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Platteville to change principal
Moves reduce budget deficit, but may only be for 201516
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The Platteville School Board solved one-third of its initially projected $300,000 budget deficit Monday night.

Platteville Public Schools’ health insurers settled another one-third.

That leaves a projected $100,000 deficit the school district needs to eliminate by the beginning of the 2015–16 school year, if the state’s proposed 2015–17 budget is passed in its initial form.

The projected $300,000 deficit was the result of a decrease in state aid and keeping the per-pupil revenue cap at its present level, which meant the school district would have to cut up to $300,000 in the next school year — almost 1.9 percent of the school district’s projected 2015--16 budget, projected at $15.9 million under the proposed revenue caps.

That deficit was shaved by one-third after projections from the school district’s health insurers revealed steady premiums for next school year, saving the school district $100,000.

The next $100,000 came from the School Board’s approving shifting of some administrator responsibilities with the retirement of Westview Elementary School principal Don Shaw, possibly only for next school year.

Assessment coordinator Lisa Finnegan, formerly the principal at Platteville Middle School, will replace Shaw at Westview. Neal Wilkins Early Learning Center principal Kris Brown will add Finnegan’s role as technology director.

“I think it will be difficult to get by without it, and it may be a one-year deal until we figure out what our grade configuration is,” said PPS superintendent Connie Valenza of having Finnegan and Brown in dual roles. “I feel comfortable with this staffing arrangement with the people that are on our staffing team today.”

The length of Finnegan’s and Brown’s new roles is likely to depend on the fate of the April 7 building referendum. The $15 million referendum would fund $16.6 million of projects at the school district’s four buildings, including renovations to Westview to move first grade from Neal Wilkins and fourth grade from PMS to Westview. If the referendum is approved, Neal Wilkins would have Early Childhood, 4-year-old kindergarten and kindergarten, and Westview would have grades one through four.

Finnegan was PMS principal for six years, after having been Platteville High School assistant principal. Finnegan was named PHS assistant principal and the school district’s assessment and technology coordinator in November 2013 as part of staff and policy changes in the wake of a complaint from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.

The changes included naming Neal Wilkins principal ReNah Reuter the school district’s director of student achievement and intervention services. Shaw replaced Reuter as Neal Wilkins principal the rest of the 2013–14 school year before Brown was hired.

Finnegan, meanwhile, was then named the school district’s technology coordinator upon the retirements of the school district’s two IT staff.

The proposed budget would eliminate $218,000 in categorical aid, $150 per pupil, which the school district has received this and the previous school year. The school district would get $165 per student in a different form categorical aid in the 2016–17 school year, but the net loss would be $135 per student over the 2015–16 and 2016–17 school years, Valenza said.

The proposed state budget also maintains the current per-student revenue cap over the next two school years. The revenue cap increased $150 per student during the 2013–15 state budget cycle, which allowed the school district to increase its tax levy.

The school district made another personnel move tied to shifts in enrollment, issuing a preliminary notice of nonrenewal to sixth-grade teacher Michael Ferwerda.

The school district plans to eliminate one section of first grade and one section of sixth grade next year, while adding a section of fifth grade and a high school math teacher. The additional math teacher is because of increasing graduation requirements beginning with the PHS Class of 2017.

Valenza said Ferwerda’s nonrenewal was “in the old world what you’d call a layoff.” The nonrenewal could be rescinded in case of future staff changes such as retirements, she said.