ITEMS OF INTEREST
The meeting was called to order at 5:02 p.m. by Chair Choate followed by the reading of the district vision statement by Ms. Foreman, who then introduced Matt Ennis, Pastor of Westside Christian Church who gave the invocation. The Color Guard of Manatee High School presented the colors followed by the pledge of allegiance.
Recognitions – Michael Barber, Director of Community Engagement, facilitated introductions, after pointing out the Good News Banner with over 500 stories on the district’s website Good News page.
Career and Technical Student Organization Winners at National Competition
Dr. Paul Gansemer, Executive Director of Adult, Career and Technical Education introduced the First Place National Competition Winners representing Braden River High School, Southeast High School, King Middle School, Nolan Middle School, Palm View K-8, and Manatee Technical College. [LWV Note: Follow this link to see individual winners – Career & Technical Student Organization Winners at National Competition.]
National Principal Month
October is National Principals Month and to celebrate, the School Board and Superintendent Wysong welcomed district educators serving in their first year as Principal. This included Melissa Porco, Kinnan Elementary; Melissa McCullough, Daughtrey Elementary; Irene Nikitopoulos, Haile Middle School; Kimone Cooper, Lee Middle School; Dr. Melinda Lundy, Bayshore Elementary; and Daniel Bradshaw, Parrish Community High School. Not attending were Adrienne Vos, Blackburn Elementary and Lorie Starkweather, Sugg Middle School. Mr. Tatem read a proclamation.
Farm City Week
Kelli Kennedy, Assistant Director of Adult, Career and Technical Education reviewed the history of Farm City Week and the historical significance of agriculture in Manatee County. She thanked the Board for supporting the elementary agriculture curriculum framework and the first elementary program at Myakka City Elementary School. Ms. Messenger read the proclamation.
Reports and Presentations
Schematic Design Construction Update on East County K-8.
Joseph Ranaldi, Deputy Superintendent of Operations, introduced Ms. Roddenberry of the HKS architectural team who presented the concept for the 40-acre school east on SR64 that includes a secure perimeter, dedicated loops for cars, buses and pre-K students. It will have 1700 student stations with projected enrollment of 1500 students. Mr. Brando described the schedule for construction with the elementary building underway in 2023 and completed in 2024 with the middle school building underway in 2024 and completed in 2025.
Mr. Choate stated this will be the first design for a K-8 school to be built in Manatee County. He brought up the different start times for elementary and middle schools. Mr. Ranaldi said this design gives opportunities for thinking differently, especially when thinking of families with multiple aged children.
In response to Mr. Tatem’s question about populating the school, Mr. Ranaldi indicated this school will relieve Gullet Elementary and Jain Middle School. Ms. Spray noted that rezoning will be involved.
Ms. Foreman asked about the impact of the race track regarding noise. Mr. Ranaldi indicated this property is 2.5 miles from the track. However, he indicated there is a tract of land slated for an elementary school within 700-800 yards from the race track with a berm planned. Ms. Spray noted visiting that closer tract and noise wasn’t an issue.
Ms. Spray and Mr. Tatem voiced concerns about traffic and safety, especially, SR 64 and queried regarding coordination with state and county on traffic concerns.
Superintendent Wysong highlighted the opportunity this gives to think differently and to be innovative. He indicated he will bring a decision to the board regarding the administrative structure for this school earlier than normal to make timely decisions, and “to get this as right as we can.”
The 2024-2025 SDMC Academic Calendar.
Dr. Laurie Breslin, Executive Director of Student Services and Family Engagement, presented two options, A and B, for the 2024-2025 academic calendar and the need for feedback from the community, parents, teachers, and staff. [LWV note: link to options The 2024-2025 SDMC Academic Calendar]
Ms. Messenger stated that in years past the district did more than one year at a time and asked why only one year is being presented. Dr. Brelin indicated it is due to a new Superintendent and a second year’s calendar will be proposed later. Ms. Messenger noted there are positives and negatives to both Option A and Option B. Ms. Foreman said in her view the impact is greater on the teachers than the families. She is really interested in getting feedback from the staff. In response to her question, Ms. Spray was told that the feedback is sorted by type of respondent.
MH cited biblical references and contrasted positive and negative attitudes.
HF pointed out that teachers lose three days of break at the end of the semester on the calendar options presented. She advocated for the Defense of Democracy group. She asked that the district have a book reinstatement process.
BR stated that children of color are treated differently from white students and requested that people of color be treated like everyone else.
MP welcomed the new superintendent and expressed a desire for him and the board to review the LMA situation with new ears and eyes. [LMA – Lincoln Memorial Academy]
Consent Items. Seventeen consent items passed 5-0.
New Business (Superintendent Recommendations)
Approval to Purchase Panorama Education Surveys, No. 24-0076-RG, Estimated in the Amount of $130,000.00 (Multiple Funding Sources)
Dr. Wysong spoke to the renewal of an existing agreement and deferred to Mr. Chapman to respond to questions. This is a platform for gathering and storing information required in certain grant projects. Mr. Tatum brought up the ESSER funds [Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency funds]. He asked what has been identified that is required to continue after ESSER stops and where it resides in the budget. Dr. Wysong assured him that conversations are underway and the district has known that when the funding was given out, there is less revenue coming in at this point.
Ms. Spray requested Mr. Chapman to come to speak to the survey. Mr. Chapman described this survey has been given the past 3 years and used with 4-12 graders to determine how safe they feel measuring school climate. Mr. Chapman told Ms. Spray teachers are being surveyed as well, although that is not a requirement.
Mr. Tatem asked about the guardrails put in place for surveys. Mr. Chapman stated that we follow state statutes. Mr. Tatum also asked about the financials. Mr. Chapman stated it’s a piece of the larger project, that sunsets next September.
Ms. Foreman asked if the survey automatically goes out to parents. Mr. Chapman said that parents are notified. Ms. Foreman also asked about data sharing. Mr. Chapman indicated the board will be asked to weigh in on authorizing the Superintendent to sign the agreement. Ms. Spray voiced concern regarding a data breach and stated she is totally against a paper survey.
Approval of 2023-2024 Salary Schedules for SAMP (Supervisory, Administrative, Managerial and Professional staff), Hourly Non-Bargaining and School Administrator (Multiple Funding Sources)
Dr. Wysong stated this was the final piece to the salary schedules. Ms. Spray pointed out that she thought the salaries for principals was top heavy. Ms. Messenger countered that the principals are doing the hardest job in the district and should not be considered top heavy. Mr. Tatum added that Dr. Wysong is paid by contract and not on this salary schedule. Passed 5-0
Approval of the Revised Job Description and Position of Chief Operations Officer to Executive Director, School Support Services (No Financial Impact)
Dr. Wysong explained this position was previously filled by Mr. Ranaldi. This updates the job description and brings the title in line with Executive Director. Passed 5-0
Approval of Sixth Amendment to Agreement to Purchase Property from Haval Farms, LLC in North River Ranch (No Financial Impact)
Dr. Wysong explained this is an amendment with the seller of a property in the East part of the county for a planned middle school in the Parrish area. This involves an adjustment to scope. Mr. Pendley indicated that the seller has not completed some of the improvements promised but is willing to add an access road now. A 17-acre tract that is part of the deal will be held back until this road is built. A discussion followed to understand the drawing showing what was promised that is not done, and the new road to be completed.
When asked by Mr. Tatem what would happen if the amendment is not approved, Mr. Pendley stressed the importance of moving forward with the sale to keep the timeline for permitting and moving the project forward. Passed 5-0
New Business (No Superintendent Recommendation)
Approval of Travel Expense Associated with the School Board Members’ Attendance at the FSBA-FADSS Annual Joint Conference, November 28 – December 1, 2023, at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, FL, Not to Exceed $5,600.00
All of the board members will attend. Passed 5-0
Approval of Travel Expense Associated with the School Board Member’s Attendance at the Florida School Finance Officers Association (FSFOA) November 2022 Conference, November 13 – November 17, 2022, at the Caribe Royale, Orlando, FL, Not to Exceed $1,400.00.
Ms. Foreman will attend. Passed 5-0
Mr. Dye indicated that even though the board voted to not participate in the Social Media law suit, he suggested they have a discussion during Friday’s workshop and after a phone call with those handling the law suit.
Mr. Ranaldi reported that Human Resources is continuing with job fairs. For transportation, the first electric bus is coming this week. There are currently 105 bus drivers, and the optimal number is 115. They are also continuing to work issues with the Where’s the Bus app. Regarding Food Service, they are testing some new vegan options in several schools. So far there is no issue with the potential problem of not having milk cartons, but just in case, plans are made for stocking stable milk and pouring options. On November 15 at 5:30 is the ribbon cutting for the Buffalo Creek Middle Schools media and administrative buildings.
Mr. Jensen outlined required instructional topics for November: Holocaust, Veteran’s Day – Medal of Honors recipients, and Victims of Communism forty-five minutes in government classes. The University of Florida training has begun with all elementary principals, literacy coaches and paras.
Superintendent’s Remarks Dr. Wysong thanked the board for approving the consent items and highlighted approving the Annual School Security Assessment Report and hiring the Recruitment Coordinator in Human Resources. He described his outreach meetings with the faith-based community and SAC (School Advisory Council) members. Dr. Wysong thanked the Board for his two days off to do Professional Development. At the Friday workshop, he will provide an update on his Entry Plan and discuss strategic planning.
Mr. Tatem described the Victims of Communism essay contest sponsored by a local group with judging on October 29 and scholarships awarded. Recounting a personal story of being caught in traffic resulting in anxiety, he encouraged everyone to be safe. His informal survey as he meets parents shows that they like their schools.
Ms. Foreman commended the debate coach at Southeast High School. Out of 3000 schools, she was 1 of 108 to receive recognition. She indicated she hopes the district and board does address reinstating books. She indicated she doesn’t think it’s right that one objector can make a decision for everyone. She said this was a good meeting overall.
Ms. Messenger said, out of respect of time, she had no comment.
Ms. Spray described the Big Bank Theory and a tour with Guardian Angels. She planned to tour Samoset tomorrow.
Chair Choate stated he also has attended Big Bank Theory presented by the Chamber at the high schools. He expressed appreciation for the approval of the security proposals with the Sheriff department and all other partners.
Board members asked clear and important clarifying questions regarding items requiring their vote. For example, Ms. Foreman and Ms. Spray asked for clarification regarding changes and resident outreach. Mr. Tatem sought answers to tough questions.
We agree with school board members’ emphasis to coordinate actions with other governmental agencies. However, some board members seem to think this does not already happen. It would behoove them to know whether or not it is happening before making statements that sound like it doesn’t happen at all.
Chair Choate is encouraged again to request the microphone at the podium be used when seeking responses from people in the audience. Ms. Roddenberry spoke for long periods of time in response to questions and was never asked to step back to the mic.
Board members would benefit from a workshop about how plans are made for building new schools and what requirements and statutes guide that work.
Ms. Spray’s comment about principals’ pay was observed to be potentially demoralizing to a key group of district leaders. She would benefit from spending days shadowing principals at all levels. Ms. Messenger is commended for countering Ms. Spray’s opinion.
At times, it appears that Mr. Tatem is not listening to district staff explanations. He often asks questions that were already answered. For example, he repeated the same questions regarding ESSR funds, Panorama Survey purchase, and the Haval Farms purchase after explanations had already been given.
Mr. Tatem would benefit from a briefing or workshop about how grant funding works.
Ms. Foreman’s comments regarding reinstating banned books are appreciated as the League of Women Voters is on record supporting the district having a very clear and accessible process for reinstating banned books and challenging the challenges of materials. We support parents’ rights to make decisions for their own students but not for other parents’ students.
This was a short agenda that was made unnecessarily longer because Mr. Tatem and Ms. Spray are observed to ask vague questions, that lead to rambling monologues. We recommend board members, to the extent possible, write down their questions before the meeting so that they are clear and concise.
In regard to one public commenter, we encourage the school board to request demographic data regarding student discipline and determine if the Student Code of Conduct is administered consistently across schools and various ethnic populations.