KUSD standing committee meetings report
Patrick Finnemore, director of facilities, gave a summer project summary. The budget for major maintenance for this year was cut from $1.5 million to $100,000, leaving only enough money for emergency repairs. Three leased charter school locations (former locations for Brompton, Harborside and Paideia) were closed, and the contents were emptied prior to the leases expiring on June 30th. In addition, most of the furniture and equipment at McKinley Middle School has been relocated to other schools in the district, primarily the other five boundary middle schools. There is a strong likelihood that the district may have a closed auction/sale later in the year on a portion of the items that still have value but are no longer needed due to the closure of all four sites.
A new infant lab was constructed by the KUSD facilities department in the southwest corner of the first floor at Indian Trail High School (ITHS). KUSD facilities staff also performed all of the work associated with closing in the two-story commons space at ITHS.
The major components of the construction activities at Jane Vernon Elementary School were the creation of three classrooms in the place where multiple small rooms were once located, the creation of a main office for Brompton, and the renovation of an old multipurpose room to create a lunchroom/kitchen for Vernon.
The work done at Reuther Central High School to accommodate the new Harborside Academy and Paideia was the largest project ever tackled completely in-house by the KUSD facilities department. The scope of work included major changes to all three floors and the basement at Reuther. Numerous walls were removed, new walls were constructed, major plumbing and electrical changes were made, and hundreds of lockers were relocated from McKinley and painted to match the existing lockers at Reuther.
Also, this summer, an emergency generator was replaced at Bradford High School. In addition, new electrical service was installed at Bose Elementary at the request of WE Energies, with all of the funding coming from WE Energies.
Masonry improvements continued at the former Lincoln Elementary School. Window air conditioning units were removed from Harborside,
Paideia, and McKinley and relocated to seven of the eight classrooms in the west wing at Wilson Elementary School. New gym lighting was also installed at the Edward Bain School of Language Arts (EBSOLA). Finnemore said that “it made a dramatic difference.”
Problems with parents dropping off and picking up students at EBSOLA and Brompton were also discussed. Parent meetings and instructions seem to have alleviated the problems.
The construction of two new dugouts at Tremper High School was funded completely by donations. These will be completed this fall, and it is anticipated that Tremper will be playing their home games on the school campus next spring. KUSD will continue to improve the athletic facilities as funds become available. The most notable remaining projects include the construction of a
football/soccer/track stadium at Bradford, the replacement of the bleacher system at Ameche Field, and the replacement of the track at Tremper. These are all high cost projects that will need to be studied in detail and weighed against other needs in the district. The Bradford stadium project has been evaluated in detail, but a funding source has not been identified to date.
Jeff Valeri commented that the Ameche bleachers are a significant safety hazard. Finnemore said that, if any modifications are made to the bleachers, they would need to be replaced.
And, finally, Finnemore gave an update on the utility budget and energy savings program. It is very early in the year, but Finnemore said that the district is off to a good start with energy savings around 30% from base year to actual. Only one building is behind the previous year, KTEC, mainly because of the construction masonry projects which occurred there this past summer.
Future agenda items will include revised policies and a class size space utilization study due to the closing of McKinley. Finnemore also plans to bring the project plan for next summer to the January meeting.
Audit/Budget/Finance Committee Meeting
The committee approved the request from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Kenosha County, Inc., for a waiver of user rental fees ($288) for the Reuther High School auditorium on Saturday, September 15, 2012, for a
performance of Pieces in My Own Voice, which depicts the lives of people living with mental health diagnosis. The custodial fee of $117.99 is not being waived.
Tina Schmitz, chief financial officer, presented information on the monthly financial statements, a summary of grant activity, and the fiscal year 2013 budget. Schmitz said that these were preliminary statements, and that the audit was not yet complete. She reported that the district ended the year better than they thought. An $8.2 million deficit called for $3.4 million in reductions, and these were met and exceeded, even doubled. Special education expenses and $2.5 million in additional revenue in Medicaid were the two main reasons for the increased savings.
Bob Nuzzo, school board member, commended Schmitz on the wonderful job she is doing. “You have really stepped up to the plate. If you didn’t hit a home run, you hit a triple with three men on,” he said.
The grant summary showed $3 million less than last year. Schmitz said that not all grant awards are in yet. “There are still awards out there that we are continuing to pursue. As the grants are awarded, we will update the budget,” she said.
The 2013 budget included the assumptions, the February and July reductions, the decrease in federal grants, the latest estimates from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and state aid, and the expected levy, the reductions in staff, and the contract increases. It is planned to put $4 million into the fund balance. “This will bring it to a level where we were a few years ago,” Schmitz said. “Obviously, it’s not where we want to be. Tomorrow evening, I will be distributing a handout which will give more detail. These are very preliminary numbers. We won’t get the DPI numbers and the equalized values until October.”
John Aceto commented that the borrowing costs are based on the amount of money the district has in its fund balance. “Your work and conservatism will eventually boost up the fund balance and keep our borrowing costs down. This is an important part of the school district.” Phil Kent agreed. “Keeping the $7 million and not spending it on teacher salaries is better off for the district. It’s important to have our fiscal house in order,” he said.
In regards to short-term borrowing, Schmitz said that the this year the district needs $46 million vs. $49 million last year. The reason is how the revenue streams come in from the state and the levies. They come in five times during the year. This year, the district has a rating on its promissory note, something the district did not have in the last four years. The district has the highest rating possible, A1. “This is based on how Moody’s sees the district recovering. It’s all due to a change in leadership and the control on spending. It will help our borrowing costs, about $50,000 in savings. I’m very pleased,” said Schmitz. Again, Nuzzo thanked Schmitz for her success, and David Gallo, another board member, agreed with him. Schmitz again pointed to superintendent Michele Hancock’s strong leadership and the fact that “all of us have tightened our belts and took the budget to heart.” Aceto said that “this will help the perception of the district in this community.”
Future agenda items will include an update on the other post-employment benefits (OPEB) liability and the collateralized debt obligation (CDO).
Dr. Sue Savaglio-Jarvis, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, along with Kristopher Keckler, executive director of information systems, data management and evaluation, gave a presentation entitled “Every Child a Graduate – College and Career Ready.” They went into great detail on the new DPI report card and assessment process. A video of Tony Evers, the state superintendent, was shown. To review this information for yourself, visit the DPI website at: http://dpi.state.wi.us/.
The “No Child Left Behind” initiative called for 100% of students being proficient in reading and math by 2014. Wisconsin, along with 31 other states, applied for a waiver of this initiative. In order to get approved for a waiver, states had to choose from a menu of options of other initiatives. One of the options Wisconsin chose was a teacher effectiveness program.
Keckler explained how the new standards and measurements would change the schools’ report cards. A sample middle school school/sample district technical report card was distributed. Schools would receive their report cards from last year by the end of the month, and the public would receive the information in October. He cautioned everyone that the scores would probably be lower than what they have been used to seeing. Savaglio-Jarvis said, “Scores will look different. Students’ abilities haven’t changed. The standard measuring has changed.” Jo Ann Taube likened it to the difference between the Celcius and Farhenheit temperature scales.
The four priority areas are: student achievement in reading and math, student growth in those same two areas, closing the gaps in those same two areas, and on-track and post-secondary readiness, measured by graduation rates, attendance rates, third grade reading achievmeent, eighth grade math achievement, and ACT participation and performance. Points can be deducted for student engagement indicators which don’t meet the standards. These are test participation, the absenteeism rate, and the dropout rate.
Elizabeth Daghfahl expressed her concern with students who struggle with taking tests in general. “How will all of that affect the test scores?” she wanted to know. Savaglio-Jarvis said that the district’s students are already used to taking on-line tests, like the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) tests. These types of on-line tests adapt to how the child answers.
Savaglio-Jarvis then presented the common core standards. Under the common core standards, students will be evaluated on their mastery of a subject and would be expected to demonstrate their proficiency as they progress through each grade. “Mastery for every student is expected,” she said.
“One of the major changes within the district that is already occurring,” she said, “is that schools are using texts that focus on more informational reading. “Under this model, it’s definitely more information vs. fictional story,” she said, adding that the changes are already happening at the elementary level.
Common core expectations also reflect what skills employers in business and industry value in the workplace. She gave an example of how a math teacher might believe that a student needs to know the Pythagorean Theorem as it relates to right triangles, but that the business industry doesn’t believe that that knowledge would be useful in the workplace.
Under common core standards, students also will be required to show their proficiency in writing, presenting, and leading discussions on subject matters using evidence to support their arguments in all areas.
The last portion of the presentation had to do with the honors distinction at the middle school level. Major differences are that the program has been opened up to all students to “build self-esteem, confidence, and growth,” and the commitment form needs to be signed by the student, teacher, and parent. They are currently working on the rubric with the teachers’ input.
Tamarra Coleman, board member, said that she was “happy to see curriculum changes for honors distinction. I never really thought there were any true challenges in the current program.” “This has already been rolled out to the schools and building leaders,” Savaglio-Jarvis commented.
Mary Snyder, school board president, came to the table and made a few comments about providing extra, more rigorous work to the honors students, who will now be in the same classroom as non-honors students. “This is nothing new,” said Snyder. “I’ve done this many times. It just wasn’t generally advertised. It makes sense to me. It gives more kids the option. The student gets credit for their honors work.”
Daghfahl requested a sample ten-minute mini-lesson in how teachers will actually make this work in the classroom. “I want to experience what this looks like in the classroom, how it works.” Savaglio-Jarvis called it “differentiation.”