Dr. Michele Hancock announces a bit of good news

At tonight’s KUSD Board meeting, Dr. Michele Hancock, Superintendent, addressed the Board and approximately 125 people in the audience.  First of all, she reported about the news that just hit tonight.  The Security Exchange Commission took action against the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), who has agreed to pay $30.4 million to settle federal civil charges of misleading five Wisconsin school districts that lost $200 million invested in risky securities.  The KUSD was one of those school districts.  Click here for the entire story, as reported by CBS News:  http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/09/27/ap/business/main20112537.shtml.

Then Hancock made a presentation entitled “A New Way of Business.”  The quote from Albert Einstein that began the presentation was:  “You can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”  Hancock said that, in her 36 years in education, she has not had to struggle and make difficult cuts as she has in this job.  She stated that “we need to understand the past in order to move effectively in the future.”

Then, she took the audience through a history of education, starting back in the days of Thomas Jefferson, in 1780, when he created the first statewide, two track system of public education (for boys).  One track led to the laborers (the doer’s), and the other track led to the learned (the thinkers).  The Agricultural Age in the 19th century had natural resources at its center, which cultivated only a handful of learned.  Next came the Industrial Age in the 20th century.  At its center was generated power, complex machines, and the industrial organization.  And, now we are in the Knowledge Age, in the 21st century.  The learned group is a lot larger now than the laboring group.  It has been reversed from prior centuries.  There is now a broken relationship between the schools and the businesses.  Hancock distributed a one-page document entitled, “The List,” which outlined all of the educational items which have been added to schools over the years, starting back to 1900.  “Decade after decade, we are doing more with less,” she stated.  Click here to see a copy of “The List:”  The List.

Hancock is looking ahead.  Her goal is to “stabilize finances and educate the children to the best of our ability.”  The challenges KUSD faces which affect the 2011-12 budget are decreased state funding, the collective bargaining agreement, fixed operating expenses, and a decrease in per pupil funding.  The successes KUSD can be proud of are the continued higher graduation rate than most urban districts in Wisconsin, unprecedented budget reduction, and a new 21-member Budget Council, which will be giving quarterly financial reports to the committees.  Obviously, she didn’t ask for this.  “This is a fine and awesome school district.”

Hancock commented that “schools need to change to meet the needs of the 21st century.”  Another quote:  “Almost everyone wants schools to be better, but not many want schools to be different.”  The quality of life is tied to the quality of schools.  We need to prepare the students for 2020, 2030, and 2040.  One of the three goals for the district is to secure monetary resources, to generate revenue for the school system, and not just through grants.  “We are looking at operating processes:  administrators, secretaries, superintendents.”  Hancock stated that “I didn’t mind giving back to keep the system whole.”

Hancock gave an example of why the Board has started using Ipads.  The district spends $230,000 on paper, $490,000 on copier costs, $190,000 on toner/ink, and $265,000 on printing/copying, for a total for printed materials of $1,175,000.  The on-line text books will save a tremendous amount of money.  She stated that “she has never complained about what was handed to her.”  She views this as opportunities to do things differently.  She has communicated passion and heart for the 23,000 students in the district.  The district is using the same operating budget from four years ago.  “Yes, we are being asked to do more with less.”

Her closing statements were:  “I have heard you, as the superintendent.  At the end of the day, we can’t lose sight of what the students need.  Give me time.  Allow me to prove to you that we will do things financially different.  I’m asking for your support and patience.  My commitment to you is to create a win/win, and not a lose/lose.”

In other business, the Board also unanimously approved the Kenosha eSchool charter contract renewal, and the refinancing of taxable G. O. refunding bonds which were issued in 2002.  This will save the district over $400,000 in interest from 2013 to 2018.  This is Fund 38 debt; therefore, any debt service savings would provide additional dollars for operations.

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