KUSD votes to terminate Simmons Field lease

chalk-board-KUSDThere were three Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) standing committee meetings that took place earlier tonight.  Listed below is a summary of those meetings:

Planning/Facilities/Equipment Standing Committee Meeting

Patrick Finnemore, KUSD’s director of facilities, provided a report of background information on the Simmons Field lease termination.  In the fall of 2005, the KUSD was offered $2 million by the United Hospital System for Durkee Elementary School and related property.  It was decided that a new school would be constructed to replace both Durkee and Lincoln Elementary Schools on the former American Brass site.  A deal was negotiated between the district and the city of Kenosha that included the following:

  • The KUSD received approximately 6.36 acres of land at the Brass site for the construction of Brass Community School.

  • The KUSD took over responsibility (through a long-term lease) of Simmons Field.
  • The KUSD was responsible for the construction of 15th Avenue between 63rd and 65th Streets adjacent to Brass Community School.
  • The city received Lincoln Elementary School and associated property (which was later leased back to the KUSD for the KTEC charter school).

Four agreements were developed by the KUSD and the city, all based on a transfer of properties between the KUSD and the city without the need for any financial considerations.  One of the four agreements was the long-term lease of Simmons Athletic Field by the KUSD.

The inclusion of Simmons Field in the overall deal was not something that was of primary interest to the KUSD, but was something that the city had wanted to include.  It was the intention of the school board from the onset to sublease the operation and maintenance of Simmons Field to a non-profit organization involved in promoting baseball in Kenosha.  An agreement was developed to sublease Simmons Field to Kenosha Post No. 21 of the American Legion.  The local post of the American Legion worked through a new organization named the Kenosha Simmons Baseball Organization (KSBO) to operate and maintain Simmons Field.  The sublease was drafted to mirror the lease the KUSD had with the city of Kenosha, and it was reviewed by the city’s attorney’s office and approved by the Kenosha Parks Commission.  The KSBO took over responsibility for the field, and it has remained that way for the past five years.

Earlier this year, the city of Kenosha approached both the KUSD and the KSBO to discuss the possibility of terminating the lease between the city and the KUSD and the sublease between the KUSD and Kenosha Post No. 21 of the American Legion.  The purpose for the city’s request was to allow the city to enter into a lease of the field with an organization for the purpose of bringing a Northwoods League team to Kenosha.  The arrangement with the Northwoods League will include a large capital investment by both the league and the city into Simmons Field and will still allow for the district’s use of the field for free, based on a combination of their interest and field availability.  The agreement with the Northwoods League has received widespread support from the local baseball community, including the KUSD.

The lease termination agreement, developed by the city with input from the KUSD and others, was approved unanimously by the committee.  The agreement would terminate both the lease between the city and the KUSD, and also the sublease between the KUSD and Kenosha Post No. 21 of the American Legion.  Similar to the original agreement and lease, the lease termination does not include any financial considerations between any of the parties.  The recommendation now goes on to the full school board on Tuesday, January 29th.

To read more about the Northwoods League coming to Kenosha, click on the articles below:

Simmons Field Lease is Approved

Simmons Field Meeting

Northwoods League Lease Approved by Parks Commission

Mayor Planning Madison Stadium Visit

Northwoods League Proposal to Renovate Simmons Field


Finnemore also provided information on the utility budget and an update on the Energy Savings Program.  He stated that, with the continued weather, it’s been a boon to the utility budget.  “It looks outstanding,” he said.   There was a large peak demand at KTEC two months ago, which Finnemore said that he is pursuing.  This month, there was also an increase in gas usage at the Dimensions of Learning.  “So far, it’s been a positive year,” he said.

Finnemore also said that they are now down to only six schools in the district that are not energy-star rated.  Four will be in next month’s report.  Projects for physical changes will be brought forward in the next few months for those six buildings.  Finnemore stated that there are now thirty or so buildings that are energy-star rated.  Eight years ago, there was only one.

Some statistics that were shared included:  The KUSD spent $42,513 less on natural gas this year as compared to last year.  The KUSD spent $73,740 less on electricity this year, as compared to last year.  The KUSD spent 31% of the overall utility budget, as compared to 34% last year at this time.

Future agenda items include:  the capital plan for summer, which will be presented in March; the utilization study, which will be presented in either February or March; and several policy changes.  Finnemore stated that there will be two meetings over the next three months.  One month between February and April will more than likely be skipped.

Personnel/Policy Standing Committee Meeting

Two policy/rules were approved.  One had to do with access to public records.  Two committee members said that they read through the entire Wisconsin Records Retention statute.  Greg Retzloff said that he was very surprised at the leniency afforded those who make open records requests.  “It favors the one asking for the records,” he said.  “A child can have anyone get records for them.”

Layla Hamilton also read the information on the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) website.  She said that she also read the information from Racine and Burlington, and that she was fine with the KUSD policy/rules.

Superintendent Michele Hancock relayed a personal story.  She said that a person requested a copy of her performance evaluation from the board, and it was provided to them.  They then added it to Facebook.  “That’s the downside of this,” she said.  “Personal records should remain confidential.  This was most unusual and disrespectful,” she said.  She also asked Sheronda Glass, executive director of business services, if any other superintendent had that happen to them, and the answer was no.  Hancock said that she was not embarassed by what was posted.  But, she said that colleagues and relatives contacted her questioning what motivations people in the community might have in posting it on-line.

The other had to do with open enrollment.  Kris Keckler, executive director of information & accountability, said that the policy/rule change was a minor update.  The open enrollment window period has been lengthened from three weeks to three months.  The base allocations need to be approved before February 1st.  If a habitual truancy policy is in place, it needs to apply to the open enrollment students as well.

Board member Jo Ann Taube stated that open enrollment affects federal and state funding and staffing.  Tamarra Coleman asked if the schools verify residency, and Keckler said that they do their best with the 22,000 students.  This summer, 100% of the enrollment will be on-line.  If a change of address is detected, the parents will be contacted to confirm it.  Then, a determination will be made to see if the student is still within the boundary of the school.

Retzloff asked about special needs students.  Dr. Sue Savaglio-Jarvis, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, said that last year, there were six openings for special education students.  If there are openings, then they will see where they can be fit in.  Keckler also said that applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.  Waiver applications come in all year now.

These two policy/rules were approved unanimously and also forwarded on to the entire board.

Todd Jacobs had a personal issue/question regarding his granddaughter’s choice of high schools and the grades-based lottery.  Dan Tenuta, assistant superintendent of secondary schools, was asked to answer Jacobs’ question after the meeting since this was not on the agenda.  A future agenda item will be for Tenuta to report to the committee how a middle school student makes their high school selection.

Curriculum/Program Standing Committee Meeting

The sole informational item on this committee meeting agenda was the revised performance standards (the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) cut scores).  The DPI has established performance standards (cut scores) for the WKCE reading and mathematics content areas to more closely align with national and international expectations of what is required to be college and career ready.  The higher cut scores are comparable to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) cut scores.  The performance level descriptors that accompany the college and career ready cut scores have been revised to reflect the higher expectations required with these higher performance benchmarks.  This revision is due in part to the higher accountability the state has accepted as part of the No Child Left Behind Waiver.  The revised performance standards are incorporated in the new DPI-developed school report cards.

These new WKCE cut scores and performance level descriptors will serve as a bridge to the more rigorous Smarter Balanced assessments, which will be introduced in the 2014-15 school year.  Smarter Balanced is developing assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics — academic standards that are designed to help prepare all students to graduate high school college and career ready.

Keckler stated that there has been a dramatic decrease in proficiency standards.  On an average, reading scores have been decreased by more than half, and math scores have been decreased by 40%.  Science and social studies scores have not been changed.

An example was given.  With the old cut scores, a 430 in reading for grade 3 was in the “Proficient” category.  With the revised cut scores, a 430 in reading for grade 3 now falls into the “Minimal” category.  The same applies to mathematics.  With the old cut scores, a 407 in mathematics for grade 3 was in the “Proficient” category.  With the revised cut scores, a 407 in mathematics for grade 3 falls in the “Basic” category.  It must be noted that the individual student performance has not changed in these instances.  Rather, higher expectations are now required to meet the benchmark for “Proficient” and “Advanced.”

These revised performance standards (cut scores) will have an effect on the percent of students scoring “Proficient” and “Advanced” on the Wisconsin state assessments.  Building administrators and district support staff will continue to communicate this revision to parents as the individual profile reports, which incorporate these revised performance standards, are scheduled to be released in late February.

Taube commented that “This is a big learning curve for us and the public.”  She asked that manageable bits of information be brought to the committee.  Savaglio-Jarvis said that 46 states have now adopted the common core standards and Smarter Balanced assessments.

Savaglio-Jarvis also gave a list of agenda items for the February 12th meeting:  a hockey co-op arrangement, special education, an English as a second language program with Concordia, a Promethean boards update, a professional development update, a professional consultant update, and an early childhood report.




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