NORTH CRAWFORD - With the long delay and final passage of the state budget the prior week, financial issues featured prominently on the North Crawford School Board’s agenda at their meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27.
District business manager Demetri Andrews reported that the state budget, signed by Governor Walker the prior week, resulted in a $200 per pupil increase in categorical aid the district would receive. This will mean an additional $90,000 for the district. Sparsity aid for rural school districts did not increase, and stayed at $300 per pupil.
Two programs that would have encouraged districts to share staff and increase consolidation were not approved in the final budget – Whole Grade Sharing, and Shared Services Aid Program. Andrews reported that these programs, if they had been approved, had potential to have realized the district additional revenues.
Finally, Andrews reported that having held their annual meeting on Monday, Sept. 25, the district would be updating their budget, and would set the levy in October.
School district superintendent Brandon Munson reported that in the district’s 2017-18 Membership Report, the district was up by five full time equivalents (FTE) after summer school attendance had been factored into the count.
"Membership" refers to a counting methodology defined as enrollment adjusted for full-time equivalency (FTE). In Wisconsin, 40,000 minutes of attendance is equivalent to one FTE.
Districts count membership at three distinct times during the school year: summer; the third Friday in September; and the second Friday in January.
Andrews reported that the district traditionally shows seven FTEs, but this year had 12 due to the increase from summer school and a bump in the current year from move ins. This number is important as it has an impact on the state general aid the district receives.
Munson reported that the district had budgeted and planned for a needed upgrade in their computer server. He had recently learned that it would be possible to defer the lump sum purchase with a three-year, zero percent interest lease, where the district would make annual payments. The board approved signing the three-year lease.
In additional financial news, Munson reported that the water abatement project in the track area had been completed, on-budget; and the district’s three spare buses had been sold for a good price.
The ‘fun’ part of the agenda came in as reports about some of the programs lined up for the students this school year.
Elementary school principal Julie Kruizenga kicked off discussion of fun with a video from North Crawford graduate David Daniels, previewing the ‘Colossal Fossils’ presentation he would bring on October 10.
The You Tube trailer would be shown to students to whip up excitement for the coming travelling dinosaur exhibit, with a possibility of a second video if the first is well received. The staff plans to show the students the video, and follow up with reading dinosaur books and telling dinosaur jokes.
Kruizenga reported that the Ned Yo-Yo project had gone well, with yo-yo sales higher than expected.
Middle and high school principal Toby Tripalin reported that the board, staff, parents, and community could expect to see more robust activity on the district’s Facebook page this school year.
A select group of students from Karen Brandl’s social media class have been empowered to manage the district’s page, and Tripalin reports that “the analytics look good.”
Preliminary numbers seem to indicate that changes to the district’s foodservice program are being appreciated by the students. Munson reports that one of the new aspects of the foodservice program is for the staff to spend time out in the dining room soliciting student feedback on menu items.
“There have already been adjustments to the menu made in response to student feedback,” Munson reported. “On one or two items, the staff heard the students say that a menu item should never be served again, and those have been replaced.”
Perhaps, the most unique and fun thing on the board’s agenda was agreement to purchase a partially built ‘kit airplane,’ to be completed by students in the Tech Ed classes under the direction of new Tech Ed teacher Aaron Keenlance.
The kit plane was made available through the Experimental Aircraft Association as a donation to a school district. The kits are typically purchased new by wealthier individuals, and these donors can realize a charitable tax credit from making the donation.
The partially built kit is being accepted “as-is,” and when completed, will be sold the same way to protect the district from any potential liabilities. The finished plane has the potential to be worth $11-12,000. Keenlance estimates that the plane can be completed by the students in several years. When complete, the plane will measure 22 feet wide and 19 feet long.
Staff issues were also a big topic on the board’s agenda. The biggest development was the provision included in the state budget just-passed regarding teacher licensing.
Wisconsin teachers that hold professional or master licenses now have lifetime educator licenses. The recently passed state budget eliminated the professional development requirements educators had to complete to renew their licenses.
To keep lifetime licenses valid, teachers have to be teaching and submit a background check every five years.
Prior to the state budget, professional development requirements varied for educators depending upon their license type, but they included things like taking six credits of undergraduate or graduate course work or completing a Professional Development Plan.
Munson reports that as a result of this provision in the state budget, the board can expect to see a fair number of teaching staff come before them in upcoming meetings to be approved for lifetime licenses. Munson was quick to emphasize that a “lifetime” license in no way means “a teacher in the district for life,” and that teaching staff will still be required to perform against district teaching standards.
Julie Kruizenga presented the Special Education Seclusion and Restraint Report, and stated that in the prior school year there had been two restraints involving the same student on both occasions. She also reported that in the coming weeks, two staff members would attend CESA non-violence trainings.
Tripalin reported that the new early release staff development sessions had an impressive first kick-off, with highly productive dialogues occurring between teachers. He expects this approach will continue to develop positively throughout the school year, and to yield tangible positive results.
Munson reported that things were going well in the counseling area, with new school counselor Zoe Ellerbusch doing a great job of establishing relationships with students and parents.
The superintendent reported that there would be an upcoming program featuring a Vernon County Project for middle school students. The program will focus on decision-making and coping mechanisms for students in grades 6-8 about drugs and alcohol. There will be a speaker that will present to middle and high school students who has lost her daughter to a heroin overdose. The program will be highly integrated with the guidance staff, who will be prepared to respond as-needed.
The board approved the resignation of Angela Visgar, cheerleading advisor; and approved hiring a bus driver for route #14; Corinne Gunderson as fall cheerleading advisor; and Rob Ghormley, Camille Smith, Paul Kota, John Tully and Aaron Keenlance as the fall playhouse staff.
In other business, the North Crawford School Board:
• held a discussion about board goals for the year, with presentation and approval expected at the October meeting;
• was informed that students were working feverishly on their floats for the homecoming parade;
• learned that a JJ Watt Foundation Award would pay for purchase of new uniforms for middle school volleyball, basketball, wrestling and football;
• heard a $75 donation to the school was made by an employee of Community First Bank, who is a North Crawford graduate.