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Seneca district report card explained
Seneca School District

SENECA - The latest school ‘report card’ for the Seneca Area School District issued by the Wisconsin Department of Instruction required some explanation at the school board meeting held on Monday, Nov. 18.

Overall, the school district scored 69.4 and was deemed by the DPI to be ‘meeting expectations,’ district administrator Dave Boland told the board.

Boland went on to explain that the results of standardized testing used to rate the district indicated the junior high school ‘exceeds expectations’ and the senior high school was just one point from ‘exceeding expectations.’ However, the DPI’s ‘school report card’ reported that the elementary school meets few expectations.

The report card noted the elementary students’ achievement score (70.7), which was above the state average (65). However, the DPI indicated there was not enough ‘growth’ in the achievement scores.

Because the school has 58 percent of the students qualifying for free and reduced lunches, growth in achievement scores is weighted more than the achievement score itself. The growth the scores showed was not the 52 percent needed to be achieved by the standards DPI applied to schools with high free and reduced lunch numbers.

Seneca School Board President Mark Johnson was quick to say he was more concerned with the achievement demonstrated than any perceived lack of growth. Board member Larry Kelley also took exception with the report card’s conclusion.

“So, if we had the same score and 25 percent or less of the students on free and reduced lunches, we would have ‘exceeded expectations.’ That’s ridiculous,” Kelley said.

“This is not really a red flag for us if our achievement score is 70,” Johnson added.

Boland noted the district did very well on the DPI special education audit.

Liability paid off

Earlier in the meeting, the board decided to pay off the unfunded liability associated with a conversion of pensions from a state-administered plan to another plan that occurred years ago. Boland told the board that it would take another three years of regular payments to pay off the debt. 

However, the debt could be immediately retired by using $125,317 from the district’s fund balance in combination with the $32,000 already levied in this year’s budget, Boland explained. Paying it off would save the interest payments and offer the district more flexibility in next year’s budget.

Kelley noted the fund balance was large enough to afford the payoff at this point.

Board member Charles Clark asked if there were other big projects that needed to be addressed.

Boland said the gym ceiling would have to be fixed, but the district was not ready to do the project at this point. Contractors needed to be contacted.

Johnson moved to pay off the unfunded liability with money from the general fund balance. Kelley seconded it and board approved it.

In other business, the Seneca Area School Board:

• approved eight requests for Start College Now (for two-year schools) and one request for Early College Credit (for four-year schools)-these requests were formerly known as Youth Options

• okayed the 2020 senior class trip to St. Louis

• approved the purchase of an eight-passenger Chevy Traverse from the Fillback dealership for $28,292

• decided to give the Seneca Area School District Monthly Award to the fall sports programs for the excellent year they enjoyed–including Seneca volleyball coached by Jessica Dworschack; Seneca-Wauzeka-Steuben football coached by Justin Goodrich; and Seneca cross country coached by Cody Sime