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Fall Creek School Board 05.19.2022 Packet and Commentary

Thanks to Ms. Teresa Reetz from the School District office, we now have access to the packets that the School Board receives at the beginning of each meeting. By necessity, these are redacted to only the information which should be provided to the public, but I thank the school district for providing this to us.

Below I will provide my commentary for the meeting. Each entry will start with the timestamp that I’m looking at when I made my comment, so you can follow along if you wish:

You can find the video for the Board meeting here.

08:25 to 15:00 – The “board reorganization” wasn’t a board reorganization, at all. Everyone maintained their current positions. This, in my opinion, is problematic. I understand the concept of letting someone do a job that they’ve already done before due to them already having previous experience. There is a strong argument that this experience is valuable. However, I would argue that what would be more valuable, ESPECIALLY with the entire makeup of the Board representative remaining the same, is for board members to switch positions for the purpose of giving those members additional experiences and insight that they wouldn’t otherwise have. This would strengthen the board greatly.

There’s also the very real danger of something happening to a sitting board member (such as sickness, death, or “scandal” – which I’m sure won’t happen). In the case of something happening to a sitting board member, if nobody else has fulfilled that role in, say, 15 or more years, then when that person goes, ALL of their experience and skill goes with them. That’s called in the business world “institutional knowledge loss”, and is a MAJOR cause for concern and business failures. Businesses often times struggle with this, being a case of “putting all of your eggs in one basket”, and then the “basket” walking away or disappearing. Then, quite simply, all the “eggs” are gone/lost. We need to prevent this wherever possible.

As to any concerns about having a less skilled member in a position due to the changing of the seats, with the board makeup itself not changing, that’s greatly diminished, as the original holder of that position is there to help guide the other person and advise them. That’s actually another point in favor of switching positions, especially when the makeup of the board itself doesn’t change. It would give the chance to make the board even stronger by having all members learn new skills, and learn more from each other.

Not to mention the stagnation that comes with the same people doing the same things over and over again inherently causing a reduction in potential for improvement. It is vital for organizations to constantly have an influx of new people and new ideas. Otherwise, if the same people and same ideas are always there, and the world changes around them, then they won’t be ready for those changes. To me, it’s a simple matter of desiring both constant improvement and preparation for potential future disaster. “Same old, same old” is generally NOT a good idea.

17:27 – Resolution Considering Authorization of Funds – Defeasance, is essentially setting up an escrow account to “pre-pay” back the referendum-approved debt at a constant rate. The fancy business “trick” that is happening here is to basically set aside some of the money that you had planned in the future to use to pay back a debt, and put that money instead into another account that will hopefully accumulate positive interest, to offset the negative interest of the original debt (aka “interest avoidance”). It works. I had some misgivings about it initially, as it seemed fairly “shady” to me, moving money around like that. But the more I look into it, the more it seems a standard business practice throughout the finance services industry, and it also relies on the owner of the original debt to agree to the situation. So, as long as everyone is in agreement about it, it all appears to be above the board to me, and is a great way to save money.

27:45 – Excellent to see this breakdown of the budget, and see where our money is going. Charts and graphs are always a good thing, as many of us are visual thinkers. Also good to see that most of our money is going to the people that are helping our children make it through school!

37:00 – Good on Ms. Kneifl for asking if there was “wiggle room” to allow us to renegotiate our school food options. I’m not a big fan of how Dr. Sanfelippo sort of “shut down” further inquiry by stating the the service that we currently get “is fantastic”. That’s good to hear, but it sounded very forceful to me, like there shouldn’t be any argument or further discussion about it. It’s fantastic, and that’s it, it’s done, let’s move on. I’m concerned about that interaction.

40:43 – I do like that Dr. Sanfelippo suggested that we keep food prices the same, and make a new decision next year about changing the prices. This gives us a chance to “wait out” the after effects of the COVID pandemic, and give people time to adjust back to paying for regular school meals again.

46:08 – Mr. Ryan brought up the great idea of potentially scrapping one of our buses rather than doing a trade-in with the bus company. This section of the meeting shows the school board at its best – someone brings up a reasonable idea or concern to the contrary of the existing “path”, people talk it over, and rather than just accepting what’s already been previously set, the motion is passed to buy the new bus, and do the homework of scrap prices vs. trade-in to see which would net us the greatest payback. I hope in the next meeting to see the Superintendent to come back with information about the actual values of scrap vs. trade-in.

51:55 – Regarding the pole vault bid – I’m disappointed to see that while we can see the actual bid for Richey in the informational packet, no mention at all of the other bids was given except in passing. I personally would have liked to have known exactly what other entities were contacted, and what their bids were. Instead, we’re just given one choice, and the board then has to choose to vote on one choice. I’m also slightly disappointed that none of the other board members asked about the other bids.

01:05:00 – Good to see students being brought in to the board meetings, to share their experiences. I would like to see this happen more often. It’s beneficial for both the board, and the students themselves.

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