The Facilities and School Board Work Session Meetings were held Monday, March 10, 2014.
Daniel Carsley, Business Manager, provided a Budget Presentation at the Work Session Meeting. The presentation provided little new information, but instead was a rehash of previous Budget vs Actual Costs information, and stressing his opinion that year-over-year analysis is unreliability. Current projections for 2013-14 Actual Costs has been reduced to $46 Million.
The Board received an alternative calendar recommendation to address the unusual number of snow days this school year. The calendar was developed using feedback from the Board, parents, and staff. It was approved by the Board.
The full revision is being posted to the District website. The District will be eliminating many of the full and half-days off. The adjustments will pull that last day of school back from June 20th to June 13th.
The Board added the stipulation that Graduation will be now locked on June 13th, even if more snow days occur.
Discussions surrounding Armed Security have intensified, since Octorara has been awarded the Safe Schools grant. Many Board members believed the grant was for the 2014-15 school year. However, it was brought up in the Facilities Committee, the grant was in fact for 2013-14, with an automatic renewal (at 50%) for next year. If the Board does not approve, and not implement an armed School Resource Officer, or police officer, before June, the grant money will be lost.
Brian Norris was very vocal at the Facilities Committee Meeting that while the School Safety Task Force has been involved with this issue for a while, not enough discussion has been done at the Board level. There is a feeling that the grant money is being used to force a vote, because of the possible lose of the funds.
Whether if this is true or not, use of Armed Security will be placed on the agenda for the next Regular Board Meeting, March 17th. However, the Board may choose the table if it is not felt the topic has been properly vetted, or that the public has not had adequate time to provide feedback.
After almost 3 months of frustration, I asked to have Spam Filtering added to the Facilities Committee Meeting Agenda. You may know of my own issues, before becoming a Board member, with the District’s Spam filtering causing issues communicating with Board members and Dr. Newcome. Since becoming a Board member, and receiving my own District email account, the problem has become glaring.
Since December, roughly 90% of all those attempting to email me had initially been tagged as Spam. Of those tagged as Spam, 100% were false-positives… meaning none where actually Spam. Those misidentified included emails coming from the Pennsylvania School Board Association and the Chester County Intermediate Unit, and the majority of emails coming from parents and citizens attempting to communicate opinions and concerns on topics facing the District.
The District’s IT Department gave an analysis of the Spam filtering problem. The District uses a company called Lightspeed for Spam filtering. Lightspeed was selected as an economical solution for several issues, including Spam filtering, antivirus, and iPad support. The IT Department believes Lightspeed no longer meets the needs of the District.
Lightspeed will be eliminating the antivirus. Recent updates to Spam filtering do not allow for fine tuning, and has been the cause the filtering issues. Lightspeed has not kept up with updates to the iPad iOS. Additionally, updates to the Lightspeed system has crashed the District’s network, taking hours to restore.
It is believed, because Lightspeed’s cost has been steadily increasing, that there are better solutions available at competitive prices. The IT Department expects to be able to make a switch, and resolve all issues, without any additional cost to the District.