The Houston School Board met for its regular meeting at 6 p.m. in the library of Houston Public High School. In attendance were Superintendent Abraham and board members Bonner, Stillin, Wilson, Lundak, and Carlson. Board member Norlien arrived at approximately 6:02 p.m. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the board added a signage discussion item to the old business section of the agenda, then approved the evening’s agenda and a resolution for a closed negotiation strategy meeting, both unanimously. The board then opened the meeting to public comments, of which there was none, and unanimously approved the consent agenda. The consent agenda contained one contract, one hiring memo, and one resignation, along with a pay equity report.
The first discussion item on the agenda was the presentation of the district audit performed by Chris Popenhagen of the firm Clifton Larsen Allen. Popenhagen reported, among other data, that there was no exception with the school’s financial statements, and that the school’s reporting were all in order and in compliance. Popenhagen mentioned that the general fund added a balance of $189,000 in the 2017 year, but also noted that online enrollment was down. A new category, Long-Term Facilities Maintenance, posted $365,000 in revenue, replacing the previous category of Deferred Maintenance. Deferred Maintenance had been part of Health & Safety, which posted a loss of about $46,000, a negative which Popenhagen said would “ride for about another 18 months” before reimbursements. Poenhagen reported on a few trends in the audit, noting that the school district was using most funds as they came in, and that fund balances were holding stable. The board and Popenhagen then went through the audit piece by piece, with the overall note being positive on the state of the district’s finances. Superintendent Abraham took a moment to commend the district staff for their financial reporting, as the district garnered zero findings or issues in their audit.
“How common is it to have an audit with zero findings?” Abraham asked Popenhagen, who replied “Not very.”
The board gave a round of applause, with cheers directed at the district Director of Finance, Gwen Rostad. Superintendent Abraham also mentioned by name the district Payroll Clerk Kelly Beckman and district Payroll Benefits Coordinator Marsha Benson for their hard work. Next, the board moved on to dscuss enrollment projections. Superintendent Abraham noted that the district had a jump in local enrollment for the current year, but encouraged caution to not think the jump would be sustained into next year at the same rate. Board member Carlson mentioned a large class of fifth graders that Abraham noted would graduate in 2025, and without another “baby boom” the district would most likely not see a class size like that again. Next year’s enrollment, Abraham reported, is projected to be up by 60 due to targeted enrollment at the lower grades. The board’s final discussion item for the evening was the establishment of a Strategic Planning Committee. Board member Bonner expressed doubt that the committee needed to be established as standing, and suggested an ad hoc structure for the committee to be called when a topic appears. After debate, the board established strategic planning as a network of ad hoc committees for each of the four main district goals: tech, curriculum, marketing and partnerships. These committees were established in an attempt to keep on top of each district issue as they come.
In old business, the board unanimously approved a resolution directing the administration to make recommendations pertaining to reducing programs or positions within the district. The board then approved four policies upon second reading, regarding Family Medical Leave Policy, Harassment and Violence, and mandated reporting of both child neglect and the maltreatment of vulnerable adults. Next, the board discussed and approved new signage for all of the district’s school buildings, for a total cost of $6,730. Superintendent Abraham noted how each sign was designed to match each building’s style and architecture, and the board was in general agreement that these signs have been approved not only by the board, but by current and former Houston students.
The board had no new business on the agenda, and Board member Norlien reported to the board about the district’s spring garage project, noting that Superintendent Abraham has had difficulty getting a quote due to local construction firms being “swamped.” The board also discussed replacing a district server for HVAC controls and installing nesting boxes for screech owls during the Owl Festival. The Houston School Board will meet for its next regular meeting on Thursday, February 1, 2018, at 6 p.m. in the library of Houston Public High School.