Hancock calls for trust from the community

The Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) School Board met last night.  Six teachers were recognized for attaining their National Board certification, as well as football coach Jed Kennedy from Bradford High School for coaching the State championship team.

There were two citizens’ comments:  One parent wanted to know the difference between policy and practices.  He also made the board aware that kids don’t have enough time to eat their lunch when they are taken outside for 15 minutes of their 30-minute lunch period.  Another citizen spoke on the significant events of the past year:  the dissolution of the mediation agreement with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Hispanic administrators leaving the district, and minors being questioned by police regarding gang activity without their parents or a lawyer being present.

Superintendent Michele Hancock gave a PowerPoint presentation entitled, “Reality, Trust and Our Children.”  She stated that she wanted to answer the community’s questions, clear up some misconceptions, and quell some rumors.  “How did we get here?”  There were internal factors such as the fact that “we didn’t tighten our belts, we didn’t align staff with the student enrollments, we didn’t evaluate program effectiveness and expenditures, and we didn’t develop budgets based on actuals and rolled the numbers from year to year as a standard.”  External factors included:  the economy, reductions in Federal and State funding, a reduction in the per pupil amount, and health insurance costs.  Salaries and benefits make up 93% of the budget.

Hancock stated that she has been criticized for her lack of focus on Hispanic and African Americans, and she has been criticized for her focus on the same groups.  She stated that she has a genuine caring for every child and educator in the district.  Hancock said, “You need to trust that we will do what’s right by our children.  We must look at the content of our character and the color of our hearts.  I have faith in the community.  I am asking for the community to have faith and trust in me.”

Next year’s deficit is projected at $28 million.  The breakdown is $20 million due to salary and benefits, and $8.2 million to replace the fund balance being used.  With the poor economy, flat enrollment, no firm dollars for State aid, we must increase our fund balance.  “Do you realize that $8 million is two weeks of our operating costs?” Hancock asked the audience of about 75 people.  Hancock stated that there is more information out there on the KUSD website than has ever been shared in the past.

Twenty-four district employees have been appointed to KUSD’s Budget Council.  In January, Hancock promised that information would be shared to help close the financial gap.  Several quotes were displayed in Hancock’s presentation:  “We need to budget in present-day dollars in order to budget effectively (Margaret Roza).  We must participate in goal re-aligning and re-allocating dollars wisely.  Not just cut, we must use it wisely (James Langlois).”

Hancock said that people want the school to improve, but they’re not willing to make any changes.  “Only wet babies like change,” she said.  “Change is coming to Kenosha; it has to.  We also must stop playing ‘The Blame Game.’  Rumors need to stop.  It’s going to take all of us working together to correct this.  I need your genuine authentic support.  We must re-think education for the 21st century.”

Class sizes were reviewed.  “The public has been brainwashed into believing that class sizes need to be kept small in order to be effective,” Hancock stated.  “However, if you look at the the Student/Teacher Achievement Ratio (STAR) Project which took place in Tennessee in the 1980’s, you’ll see that class size has no real effect on student achievement.”  Hancock also urged the audience to check out the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) program.  “Capable teachers can teach well in large classes.”

Hancock asked the audience, “What is the color of your heart?”  In January, we will be looking at quite a few changes.

In other business conducted at the meeting, the consent agenda was approved:

  • The waiver for the Kenosha Achievement Center’s Day Service Program’s use of Jane Vernon Pool was approved unanimously ($166);
  • Policy/Rule 3420 – Purchasing, was approved, adding an additional signer, and lowering the amount that the budget manager and the assistant superintendent can approve from $50,00o to $25,000;
  • Policy 6300 – Curriculum Development and Improvement and Administrative Regulation, was approved with a slight change.  The phrase “and School Board” was deleted due to the discussion that ensued.  Mary Snyder, School President, said, “If every addition and curriculum change were to come before the Board, we’d  never get another book or curriculum passed.”  The Board felt that they hired the superintendent, and she should be allowed to do her job.
  • Policy and Rule 6621 – Interlibrary Loan Procedures, was approved, deleting outdated language;
  • Patrick Finnemore, director of facilities, spoke briefly on the proposed charter school relocations.  Alternative locations at Indian Trail Academy for the Infant Lab Program will be reviewed.
  • Donations to the district were read and approved; and
  • The CDO lawsuit agreement was approved, giving the superintendent the authority to sign any tentative agreement.

To read more details about the above items which were discussed at the Standing Committee meetings two weeks ago, click here:  Three KUSD Schools to Relocate, and KUSD Standing Committees Report.



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