By Mary Alice Murphy
Aldo Leopold Charter School Governing board President Shauna McCost called the July meeting to order. Also attending were members Dave Peck, A.J. Sandoval and Mary Gruszka, who serves as board secretary, as well as Director Wayne Sherwood and Development Director Dave Chandler.
No student attended to give the Student Council report. Sherwood reminded the group that the council needs a faculty sponsor and he recommended co-sponsors, because the job takes a lot of time. He suggested Peter Hurley for one of the co-sponsors.
Chandler noted that only about four staff members work during the full year. They include Financial Director Harry Browne, Sherwood, a support staff member and himself. "We have students and parents coming to bring in forms. Harry is not here tonight because he is on vacation."
Sherwood talked about the need for a bus. "The one we have now we purchased in Las Cruces for $5,895 for the 2003 model, and now it has 103,000 miles on it. It's the lowest mileage vehicle we have. I got three quotes—one is for a 2017 Bluebird bus, which would cost $90,000, a new Thomas bus would cost $83,000 and a 2018 Bluebird, which would cost $88,000. I'm leaning toward the 2018. The driver on it gets air-conditioning. It's a Bluebird and is the same type and model as the one we have. We have $150,000 for buses and will qualify for another $80,000 in December. We will spend it, so it doesn't get clawed back."
Peck noted it would be the first new vehicle the school has had.
"With its 20-year life, it should last us until 2037," Sherwood said. "Our oldest bus went into service about 20 years ago. It still runs. I will talk with Eric Ahner (the former ALCS director, who now directs the J. Paul Taylor Charter School in Las Cruces) to consider selling it or leasing it to him."
Under committee reports, Sherwood said the policy committee work would be talked about in new business.
"All our new policies will go into the handbook," Sherwood said. "So, if we approve them tonight, I don't think we need to approve the handbook. I was told we only need to approve policy, not the actual handbook. The Policy Committee has been meeting by email."
"Every committee should also be updated, including each committee's scope of work, how it is monitored and the framework," Chandler said. "We will look at them at the beginning of the year."
He handed out the Development Committee's updated scope of work, with its purpose, mission, vision, membership and duties, comprised of three pages.
Chandler also reported on grant applications to date. "We have applied for $506,000 and have received $232,572. We have had two rounds of Youth Conservation Corps reporting. We have received nice support from foundations. We are trying to get more foundations excited about our promoting environmental education provided by our students to local elementary schools. The Development Committee will be focused next year on more grant writing. The ALCS Foundation, which was formed about a year ago, will meet Monday."
McCosh said she believes every committee should have a scope of work.
"I think all the committees except for us had updated their scopes within the past two years," Chandler said.
Sherwood, in his director's report, said the Charter School Division had told him the assessment of the school brought up no red flags.
Gruszka said the CSD said the school needs to be more specific on some categories. "I think we have to send them the motions we make and the approved minutes. The CSD fellow was pretty happy. He just wanted to help us improve."
Sherwood thanked all the Governing Council members for completing their training. Sandoval said he didn't complete his, but would do so in October.
The director said he had showed the Public School Facility Administration fellow the plans for ALCS's new facility at Western New Mexico University. "State statute says we cannot stay here in a private lease. We have to be either in a lease/purchase agreement or in a public facility, like at Western. He and I went over there and he did a pre-inspection. He liked it a lot. It has a newer roof and upgraded double-pane windows. He was excited for us."
"I met with Western the next day," Sherwood continued. "The university has not made any movement on upgrading or renovating the facility. We signed an agreement, but it won't be ready by Aug. 2. We have to have a commitment that we can take control of the facility by December 2017. The architect told me it would be done, so we can look at options of moving. The main level of the building will be the high school, and the lower level with six classrooms will be for the middle school. I'm getting worn out on excuses and the process not moving as quickly as I would like."
He said his next meeting with Western is on Aug. 2. "We will have an extra classroom at Watts Hall. Pete will move a class there. They aren't in class half the time anyway. I think what will happen is that Pete will drive them down in the school bus and back. We also get to use the computer lab there. I think that will leave enough space here for another class. We will have two 6th-grade classes in the portable building. With 30 students in the sixth grade, that will be 15 students per class. We didn't lose any students to Silver. We will have 36 7th-grade students so that is 18 per class. We will hire a new teacher, Guy Ramirez, who will teach 7th-grade language arts and special education. Ash Henniger will teach science and math in the 8th grade."
Sherwood proposed rearranging space so the 8th grade has two classes. "If we bring in the waiting list, we will have 29 or 30 students giving us two classes of 15. Jennifer Bjornstad will teach 8th-grade language arts and history on a provisional teaching certification, while she completes her degree. In the high school, we will have 24 9th-graders, 29 10th-graders, 18 in 11th grade and 27 in 12th grade."
He said Jim McIntosh, as the school nurse, would have to make sure all students have their medical forms and physicals completed.
"I'm still working on the federal lunch program through Guadalupe Montessori School," Sherwood said. "It would be great to have lunch for the students every day. One logistical problem is that we will have to serve lunch for everyone at the same time. We will have to meet all federal guidelines."
Peck noted that he is a certified trainer for food handlers.
Sherwood said Aldo Leopold would have to file an amendment request to the state Charter School Division, because the school is looking to move. "The CSD likes to know what we're doing. When we move we will have to send in another amendment. CSD doesn't like surprises. We are at 98 total in the high school. Our charter is for a maximum of 120. The cap is 90 at the middle school level. We're maxxed out at 91, and will have to made an amendment to ask for the extra one."
Two more lotteries to recruit students are planned before the school year begins. "The high school numbers haven't changed since March. We will have two classes each for 9th, 10th and 12th grades, and one for 11th grade. Seniors are only on site for two classes a day. Mostly they are off campus."
Under old business, McCosh said she did have training on evaluation. "I suggest we put a closed session on a meeting quarterly. We should meet before August on our professional development plan, which includes self-evaluation and goals. Then a quarterly one thereafter."
Discussion among the members ensued. Sherwood asked for one earlier so he could receive input. It was decided the council's should be in November, the staff and teachers in February or March, and the parent-student one at the end of the year.
Sherwood announced a new tool, called DASH. "As a charter school, we don't have to use it yet, but it's coming. Our strategic plan links up well with what DASH will do. I think it will be beneficial for us to change our strategic plan to meet this. I will work with Dave and other committees to see how we can change our strategic plan to fit, so we will have it when we have to meet it. It includes timeline, critical action, resources needed and persons involved. We're farther ahead of all the other schools."
"You made it easy for us to fit DASH," Sherwood said to Chandler. "The School Advisory Council will be the owner of the document."
McCosh said it should align with the SMART goal format.
In new business, the policy changes were discussed. Gruszka said 3.0.8 is salary scheduling with existing text and new text marked. The change credits new teachers for their experience. "We are standardizing how we reward credit. For half a year to one-year experience, the teacher gets a full credit, for below a half a year up to a half a year, only half a credit. Harry's been doing that, but now it is written down."
Sherwood said a change to the restraint policy on page 15 requires a teacher or educational aide to be certified if they have to restrain a student, and the parent has to be notified. "We want to come up with ways to prevent restraint in the future. It is a law now."
He said the entire 7th-grade staff has to go to training to bring them into compliance with the safe school plan.
The policy for grading is mandated by the state.
Gruszka had a question about language for the parent to ask for a grading appeal. "Is it the director or an appeal panel that will decide?"
Sherwood said it is the director, in consultation with the staff as needed. "We will decide whether the student will receive credit. It's based on a student missing 10 or more days, for instance for surgery or a family emergency. If the student kept their grades up, it is not an issue. I usually know if there's a problem."
The dress code leaves discretion to the teacher on whether an item of clothing is a distraction or not.
In the attendance policy, it's by state statute and includes the JPPO school attendance. "If a student's attendance is lacking for three, five or seven days, they get a letter for each three, five or seven days missing. The JPPO wanted all school attendance policies to be the same, and we had to meet state statute."
Gruszka suggested the extra-curricular participation form be part of the handbook.
McCosh said it should be where people can find it.
"At the first Governing Council of each fiscal year, we must notify the CSD of our current membership," McCosh said.
Gruszka said the form asks for the number of members, which is 6 right now; the name of the school; whether the number changed, which it did from 8 last year; and the approved minutes for when the change was made.
Sherwood noted that he, as director, must sign every extra-curricular participation form. "The new form requires my signature. For sports, it does not have to be signed for each trip, but should be good for the season."
Members approved the policy changes, the amendment to be sent to the CSD on the pending move, and on the number of council members.
Sherwood noted the new webpage is up at aldocs.org. "We want to teach students how to code for the website. We will put in a Google calendar and will ask all teachers for a bio to put on the site. It's a work in progress."
The next meeting is set for Thursday, Aug. 10 at 5:30 p.m.
The first day of school is Monday, Aug. 14.