5-18-20 Board of Education Meeting Minutes

(Last Updated On: June 8, 2020)



MAY 18, 2020                   REGULAR MEETING                        VIRTUAL MEETING

CALL TO ORDER PRESIDENT: Dennis Wentworth opened the virtual meeting at 7:00 pm


ROLL CALL VIRTUALLY PRESENT: C. Lee, R. Writer, S. Tobler, J. DeVlaminck, K. Laesch and D. Wentworth.


ABSENT:   H. Burnett

  OTHERS VIRTUALLY PRESENT : Timothy Donahue, Stacey Denison, Michael Dunn, Shelby Beasley, Brian Pruett, Stacey DeMaio, Mark Frey, Lonnie Hoover, Phil Place and Mark Kurland.


MOTION by D. Wentworth, SECONDED BY Member R. Writer the agenda for the board meeting of May 18, 2020 be adopted as written.


ROLL CALL VOTE:  C. Lee, R. Writer, S. Tobler, J. DeVlaminck, K. Laesch and D. Wentworth




Mr. Donahue recognized auditor Cindy Scott of Stephenson and Co. to present on the audit done in February. Visitors could join by phone by calling; 1-346-702-3831, PIN: 537 113 760#.
INFORMATION/REPORTS & NEW BUSINESS Auditor Cindy Scott with Stephenson and Company Presentation on February Audit Findings

Cindy Scott introduced herself; she is a partner with Stephenson and Company. She has worked with schools for around 17 years.

Cindy and her assistant were able to sit down with the finance committee and superintendent to test 16 specific procedures:


1.       Verification with Transparency Reporting. These are federal and state requirements that we have to have on our website. They did this prior to being on site. They found 7 areas that weren’t complete. They informed the business manager and superintendent and all were fixed except for three by the time they had left the field. Transparency reporting was described as good.


2.       Understanding of the District’s Bidding Process for the Sinking Fund. Cindy created a narrative and talked through the process of sinking fund projects; included in the report is a detailed narrative. The issue to address was a misunderstanding of when competitive bidding needs to be done. If it’s construction related, you have to do competitive bidding where you have to advertise for two consecutive weeks in our area in the newspaper and put it on the MIDEAL website and have the bids read aloud at a “public meeting.”


3.       Compliance of the 2017/18 Sinking Fund Projects. There were a total of five that required competitive bidding, four out of five were not bid out correctly. It wasn’t advertised nor on the MIDEAL website or read at a meeting. They did find two expenses that were not allowed, and two invoices that had portions of it that should not have been charged to the sinking fund.


4.       Compliance of the 2018/19 Sinking Fund Projects. There were three to be competitively bid out; two were not. One of those two was related to an insurance claim and the business office didn’t know they had to get that one bid out or if it would have been required. They were able to find the supporting documentation for all projects. They found no expenses that were unallowable.


15.   Compliance of the 2019/20 Sinking Fund Projects (as of fieldwork). There      were thirteen sinking fund projects. Five out of six projects were not bid out. One of those five was an insurance claim; unclear whether the state would act on this. They were able to find the supporting documentation for all projects. Pleased to say that all expenses were allowable or relatable.


6.    Understanding of the Internal Controls Surrounding the District’s Student Activity Groups. This was a big project; she spoke with all building principals, secretaries, athletics, and superintendent. There are many ways for the district to process handling for fundraisers, dances, and other monies coming in. The full narrative is available in the report. The district has a really good framework in place to make sure that all monies get counted and brought into the business office. There are some areas of weakness, giving the following recommendations:

1. Encourage the middle school to be using the shared drive documents.

2. Give the principals access to that shared drive because they know the fundraisers going on in their buildings. If that wouldn’t work, then push for additional training in Skyward for principals.

3. Most important, having independent verifications for completeness. She gave an example with selling t-shirts and verifying how many was sold equaling the amount being deposited to the bank. If t-shirts were given away, it should be documented so those shirts are still accounted for.

Cash only events like selling popcorn should have two independent individuals count the money each (when it is collected, not after) and each sign their name in ink and that’s the money that should go into the deposit.


7.    Spot Checks of Student Activity Group Internal Controls. They randomly picked fourteen groups from different buildings in the district. Ten of those tested had no sort of advisor/building principal verification on the deposit. One event indicated that the football boosters opened a separate bank account unknown to the district where most of the event dollars were deposited. Five events did not have two signatures on the deposit at the time of collection of the money. Four of the events had longer than a two day turnaround from when the deposit slip was signed off on by the advisor and when they were brought to the business office. One event tested was most concerning when they did the comparison: the deposit was short $266 in monies earned vs. what was deposited. In addition, for the same event, the deposit was not made until forty-seven days after the even occurred.


Mrs. Laesch asked who is going to train the staff. Cindy responded that secretaries and teachers know the basics. If anyone would like to have a video call with her, she would be more than happy to help.


8.    Understanding of the Internal Controls Surrounding Athletic Receipts. There are really good controls in place, money bags that seal. She informed how to deal with gate tickets for those working the dates at sporting events. The individuals working an entrance together should not be related. If the athletic director’s assistant is going to work an event, she should not be part of the preparation or reconciliation process before or after the event. The business office should date stamp or initial and date when they receive the documentation from the athletic office to support the timeliness of the deposits. When an event will not have ticket sales, administration needs to document and sign to that effect. She went on to explain concessions, athletic trust and agency accounts and reconciliations.


9.    Spot Checks of Athletic Event Internal Controls. Cindy explained we need to make sure that one of the people working the gates is signing and the two people signing should not be related. She appreciates how we are tracking, just have to make sure we are completing the gate receipts fully and having the two independent individuals sign.


10.    Understanding of the Internal Controls Surrounding Credit Cards. Cindy compliments how BCS credit cards are tracked and monitored. She stated controls over credit cards is very, very strong. There are many credit cards for the district. Currently, some building principals are not singing off on their card reconciliations. There are about thirty credit cards held by the district; she advised on going to fewer credit cards, one per building.


Mrs. Laesch asked if we decide to do one per building, could there be different signers, to give more than one person use of it. Cindy replied that she knows other districts have staff come to the business office and sign out the credit card to use. She doesn’t know the specifics, but it could be the way the credit card company assigns the card; we would have to check with the credit card company. Cindy also stated that we may not want to change anything if everyone is reconciling their own card and it’s working out great.


11.    Spot Checks of Credit Card Internal Controls. Cindy tested cards for a selected five months period of time for all building principals, superintendent, business manager, and maintenance director.  Noticed the middle school, only the building secretary’s signature of approval was documented on the reconciliation. The building principal needs to be reviewing and signing these statements each month as well. Multiple gift cards were found on the superintendent and business manager cards for united way drawings, Christmas party drawings, and the monthly Buck Staff Appreciation. MDE is cracking down on gift card use. Cindy stated no longer is the district allowed to purchase gift cards for employees.


12.    Verification of Approved 2017/18 Employment Contracts with Actual Leadership Team Payments. Cindy looked at the employee contracts and compared them to what the board approved for employee pay and what was actually in the payroll system. Her testing revealed four director contracts that were approved by the business manager when the NEOLA policy requires approval by the superintendent.


13.    Verification of Approved 2018/19 Employment Contracts with Actual Leadership Team Payments. Cindy’s testing revealed additional compensation paid to the business manager that was not approved in the employee’s contract, or as an addendum by the board, of $13,000. However, similar additional compensation was approved in the 2017/18 contract and then added to the employee contract in 2019/20 that was approved by the board. It would appear that it was an oversight to be voted upon during the 2018/19 school year since the previous and later years it was approved. She also revealed that three director contracts that were approved by the business manager, when NEOLA policy requires approval by the superintendent.


14.    Verification of Approved 2019/20 Employment Contracts with Actual Leadership Team Payments (through 12/31/2019). Cindy’s testing revealed the maintenance director receiving additional compensation for driving bus. Although they were able to substantiate the additional hours being paid through the review of timesheets, they were unable to locate supporting documentation for the rate of pay being aid per hour. She also revealed that four director contracts that were approved by the business manager, when NEOLA policy requires approval by the Superintendent.


15.    Compliance of the 2019/20 Sinking Fun Projects. Noted previously after procedure 4.


16.    Verification that Purchasing Policy was Followed for the Sinking Fund Projects. Cindy reported that there were no findings at all.


Mr. Lee asked if Cindy could speak to GASB 84, what we should have been doing that we weren’t. Cindy responded that GASB 84, a federal law that went into effect 7-1-2019, should have been up and running. It takes all student group accounts and makes you put all of them through a flowchart to determine if it is a fiduciary fund. Administrative control is if any employee is making the decision of how to spend the money or has a veto power, then it is no longer a fiduciary fund and you do not have to bring it into the general fund or special revenue fund. She stated we would have to follow the state laws on how the money is spent: no gift cards, no alcohol. All the things you spend money on has to be for the benefit of your students and required for education. If it doesn’t, you can’t do it. GASB 85 was released; feds have agreed to postpone the implementation of GASB 84 on 7-1-2019 like they were supposed to, you have until 7-1-2020 to be ready to implement.


Mrs. Laesch commented that she was informed by Buchanan Community Schools staff that Cindy was very professional and timely and made the process bearable and thanked her for all her help.


Mrs. Writer complimented Cindy on teaching her well.


Mr. Wentworth thanked Cindy for her presentation and providing training for leadership. He recognized principals and teachers are working hard to bring those processes into implementation.



Mr. Donahue touched on the ongoing conversation to the Math/Science Center classes. He is awaiting Thrun Law for interpretation of the law and wanted to update the board that this is still ongoing. He also shared that this Thursday there is a meeting set with our NEOLA representative on the spring updates and possibly updating policy, so the Math/Science Center matter could be addressed there.


Mr. Donahue spoke of budget planning. He complimented Cindy Scott and the great information she provided them with moving forward. He went over a spread sheet created by Tricia Lowery showing possible revenue losses for the upcoming school year. The spreadsheet gave three different loss amounts projected; $500 loss per pupil (district shortage of $779,500), $700 loss per pupil (district shortage of $1,091,300), and $1,000 loss per pupil (district shortage of $1,559,000). Each building has its own budget cut amount. Administrators need to start thinking about where they can find potential budget cuts.


Mrs. Lowery, Executive Director of Business & Operations, spoke about discussing with building principals the budgeting priorities. She stated that we have already recouped around $10,000 in utilities due to the closure. She is also expecting recouping costs of substitute teachers that would have been spent and transportation costs that weren’t used. She is looking forward to working with leadership on creating a plan.


Mrs. Laesch asked about the state budget and timeline. Mrs. Lowery responded that the state’s budget does not have to be completed until October 1st and we don’t know until they let us know. Our budget needs to be done prior to theirs, by June 30th.


Mr. Wentworth asked if the first reduction is in this fiscal year or next? Mrs. Lowery she has heard we may not get our full state aide for this year, but it hasn’t been confirmed.


Mr. Lee asked if we were seeing any delay in revenue from local resources/tax dollars. Mrs. Lowery replied with COVID she has heard that there might be an extension on tax collection. She stated we rely on taxes to carry us through the summer, but is unsure at the moment due to COVID. It depends if property taxes receive an extension.


Mr. DeVlaminck commented that based on the information he is hearing, we must plan for around $700 reduction FTE.


Mr. Wentworth asked if there are any new federal bailouts that may help our general fund budget. Mrs. Lowey responded that she is looking in the CARES grant and watching for the application to become available; it would help provide educational materials to help education, like buying laptops for elementary students who may not have access to them.


Mr. Wentworth asked about the ESSER fund to provide additional funds? Mrs. Lowery stated she would check but she believes that is for materials for students, not general funds. She commented that 80% of our budget is for wages and benefits.


Mr. Donahue added as we move into June, we will be working on our budgeting and staffing plan. He stated we will have to consider what key staff positions we have to protect. There is very difficult work to do in the upcoming weeks.


Mr. Donahue also shared how great the principals and staff are doing with distance learning. There are many positive items being shared on a document that Mr. Kurland, Executive Director of Academic Services, has created. Student engagement, however, is slowing.


Mrs. Writer found the document fascinating. She commented that there are a lot of positives going on in a time of crisis and is intrigued by some of the issues we are facing. Mrs. Writer asked if the principals know how many students are engaged. Are some still struggling with internet or technology?


Mrs. DeMaio, BHS Principal, stated she doesn’t have the exact percentage, as it fluctuates day by day. Recently engagement is going down. They continue to reach out by calling the students, emailing, and by reaching out to parents and care givers. She added she doesn’t think technology is a problem anymore, just motivation.


Mrs. Beasley, BMS Principal, added that although she doesn’t have exact percentages, some teachers are keeping track for themselves and reaching out to families who they aren’t hearing from. She agreed she is seeing diminishing engagement. She applauded Phil and Joe for their technology help with their hotline number to reach out and they have been very timely. Her students and parents appreciate them.


Dr. Dunn, Moccasin Principal, stated that in the beginning of the school closure, many students were engaged, 17-18 kids at a time. It has dwindled to around 14, and now around 10-12 in a video session. He believes we are seeing the gradual decrease because we’ve moved to a more educational piece and is not as fun as the previous social/emotional pieces they were doing at the beginning.


Mr. Wentworth asked Dr. Dunn how the packet distribution was going with the student packets. Dr. Dunn answered that it has been going well, seeing approximately an 85-88% of actual packet pick up. He stated they distribute about 40 for the red backpack program. They have had to mail out around 23 packets out of 344 students.


Mrs. Denison, Ottawa Principal, commented that her staff have been using a spreadsheet to track students they are connecting with. They use the app ClassTag to keep in touch with parents/students. They track the students they connect with each week. Parents like the paper packets for K-1st grades. She stated their numbers are also dwindling. They were getting 14-15 students in a virtual meeting. Today the one she was in had only 9 students. The entire school system is working hard to keep pushing to the end. Mrs. Denison stated that 80-90% of families are being reached and they have a very small percentage to follow up with.


Mr. Kurland stated 80% is amazing for elementary level and curriculum directors around the county are not having percentages that high. High school students’ participation is around 60-70%.


Mrs. Writer asked when the last day is. Has that changed for the final online meetings? Mr. Kurland responded that most buildings are planning for a final packet handout the first week in June. Mrs. DeMaio added that they are assigning work up to the first week in June. The second week would normally be exams but they are planning on collecting materials during this time.


Mr. Wentworth appreciated all the work by the teachers and principals. He appreciates staff and students pressing forward, knowing it is stressful.




MOTION by J. DeVlaminck, SECONDED by K. Laesch, The Board of Education approves the consent agenda for the regular board meeting of May 18, 2020 be adopted as written:


1.        Minutes:

4-20-2020 Regular Meeting

4-30-2020 Special Meeting


2.        Warrants:

Treasury & Expenditure Reports – April 2020


3.       Probationary/Tenure Listing for 2020-21 School Year:

Buchanan High School

Buchanan Middle School


4.        Staff retirements as submitted:

Karen Cuthbert, Administrative Assistant to the Assistant Principal &                     Athletic Director, 31 years of service to Buchanan Community Schools


5.        Staff resignation as submitted:

Megan Nicholas, BMS 6th Grade Language Arts Teacher, effective June               10, 2020.


6.        Recommendations for Parent Representatives to the Berrien RESA                     Parent Advisory Council 2020-22 as submitted by the District Special                   Education Supervisor, Mrs. Karin Falkenstein:

Dina Manderson – Child: Blossomland MoCi

Britney Martin – Child: Ottawa SLI


Mr. Donahue recognized and thanked Karen Cuthbert for her years of service. He also thanked the two parents who volunteer their time with the Berrien PAC.


Mrs. Writer congratulated Karen on her retirement. She worked with Karen for sixteen years and wishes her well.



ROLL CALL VOTE:  C. Lee, R. Writer, S. Tobler, J. DeVlaminck, K. Laesch and D. Wentworth


BHS GRADUATION CERTIFICATION MOTION by S. Tobler, SECONDED by C. Lee, upon satisfactory completion of district requirements for high school graduation, the board of education hereby approves the graduates as listed on the attached roster to be certified for graduation; and further authorizes the administration to prepare diplomas to be presented at the 2020 commencement ceremony.


Mr. Wentworth congratulated all of the high school seniors stating it has been a challenging year and wished them luck.


Mrs. Laesch congratulated the graduates and feels they are resilient and 2020 is the year.


ROLL CALL VOTE:  C. Lee, R. Writer, S. Tobler, J. DeVlaminck, K. Laesch and D. Wentworth


BUCHANAN VIRTUAL ACADEMY GRADUATION CERTIFICATION MOTION by J. DeVlaminck, SECONDED by S. Tobler, upon satisfactory completion of district requirements for High School graduation, the Board of Education hereby approves:


Buchanan Step Up

–       Cole Ford


Buchanan Virtual Academy Student:

–       Connor Harding


To be certified for graduation.


Mr. Frey commented with the online trend becoming more popular with all students, they are working harder and harder and he is excited to have these graduates.


Mr. Wentworth congratulated these students and commented how wonderful it is that they kept engaged.


ROLL CALL VOTE:  C. Lee, R. Writer, S. Tobler, J. DeVlaminck, K. Laesch and D. Wentworth


RESOLUTION OF APPRECIATION FOR FEEDING HIS SHEEP PROGRAM MOTION by S. Tobler, SECONDED by K. Laesch, the Buchanan Board of Education expresses its appreciation and thanks to the members of our staff who have assisted with the Salvation Army’s “Feeding His Sheep” program, also known as the Red Backpack Program. Identified students in need receive a food backpack with meal items for the weekend. BCS has 70 students K-5 who benefit from the program. In light of the pandemic this year, our staff members listed below have willingly stepped up and made this a continued priority by weekly delivering red backpacks to students’ homes. The board appreciates and thanks these staff members for their efforts to support our students’ needs:


Lisa Gregory

Karin Falkenstein

Rachel Kutemeier

Deb Kline

Kathryn Lolmaugh

Clarissa Lolmaugh

Amanda Lemler

Christine Ewell

Dawn VanDyke

Elizabeth Richard

Cindy Bowerman

Michael Dunn


Mr. Donahue applauded the staff for taking this on and thanked Dr. Dunn for heading it up.


Mrs. Laesch thanked the staff and complimented them on having safety measures in place as masks, social distancing, etc.


Mr. Wentworth thanked the team mentioning this is very important.


ROLL CALL VOTE:  C. Lee, R. Writer, S. Tobler, J. DeVlaminck, K. Laesch and D. Wentworth




MOTION by J. DeVlaminck, SECONDED by R. Writer, The Buchanan Community Schools’ Board of Education, exercising the option permitted by section 105 of the State School Aid Act of 1979, as amended by Public Act 300 of 1996, will accept applications of nonresident students who reside within Berrien RESA boundaries for the available grade level openings as listed below for enrollment into Buchanan Community Schools for the 2020-21 school year and will operate a Schools of Choice program in our district in compliance with the statutory requirements of section 105. The window for applications for these openings will be July 13, 2020 to August 12, 2020. Available openings for each grade level:


Ottawa Elementary Moccasin Elementary Buchanan Middle School Buchanan High School
Kindergarten: 0 2nd Grade: 2 5th Grade: 1 8th Grade: 4
1st Grade: 0 3rd Grade: 2 6th Grade: 1 9th Grade: 4
  4th Grade: 2 7th Grade: 1 10th Grade: 4
      11th Grade: 4
      12th Grade: 4

Mr. Donahue commented that because of the national emergency, the openings are more restricted and the spots available were given with careful consideration.

Mrs. Laesch asked about a student release. Mr. Donahue answered that once accepted through Schools of Choice, they are in until they decide to go elsewhere. A release is a Buchanan student being allowed to be enrolled only by having a release from their residing district year by year.


ROLL CALL VOTE:  C. Lee, R. Writer, S. Tobler, J. DeVlaminck, K. Laesch and D. Wentworth


BRESA 2020-21 BUDGET RESOLUTION MOTION by S. Tobler, SECONDED by R. Writer, The Buchanan Board of Education adopt the following resolution:




This Board received the Berrien RESA General Fund Operating Budget following the RESA Board meeting of April 29, 2020; and




In accordance with Section 380.624 of the Revised School Code, this Board must now adopt a resolution expressing its support or disapproval of the proposed Berrien RESA budget, and must submit to the Berrien RESA Board any specific objections and/proposed changes the Board may have to the budget prior to June 1, 2020.




The Berrien RESA General Fund Operating Budget for the 2020-21 school year be supported, and that the Secretary of the Board is hereby directed to submit a copy of this Resolution to the Secretary of the Berrien RESA Board of Education, along with any specific objections or proposed changes to the budget.


Mr. Donahue commented that these are the assumptions put in place by BRESA. This is a yearly review for the board’s approval.


ROLL CALL VOTE:  C. Lee, R. Writer, S. Tobler, J. DeVlaminck, K. Laesch and D. Wentworth



EDUCATOR EVALUATION 2019-20 A regular meeting of the Board of Education of the District (the “Board”) was held in a virtual/online format on the 18th day of May, 2020 at 7:00 o’clock in the evening.

The meeting was called to order by Dennis Wentworth, President.

Present:       Ruth Writer, Kelly Laesch, Sandy Tobler, Dennis Wentworth, Chris Lee, and Jim DeVlaminck

Absent:    Harvey Burnett

The following preamble and resolution were offered by Member Dennis Wentworth and supported by Member Kelly Laesch:


1.       Governor Whitmer’s Executive Orders 2020-35 and 2020-65 suspended and modified legal compliance matters regarding educator evaluation in Michigan school districts for the 2019-2020 school year.

2.       Buchanan Community Schools’ leadership team has been deliberating and considering the appropriate approach for educator evaluation for 2019-20 given the circumstances of the suspension of in-person instruction and inability to directly observe educator practice in classrooms/schools.

3.       Further, the Superintendent has consulted with other area districts for consideration of their approaches to educator evaluation this year, and he has also involved the leadership of the Buchanan Education Association for input on this matter.


1.       Only BCS teachers who are probationary and/or on an IDP for the 2019-2020 school year will be formally evaluated by their administrator.

2.       The evaluation will be composed of only the pertinent teacher evaluation rubric for classroom practice; student growth data—since it is difficult to compile due to the suspension of in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year—will not be used for these evaluations.

3.       All other teachers will have their 2018-2019 evaluation designation rolled over and given for the 2019-2020 school year; principals may give informal feedback to teachers regarding their professional practice for the 2019-2020 school year.

Ayes:      Lee, Writer, Tobler, DeVlaminck, Laesch, Wentworth

Nays:      None.

Absent: Burnett

Motion Passed: Passed

2020 ART/SPANISH TRIP RESCHEDULED DATES MOTION by D. Wentworth, SECONDED by S. Tobler, The Buchanan Board of Education approves the rescheduled dates for the overnight/extended student Art/Spanish trip to Spain, Italy, and France.


The trip has been rescheduled for departure on 7-8-2021 and returning on 7-17-2021.


Mrs. Writer asked what happens to seniors who were supposed to go this summer that won’t be part of this anymore. Mr. Pruett responded that they would still be allowed to participate.


ROLL CALL VOTE:  C. Lee, R. Writer, S. Tobler, J. DeVlaminck, K. Laesch and D. Wentworth



QUESTIONS & COMMENTS FROM BOARD MEMBERS Mr. Wentworth asked Mr. Donahue if the next board meeting would be able to take place in person, to which Mr. Donahue responded the current Stay Home Stay Safe order is in effect until the 28th and is unsure at this time.


NEXT BOARD MEETING Tuesday, June 2nd, 6pm @ Buchanan High School


Updated: June 8, 2020 — 2:50 PM