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School Board Bits: Bus Schedules, Photo Contracts Debated

The school board discussed revisiting changes to district busing schedules this winter.

Despite concerns over the changes to , school board members agreed Wednesday that it would cause more harm than good to reverse the decision it made in February.

The school board voted to save about $372,000 by cutting 19 buses and 16 drivers, a result of dropping off grades 4-6 first at 7:30 a.m. and making start times for kindergarten and junior high the same later in the morning.

Member Maureen Broderick said she wanted to address the issue again because it’s something that was brought up by a lot of voters when she ran for re-election.

“A lot of parents were concerned with what we’ve done," she said. "We’re creating a bit of an issue with the day care situation.”

But there are too many logistical issues to change it back, Supt. Mike Sass said. Lincoln-Way District 210 transportation has already let leases expire on certain buses and would have to purchase them back, likely at an inflated price. Additionally, board members said they know many parents who have already arranged child care plans.

"Let's be realistic," board President Nick DiSandro said, admitting that he opposed the plan when it was passed, before he was elected. "The ball is in motion. It could be a disaster to change it now."

The board members agreed to wait until a strategic planning meeting in the winter to consider the issue again. In the meantime, they proposed putting a survey on the district’s website that would allow parents to weigh in on schedule changes.

“I’d be very careful how we ask the question," Sass said. "We can ask, ‘Do you want X to happen?’ Well, of course. ‘But what if we do X and take away Y?’”

Spend Local or Get Better Prices?

The board voted to award photography services to HR Imaging Partners, based out of Ottawa, Ill., but some board members wanted to keep the service local with .

The district received proposals from six vendors, and a committee of parents and other community members judged the vendors based on five criteria, including price, quality and incentives for the schools. HR Imaging was the only vendor to include order forms with two proofs on them, allowing parents to see photos before ordering packages or to return the form with comments on what needs to be improved during retakes.

HR Imaging scored highest among the committee, mostly because it offered the best pricing of the six vendors. Burns Photography scored second-highest, causing some members to question why the parent’s and district’s money couldn’t be kept local.

Broderick was concerned that HR Imaging was being selected because of incentives it provides to the district (a 20 percent commission to the schools), arguing that Burns Photography pays more to the district in real estate taxes.Broderick and Sue Gillooley voted against using HR Imaging.

“I’m concerned we’re not putting the right vendor in," she said. "The money should stay local.”

But all vendors offered the 20 percent incentive, district spokeswoman Jenny Zimmerman clarified Thursday afternoon.

Members asked if local businesses could be judged as a criteria for the committee, but the district’s legal counsel said it could not unless two vendors tied scores based on the other criteria.

“But getting the best price for the parents is our first priority," business manager Harold Huang said. 

Smart Phone and iPad Payment

The district discussed a new cell phone policy that says administrators must pay the district $20 per month for use of a cell phone. The director of technology must negotiate a cell phone plan from a provider that provides a variety of phones for less than $300. If an employee requests an upgraded phone of more than $300, they pay the difference.

Smart phones issued to district administrators, principals, some assistant principals and the district technician. Broderick was upset that the district paid for administrators’ data plans on their phones. Board members, who decided to use iPads to organize board materials, must pay for their own data plan, which allows for wireless Internet, if they choose to have that upgrade.

“Why do the board member s who make zero (dollars) here have to pay, but administrators don’t?” she said.

Sass said it's part of the work, but that the boad could discuss the issue at a future meeting. “It’s a tool we use to do out job," he said.

Lunch Prices Increase Slightly

The district bumped its price for its served meals from $2.95 to $3, or a 1.3 percent increase. The increase brought the cost to $2.99 per meal, but to make things more convenient for parents giving their children exact change, the district rounded up the price to $3 even. Huang assured the board that the district isn’t making money off that extra penny; it’s merely breaking even off served meals. Students on reduced and free meal programs will continue to pay the same amount.

More News

To read our other coverage of Wednesday's school board meeting, click on the following links. The board for the district, and spokeswoman Jenny Zimmerman to improve communication with parents and taxpayers.

K. Little June 16, 2011 at 04:06 PM
A survey on the district website is a great idea and should be used for all major decisions such as the bussing issue. As a taxpayer, I appreciate the opportunity. And I don't think the board should panic about having taxpayers share their ideas about how our money is being spent. All we are asking for is open and honest communication. Maureen is right, I can barely find one parent who truly supports this policy and is probably why she got the most votes. As I recall, at the board meeting where they voted on this policy, several people brought up concerns and possible solutions that apparently had not been considered. I personally asked the board to let the community have more time to digest this new policy and postpone voting on it, seeing as we only had 6 days to really think about its significant impact. But, as I was warned, the "vote" was already in. This is a step in the right direction and I hope the community provides thoughtful, creative and cost effective solutions.

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