Saturday, February 15, 2014

Guest blog: Calendar, fundraising & revenue by Brian Kaskel

All opinions of guest bloggers are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Insider staff. Kaskel's privious guest blog was published here: http://www.middletowninsider.com/2014/01/are-we-content-by-kaskel-boe-budget.html
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Board of Education meetings can often times seem redundant, methodical, or even sometimes depressing.  Not this week though!  There were at least three occasions where some new initiatives were discussed that may be of interest to parents.

Ava McGlew, Food Service Director for the district, briefed the board about the progress Food Services has made.  Not only have choices gotten healthier, and tastier, but food services anticipates the ability to be self sufficient or even profitable over the next two or three years. In the meanwhile, through their partnership with Sodexo, if there should be any financial shortfall over this year or next,  per the boards contract, it will be forgiven, and will not be the responsibility of the board.  Ms. McGlew also informed the Board of her efforts to secure funding through available grants that will enable Food Services to offer free dinner meals to any student or sibling under the age of 18.  This program, if secured, would initially only be available to our students who attend Macdonough, Bielefield, Farm Hill, and Spencer elementary schools.  After further clarification with Ms. McGlew, siblings, older or younger even if they attend different schools, would have meal available to them as long as they were 18 or under and had a sibling at one of the four aforementioned schools.  On a side note, Shelia Daniels, Vice-Chair of the Board of Education, and self proclaimed “picky eater” recently toured one of the District’s cafeterias, and not only enjoyed her selection, but “wished she had gotten more!”

Board of Education newcomer, Linda Szynkowicz, has begun a board-approved fund raising effort, dubbed as a “Silent Auction”.  The basic premise of the silent auction is to help the Teachers and the Principals, throughout the district, shore up some additional funds to assist in the purchasing of needed items for the schools.  These items are on “wish lists” that there is no budget for.  
The auctions are intended to be run with the assistance of the parent organizations in each school.  Principals and Teachers will work together to create their wish lists for their individual schools.  Next a list will be created of old and/or outdated items to be auctioned off.  This can be desks, chairs, memorabilia, technology, etc.  The auction will be announced to parents and residents and held during the month of March.  Each school will need publicize the auction and the amount received, before being allowed to purchase items from their wish list.  Ms. Szynkowicz stated, “This idea can also be used for every department in the City of Middletown.  I believe the public would embrace the out of the box thinking, and see we are looking to help the schools get needed items without getting the money through tax payer dollars.”

Lastly, the Board Approved what is to be considered a tentative school calendar for 2014/15 school year.  The school year is scheduled to begin on August 28th and conclude on June 9th, if there is no snow.  However, there is a plan in place that will deal with snow days.  Dr. Charles reminded the board that early dismissals and delayed openings do count towards the teachable hours and will not require days to be added to the school year.  But if snow days are needed, the first attempt will be to use the week days after June 9th until June 19th. If we need to extend to the 19th, the next step will be to remove days from April vacation starting at the Friday and moving backward.  If those days still do not cover the needed make-up days, then they will continue adding days After June 19th until June 30th.  Keeping in mind of course, this would mean we had twenty snow days in one school year which is unprecedented.  

Dr. Charles and the rest of the calendar committee also discussed the shortening of February vacation as a common technique in other districts.  There was union support for this, which would give Middletown a 2 day break in February coinciding with President’s day.  

There will still be a bevy of professional development days that will corrolate with half days on Mondays.  There will be special attention paid to the calendar this year so that these PD days will not abut vacation or holiday weeks.  Dr. Charles understands the concerns of parents needing after school care and will continue to work diligently to provide options.  Enza Macri, assistant superintendent stated that she "would love to offer after school enrichment programs on those half days, there are just no funds for it." 
In an interesting and well thought out decision, Dr. Charles has been given permission by the board to speak with the unions as well as different Veterans organizations about the interest in having students attend school on Veterans Day, with the intent of having a strong daily curriculum honoring the sacrifices men and women in our armed forces have had to make. “This would include school visits from current and former servicemen, as well as the potential for performance organizations like the Army band…” said Dr. Charles.
The next Board of Education regular meeting is scheduled for March 11th at 7pm in council chambers, City Hall.



Brian Kaskel
Middletown Parent
Former Board of Education candidate

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