What to spend spurs debate


Alton School Board also approves new reading program, keeps lunch prices the same


July 05, 2011
ALTON — The expending of unencumbered funds, the acceptance of a new reading curriculum program and the cost of school lunches were all on the docket of the Alton School Board Monday, June 27.

Members of the board took up a proposal to expend unencumbered funds on the installation of security cameras along a pathway between the school's modulars and the school building, as well proposals to expend unencumbered funds to repair a portion of the school's back parking lot and to repair handrails on some of the modulars.

The reason the security cameras were called for, Superintendent Kathy Holt noted, was because they would provide for a bit more surveillance and ensure that the area is safe.

"We would just like a little more visibility as far as that back area," Holt said, adding later that she believed the cameras would record activities in a 72-hour loop. The cameras would mostly monitor the back area of the school near the modulars.

But board member Sandy Wyatt, who noted that she thought the proposal was a good idea, said she would like more information on what specifically the security cameras would and would not do noting that there was quite a disparity in quoted price figures provided to the board.

However, board Chairwoman Terri Noyes said that members at last week's meeting were just charged with making sure the money for the camera equipment was covered, and that they would be briefed at a later time on the specificities of the cameras.

Noyes also said that it would be important to remind people that, even if the cameras were installed, teachers bear the most responsibility in making sure that students are safe as the cameras would not be monitored at all times.

In addition to the security cameras, the proposal to expend unencumbered funds on repairing a portion of the school's back parking lot also generated discussions among board members.

The plan for the parking lot, Holt said, would be to have six inches of a somewhat muddy area excavated and refined with asphalt.

Noyes, however, mentioned one concern she has with the parking lot, dealing specifically with how the student pick-up at the end of the school day is arranged. She said that she has had to weave in between vehicles, filled with parents waiting to pick up their kids, in order to get into the building at that time of the day.

"The pick-up is a horror show," she said. "It's just not a good situation."

Other board members then subsequently discussed the student pick-up situation in that parking lot, which, Assistant Principal Steve Ross said, accounts for about 80 percent of the school's pick-ups.

"This has been an issue forever," board member Lynda Goossens said of the parking situation.

"It definitely needs to be looked at," Noyes added after a bit more discussion.

The board members also discussed a proposition to expend unencumbered funds on repairs to eight handrails on the modulars.

A proposal for the repair of the rails submitted to the board at a price of almost $10,000 drew criticism from several of the board members, who said they thought that was too high of a cost.

"I just think that's an awful lot of money, almost $10,000 for something we're looking to get rid of," Wyatt said.

Noyes suggested that more cost effective handrails akin to the ones used at the Alton Dance Academy's building be looked at for the modulars.

Board Vice Chairwoman Krista Argiropolis said that she would like to see something done to repair the rails, noting that they're a "splinter factory," but she said the price submitted to the board was too high.

Ultimately, a proposal was put forth to set aside $5,000 of unencumbered funds to pay for repairs of the handrails, pending the outcome of what will be done.

That proposal, along with the unencumbered money put forth for the security cameras and parking repair, coming in at around $10,000 and a bit more than $4,000, respectively, to bring the grand total to $19,834, was approved in a vote by four of the board members. Goossens chose to abstain.

Board members last week also received a presentation from incoming interim Principal Sydney Leggett on a reading curriculum program produced by the Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt Company called Journeys. The program, which would be used for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, uses interactive technology and helps target vocabulary for students, Leggett said.

"I think it's a phenomenal program perfect fit for our school," said Leggett, adding that it received positive evaluations from teachers.

Members of the board then unanimously approved expending $72,000 of money that's already been budgeted on the program.

Board members at last Monday's meeting also chose to forgo implementing a price raise on school lunches for the upcoming school year.

Holt had brought forward a proposal to increase the costs of lunch for elementary and middle school students by 10 cents and for adults by 50 cents in order to account for an increase in the costs of the healthier foods provided by the school.

But Noyes and the other board members ultimately decided not to increase the costs, and noted that they would use an almost $20,000 surplus in the lunch program to pay for any debts that may arise. The lunch prices will remain at $2 for students and $3 for adults.

Elsewhere last week, board members voted to accept grants for the Title I, Title II and IDEA programs. The latter two grants expire on Sept. 30, while the former grant expires on Aug. 31.

The members also unanimously approved to continue contracting Plodzik & Sanderson for auditing services for the next three years at a price of $9,500 for 2011, $9,950 for 2012 and $10,300 for 2013. Noyes and Argiropolis, prior to that vote, had supported a motion, which ultimately failed, to contract the services to Roberts, Greene & Drolet at a price of $8,775 for 2011, $9,150 for 2012 and $9,600 for 2013.

The board's next meeting has been scheduled for Monday, July 11, at 6 p.m. in the Alton Central School music room.

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