NORTH CRAWFORD - After failing to reach consensus on appointment of a new school board member to fill the seat vacated by Tanya Forkash at their last meeting, the board acted to appoint Jill Stefonek to the seat. The other candidate for the position, Paul Nicholson, did not attend the board’s meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 18. Stefonek will have to file nomination papers again in December to be on the ballot for the spring election.
The board also acted to approve a preliminary 2019-2020 budget which will be presented for approval to residents of the school district at the upcoming budget hearing and annual meeting. Those meetings are scheduled to take place on Monday, Sept. 30. The budget hearing will begin a 6 p.m., with the annual meeting to follow.
Superintendent Brandon Munson gave an overview of the budget to the board. He said 2019-20 revenues will be up $34,000 over 2018-19, for a total of just under $6.5 million. The district is projected to receive $150,000 more in categorical aid from the State of Wisconsin.
In expenses, Munson reported, there were noticeable increases in elementary education and special education, both mainly due to increases in staffing. The elementary increases have to do with the fact that the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) actually views North Crawford School District as two schools – elementary and high school. Due to a definitional change for the 2019-20 school year, the middle school is no longer grouped with the high school, so those teaching staff are now included with the elementary school budget. This has resulted in a $120,000 increase in elementary school expenses, and a $140,000 decrease in high school expenses.
The special education budget also saw increases. The total budget for special education is $1,192,000, with a $30,000 increase in staff salaries and a $64,000 increase in staff support salaries and benefits. Because DPI does not allow districts to operate their special education programs at a deficit, each year the district transfers funds from the general fund (Fund 10) to special education (Fund 27). Last year the district transferred $719,000, and this year they will transfer just under $800,000.
Munson said the district is projecting that revenues will be down in the foodservice program, and expenses will be up. The community service portion of the budget reflects expenses relating to paying the district’s portion of the salary for the school resource officer and offering summer recreation programs.
Middle School/High School Principal Toby Tripalin gave a presentation to the board about an instructional management suite program he was encouraging them to contract for called ‘Hapara.’ After listening to Tripalin’s presentation, and hearing positive feedback from Director of Student Services Cara Wood about the tool, the board voted to approve a three-year contract in the amount of $3,998.40. Approving the three year contract results in a $999.40 savings over contracting for just one year.
Tripalin explained that with all the benefits to instruction from providing students with chrome books and accessing online resources, there were also challenges presented. Those challenges relate to the teacher’s and district’s ability to monitor what sites students are actually visiting during class time.
“The students have perfected the art of being able to quickly minimize a window when a teacher appoaches so that it appears they are on the site needed to complete their assignments,” Tripalin explained. “This suite will allow the teacher to be able to monitor what site students are on in real time, from their desk and will also allow me to monitor what is happening in the classrooms.”
Tripalin said the suite would also allow teachers to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of each individual student. He said it can also help with substitute teachers because the suite allows teachers to give students assignments.
“We hope that employment of this management suite will reinforce digital citizenship and responsible web use in our classrooms,” Tripalin said.
In the District Showcase portion of the agenda, Munson chose to feature the ‘model educators’ in the district. The model educator program, which is a development and corresponding compensation program for teaching staff in the district was approved by the board and launched in the 2018-19 school year.
Early in the first year, three teachers successfully achieved the model educator designation in the district as program pilots. Those three were Spanish teacher Jessica Wick; social studies teacher Jessica Gander; and Library Media Specialist Liz Bransky.
Later in the year, nine more teachers successfully completed the program. Those teachers were secondary English teacher Karen Brandl; second grade teacher Amy Anderson; kindergarten teacher Sue Klema; first grade teacher Rebecca Molledhal; third grade tacher Jean Ottaway; reading specialist Sue Presser; mathematics teacher Eileen Robel; five-year-old kindergarten teacher Bethany Seiser; and first grade teacher Amanda Wedeberg.
Four more teachers have enrolled in the program for the coming school year. The district is staggering implementation of the program, which requires two years teaching experience in the district and a total of eight years teaching experience, over several years.
The teachers achieving the model educator designation display going above and beyond in four categories:
• excellence in classroom instruction;
• leadership outside the classroom;
• growth and development;
“Most of the work these teachers have done to achieve the model educator designation happens outside of their regular classroom work,” Munson explained. “We thank the twelve individuals who have undertaken the challenge for the leadership they’ve displayed.”
Board member Judy Powell asked some of the model educators present at the meeting if they thought that going through the process had made them a better teacher.
“Going through the process has caused me to think about things in a different way, and see what the opportunities to grow are,” Sue Presser responded.
“I have been able to better assess my own strengths and weaknesses and see where my opportunities for growth are,” Amy Anderson said.
Board president Mary Kuhn seemed enthusiastic about the program.
“It is awesome that we have so many teachers participating,” Kuhn said. “It is really nice for us to be able to recognize all your hard work.”
In other business, the board:
• heard that Amanda Killeen had secured a DPI grant for $10,000 to assess whether the district’s instructional materials are high quality;
• heard from Toby Tripalin that the Xello Program would replace ‘Career Cruising,’ and career development will be a program that builds from sixth through twelfth grade, including a mandatory careers class for freshmen;
• heard that the board retreat will be scheduled to take place in early October;
• approved the Support Staff, Professional Staff and Teacher Compensation Handbooks;• approved the eighth grade trip to Washington D.C., which will take place from May 11-16, 2020.