Mursau Brings First National Forest Harvest Check To Goodman School
State Rep. Jeff Mursau of Crivitz came to the Goodman/Armstrong Creek School Board meeting Wednesday, May 28 with some good news and a check for $11,156.57. The check represents the school districts share of legislation Mursau authored to give Wisconsin school districts a share in proceeds from timber harvest in the national forests.
Jeff brings us good things, commented Board President Carl Frydrych as Mursau was introduced.
Yes, and hopefully more good things to come, Mursau agreed. Occasion for the visit was to present the National Forest timber harvest check, but Mursau also served on the State Assembly Speakers Task Force on Rural Schools, and was optimistic that some changes will be coming to benefit sparsely populated rural school districts like Goodman/Armstrong Creek.
Amount of payment is based on a formula that looks at how much money was generated by the timber sales, and how many acres of the National Forest, in this case Nicolet/Chequamegon, are located within the school district boundaries.
This should have been done 20 years ago, Mursau told the board after formally presenting the oversize check to Superintendent Ben Nienhaus. We were the only state that did not give a share of the payment to schools. He said in the past the payments went only to towns.
Mursau said the legislators also found a $2 million pot of money that will be used to hold the towns harmless from loss of revenue for this year at least, and if the federal government fully funds its Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program in future years, the towns will continue to receive the money they should get from the National Forests within their boundaries.
Mursau said the amount of the timber severance check will fluctuate, depending on the amount harvested from the National Forest each year. Weve been working really hard with the National Forest people to get the sustainable cut up to where it should be, he added.
Later conversation indicated that the harvest from the National Forest is only 40 percent of what their own plan calls for.
Mursau, Niehaus and the board agreed everyone, including the forests themselves, would benefit if sustainable harvests were allowed in all state and national forests. They also agreed changes are needed in funding and Department of Public Instruction rules for small rural school districts. Mursau was optimistic at least some of the needed changes will happen in the near future.
At the meeting were a small group of high school juniors on assignment for their American Government class.
Having a state representative here is a bonus for these American Government students, commented Niehaus.
This is the opportunity of a lifetime, Frydrych told them. You can learn a lot. Jeff Mursau is a great guy...without men like him in Madison, nothing would be done.
As to being the chance of a lifetime, Mursau laughed, Crivitz isnt that far away. Any time you want me to come to a meeting, or talk to a class, just call.
There were comments from Niehaus and other board members that Sen. Tom Tiffany, Sen. Ron Johnson and others also do a great job and work very hard for their Northern Wisconsin districts.
If the National Forests were properly managed, that check would double or quadruple, declared Board Member Dave Ziolkowski, who is County Forest Administrator for Forest County and President of Wisconsin County Forest Association.
He said if the national forests in the area were managed as they should be, if timber was harvested when it should be, the forest would be healthier and the entire economy would benefit. Manufacturers, knowing they had a reliable long-term source of raw material close at hand, would expand, adding jobs for the area. That growth would mean more working families, more homes being built to expand the tax base, and more students for the school.
Youre on the right track, he told Mursau. Were all working together on this. Were making progress and people are starting to listen!
We have good state and federal legislators working for us, and (State Senator) Tom Tiffany helps a lot, he added. He said Sen. Ron Johnson also works with them.
Later in the meeting Niehaus thanked Mursau for the work he has been doing with the state Managed Forest Lands laws. Several years ago hundreds of acres of land owned by the Coleman Lake Club in Goodman was enrolled in Managed Forest Crop programs and the resulting loss of income for the school district and the town resulted in a hefty tax increase for the towns remaining private property owners.
Treasurer Robert Stec reported the districts fund balance at the end of April was $1,211,851, and expenditures for the meeting came to $164,254.75.
Niehaus said there is some good news in regard to district finances and budget. He said they started this year with the operating budget $80,000 in the red, and now it looks like that will be closer to $70,000. Last year, Niehaus said, We started $239,000 in the red...Now were down to $160,000 in the red. You challenged me to get that two changed, and we did.
He said Business Manager Leianne Gottbeheut is closing the books on the 2013-2014 school year and the audit is to be done the third week in July.
The district will be making an investment in technology for elementary students. Niehaus said partly to keep up with curriculum changes required by the state mandated tests, they need to go to 1:1 technology, including new texts that go with the cloud based technology.
To make that happen, the board approved purchase of 64 Hewlett- Packard Chrome Books, at the low bid price of $349 each from Camera Corner Connecting Point, which was the low bidder.
The total price of $22,336 would have been too much for the budget to handle, Niehaus said, so I had to get creative with funding. He said they can pay for seven of the gen books with Federal flow through money, use $3,519 left from the Duda Foundation donation, and $1,700 donated by the PTO from pizza sales and other fund raisers. That still will leave $14,673.65 to pay. In recent years, the district has received more than $100,000 in funding from Albert Goodman, a grandson of one of the founders of the community. Niehaus said he contacted him, and hes totally okay with us taking that $14,673.65 out of the money he donated. So we can buy 64 Chrome Books without taking anything out of the general fund! He said the Camera Corner bid was the absolute lowest price they could find, and they are a reliable company and have done much business with in the past. Frydrych complimented Niehaus on working out the financing package. Board approval was unanimous.
Niehaus saluted instructor Craig Smith for his efforts in collaborating with local technical colleges, specifically this time Nicolet Area Technical College, toward articulated course work. Because of his efforts, five students, Jacob Garrelts, Mike Bruce, Mark Kowalkowski, Tyler Kalkofen, Bob Hawley and TJ Hilkert recently earned official State Certification in structural welding of steel, Niehaus said. Three of the students were present for the meeting and board members congratulated them.
Niehaus said the students had taken welding classes at the school in Goodman and in Wausaukee and got state certification. He said this is a high unemployment area, but there is high demand for skilled trades.
That certificate is accepted any where in the world, Frydrych declared. Take it with you and you will have a job wherever you want to go. He said his firm is currently hiring 15 welders, and we cant get enough!
The students will benefit personally from the certifications, but because of some recently passed legislation the school will benefit financially as well. Act 59 will cause the school to be reimbursed $1,000 for each senior earning certification in the trades, specifically in areas of high labor demand.
Niehaus reminded the board that a few months ago they accepted the resignation of Evan Neuens as assistant football coach with regret. The agreement with Pembine for the joint sports program requires an assistant coach from each school. Niehaus said they advertised, but there were no local applicants. Last week Coach Larriman came over from Pembine to help out, but Pembine needs a coach. Rick LaFleur, the Pembine band director, has offered to take on the assistant football coach job. LaFleur has college football experience and did volunteer coaching last year, Niehaus said. Athletic Director Kris Johnson recommended accepting him, and board approval was unanimous.
After a brief executive session at the end of the meeting the board unanimously agreed to accept the resignation of Lindsay Kane as fourth grade teacher for the 2014-2015 school year. Kane would have been teaching fifth grade next year, and the boards next motion was to approve issuing a teaching contract to Amanda Nelson to fill that job for the 2014-2015 school year. She was taught grades 5 and 6 this year and had been non-renewed for budget reasons, Niehaus said.
The board accepted the resignation of Mrs. Tracy Cassidy as National Honor Society Director and approved one Youth Options application for the fall semester. There were no Open Enrollment applications.
Niehaus thanked Jane Stanke for her work with coordination and oversight for the prom, and Paul and Kate Millan for offering to chaperone.
He expressed appreciation to Sally Kalkofen for her contributions as Family Resource/Guidance intern, the PTO for covering the cost of food for the recent Academic Awards banquet, and Millan for her devotion to the Athletic Awards program.
Thanks also went to Florence High School and Mrs. Terri Kloehn for inviting the high school students to their wellness day at Florence on May 15. Program focus was on the dangers of drugs and personality issues.
He noted that Missoula Childrens Theater will come to Goodman in two weeks for a summer school presentation financed by the Red Hot Red Hats Club, Susan West and Bill Stankevich.
He also thanked the PTO for covering the approximately $700 cost of Timber Rattlers tickets and transportation for students who earned recognition.
Maintenance custodians Stanley Frydrych and Denny Gardner were recognized for their efforts in cleaning out the portable building that has been donated to the Town of Goodman Historical Society for a community museum. He noted they had used no extra time, but balanced that task with everything else on their plates.
Frydrych complimented the band on a beautiful performance at the recent graduation ceremonies. They were fantastic, he declared, and asked that the compliment be passed on to the people involved.
Kate Milan reported in detail about testing for next year, effects of the school report card, and expressed concern about the amount of time that students will be spending simply taking tests.
She has been attending meetings and training seminars to learn more about the new state laws affecting which tests are needed, how they can be administered, and how the results can be used to benefit the students.
She was concerned about the effect alternate accountability for small enrollment districts will have on local perceptions of the school, and noted that with extremely small class sizes, even one bad test score can make the entire class, or the entire school, look bad because of a poor average.
There was much discussion with Mursau on findings of the Speakers Task Force on Rural Schools, and slightly different reports issued by Chair Rep. Rob Swearingen (Republican) and Vice Chair Rep. Fred Clark (Democrat). Mursau said the news media makes it sound like their findings and recommendations totally differ. Mursau is optimistic that some of the recommendations will become realities.
He was optimistic about a program to forgive some education loans for new teachers who spend five years teaching at remote rural school districts, much like the program several years ago in which doctors could get $100,000 of loans paid back by serving for five years in rural areas. He said they chose five years because they hoped once a person taught for five years in a district they might put down roots and not want to leave.
There was mention that Pembine/Beecher Administrator Bob Berndt is retiring from that post but is looking at stepping up to help small schools through a CESA-8 program designed to help small rural schools with a DPI Educator Effectiveness program that rolls out next fall.
A team consisting of elementary teachers Chris Wysocki, and Tracy Rocque, high school teacher Tracy Cassidy and Stevens Point Coordinator Chris Kuntz has been working on the curriculum for the Learning Educational Activities in the Forest (LEAF) program the school has been involved with for about half a dozen years.
There was some enthusiastic discussion of plans for harvest of the school forests red pine plantation this fall, including inviting back the alumni who planted the trees in the 1960s. Niehaus said many of them are still in the area.
Niehaus said he has been talking with DNR Forester Bruce Djupstrom of Pembine on setting up the job.
I want to work that whole process into our curriculum, from the marks on the trees to the last strap on the loads of logs when they leave, Ziolkowski declared.
Millan said the one of the teachers is in math heaven, thinking of ways math formulas can be used to compute board feet, timber value, load weights, etc.
Millan said one of her classes had a lively debate on what they should do with the land once the red pines are cut. Thoughts ranged from plant a school orchard to letting it regenerate into hardwood forest, or perhaps keep it in red pine.
There are multiple educational opportunities here, a wealth of calculations, Ziolkowski declared.
Millan recalled last year a Potowatomi tribe member gave a program on our edible school forest, that students greatly enjoyed.
Our forest ties with everything, Niehaus declared. It is who we are as a school district!
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