SOLDIERS GROVE - At the North Crawford School Board meeting held Tuesday, August 22, everyone seemed to express excitement for the new school year to start and satisfaction in having completed their preparations.
While the Wisconsin State Legislature and Governor Scott Walker still have not approved the education portion of the budget, which is now long overdue, the board was optimistic that they would know final numbers in advance of their annual district meeting.
North Crawford School Superintendent Brandon Munson reminded the board of the back-to-school activities scheduled for the week of August 28-Sept. 1: Monday, new staff orientation; Tuesday, all staff return, with a breakfast at 7:45 a.m.; Wednesday, teaching staff of all conference schools will meet at Kickapoo Schools for a conference inservice, with keynote speakers and department and grade level meetings; Thursday, staff will participate in a half day inservice.
Following this flurry of back-to-school preparation, staff and students will enjoy one last four-and-one-half day holiday over the Labor Day Weekend before everyone heads back to school.
North Crawford Elementary and Special Education Principal Julie Kruizenga reported that her team is preparing for the back-to-school open house, and there are to be several new students, with more that have been touring the building.
North Crawford Middle School and High School Principal Toby Tripalin, back in fine form from a medical leave the previous semester, reported on a recent ‘academic planning’ conference he had attended in Madison.
The discipline of academic planning for students grades 6-12 is to provide guidance in planning for post-graduation employment or education.
“I was blown away by the great ideas presented at the conference,” Tripalin said. “I’m really excited to implement some of the things I learned about, which will be great for both struggling students and high achievers.”
North Crawford Business Manager Demetri Andrews reported that he had received a memo indicating Governor Walker expects to have a signed budget by September 22, which will be in advance of the District’s annual meeting planned for September 25.
Andrews reported that the district’s annual financial audit is ongoing, but preliminary numbers indicate a potential $40,000 in general fund savings. Summer school expenses still need to be factored in, which could result in a balanced budget.
Andrews reported that data seems to indicate recent electrical upgrades to the school facility are showing preliminary savings of $7,000 per year.
Amy Anderson (formerly Allbaugh) reported on the many successes of the North Crawford 2017 summer school program. A total of 120 first grade through high school students, outside of the credit recovery and band students, participated in the program. Ninety percent of participants were bused to and from the program, which Anderson described as “key to the program’s success.”
Anderson said there had been a total of 35 courses offered over the summer, 8-10 per grade level. Some of the classes were “multi-grade,” and she reported that the format had worked very well.
North Crawford School Board President Mary Kuhn gave Anderson her personal thanks for the quality of the program, and board member Jim Dworschack commented that the program had been “outstanding, not just great.”
Superintendent Munson reported that Stacey Nutter, a 20-year special education teacher, and Mrs. Laurie Hines, part-time school nurse, had both tendered their resignations.
The board accepted the resignations, and went on to approve Munson’s recommendations for new hires to fill the vacated positions.
Replacing Nutter in special education will be Kris Marquez, who has experience in cross-category special education. Angela Starkey, Seneca, will fill the part-time school nurse position.
The board went on to approve Mark Bender as middle school football coach; Danielle McCormick as assistant volleyball coach, and Ritch and Vickie Stevenson as middle school volleyball coaches.
Still on the subject of co-curricular sports, the board approved a project ceiling of $22,876 for Jim Showen to address the water ponding issues in the track and baseball field areas.
The proposed 2017-18 budget already had $20,000 earmarked for the project, and Munson says the remaining funds will be shifted from the maintenance budget to cover the cost of the project.
The project will involve some re-sloping, placement of two manhole covers, connecting the drainage of the two areas, and creating a way to move the water downhill, away from the area.
Approval of the Transportation, Elementary, Middle School/High School, Co-Curricular, Teacher, Support Staff and Professional Staff Handbooks was a major item of business on the agenda for the meeting.
Many of the updates to the handbooks approved by the board were minor, procedural changes, with some being more substantive.
Kruizenga and Tripalin collaborated on updates to the Elementary and Middle School/High School Handbooks, and many of the changes to the handbooks approved by the board will appear in both.
Attendance was an area where changes were made. New language allows for a total of 15 total days of school to be missed by a student (previously 30).
Tripalin reported that one thing he had reinforced at his recent conference in Madison was that chronic absenteeism from school leads to worse post-high-school outcomes.
It was clarified that students would still be able to be absent more than 15 days, but would be required to have a medical excuse.
Likewise, the number of allowed incidents of tardiness has been reduced from 10 per quarter to five.
The Middle School and High School experienced a significant problem in the 2016-17 school year with students “walking out of class,” with reported “anxiety issues.” Language has been inserted into the handbook to allow for this behavior to be put into the disciplinary process if it becomes “habitual.”
Detention will once again be held after school, with teachers rotating through the responsibility. If the student does not drive, then parents will be responsible for picking their child up after detention.
Dress code was a particularly thorny topic. Tripalin and Kruizenga were united in a recommendation to update the language to read that “undergarments, and anything the undergarments are intended to cover” must be covered by a student’s clothing. Wearing hoods has also been prohibited until the end of the school day, and at academic after school activities. Students are also not allowed to bring blankets into the school.
Achievement standards for participation in co-curricular sports have also been modified. There will be a grade check after the first 10 days of school. At that time, if a co-curricular sports participant is failing one or more classes, they will have one week to bring their grade(s) up to passing. After that, there will be a grade report each week. Responsibility will be placed on the student not the teacher to ensure that their passing grades will appear on the report.
Changes to the elementary handbook were “basically the same.” Kruizenga reported she has removed tank tops from the list of prohibited garments.
Cell phones in class are not allowed for students in fifth grade and under. Students can leave their cell phones or other electronic devices in the office, and pick them up at the end of the day.
Middle school students are expected to keep their cell phones secured in their locker during the school day. Students may use their phones before and after school, and during nutrition break and lunch. These rules also apply to after school activities that are academic in nature.
High school students are expected to place their cell phones in a provided box/basket when entering the classroom. Students may use their phones before and after school, during nutrition break and lunch, and during passing periods. Students who abuse the privilege of using cell phones during passing periods, to the point that it causes excessive tardiness, will be asked to keep their cell phones in the office for a specified period of time. Students who become disrespectful or insubordinate toward staff members will be referred to the office for additional disciplinary measures. Cell phone use is allowed in the Commons or Library during Honors Advisory.
Students who do not follow the policy regarding cell phone use at school will be subject to the following disciplinary steps:
Step One: The student’s cell phone will be confiscated and sent to the office. The student will pick up the cell phone from the office at the end of the day, after a brief conference with the principal.
Step Two: Students who violate the policy for a second time will have their phone confiscated and sent to the office. The student’s phone will only be returned after a brief conference. The student may also be referred for additional consequences.
Step Three: Students who violate the policy for the third time will have their phone confiscated and sent to the office, only to be returned to a parent. Additional measures will be put into place for the student concerning cell phone use, including checking their phone in the office each morning. Additional disciplinary measures may also be assigned to the student.
The biggest change to the teacher handbook is the specification that an advisor will now follow a high school class through all four years of high school. It is believed that this will help with ACT preparedness, support fundraising efforts, and create more of a bond or relationship with the students in the class.
Changes to the support staff handbook pertained mainly to various conditions of employment or benefits.
The transportation handbook was changed to include language defining retirement benefits consistent with state language, and to clarify standards for post-trip bus inspection.
Changes to the professional staff handbook addressed at what point staff would be eligible for “overload pay,” clarified longevity language, and specified how staff would record their absences.
Modifications to the building and grounds over the summer are all but completed. The biggest changes will be the secure entrances, which will now require entrants to the building to press a buzzer to secure entry during the school day. Staff will be able to enter using their key fobs. After school, the entrances will be open – the elementary entrance until 6 p.m., and the high school entrance until 9 p.m.
Munson commended the maintenance staff for their hard work over the summer.
Munson was also delighted to report that the district is fully staffed with bus drivers, with a few extra in reserve. He reported that the district had already started transportation for fall sporting activities.
In other business, the North Crawford School Board:
• approved a preventive maintenance contract for the WHC HVAC system in the amount of $9,127
• approved a LP fuel purchase contract with New Horizons for 9,000 gallons at $1.325, for a total of $11,929.95
• authorized the purchase of new middle school math and elementary school reading textbooks