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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Wausaukee School To Vote Aug. 19; First DPI Dissolution Hearing Aug. 26

Issue Date: August 13, 2008

Voters of Wausaukee School District will go to the polls Tuesday, Aug. 19 to approve or disapprove increasing their tax levy and perhaps save their school district from dissolution.

At a meeting Thursday, Aug. 7 the school board decided to hold one more informational community forum in the school auditorium on Wednesday, Aug. 13, in the format of question and answer session. Board member Dave Kipp suggested distributing a several page question and answer paper at the meeting, and said he had prepared a spread sheet to show exactly what we’re talking about, which will also be distributed. Kipp said it outlines the district debt and how it will be paid off. He volunteered to be the target up front, to take the heat off Jan (Dooley). Board President Dennis Taylor welcomed the offer.

Kipp urged board members and supporters of the referendum to get everyone they can to the meeting, particularly those who are planning to vote No.

Hope of Board of Education members expressed individually and an active citizens group, Save Our School, is that a yes vote will forestall a move to dissolve the district. A resolution calling for dissolution of the district was approved by the school board earlier this summer in the wake of two failed referendum attempts. Decision is now up to a Boundary Appeals Board appointed by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

District Administrator Jan Dooley reported at the Aug. 7 board meeting that DPI head, State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster, has already named members of the Boundary Appeals Board and a series of hearings in the district has been scheduled.

The seven Boundary Appeal Board members are Therese Travis from CESA 1, representing South Milwaukee School District; Patricia Silver, from CESA 3, representing Rice Lake School district; Dennis Kavanaugh from CESA 6, representing Oshkosh Area School District; Mary Kathleen Maloney from CESA 7, representing the Green Bay AreaSchool district; Rick Eloranta from CESA 10, representing the Rice Lake Area School District, and Deputy State Superintendent Tony Evers.

The first hearing, scheduled for the afternoon and evening of Tuesday, Aug. 26, will be preceded by a tour of school facilities by the Appeals Board on Monday, Aug. 25. The first of the hearings will begin at about 1 p.m. and run until about 4 p.m., with the evening session slated from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Other hearings in Wausaukee are scheduled for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 and Nov. 11 and 12. If needed there will be hearings in December and January as well. These hearings will be conducted regardless of the outcome of the referendum.

If the Boundary Appeals Board decides the school should be closed, the ruling will become effective Sept. 1, 2009. Students, assets and debts of the district, along with the properties that support the school, will be allocated to neighboring school districts. Those assigned districts will be allowed, without referendum, to raise their tax levies enough to offset the costs created by the influx of new students.

The Boundary Appeals Committee has requested information on bus routes, student transportation costs and capacities at Wausaukee and surrounding school districts. Dooley said there is a tremendous amount of work to be done, and secretaries would be back to work on Monday, Aug. 11.

Tuesday’s referendum asks Wausaukee School District voters to allow the board to levy $675,000 over the state levy limits in school purpose property taxes each year for the next 10 years. If approved, the increase will cost the owner of a $100,000 property approximately $102 in additional taxes for each of the next three years. After three years the school building debt will be paid off, which will result in a savings of approximately $102 on a $100,000 property, bringing the levy back down to current levels. There appears to be no way to estimate tax increases that could be caused if the district is dissolved and reallocated.

Dooley reported there had been a discrepancy in wording on some of the ballots, but that has been corrected. Some town clerks had distributed no absentee ballots, and those who did will contact the people and provide the new ballots.

Supporters of the referendum point out that in addition to the unknown effect of new district boundaries, dissolution will erase the effect of cutbacks the board has already accomplished, most of them this year.

During the 2007-2008 school year the union support staff was reduced by 3.5 full time equivalent positions. Teaching staff for the 2008-2009 school year will be reduced from last year by 8.245 full time equivalent positions. The 38.875 FTE teaching positions is down from slightly over 56 positions in 2000-2001. In addition, teachers have accepted a two-year wage freeze and agreed to pay 10 percent of their health insurance costs. New hires will pay 20 percent of their insurance costs.

In other business at the Aug. 7 meeting, the board, on a strong recommendation from Dooley, approved Sherri Schlies to fill the Confidential Board Secretary/Elementary School Secretary position being vacated by retiring secretary Annette Schmidt.

Dooley said there were many good applicants, and five were interviewed. The interview process included an on-the-spot skills test. Dooley said Schlies was a candidate who really stood out. She described her as pleasant, very good with people, high energy, efficient, professional, creative, caring, with a great sense of humor, and solid organizational skills.

Board members were pleased with the comments about the recommended candidate being caring and good with people. Kipp said in a recent DPI survey the top reason people gave for sending their kids to another district under open enrollment was courtesy of the staff, and added, This is the kind of person we need.

Dooley told the board DPI had agreed to waive some deadlines for SAGE funding, should Wausaukee decide to reverse its June 26 decision to no longer have the program, which requires a low student/teacher ratio in early grades. The board decided to end the program because added cost exceeded the amount of added state aid, Dooley said, but that could change if there would be a large influx of students eligible for free and reduced lunches when school opens in fall. However, restoring the program even if that happened would mean they would either need to double up on some of their special classes or hire additional staff, and they could end up with three teachers to be laid off the following year. Despite the potential problems, she declared, I want to walk with this.

Board President Dennis Taylor dismissed the possibility. Every year we have struggled with SAGE, he declared. I don’t see us reversing this. He felt reversing their decision would be, partly like deceiving the public, and declared, We made the cuts, and are making the changes that will make it possible to go to multi-age classes. We need to stay with that. People out in the public think we’re going to try to sneak SAGE back in here. We don’t need that!

Kipp admitted saying at the Athelstane meeting that the board might revisit the SAGE issue, But as far as I’m concerned, the decision we made was a good one.

Dooley reported she and neighboring district superintendents had met the previous day with representatives of Marinette County Association for Business and Industry for discussion on several issues, including how to make students aware of local job opportunities, but the main discussion had ended up being on school funding and inequities in state aid. Educators will participate with business and industry representatives at a Northwoods Summit conference on Tuesday, Oct. 7 at Four Seasons Resort in Beecher.

On Oct. 6, there is to be another meeting of school and business leaders on school funding, as the feeling is any changes in state policy will need to be pushed by business and industry as well as by educators. As the school goes, so goes the community, Dooley commented.

The consortium did receive the planning grant Donna Pintarelli had been working on, Dooley reported.

Action on the recycling/garbage disposal contract proposal from Waste Management had been postponed at the last meeting in hopes of getting a reduction in costs and pickups for the summer months. Waste Management had advised they would allow the school to change to a will call status for the summer, which would save perhaps $1,000 a year. On that basis, the board approved the contract.

J&R Auto parts submitted the only bid for bus repair work, which was also accepted without dissent, as board members felt the prices were very reasonable and was pleased that the contract time offered service for however long it may be needed.

The maintenance staff will get two bids on re-sealing the entire parking lot and two others for just sealing and crack-filling problem areas. Taylor felt they should get prices, but take no action until after the Aug. 19 vote, unless the total price comes in under $10,000, in which case Dooley can go ahead and have it done.

At conclusion of regular business the board went into closed executive session to discuss administrative and non-union support staff contracts and AFSCME (support staff union) arbitration.




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