GROTON — With the first presentation of the evening, late last month, Groton-Dunstable Education Foundation (GDEF) member Bea Alice Loos reported on the status and success of the 2014 grants that were awarded by the nonprofit organization.
Completing its 11th year, the GDEF allowed for 14 out of 18 mini-grant requests (of $500 or less) and provided funding for 11 grants during the spring cycle, totaling approximately $40,500.
One of the highlighted grants was written by middle-school math coordinator Karen Gartland who sent nine middle-school teachers and one elementary-school teacher to attend a national math conference in Boston. Other awarded programs included sending two teachers to a Broadway theater workshop, a poet visit to the Florence Roche fourth-grade class, which included a follow-up teacher’s workshop, and a live encounter with owls as part of the life science program.
GDEF President Kerri Figueroa said, “After funding nearly one-half million dollars in grants over the 11 years, averaging $30,000 to $40,000 per year from the donations of a very generous community, the GDEF has a shortage of new volunteers, and there is not enough manpower to continue with the operations.”
While having attempted to garner support through recruiting over the past two years to fill for subcommittee positions such as the treasurer, fundraising and community relations, the GDEF committee has decided to suspend operations at the end of 2015.
“My heart is in my throat and this is very sad news!” Superintendent Rodriguez exclaimed. Stating that she understands the need to pass the torch on, Rodriguez expressed her gratitude for all that the GDEF has done, and gave her word that she would assist with recruiting new members through various district resources, in the hopes of finding new members to carry on.
Town charter review
Two applicants for the Town Charter Review Committee, who would represent the schools, presented their bids for the position.
Jane Allen, a former 7-year School Committee member, said, “I want to be able to help with things like ‘Robert’s Rules of Order’ and clarifying how a vacancy gets filled.” She continued, “What you want is a framework in which to grow our government so as to avoid knee-jerk reactions.”
“Once every so often, we get a chance to make an incredible impact on the lives of citizens, and in this case, especially the children of the district,” said Barry Pease. He added that he knows how to do research and deliberate without bias.
Following a brief discussion of the two candidates’ skills, Jane Allen was voted to become the school district’s representative.
An audit team from Melanson Heath had positive conclusions to report on an assessment of fiscal 2014.
“The audit went very well for the financial year ending June 30, 2014,” said Karen Snow. Snow provided feedback on the school district’s financial statements. She was teamed up with Zachary Fentross, a Melanson Heath staff accountant, who provided the annual Management Report.
Snow said, “The Groton-Dunstable Regional School District received a ‘clean opinion,’ meaning that the district’s financial statements for fiscal 2014 met the generally accepted accounting principles and GASB (Governmental Accounting Standards Board) standards.”
In looking at the statement of net position, Snow referred to an “underfunded liability” in the post-employment account intended to pay benefits to current and future retirees. Groton-Dunstable’s account is currently funded at $12M and would be fully funded at $24.7M.
Snow acknowledged that the fund is increasing by approximately $1.8M per year, recognizing the need to meet this obligation over time. But she added, “…the requirements may accelerate in the next 3-5 years, which the district will have to address.”
The balance sheet was reported by Snow to be in better shape than forecasted, with $400K in the Excess & Deficiency account, which was projected to be $0. “The district was fortunate enough to have acquired some additional revenues and to keep expenses under budget,” Snow said.
Fentross, who presented the management letter, intended to communicate the deficiencies and weaknesses in the district’s organizational structure, summarized what the financial numbers represented for fiscal 2014. Fentross reviewed the school district’s internal controls, especially with regard to assets, and found no material weaknesses or significant deficiencies
“We previously asked for improvement of payroll documentation, for the past couple of years’ audits,” Fentross stated, “and the procedures are better, but are still in need of being worked on.”
Fentross also reported, “Going forward, student activity funds with activity flowing through in an amount greater than $25,000 will be audited on an annual basis in compliance with new guidelines.”
Snow added, “This is a very high risk area and the new guidelines are more strict.”
Closing comments by the auditors found the district’s finances to be “currently well-managed.”
During the Reports agenda item, Superintendent Dr. Kristan Rodriguez announced the initiation of a new morning strategy session being organized with parent leaders and members of GDEF, to engage them in an analysis process identifying the needs of different areas of the schools.
They will begin with a needs assessment, will frame goals incorporating parent feedback, including comments received on the district website, and then will work with curriculum leaders.
The results will be shared during future faculty meetings and improvements will be strategized for implementation.
The Groton-Dunstable School Committee also discussed the establishment of a Capital Reserve Fund for the Valley Collaborative.