The Houston School Board met at 6 p.m. on Thursday, February 2, 2017 in the Houston Public High School Library. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the board approved its agenda and opened the floor to public comment. Lisa Myran-Schutte, the school athletic director, spoke regarding the adoption of a “tight” version of the school calendar for the 2018-19 school year as opposed to the “loose” option, which allowed for longer breaks in a longer school year. Myran-Schutte cited the difficulties in organizing and practicing for activities like basketball, dance, and Knowledge Bowl during winter break, and difficulties that can happen if a game or meet is scheduled during a break for the 180 students involved in winter sports. Myran-Schutte also mentioned that the 2018-2019 year will also feature a D.C. trip for the students, which could further complicate matters. The board thanked Myran-Schutte for her comments and moved on to approve all consent items, including contracts, hirings, and one leave request, before discussing the calendar options.
During a lengthy debate, the board weighed the pros and cons of the “tight” and “loose” 2018-19 schedule options. The board debated both sides of the issue, knowing that allowing more time for breaks during the year would add an extra week on to the end of the year in June. The board discussed how best to balance time students would need with families with time spent at school or in activities, with board member Mimi Carlson supporting the “loose” option. “These kids need a break,” Carlson said, noting that only one day of the winter break had not been spent at practice. The loose schedule, Abraham explained, had been created by a small group of teachers, while Abraham had created the tight schedule. Later in the meeting, data on a staff vote was delivered to the meeting showing that 62% of the Houston staff preferred the tight schedule to the 37% who preferred the loose option. The board expressed a desire to know what the parents and students of the district thought about the two scheduling options, and discussed different methods of outreach. Most anecdotes shared from the board showed strong community support for a tight schedule, wanting school to be over in the first week of June, if possible, or even the last week of May. Council member Tom Stillin summarized it by saying “compress it as much as possible, get them through it, let them go.” The council then resolved to put together a survey to send out in order to see public opinion on the tight vs. loose schedule debate.
Next, Superintendent Abraham discussed the creation of School Board & Leadership joint planning sessions. After sending out a survey to the board and leadership team, Abraham remarked that the biggest commonality found in the survey was “most people didn’t fill out the survey.” The board then debated the necessity of having the meeting, and what would be on the agenda. The board decided to meet the next Thursday, February 9 with school leadership to discuss Mission, Vision & Core Values along with a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) at 6 p.m. in the library. Next, the board heard an issue from the booster club regarding payment for a banner. Superintendent Abraham requested a procedure change that all future payments be made ahead of time and in full for donated items before the items are ordered, and whether the group will be asked to pay for any additional costs that might occur after ordering. The booster club contributed more than $6,000 for the banners currently hanging in the gym, and the board took a moment to thank the booster chair, Tony Schultz, for the donation.
Following that, the board heard an update from the policy committee given by board member Ron Evenson. The committee will present a new policy for naming rights and memorials at the next regularly scheduled board meeting. On the issue of a logo policy, the committee found that having a policy would not solve any current issues with t-shirt making or logo use, and that most other local schools contacted did not have a logo policy either.
The council then moved on to Old Business, approving a correction to the 2017-18 schedule regarding spring break dates. Following that, the board debated the approval of a construction class project building a garage on Grant Street. The board voted down the measure by a margin of 5-2, citing a lack of information given on the project, and the construction class will move forward with another project for the spring semester.
The meeting adjourned at 7:29 p.m. The Houston School Board will meet for its next regularly scheduled meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, February 16, 2017 in the Houston Public High School library.