At the January 13th Operations Briefing session, the IPS Board of School Commissioners was presented with two options for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school year calendars. Both potential schedules retain the balanced calendar model while providing optimistically sufficient inclement weather make up days and more time for staff professional development and preparation.
The district established a calendar development committee representing key stakeholder groups, including teachers, administrators and parents, to draft calendar recommendations for the next two school years. The proposed calendars both include five district-wide professional development days, an increase from one to two school opening preparation days, and two-week breaks in fall and spring. One proposal reduces Thanksgiving break to a more common three-day vacation and offers seven inclement weather flex days, while the other maintains the current week-long vacation and includes six flex days. Members of the calendar development committee shared that the three-day Thanksgiving break calendar option is preferred due to the lengthy breaks in October and December.
To maintain fiscal responsibility, the IPS Deputy Superintendent of Operations recommended that the board consider the sale or lease of three surplus properties: Florence Fay School 21, Minnie Hartmann School 78 and James E. Roberts School 97. These schools are currently vacant, and it is the recommendation of the Operations Division that finding a new tenant for the buildings will raise revenue while eliminating future maintenance and security costs for the properties.
The Operations Division also presented information on contractor bids for bus services, as the current contract between IPS and Durham School Services ends this year. In an additional move for financial savings, IPS transportation leaders introduced a proposal to sell all IPS-owned buses that are 12 years or older as an additional cost-savings measure.
Keeping with the spirit of transparency and the evidence of increased district financial stewardship, the Chief Financial Manager shared a quarterly update outlining projected to actual revenues and expenditures for 2014 and projected revenues and expenditures for 2015. The district has worked to reduce expenses wherever possible and has closely aligned revenue and expense projections. Efforts to level-set expenses through central office salary reductions have saved over $1.5 million. Capital funds actual expenditures for 2014 were less than actual revenue with scheduled projects being completed, and there was $3.5 million less spending on contracted transportation. Discussions around right-sizing the district’s bus fleet are underway.
Dispelling common myths about the amount and use of IPS funding, Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee stated, “There’s been the perception that there has been decreased funding to IPS due to decreased enrollment only;” however, there have been other funding reductions to the district. “IPS has already planned for the annual reductions through the complexity funding. Over the past three years where the district has seen leveling in enrollment, the funding has continued to decrease. This is an important point as our legislators debate the funding formula,” said Ferebee.
Discussion regarding the bond refinance process brought forth a myriad of thoughtful comments regarding ensuring the district is saving the most money and exercising the most prudent use of taxpayer dollars. Discussion will continue at the January 20, 2015 Academic Briefing session.