Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education regular meeting highlights 1-5-21
JANUARY 5, 2021
- Organizational meeting
- Public comments
- Recognitions and awards
- Consent agenda
- Superintendent’s report
- Five-Year Forecast
- Board comments
Present were President James Posch, Vice President Malia Lewis, Beverly Wright, Dan Heintz, and Jodi Sourini. Also present were Superintendent Elizabeth Kirby and Treasurer Scott Gainer.
The board convened its 2021 organizational meeting at approximately 7 p.m. then immediately adjourned to executive session, after which it reconvened the organizational meeting in public session. Upon adjournment of the organization meeting, the board convened the regular public meeting and adjourned approximately two hours later.
The purpose of the organizational meeting was to elect board officers and address certain procedural matters. The stated purpose of the executive session was to meet with board legal counsel to discuss disputes involving the board and/or the school district that are the subject of pending or imminent court action and to prepare for, conduct, or review negotiations or bargaining sessions with employees concerning compensation and other terms and conditions of employment.
The board elected Jim Posch as board president, Malia Lewis as vice president, and Beverly Wright as Treasurer Pro Tem.
The board approved a consent agenda setting the dates for regular board meetings and board compensation (as permitted by law), authorizing the investment of funds and approving other general matters of board business.
A community member urged the board to take steps to enable staff to obtain COVID-19 vaccines and to educate the community regarding the efficacy and safety of the vaccine.
Another speaker inquired about the teachers’ collective bargaining negotiations and asserted that there had been a one-day teachers’ strike on December 2. She asked for improvement in the availability and use of PPE and voiced other criticisms.
Melissa Wood criticized district actions in the teachers’ negotiations and the district’s communications regarding services to special needs students, expressed concern about the district’s COVID-related readiness for opening school, asked when the district would begin focusing on building consolidation, and complained that the district prioritizes communications with a select few rather than the entire parent community.
Recognitions and awards
The Roxboro Middle School Challenge Team finished second in a virtual challenge with several area schools. One student on that team scored highest of all participants.
The board approved a consent agenda, which included some personnel matters, approval of certain quarterly contracts, acceptance of donations, and payment of purchase orders. The consent agenda may be viewed at: https://go.boarddocs.com/oh/chuh/Board.nsf/Public
The board approved a 2020-2021 calendar change, creating Feb. 12, 2021 as a teacher work day.
The superintendent reviewed the county’s current COVID metrics and noted that the risk level is currently higher than it was at the time of the county’s November stay-at-home advisory. Planning for reopening continues, and more information and recommendations regarding reopening will be provided at the January 12 work session. The superintendent’s recommendations will continue to follow the guidance of the county board of health. The district has approached the governor's office to expedite vaccination of CHUH staff.
In response to some of the public comments, the superintendent emphasized that the district’s HVAC conditions are safe for the current numbers of staff and students using its facilities. Updates are underway to be aligned with CDC standards upon reopening.
The superintendent acknowledged the sponsorship of the district’s automotive tech program from Ford Motor Company and Liberty Ford Maple Heights.
Mr. Gainer reviewed the changes in the forecasted revenues and expenses compared with the previous forecast. The current forecast shows a positive 2022 year-end balance of $3.6 million and a negative 2023 year-end balance of $2.2 million. The updated forecast reflects the recently renegotiated agreements for all employees, as well as an unexpected second workers compensation refund from the State. The forecast still reflects $2 million in expense cuts that have yet to be identified. Mr. Gainer expressed appreciation for the board’s willingness to approve five-year forecasts more frequently than the state’s semi-annual requirement, as it enables him to report on unexpected changes in revenues and expenses.
Mr. Gainer also expressed the possibility of legislative changes and federal stimulus moneys that could impact the forecast. He hoped the community understands that the goal in forecasting is not to be deceptive but to be reflective as what is known vs hoped for.
Jim Posch suggested the lay finance committee examine the five-year forecast now that there are new contracts. He said staff reductions may be necessary to secure a balanced budget.
The board approved the January 2021 five-year forecast, which can be viewed at https://go.boarddocs.com/oh/chuh/Board.nsf/Public.
Board members thanked district administrators and staff, and each other, for their efforts during a challenging 2020 and hoped for a less challenging 2021. They discussed the need to identify $2 million in cuts, noting that this will result in some reduction in educational services.
Responding to one of the public comments, Ms. Sourini and Mr. Posch said that there had not been a strike on December 2, as the board and the teachers’ union had reached agreement around 6 a.m. that morning. Because of the snowstorm the district, as well as other area districts, the district had declared that day to be a snow day. It would be to the detriment of district employees, who received compensation for the snow day, for it to be called a strike day.
Mr. Posch proposed reviewing and discussing board priorities at the February regular meeting. He requested that the administrative staff provide comparative data from area school districts as recommendations regarding cuts are developed and shared with the community. The board also discussed reviewing the recommendations for expense reductions in recent performance audits of area school districts and considering requesting such an audit. In this connection, Mr. Posch suggested reconvening the lay finance committee.
Mr. Posch and Ms. Sourini will attend the next Northeast Ohio School Board Presidents meeting together. The board members concurred that Ms. Sourini’s attendance at those meetings had been very valuable.
LWV observer, Kathy Petrey, Robin Koslen
All meetings are held virtually, streamed on the district’s YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/CHUHSchools), and recorded for later viewing.