Transparency Versus HSE Schools Video Retention Policy

The HSE School Board has been discussing their video retention policy for months now. The previous school board overwhelmingly voted for videos to only be retained for 45 days before being removed. One board member indicated that for transparency the videos should be left online indefinitely. Because it wouldn’t be until later that videos would start to be posted, the old board decided the incoming board could review the policy and decide on changes.

The new board is now in place and the video retention policy has been discussed a couple of times. If the policy is going to be changed, it is expected to happen next month.

Why should the policy change?

First, why not retain the video indefinitely? Other school districts and organizations leave their videos online. Storage is cheap, and storing them provides the ability to go back and find what was discussed. There have already been examples referenced by the new board to the interest in looking at old videos, something they can’t do because they don’t exist.

The primary argument for removing the videos has been that the written board minutes are the official record of the meetings. While this is the case, the official minutes in the current written form are lackluster at best. This is best illustrated with an example. At the November 14th meeting, there was an agenda item related to the HSEA (the teachers’ association). The official minutes documents this as follows:

6. HSEA Relationship with Board
Information, Discussion: 6.01 HSEA Relationship with Board of School Trustees

Janet Chandler gave a brief presentation to the board.

Parent, Cathy Goldman addressed the board, calling into question board reaction to social media postings.

That is the official tracking of this board item as recorded in the minutes and approved on November 30th. From these official minutes, you’d never know that this item caused the school board room to be packed. The room was filled primarily with teachers who were concerned with a public posting by an existing school board member. The parent comments reflected the same. Had there been a video of the event you’d have gotten the details that were like what is in the following poorly recorded video:

As you can see in the video, a lot was said that isn’t reflected in the minutes. More importantly, with a 45 day retention policy, an official video of this meeting would now be gone, expunged, lost in history. While a few board members might like to see it go, it could be argued that there were important points being made that would also be lost.

This is just one example. As someone who has attended a lot of school board meetings, I could list other examples of where discussions in the board meetings were not reflected in the minutes. Such a list could be an entire article on its own. I won’t do that at this time.

Will the policy change?

I believe there are currently three school board members that will vote for transparency and the posting of videos for the long term. I believe that there are two school board members that could vote against posting the minutes for the long term, just as they voted to keep the current policy no longer than 45 days. That leaves two board members that I would be hard-pressed to predict, which means a vote could go either way. THe first of these two, Brad Boyer, is an unknown to me on this topic. In the discussion from this last school board meeting, his contribution was about reviewing policies and not really about this specific policy. It was unclear if he had a point regarding the specific video policy, which left his potion questionable. The other unknown to me is Sylvia Shepler, who had sided with the old board on limiting the video to 45 days; however, the November 30th meeting she seemed to support the idea of leaving the video live “for at least four years.” From her past votes on topics, however, I won’t speculate on how Sylvia will vote. Of course, nobody’s vote is certain until it happens.

In Conclusion….

In short, right now it is unclear how the vote for retaining the videos will go. I would strongly suggest people write the board members and push for them to support transparency and make a policy that leaves the videos live forever. Being able to go back and review discussions on topics that have happened within school board meetings is a valuable resource. Let’s hope that a majority of the board members see the value in leaving this information available. After all, if there is nothing to hide, then what’s the harm in leaving them public other than it making a number of people more accountable….

And yes, here is my rough video of the video retention discussion from the January 30th board meeting:

High School Choice HSE School Board Discussion

Hamilton Southeastern Schools has two high schools, Fishers High School (FHS) and HSE High School (HSE). While recent redistricting impacted many kids in kindergarten through eight grade, the district left the high schools alone – for the most part.

The reality is, the high schools are not balanced. To offset this, Fishers has allowed parents to choose to send their kid to the high school outside of their area within the district. The result of this is that about 8 kids have chosen to go to HSE instead of FHS, and almost 200 have chosen to go to FHS instead of HSE. This doesn’t include the additional kids going to FHS for the IB program.

The net results of this for 2019-20 can be seen in the following chart pulled from the HSE School Board BoardDocs page:

You an see that in the end, HSE is currently expecting 3342 students next year with FHS having almost 7% more at 3572. While Fishers High School is higher, the district expects growth to be on the HSE side of town, thus the lower number could change.

Where the Noise is

The issue with high school choice, however, centers on transportation. The HSE district has offered transportation for many of the high school students even if they were not in the current district lines. This was not something guaranteed, so going forward transportation will not be offered. This has caused a number of people to complain. One of the biggest issues is that many people going to HSE have to drive by FHS to get there. Another issue centers on the neighborhoods near the dividing line. In those neighborhoods, there are a number of kids that have chosen to flip schools. This puts pressure on the remaining kids that are friends to do the same so they can stick together. For those families that can’t afford or have the means to drive their child to school, this adds undo pressure. Additionally, because neighborhoods are on the line, in some cases, busses from both high schools enter the neighborhood, yet kids can only use the one for the school they are allocated.

The issue has been contentious. At the last school board meeting, there was a great deal of discussion on the topic by the new school board. Additionally, one parent spoke on the topic to the board. The following is the rough video of that meeting:

Redistricting the High Schools

Based on the comments made in the last HSE School Board meeting, redistricting at the high school level is not currently planned. The choice program, while not at the percentage the superintendent would like, is close enough to let things continue as they currently stand. The plan is to continue the experiment of choice for the next year or two.

The school district is currently working on student numbers for next year now. These numbers need to be nailed down because it determines the number of classrooms and teachers needed. If there is a need to shift teachers or hire new teachers, that needs to be done sooner rather than later. As such, any changes to district school lines need to be finalized now.

Some of the Q&A:

Question: Could buses be offered for those neighborhoods that have a busload of kids that are choosing to go to a different school?

Answer: This would cause issues. There could be others that then want to switch schools who hadn’t done choice due to the lack of transportation. Additionally, other kids could say it is unfair to bus some kids but not all.

Question: Could we extend the bussing done this year for another year?

Answer: The reasoning for adding bussing this year no longer exists next year. Additionally, bussing was never guaranteed. Kids were allowed on busses if there was space.

Question: If IB kids are being transferred between schools on the shuttles, why couldn’t we expand this to allow any kids to use the transfer buses? This might take 2 or 3 more buses

Answer: If a kid can afford to drive, they are likely to drive rather than bus to one school and then take another bus to school.

Question: Why is Fishers High School more desired?

Answer: Because kids at Riverside Junior High want to stick together as do those at some of the other High Schools. Additionally, Fishers High School is closer to where a lot of kids live.

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HSE School Board December 12, 2018 – Redistricting and More…

I attended the December 12th, 2018 Hamilton Southeastern Schools Board meeting. This was expected to be an interesting meeting because the board was to approve the redistricting plans that had been developed over the previous months. Additionally, it was to be the last official board meeting for three of the seven members whose tenure ends at the end of the month.
I attempted to capture video of this meeting; however, I had limited success. I worked with a new camera, so while the video quality is better than the cell phone I’ve used in the past, I’m clearly still learning to use the camera. Additionally, I can’t control the audience around me, including the tiny kids that had been brought to the meeting that were right behind me.

Redistricting HSE Schools

The primary topic of the meeting was redistricting. Like the previous school board meeting, the HSE Superintendent, Dr. Bourff, presented a recommendation for the school board to consider. This was the same recommendation that he made at the previous school board meeting. Unlike the previous meeting, he also included several possible amendments to the proposal. You can catch my video of Dr. Bourff presenting here (sorry for the low audio in this snippet):

The first option Dr. Bourff presented as a change to the proposed redistricting plan was to move Logan’s Pointe from Southeastern elementary School and HIJH over to Durbin Elementary School and Fall Creek Intermediate/Junior High. This only impacted 19 students. This proposed change was passed by the school board.

The second option for change was to move Sunlake apartments to Harrison Parkway, and the “River” neighborhoods to New Britton Elementary School. This proposal had received a lot of discussion. This proposal would have put the “River” neighborhoods back into New Britton. The irony is that Sunlake kids would likely have to drive past New Britton to get to Harrison Parkway once the construction on 37 starts. This proposal failed to pass.

A third option for change was to move the Anchorage neighborhood from Geist Elementary School to Brook School Elementary School. This proposal only impacted 6 students that currently attend Geist. This proposed change was passed by the school board.
The fourth and final potential option for change in the proposed redistricting plan involved removing the 8% split that occurs at HIJH for students going to Fishers High School. This proposed option failed to pass by the school board.

Community Comments on Redistricting

After Dr. Bourff presented, a number of community members took time to speak. Most raised concerns regarding the redistricting plans. You can catch their comments in the following video. I bumped up the volume on this video:

School Board Redistricting Discussion

After the community talked, the school board members discussed the recommended redistricting plan and amendments. A final vote approved the redistricting plan with amendments to move Logan and Anchorage back. There would also be grandfathering for grades 3, 5, and 7; however, transportation would not be provided. Amendments to move Sunlake apartments was not approved, nor was eliminating the split at HIJH. An additional proposal to move allotments 131/132 in the Durbin area also failed to pass by the board.

The final redistricting map is currently available on the school’s web site:

Other School Board Items

There were several other items that were covered in the school board meeting.

A proposal was made and approved to move the school to a third-party audit system instead of using the Indiana State of Accounts system. An audit committee was brought up and approved in the previous school board meeting.

Also covered was an update on live streaming the HSE School Board meetings. It was stated that the school board meetings would not start streaming in January. It was stated that the school system is required to include closed captioning on the video. This was not seen as an issue. The delay was indicated to be a result of using an out-of-state company of the video streaming. This company needs to file to do business in Indiana, which will take time. It is expected that February or March is more likely to be a start time for streaming. Nothing new was stated on the 45-day retention policy. I will, however, try to record any meetings I attend and post them on a YouTube Channel for long-term retention (Fishers, The Other Side of the Tracks).

New high school courses had been presented in the previous school board meeting. The courses were presented again and approved. The courses include African Studies, International Relations, Language for Heritage Speakers, Painting III, Robotics Design and Innovation, and Science Research (Independent Study).

Thanking Go to Those Leaving

Several other topics were covered in the board member reports. The big topic, however, was the recognition of the three board members that were ending their tenures. Terry Tolle, Matt Burke, and John DeLucia will be leaving the board at the end of the month. Each of these guys brought their individual perspectives to the board. While Terry tended to be focused on beating Carmel, all three seemed to be looking out for the Kids in the district. Each contributed positively to making HSE Schools the best they could be. Losing these guys is a loss to the school system; however, hopefully those joining the board will fill the gap with fresh insights and perspectives.

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HSE School Board Candidancy

As many people know, I’m one of the few (if not the only) people that regularly attend the school board meetings that is not either on the board or paid staff of the school system. I attend these meetings for a variety of reasons; however, the primary reason is because it is a source of firsthand information related to our schools and our city; information that impacts our kids. Our kids spend roughly a third of their day within the school system, so the decisions made by this group of people impact their lives in both positive and negative ways. With a budget twice that of the city’s, the school also has the potential to impact not only our kids, but the city around us.

I’ve been regularly asked if I will be running for a position on the Hamilton Southeastern School Board this election. While there are still a couple of days left to register, at this time I do not plan to run for a position, and thus will not be registering.

Over the years I’ve watched and noted decisions made by the school board, raised questions, and called out issues. I’ve done that without a seat at the table and plan to continue to do so. After all, it’s our kids that they are messing with. 

HSE School Safety Update

When it comes to security, Hamilton Southeastern Schools have done a lot since 2012. This includes adding secured vestibules, securing the school perimeters, the use of fobs, and more.

There continues to be a knee jerk reaction around the country when it comes to security. Unfortunately, but there isn’t just one solution to solve security in our schools. The hand-held metal detectors that the governor offered are starting to come arrive at schools; however, these are a solution fraught with more issues than even the full sized metal detectors. Even so, schools are snatching these up.

While people will often want to point to a single person to be responsible for security, HSE schools have changed the focus to empower everyone in the district all the way down to students.  In addition to students, this includes parents, staff, and members of the community including police officers, firemen, and other public departments.

Regardless of who is empowered, at the end of the day, we must deal with the “Why”. Even though many people are looking for instantaneous results on what should be done to secure schools, the issues won’t be solved until there is an understanding of why the violence is happening.

For Hamilton Southeastern Schools (HSE), additional changes are being proposed for the 2018-19 school year. HSE’s security protocols and policies are already considered among the best in the state of Indiana with HSE schools being considered a leader. Even so, safety is a topic that will receive a continuing review and changes.

I’ve written on safety in previous articles, so the list of core safety topics that were raised at the most recent school board meeting should be no surprise. The list of changes for 2018-19 include:

  • Metal detector wands
    The governor of Indiana provided metal detector wands to Indiana schools at not cost to the schools. They offer to provide one wand for every 250 students. HSE schools ordered 91 wands. (Carmel-Clay schools only ordered 30). While these wands are coming into the schools now, the principals have been told to keep these in the boxes. There is the potential for legal liability if wands are used in the wrong way. In addition to the legal issues, there also needs to be training as well as a definition of how they will and won’t (as well as can and can’t) be used.
  • Additional School Resource Officers (SROs)
    One of the biggest of focus for school security is School Resource Officers (SROs). As mentioned in a previous article, HSE had seven SROs in 2017-18. The plan for 2018-19 is to add two additional SROs for a total of nine. One of these has already been hired and has started at New Britton Elementary school. The other SRO has been identified, but needs his current position back-filled before they can move forward. As mentioned in a previous article, SRO positions are not ones that can be filled quickly.For HSE, the overall cost of having nine SROs will be roughly a million dollars with the school district covering half (~$497,000) of this. The school will get a $50,000 Safe Schools Grant that will also go to funding the SROs. The breakdown of this cost is spread across salary, benefits, training costs, and incidentals such as uniforms.
  • Additional ALICE Training
    The HSE schools have been doing ALICE training since 2011 and will continue the training with renewed vigor. ALICE training is done within the schools at in age appropriate manner–what is done at the high school is not the same as what is done at the elementary level.
  • Ongoing Safety Audits
    The SROs did physical safety audits for all of the schools this summer.
  • Continued Mental Health Focus
    Thirteen therapists are staffed in the HSE school buildings as part of a program with Community Health Network. A fourteenth therapist will be added in 2018-19 to address a request for more help at the high school level. We have struggling kids, and the use of mental health services has the potential to change the “why” portion of security issues.
  • Trauma Informed Care
    This is empathetic practices that works to inform teachers so that they can understand the issues specific kids might have.
  • Identity Safe Schools – Equity & Inclusion
    When students walk into the HSE schools, they need to be in a judgement free zone. Kids have different needs, and we don’t want the stress of an individual student to exceed their coping mechanisms. We want to get to any kids that are stressed or have issues at the ground level so they can get the support they need.
  • Parental Advisory Committee
    While there have been a couple of meetings around security, there is going to be a more formal parental advisory committee formed. Many people have expressed interest in being part of a committee, so a group will be formed to provide a cross section across all 21 schools. Potential candidates for being part of such committee are being vetted to make sure the right representation is established.

These are the areas that were mentioned. Part of the security process is to not share everything that is happening to secure the schools. As such, the above can be seen as the minimum updates for the 2018-19 school year. Of course, the most important thing that was stated for securing our schools was the continuing efforts to forge relationships with parents, students, and the community to keep communication open and everyone aware. The key to safety is to know that the answer to “Who is involved with school safety?” is all of us.

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