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North Crawford Board discusses security and staff compensation
North Crawford

NORTH CRAWFORD - School security and a new teacher compensation model were two big topics at the regularly scheduled meeting of the North Crawford School Board on Wednesday, June 20.

Superintendent Brandon Munson reported that North Crawford School District anticipates the award of two $20,000 school safety grants as part of Wisconsin’s $100 million School Safety Grant Initiative from the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

“We’ve already made a lot of the kinds of upgrades to school safety that the grant can pay for such as locks on classrooms and outside doors,” Munson said. “We plan to use the ‘primary’ portion of the grant to pay for security film to be installed on outside doors and classroom door windows, and then the ‘secondary’ part of the grant, a total of $40,000, will be used for me, Toby Tripalin, Amanda Killeen (new Elementary School Principal) and Harry Heisz to attend ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) Training in Sun Prairie.”

Munson explained that the security film on windows is not bulletproof, but what it does is to prevent glass from shattering in the event that there is trauma to it, such as a bullet being shot at it.

“If a bullet were to be shot through the glass with the security film on it, there would be a bullet hole but the glass would not shatter,” Munson said.

Munson went on to explain that the team of four staff members that would attend the ALICE training in Sun Prairie would come back with ‘trainer’ certification, which would allow them to train and mentor the rest of the North Crawford staff. In addition, Munson told the board that the district also plans to collaborate with the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department to provide training to the students.

Approval to join with Seneca and Wauzeka-Steuben School Districts, and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department in hiring a school resource officer to be in each school a couple of days per week was also provided by the board.

“The officer won’t be mainly an armed guard in the school,” Munson stated. “The role we envision is for the individual hired to develop a rapport with the students, help us to review our security procedures, and be part of our ALICE training.”

Munson explained that the funds for the position, between $20,000 and $30,000 per year, would come out of the Fund 80 from the school’s tax levy, and not from the district’s budget. Because the district has applied for and received a 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant for $115,000, which will fund their ‘Beyond the Bell’ afterschool program, this will free up the $30,000 the District has been levying for the program.

Teacher compensation

A committee of school administrative staff and teachers recently completed an 18-month-long process to develop a new teacher compensation model for the school, which will roll out with the 2018-19 school year. The committee was composed of Brandon Munson, Demetri Andrews, Toby Tripalin, Julie Kruizenga, Mary Kuhn, Terry ODonnell, Jesse Swenson, Amy Geary, Kyle Oldenburg, Jessica Gander, Jessica Wick, Rob Ghormley, Liz Bransky and Holly Jones.

The new model was unanimously approved by the board, with board member Jim Dworschack abstaining from the discussion and vote.

“The teacher compensation model North Crawford has used for many years was not meeting the needs of the 40 percent of our teachers who are licensed under the new Professional Development Plan (PDP) state licensing model,” Munson explained. “Since the State of Wisconsin has basically washed their hands of teacher licensing and put the responsibility onto the school districts, we want to put in place a model which ensures that our teachers are constantly developing and growing themselves.”

In addition, Munson explained, he wants to put in place a teacher compensation model that makes it easier for teachers to advance up the pay ladder, better serves the District as a recruitment and retention tool, and creates a top tier of pay to reward teachers that go above and beyond the basic exemplary level of classroom instruction in their job responsibilities.

The new model has four tiers: Initial Educator (years one and two), Developing Educator (3-5 years), Professional Educator (6+ years), and Model Educator (8 years plus demonstration of going above and beyond).

“In this new model, the starting pay is a little higher than in the previous model, the upper end is higher, and no teacher will take a pay cut in the transition,” Munson said. “The real advantage to teacher development and pay comes in the two middle tiers, which allow for faster advancement than the old model. This model still doesn’t make us one of the highest paying districts, but it does take North Crawford out of the bottom ten percent.”

The new four-tiered compensation model includes four key criteria for teachers to advance into the top level of pay in the District, called the ‘Model Educator’ tier. This tier of pay is designed to reward teachers who have taught for a total of eight years (a minimum of two in the district) who have demonstrated a commitment ‘above and beyond exemplary classroom instruction.’

There are a variety of activities teachers can use to demonstrate this, both during the regular school workday and outside of it, such as mentoring other teachers, sitting on committees, taking responsibility for a club, community engagement, and more.

“We are rolling out the program this school year with four teachers, who if approved by the committee of Demetri Andrews, Toby Tripalin, and Amanda Killeen, will then serve as mentors for a second batch of 12 teachers this coming school year and 13 the year after that,” Munson explained. “Unlike the usual timeframe where a teacher would have a full year to prepare their materials for a ‘Model Educator’ review, these four teachers will have just one month to assemble their materials.”

The materials required are referred to in the new plan as the teacher’s ‘Professional Portfolio,’ designed to demonstrate their eligibility according to the four criteria specified in the plan: Exemplary Classroom Instruction, Professional Collaboration, Professional Growth and Development, and Leadership.

“We’ve been very transparent in rolling this out to the teachers, and Demetri and I have met with each teacher individually to explain the plan and where they’re at in it,” Munson said. “It’s something of a cultural shift for some of the teachers that were teaching under the old union system, and we’ve had a few spirited discussions, but by and large we have received very positive feedback.”

Munson stated that the development committee had tasked themselves with developing a model that was both financially feasible and sustainable.

“We are proceeding with implementing this model which will ultimately produce an additional $100,000 in staff salaries because of increases in state funding and large reductions in our staff healthcare expense,” Munson explained. “We think that the state will maintain a stable level of state aid, which increased for our district this school year by $90,000, even if we don’t see increases in the coming years. In addition, the district will see a $200,000 decrease in health insurance expenses as a result of joining the M3 Insurance Cooperative offered by CESA-3. We feel strongly this is a budget priority to allow us to pay our teachers better, retain our teachers, and better position us for recruitment.”

Munson congratulated the individuals who participated in the development process for the new model.

“It was very challenging, sometimes the debate became heated, but it was never disrespectful, and in the end we developed a tool that will be very effective for the district and good for the students,” the superintendent said.

Propane and after school

It might seem odd to link discussion of the school’s propane contract and its after school ‘Beyond the Bell’ program. But that’s a great indicator of the magnitude of the good news for the district, which has once again applied for and received grant funding for an expanded after school program which will include transportation.

“We contracted for 9,000 gallons (of propane) last year at $1.32.9, and with summer school we came up just a little short,” said North Crawford Transportation Supervisor Jerred Powell. “This year, if we’re going to provide transportation both for ‘Beyond the Bell’ and summer school, then we’re probably going to need between 14,000 to 15,000 gallons.”

The district is currently paying summer fill prices of $1.85.9, and will contract for the upcoming year at $1.39.9, a seven-cent increase.

Receipt of the five-year grant for ‘Beyond the Bell’ will allow the district to ramp the after school program back up from the skeleton program they’ve been running for the last few years and provide transportation.

Tripalin’s report

Middle School/High School Principal Toby Tripalin submitted a report to the board detailing various ‘end-of-the-school-year’ successes, and an exciting conference he attended this summer.

“The Washington D.C. trip was an amazing experience for staff and students alike. Our students were a very good reflection on our school and community by the way they conducted themselves for the week that we were there,” Tripalin wrote. “The students were truly engaged in learning about our forefathers and the historical events that are memorialized in D.C.”

Tripalin also wrote enthusiastically about student participation in a ‘Community Service Day’ held the last week of school. Students worked on projects at the school (painting picnic tables, organizing storage spaces, school garden, art room, etc…), and numerous projects in the community including volunteer groups at Driftless Organics, roadside clean-up, mulching in Gays Mills, Lions Park and the Community Pool.

“Our students made a difference and it was thrilling to see the pride they took when they did these activities,” the principal noted.

When they returned from volunteering our Student Leadership Team and Middle School Student Council helped to design activities that emphasized teamwork, collaboration and varied skill sets to compete in a friendly way.

Lastly, Tripalin reported on a conference he attended this summer that gave some very insightful and usable approaches that will help new teachers’ transition more easily into their new roles.

“The conference provided numerous resources, and we as educators saw firsthand how these techniques and strategies can be taught to our new employees,” Tripalin wrote. “I am excited to infuse some of these ideas into our mentor program and make it even better than it already was.”

Other business

In other business, the North Crawford School Board:

• approved installation of a new floor in the walk-in cooler in the kitchen.

•  approved increasing Special Education Assistant Camille Smith’s hours from 28 to 32 to allow her to take on student assessment responsibilities.

• heard that the district’s business insurance premium will decrease by $10,043 due to having gone three years without a worker’s compensation claim.

• scheduled their next meeting for Wednesday, July 18, and a special meeting on Monday, July 23 for the annual evaluation of the superintendent.