Question Board on Ending East-Side Bus Service
The November decision by the Peshtigo School Board to end transportation to eastside city residents was met with several questions and complaints by eastside Day Cares and at least one eastside resident Wednesday, Dec. 12. The District had decided to cease the transportation now that the bridge over the river is open and the highway traffic, especially the truck traffic, has been rerouted to the Bypass.
During the Public Comment section of the meeting, city resident Jeff Krejcarek questioned the short notice and timing of the decision since the bussing will end at the beginning of January. He also spoke of his concerns regarding children crossing the bridge and the drug problem prevalent in the city.
School Board member and bus driver Steve Coble responded with concerns about overcrowding on the buses and the liability issues which that presents. He also spoke about equality of services for residents on the west side of the river.
David Marquardt, owner of the Cherished Child Day Care center on the citys east side, asked many questions about the decision and expressed multiple concerns about the process. Of major concern was why the eastside day cares and affected eastside parents were not advised of the agenda item prior to the meeting. The reply given was that the meeting was legally and properly posted.
Marquardt also expressed his concerns about playing bus police should his day care sign a transportation contract with the district, especially if non-day care children still gather at the corner by his business once general eastside bussing ends.
When the matter came before the Board, several references were made to an existing contract with Zion Lutheran Child Development Center for bussing which has been in effect since 2005. Zion has been paying for the service at a rate of $6 per day. The day cares on the citys eastside had been receiving the bussing for several years at no cost.
When asked if the eastside day cares wished to make a proposal on bussing, none was presented. This led Board Chairman Mike Fifarek to state two options. One, to offer the same contract to east side daycares as Zion has, or two, to cut off Zion and let all the daycares try to contract with the bussing company.
Administrator Kim Eparvier stated his preference was to keep the contract with Zion as is and to try to establish similar contracts with the eastside day cares based on a set amount. Both eastside day cares would need both morning and afternoon bussing. Zion only has afternoon busing.
After concerns expressed by Board members Julie Muenster, about contracts with all eastside residents, and Amy Hammer, about administrative time being taken up setting up the day care contracts, the Board authorized Eparvier to meet with all three certified and state licensed day cares in the city to come up with an equitable fee schedule and contract. The motion passed with Vern Rhode voting in the negative and Coble abstaining.
As to Marquardts concern about non-Cherished Child students trying to use the bus, the Board suggested several different security measures to make sure this would not happen.
Also during the Public Comment section of the meeting, High School Principal Chad Sodini used the opportunity to introduce the 10 members of the Volunteer Club who were able to make the meeting. The Volunteer Club has 57 total members and were recently recognized by the state United Way for their over 2000 hours of volunteer work in the community.
High School Student Council representative Annali Kangas reported on the many activities taking place in the middle/high school, especially noting the things taking place with the band and chorus. She mentioned an upcoming Senior Symposium and the winter sports of wrestling and basketball.
Will Korgan, representing the Elementary Student Council, updated the Board on the programs and fundraising efforts taking place at PELC. He mentioned things like the Fun Run, toy donations, Red Ribbon Week and Breast Cancer awareness activities.
Two personnel items were dealt with by the School Board. Tara LaChappell was hired on temporary basis (additional hours to her teaching position) to work on the Districts webpage design. The resignation of Joe Schmidt as the high school Student Council Advisor was also approved. The advisor position will be posted internally.
Brian Brewer from R.W. Baird presented the Board with the results of the proposed bond sale to refinance the districts 2005 referendum debt. Originally estimated at close to $3.9 million, the final amount came in at $3.75 million. By refinancing the last ten years of the loan, the District will save $292,977. Good competition for the bonds and dropping bond rates helped in providing an all-inclusive rate of 2.14 percent.
The rates could have been aided even further if the District could have received an AA- bond rating, but Brewer was pleased with the Districts A+ rating. The rating was helped by the stable local economy, a growing enrollment trend, maintenance of very strong reserves by the District, and a low net debt burden.
An interesting segment of the Standard and Poors summary document states, We understand that despite the enrollment growth and current capacity issues, the district has no immediate plans to issue additional debt. According to management, the district is prepared to reorganize facilities based on class sizes to avoid further debt issuance for roughly two additional years.
The Board authorized the issuance and sale of the General Obligation Refunding Bonds as presented by a 9-0 vote.
The Board also approved becoming part of an alternate educational experience called Second Chance Partners for Education. Second Chance is a proven program used in several different parts of the state. It is aimed exclusively at students who credit deficient to help them earn their high school diploma.
What make Second Chance unique is that it provides a proficiency-based curriculum of applied academics and industry-driven skill standards. The program aims to establish active partnerships between education and businesses, which will provide a combined worksite, youth apprenticeships and collaborative educational components.
The effort being considered by the Peshtigo School District is being done in conjunction with the School Districts of Oconto and Marinette. The joint effort would provide the opportunity to up to 12 students. Reimbursement from the state for the program is equal to that which the district receives for open enrollment students.
Eparvier reported that he is working with Jim Koronkiewicz from BPM, Inc., on lining up business help and possibly location for the program at the BPM facility.
The Board approved the agreement for the Second Change program by a 9-0 vote.
Changes to the Middle and High School Course Description Booklets were approved. In the High School, Social Studies and World History will be switching grades levels between 9th and 10 grades. Plans also call for the addition of an Advanced Placement History Course.
In the English department, a College Prep English 9 course will be added as an option. The same College Prep offering will be for English 10 students. Another new course will be English 11. All English electives will be limited to the Senior year.
Several changes will be coming to the Math offering, all of which are related to the new Common Core Standards. General Math, Pre-Algebra and Consumer Math will all be eliminated. College Math will be added, as will a class on Probability and Statistics. Algebra will be offered in two parts, but both covered in one year. Geometry will be divided into two classes, a Regular Class and a College Prep Class. All math classes will emphasize understanding, not just covering all the material.
The Board approved a request to grant permission to use a road or access way across school property. The property is known as the School Forest is located off of CTH Y on the south side of the US 41. A neighboring property owner is requesting the access so that timber on his property can be accessed and harvested.
Eparvier noted that both WPS and Wisconsin Telephone both have been granted access in the past, and, there is an existing access road along the powerline that can be used. Approval was given by a 9 to 0 vote.
With abstentions because their spouses work for the school district, the Board approved a base wage agreement with the districts support staff on a 7 to 0 vote. Eparvier explained that the negotiated agreement is tied to the Consumer Price Index, and this year includes a 3.16 percent hourly wage increase. The agreement also contains incentives for no workers compensation claims and performance pay.
A Second Reading of the Open Enrollment Policy (#5113), as reworded at the November Board meeting, was approved as presented.
The Buildings and Grounds Committee reported on their recent tour of the elementary building. The Committee discussed possible summer and capital improvement projects.
The Finance, Personnel and Negotiations Committee reminded Board Members of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) recommended resolutions were included in their board packet. The WASB holds their annual meeting in January.
The Policies Committee warned the Board that they will have the first readings of a number of new/revised policies at the January board meeting. The plethora of policies will be broken into units and hopefully the board will cover them all in seven months.
Recent stories, opinions and photos