Forrester Frank were absent.
Other staff members present were Charles Harvey and Art Anderson.
Evelyn Pyburn of Yellowstone County News was also present.
SCHOOL FACILITIES AND GROWTH
A. Study Circles
Eileen advised that the Back to School Newsletter will have information about the space issues and signing up for the study circles.
Susanne asked for some historical information on what had been done.
Diane read from the May 16 minutes to give an overview of previous sessions.
Teresa asked about having a paid or trained facilitator at the meetings. Teresa was advised that earlier the plan was to have Courtney Bjordahl train community members as facilitators. She would train them in early September.
Eileen said that Courtney really wants to be a part of these meetings. Teresa said that having a person with objectivity as a facilitator lends credibility to the process.
Supt. Johnson commented that the board needs to narrow down what we are doing and direct where we are headed.
Teresa Stroebe said we should present them with a problem and give them an opportunity to come up with solutions. Teresa said we don’t want to be perceived as leading them in a certain direction.
Greg Bochy commented that he needs to be informed about each situation. He said trustees need to come to administration and get information and find out exactly what the needs are.
Teresa asked Trustee Thomas Jones if he remembered some of the past discussion. Thomas said they had discussed potential for growth including new or planned subdivisions. Eileen had mentioned two or three different scenarios, and he felt that was as good as direction to start with as any.
Eileen said we need to tell the public what land we own and give them some possibilities. She thinks those things need to be ready by September.
Teresa asked Art for comments. Art talked about accreditation maximum levels within the rooms and the educational impact for kids. He thought developing statistics showing that we are at the maximum allowable usage of space would be important. He thought they had arrived at the conclusion that additional space is needed. They need to look at the choices Eileen had indicated. Location needs to be discussed early on. If the location of a building goes to another place [not on current campus area], the cost would increase by $250,000 to $500,000. Mr. Anderson said other issues that have been raised are how the school enhances the community and the possibility of having a library or auditorium open to public.
Eileen said another consideration would be remodeling costs of existing buildings to accommodate new primary needs or middle school needs. This remodeling would be necessary even if a building is built. Remodeling is extremely expensive; usually far more expensive than building new because of unknown problems.
Thomas said in his opinion, after talking to some of his constituents, cost and quality are important issues. He said we have the land; we should use it.
Chairperson Stroebe said all of these issues need public input and other ideas need to be heard with a facilitator.
Susanne asked about the duties of facilitators and the trustees in this process. She was advised that the trustees will be the hosts and the trained facilitators will be the “guiders.”
Eileen said she believes the trustees should be the facilitators. Teresa said we would have to have separate meetings to receive facilitator training.
There was discussion of how to consolidate the meetings and timeframes in order to streamline the process.
Mrs. Johnson suggested holding three meetings with these agendas:
Possible Solutions and Information
It was the consensus that they should flood the community with information about these meeting dates.
Teresa said we should not have pre-conceived ideas about what the public should want.
Eileen suggested having at least one community meeting with Courtney Bjordahl as a facilitator. Then everyone would hear the information first hand.
Gayle was concerned about getting participation. Thomas said that we need to make an effort to include the elderly and people who home school.
Susanne said she would like to have the board state their objective. What is our objective? She thought an agreement should be reached on that.
Teresa said maybe their objective should be to find a solution to the space issues on campus.
Eileen said the purpose of the meetings would be to give out facts, explore ideas, and find solutions. She said perhaps a brochure could be prepared for distribution at the Open House.
Susanne suggested eliminating the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas from the schedule. She thought the meetings should be concluded by Thanksgiving.
Eileen said she would try to have a brochure prepared for review at the August meeting. After perusal by the trustees it could be reproduced for distribution at the Open House.
This accelerated schedule of events was decided upon:
9/15/05 - Open House: Brochure prepared and distributed. Video or slide show of different space problems shown. Power Point presentation with facts and pictures.
9/29/05 - First meeting: Identify problems and give information about these problems, including videos of construction in the community, passing in hallways, pictures of new primary classroom, etc.
There was discussion of obtaining census or growth figures.
Eileen said there has been a nine percent increase in student population and that doesn’t include program development such as adding special education programs and adding two mental health teams. Using facts such as possible state funding for of all day everyday kindergarten and our lack of space to add the program would be important.
It was noted that accurately predicting growth is difficult; you just have to use the best current information possible.
Trustee Bochy commented we should concentrate on what our needs are and take the facts we know and use them.
Gayle Walker said it is important to document our facts and their origination.
Susanne said it is important that people know that it is not just numbers; it is programs.
Several schools are already offering all day everyday kindergarten Eileen said. Laurel is because they have the space. Eileen said if the state funds for it we will definitely want it, and so will parents.
Teresa said Early Childhood Education is documented as very important.
Everyone agreed that the meetings should be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The following dates and agendas were chosen:
September 29, 2005: Identify the Problems
October 13, 2005: Explore Solutions
October 27, 2005: Make Recommendations
Eileen explained how facilitators handle meetings. Sometimes they will break the large groups into smaller groups for fifteen minutes for discussion. Then the results of those smaller group discussions are brought forward.
Eileen said she thinks this is the concept Barbara Forrester Frank had in mind, but it meets the tighter timeline.
Greg talked about informing the public of the discussion and results of each meeting, so they all have an opportunity to be heard.
B. Develop Questions and Answers about Facilities
There was discussion of developing a fact sheet with a question and answer format.
Gayle Walker said she thought one perspective would be: What would you want to know as a parent?
These questions were identified:
What is our total acreage?
Why can’t we build a high school?
How fast are we growing?
What new construction is going on in the area?
We just built six more classrooms, wasn’t that enough?
How much would it cost for a new facility?
How are you going to finance it?
How much of our district can be developed? Eileen responded that there is enough land to build 2,200 homes in the community per the development meeting she went too. This is in current subdivisions or possible subdivisions or developments in the future.
Evelyn Pyburn commented that if a sewer system is put in, a lot of property could be developed. Now building is done on one-half acre lots, those could be subdivided into smaller parcels if a sewer system is put in.
Teresa advised that schools should always talk to City-Community Planning before making their plans.
Eileen told the trustees that every time there is a permit issued, she is informed and she responds with comments about paving and bussing, etc.
Susanne Vinton said there should be information provided about additional building costs and staffing? Eileen said both should be considered including annual costs for utilities.
Greg asked if our budget could handle these additional costs.
Eileen said that there might be a question as whether a Building Reserve levy would be needed any more. She said it is very important and would need to continue because it pays for ongoing replacement and repair and maintenance costs.
It was decided that the trustees need a tour of the entire campus to see all the needs and space issues. Eileen said they would need at least two hours. The tour was set for 7:00 a.m. Tuesday, August 23, 2005.
Eileen said she could get a picture of almost every issue on her crowding issues sheet. Greg said that would be good. Thomas suggested that they get a plat with the map also.Gayle suggested with and without kids.
Teresa asked for a fact sheet that had number of kids; number of staff; number of buildings, etc.
Gayle Walker said it is important to show how the crowding affects the kids versus just mentioning accreditation standards. She thought it would probably mean more to parents.
Eileen said teaching strategies that break students into smaller groups for reading or other skills also uses more space.
Gayle said that input from teachers is important also.
Thomas said the fact sheet should provide state accreditation standards for student/ teacher ratios for each grade level.
Teresa suggested that board members e-mail their questions to Eileen.
The deterioration of the middle school smaller gym was noted.
Gayle said that is a good point, and trustees are aware of it, but the public may not be.
Thomas asked about completely eliminating that gym.
Eileen said several engineers and architects advised the building should be torn down within ten years.
Thomas asked if that is the only part of the building that is condemned. Eileen said yes.
Something would have to be built for physical education for Grades 3-5 if the gym was torn down.
Eileen said whatever is built needs to be adequate but not a “Taj Mahal.”
Greg asked if there is room on our campus for a high school. Eileen said no, you need far more than ten acres for a high school building and parking.
Teresa said we have to be able to answer questions or be able to send people in the right direction to get an answer.
Thomas advised trustees to get as many questions as we can to Eileen.
Evelyn Pyburn commented that it would be important to explain the difference between Lockwood School District and Billings School District.
Eileen said continue to send questions and any ideas they want to incorporate for the fact sheets.
Thomas said he would give the information and dates to Tim Trafford; Teresa said she would do the same for Barbara Forrester Frank.
Tom moved to adjourn the meeting at 8:33 p.m. Greg Bochy seconded the motion. Thomas Jones, Susanne Vinton, Teresa Stroebe, Greg Bochy, and Gayle Walker voted yes; the motion passed five to zero.
Teresa Stroebe, Chairperson Diane M. Brook, District Clerk