School Board Notes

School Board Meeting Notes – May 10, 2017

High School Room 47

School board was in closed session until just after 7:00 pm and doors were opened around 7:02 pm.

  1. Opening of Meeting
    • Call to Order, Roll Call. 7:03 p.m. All Board members present along with District representatives: Dr. John Thomsen, Mr. Shawn Yde, Ms. Maria Kurkowski.
    • Statement of Meeting Notice verified.
    • Motion to amend the posted agenda to move item 3 of the agenda (GOOD NEWS) to item 2 of the agenda, and move item 2 (PUBLIC COMMENT or PUBLIC PARTICIPATION ON AGENDA ITEMS) to item 3, as GOOD NEWS involves several High School students, and want to support them leaving earliest.  Motion seconded, and passed unanimously.
    • Motion to approve the amended agenda made, seconded and passed unanimously.
  2. GOOD NEWS
    • Recognition of student displayed artwork selected from Ms. Van Hyle’s classes at both Richards and Cumberland.
    • MAPS student team (Evan Davis, Mohammad Shaheer, Austin Gent, Stephen Koch, Andrew Janssen, and Luke Dragseth) presentation, along with their instructor Ms. Krukar.  These students presented a research project on opioid addiction and a new painkiller that is being tested that treats pain like opioids without the addictive effects. This project involved collaboration with both Concordia University and use of some MSOE resources. The students presented their research and findings and fielded questions from the board.
  3. PUBLIC COMMENT
    • One resident, a Richards parent, made statements in opposition to issuing final non-renewals, with concerns about class size and its short and long term impacts.  Resident was asked at 5 minutes to stop speaking.  (No other public comment given- though this note taker was told by others it was closed by Board President Kearney before they had a chance to come forward.)
  4. CONSENT AGENDA
    • Consent Agenda Approval – Motion to approve, unanimous approval
    • Approval of 4/5/17 Closed Session Minutes – Motion to approve, unanimous approval
    • Approval of 4/5/17 Regular Business Meeting Minutes – Motion to approve, unanimous approval
    • Approval of 4/26/17 Organizational Meeting Minutes – Motion to approve, unanimous approval
    • Approval of Treasurer’s Report 2017.05.10 – Motion to approve, unanimous approval
  5. ACTION ITEMS
    • Appointment of Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) Delegates – Motion to approve Sandy Saltzstein appointment, unanimous approval
    • Appointment of Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) Delegate -Motion to approve W. Brett Christiansen appointment, unanimous approval
    • Approve the lease of classrooms at Lydell to Milestones Programs for Children
      • Discussion by District Business Admin Shawn Yde- same lease as for many past years, modified only to give the district ability to terminate the lease with 4 months’ notice to Milestones, which would allow district ability to use space without having to give more notice if need arose. – Motion to approve, unanimously approved.
    • Approval of personnel report 2017.05.10.  Credentials of all incoming personnel and their qualifications and background read.  Motion to approve, unanimous approval.
    • Approval of 2017-18 employee handbook revisions.
      • Proposed changes that were discussed at length at 4/26/17 meeting were summarized. – Motion to approve, unanimous approval
    • Approve Final Notices of Non-Renewal for instructional employees
      • Comments given by Dr. Thomsen: class size still important value to District. Have only gone to class size of 26 six times in last 23 years. Feedback from parents with concerns was heard and appreciated. District process is careful and deliberate to be able to have flexibility with staffing later rather than having staff a school does not need.
      • Comments from Mr. Yde on the amount of state aid we are going to get- still don’t know the amount. Governor Walker’s budget calls for $200 per pupil aid, WFB budgeted for $125. If we get $200 will be in better shape, but even $125 not guaranteed. Mr. Yde also stated that the idea parents have that “sectioning” for next year is done right now is wrong, they make those decisions much closer to the start of the school year.
      • Majority of board members spoke up and voiced their thoughts.  Most of them echoed that this was a hard decision, but the one they felt was the most necessary from a financial standpoint.
      • (Kristin Yunker) The Board is responsible to answer to the entire community not just the families at one school and the needs at an elementary school are no more important than the needs at say a middle school.  She also stated (in reference to a group of 5 high school students who presented the MAPS study) these kids were in classrooms that sometimes approached 25 and they turned out great. She lastly stated she sees the staffing process as trying to set a family budget without knowing how much money is available and how many mouths she needs to feed so she is going to be very conservative in pledging any money until she knows more.
      • (Dr. Kristin Bencik-Bourdeau) She has kids at Richards and thus knows how hard it is to make these cuts and if there was anything else that could be done she would vote in favor of that but there just isn’t
      • (Doug Armstrong) The Board has taken a lot of time advocating to our local legislators (Jim Ott and Alberta Darling) about a) how important state funding is to our schools and how much we need this funding and b) how the process of having to make staffing choices now (by state mandate) months before the state budget and then months later word of the state aid comes out is a backwards and frustrating process and that he’s advocating for change in that.  Mr. Armstrong also cited a number of documents the board has put together on these topics and recommends concerned parents read these pieces and contact our legislators on these topics. These documents are on the board docs- 10.19.16 State Budget; advocacy letter to local representatives and health insurance premium funding letter to local elected officials.
      • (Anne Kearney) The enrollment numbers are just not there to not make this choice and that given the uncertainty of the budget and limited resources there is no other choice.  This is not a new process, it happens all of the time that staffing changes at schools and she feels glad that we are not like other districts that are losing 25 or more teachers because they were not fiscally conservative in their budgeting. She feels our system and class sizes work and that while maybe the board should look at changing some of the process and start looking at handling enrollment shifts better, the tradition of going up to 25 students per class is a proven, sustainable and fiscally conservative approach that works for our district. Ms. Kearney also pointed out that she heard a lot from families about the troubles that one grade at Richards this year particularly faced (2nd) and that the District’s focus plan is an inclusive program and the special needs kids deserve and are getting the attention they need and the challenges that creates for other children in that grade are good life lessons that they will have to face in the real world.
      • Motion to approve non-renewal made and unanimous approval.
    • Approve the 2017-18 Staffing FTE and Approve the Corresponding Instructional Employee Contracts
      • Discussion was that this was covered in prior discussion. – Motion to approve, unanimous approval
  6. Information Reports – The 17-18 State Biennial Budget Update
    • Mr. Yde gave update on process, referenced earlier comments. May 22 Joint Finance Committee will look at Transportation and Education items in budget, so that is deadline for meaningful advocacy to elected representatives. Senator Darling Chairs the Joint Finance Committee.
    • District Supervisor Dr. Thomsen echoed call to action that concerned parents advocate to elected officials for educational funding.
    • Discussion on what is appropriate for board members when it comes to advocating for the district and expressing personal opinions.  The consensus was that as citizens they have a right to express their opinions but they should be careful to preface any remarks as being their own and not the opinion of the board.
    • Discussion about the actual impact to the budget the district will see if the additional funding of $200 per pupil currently proposed by Governor Walker.  It was restated several times that this increase would only allow the district to stay close to status quo.  It was also re-stated that there are districts that have much larger anticipated lay-offs right now.  $200 per pupil is not a windfall.   Shawn Yde stated everyone is waiting to see where the state budget goes. There is a lot of uncertainty, but he guarantees he will do the best he can to try to make it all work.
  7. Recreation Department Report
    • Brett Christiansen will be serving as the advisory board representative, replacing Anne Kearney
    • Every school in the area has representation on the board, including St. Monica and Holy Family.
    • K-Camp (for kindergarten students) has been doubled from last year. The spots filled in an hour last year so they saw a big demand.
    • They are continuing their counselors in training program for HS students. It is in its 3rd year and a big success.  They hope to fill 35 positions this year.
    • There will be staff training soon for inclusion practices, first aid and team building
    • Registration opened 4/3 and already 1500 families have registered for summer programs.
    • Pre-school registration for 2017/18 has begun and the early bird incentives end on 6/30.
  8. Invitation for public comments – none
  9. Calendar Committee Report
    • There will be a report next time, Jennifer Dragseth has agreed to continue to represent the board until it is brought to conclusion.

Motion to adjourn. 8:42 pm.

Please note that these are unofficial school board meeting notes taken by an AFE board representative.  For full transcript of notes, click here.

 

AFE Board Discussions

School Board Response to Richards Community

May 5, 2017
Dear Community Members,

Board President Anne Kearney, Director of Business Services Shawn Yde and myself, John Thomsen, District Administrator, have compiled a collective response to your questions, to the extent that the questions can be answered at this time. There are two narrative portions that provide a majority of the information requested.

You will see some enrollment data included, but please know that our enrollments ebb and flow on a daily basis. The final sectioning (class sizes) are determined once we get closer to the end of summer. With respect to sectioning, in our review of recent elementary class size the District has not run classes over 26 students. The typical range is 21-25 students. No one is recommending we deviate from that practice. Also know that attempts are made to balance classes and to support students and teachers through additional support staff when appropriate.

Part One – Board Strategic Response

We appreciate your investment in your children’s education and in the Whitefish Bay schools. You should know that the district administration and the School Board are guided in their decision- making by The District Focus Plan that calls for “student-centered” “educational excellence” for all students in our district. This means, of course, that we look for excellence, equity, and a whole-child environment in all our schools.

You mention the May 10th deadline in your letter as a final decision point. Please know that May 10th is not the final staffing determination point. Although a staffing plan is likely to be approved on that date, the staffing plan is often modified in mid to late summer based upon updated enrollment counts. If the class size grows too large, we can add an extra teacher after that date; however state law mandates that we cannot take a teacher away after May 10.

There appears to be some confusion about elementary class sizes in the past and we would like to clear up any misunderstanding. The administration and School Board value small class sizes as is shown by past data. For instance, class sizes have historically ranged from 21-25 students in grades K4 through 5 at both Richards and Cumberland. Periodically, a section may run slightly below or slightly above those numbers. At this point in time, we do not anticipate a change in our practice and the administration will be working literally up to the first day of school, if necessary, to adjust sectioning to achieve balanced class sizes.

It is possible that you see the balancing work being done at the administrative level and the board level as a “fix.” However, we see this work as maintaining the delicate balance that state revenue caps (keeping taxes in line), current state funding, a desire for robust and equitable educational experiences for children, as well as a sustainable compensation model for our staff, all require.

Most of your questions inquire about class size. Those questions are best answered by reference to the District Class Size Policy, 343.2, which states as follows: “It is the intent of the School Board to establish the ratio of students to teachers at such a level as to reflect the educational needs of children and also the availability of community resources.” Unfortunately, your questions requesting detailed information about enrollment data and sectioning cannot be answered at this time because they are premature.

Having said this, we do know that the total number of students at Richards for 2017-2018 currently stands at 605 students. This compares to 663 students with 28 full time sections in 2016-2017; 696 students in 2015-2016 with 29.5 full time sections; 699 students with 31 full time sections in 2014- 2015; and 722 students with 32 full time sections in 2013-2014. We look at enrollment over a 3-year period and make projections using a well-regarded software program. However, these are only projections and must await the reality of the number of children that are sent to district schools.

Finally, you discuss communication and collaboration. We are happy that we have had this opportunity to communicate with you as a follow up to the lengthy discussion at the school board meeting on April 26, 2017. To the extent that you have additional direct questions, we will do our best to answer them. As for collaboration, we welcome collaboration with parents. In the past, parents have been generous in supporting our schools by referenda, by renovating our sports fields, by supporting the arts, by providing classroom equipment, by raising funds for extracurricular groups, as well as by volunteering in schools. The quality of our District would not be the same if not for the incredible support and passion of our parents, which is shown in your outreach on this issue.

Hopefully, you saw at the school board meeting that the members of the administration and Board care deeply about our students, staff, and schools. The Board and administration will continue to work diligently to maintain the level of excellence that is expected in Whitefish Bay. We have attempted to answer your short-term inquiries, but some of your questions require a long-term strategic process as long-term interests are at stake. We look forward to a continuing conversation.

Part Two – Administration Staffing Process Overview

The purpose of this brief staffing update is to provide data and some analysis of enrollment projections and how the information is used in the budget development process.

Background: The District starts its budget development by doing enrollment projections in October. The projections (provided to the Board in Oct.) are refined in the early spring when each of the buildings goes through its early registration process. Those updated spring projections become the basis for contract renewals or non-renewals that by statute must be issued preliminarily in April and then the required final notices must be issued in May. Once contracts are issued the district is unable to reduce the full-time instructional staff.

Please realize this State imposed deadline does not stop the enrollment review process. The D istrict approves a projected staffing FTE (Full Time Equivalency) report which becomes the basis for the District’s budget development process in early May, but the District enrolls students from early May until the start of the school year. The estimates that were based on the early registration are monitored right up to the start of the school year. We have had enrollment increases or decreases prior to the start of school. We have hired additional teaching staff right up to the first day of school. The May deadline (contract issuance) establishes the floor for staffing; although not ideal for multiple reasons, the District is still able to add staff, during the summer, if deemed necessary.

Class Size History: We have reviewed Whitefish Bay’s class size numbers for the majority of the last 23 years. At the Elementary level our class sizes have been between a low of 17 students and high of 26 students. A class size of 17 students occurred once and a class size of 26 students occurred 6 times. Certainly those class sizes are outliers. A review of the data indicates that our class sizes are normally somewhere between 21-25 students per class at the elementary level. In fact, we have classes of 25 students at Cumberland in both second and third grade this current year. Also know that attempts are made to balance classes and support students and teachers though additional support staff when appropriate.

A more recent factor related to enrollment is the discontinuation of the Chapter 220 program. As we lose approximately 20 students per year because of the sunsetting of this program, we will likely see a decrease in enrollment.

Budget Implications: As described earlier, we start the budget process using enrollment projections to develop budget estimates. These projections indicated an increase of 25 students, which has been used for the estimated revenue cap projections. Based on registrations and current projections, the enrollment looks as though it will decrease by 26 students. This would result in the District’s revenue limit estimate being 51 students lower than estimated in the three-year enrollment average through the State’s revenue limit calculations. The state revenue limit formula provides Whitefish Bay with $11,239 per pupil and the District would lose the ability to generate revenue associated with the loss of students (the ability to tax for that money). In other words, our revenue limit would be reduced by an additional $191,073 in 2017-18. If the District were to add staff beyond the amount currently budgeted it would need to increase expenditures to do so. A full-time instructional staff member is in the range of $78,000 with family benefits.

Longer Term Effects: The fiscal impact would not just be felt during the 2017-18 budget. In 2018-19 the District’s revenue cap would be reduced by 34 students (revenue cap loss of $382,146) and the full impact is realized in the third year when the District finally would feel the impact of the full loss associated with a loss of 51 students ($573,220).

Effectively managing enrollment and staffing is vital to Whitefish Bay’s efforts to provide quality education. The District will quickly slide into financial distress by not staffing appropriately, yet could diminish educational quality if it understaffs. Class size has been an ongoing priority for the District. Our comprehensive enrollment predictions and budgeting process (which delays some final staffing decisions until August) have been successful over the years in maintaining favorable class sizes, at all four schools, while planning a fiscally responsible budget.

Part Three – Questions Addressed

  1. What is the current projected 2017-2018 enrollment, by grade based on most current data? E.g. where are we seeing the distribution of non-returning students by grade?See chart in question 2.
  2. What is the current K4 enrollment data (if not included in the above response)?

 

Cumberland

Richards

6-Mar

3-May

7-Mar

3-May

74

77

 JK

62

67

94

101

SK

84

86

94

95

1st

99

96

119

117

2nd

98

100

115

115

 3rd

79

80

121

121

 4th

88

91

111

106

 5th

90

89

728

732

 Total

600

609

  1. Based upon the most current registration/enrollment data (“current data,”) what grades will see teacher elimination?This is yet to be determined. We are monitoring all grade levels and will make these determinations at a later date.
  2. Based upon current data, are losses of sections the only option to absorb the loss of these teaching positions?That is how it has been historically done in the past due to the fiscal impact. This is described in more detail in the narratives. Other considerations would require a longer term strategic look by the School Board.
  3. If not, what alternatives are being considered? Have multi-age classrooms, redistricting, or a temporary pause on non-essential electives been considered?Multi-age classrooms were considered by the Board years ago and were not pursued. Non- essential electives might mean different things to different people, but in the Board’s view electives are not expendable. Our desire is to maintain a high quality comprehensive program that addresses the whole child and all aspects of the Focus Plan.
  4. Could the increase in teachers to the other schools be temporarily postponed instead of the loss of the teachers at Richards?The increase in staffing at other schools is directly related to current specific course enrollment. These positions require specific teacher certifications, desired prior experience(s), and specific teacher skill sets. Postponing or reassigning teachers to different levels would not align with state statue (certification) or the strategic needs of the District.
  5. What type of enrollment numbers would be required to reinstate these positions? E.g. if there were 25 new registrants before May 10th, would that be enough, or what numbers do we need?Our enrollments ebb and flow on a daily basis. In our review of recent elementary class size the District has not run classes over 26 students. The typical range is 21-25 students. No one is recommending we deviate from that practice. The final sectioning (class sizes) are determined once we get closer to the end of summer.
  6. What is the number of students per section the District/School Board is comfortable allowing, per grade?This is covered in the narrative and the answer above.
  7. What information is being used to make determinations on optimal class sizes per grade?

We have maintained our current class size practice as we value small class sizes. The Board has engaged in public school advocacy addressing the funding of schools in a manner that allow these practices to continue.

  1. Are you willing to collaborate with parents to get creative on how to not eliminate these positions and meet budget challenges?We are always willing and eager to collaborate. We work through a lengthy budget development process to ensure our resources align with our goals and priorities. Class size has always been a priority in the budget process.
  2. Does the District intend to communicate with the impacted families the approximate class sizes they will be facing in the fall? If so, when? How often will it be updated? How will this be communicated?Final determination on sectioning/class sizes is determined later in the summer and in some cases adjustments are made days before school begins. Since this is a very fluid process, communicating before final enrollments are known makes that process very difficult.
  3. If the District does not intend to communicate prospective class size increases in advance of the school year, they will likely be faced with additional families leaving the District; has the District/Board considered the long term effects of the loss of these families to the District?We anticipate the Board having a larger strategic discussion on the budget process, enrollment, sectioning, fiscal resources, priorities and overall sustainability. Our goal is to remain a District of Destination for families and employees.
  4. Has the District/Board taken into consideration that enrollment and class sizes fluctuate significantly year by year and a one-year “fix” may result in much longer term impacts- loss of families, quality teachers, reputation, etc?See above response
  5. What is the District/Board doing to better anticipate these changes in enrollment?Our enrollment trends are being further studied so we gain a better insight on future projections and the “why” behind the apparent dip in student enrollments at Richards.
  6. Are the cause(s) for the declining enrollment at Richards being tracked and if so, what are they?Our initial look reveals that most families have relocated to another community and are sending their children to those public schools. We will know more once we complete a more detailed analysis.

Sincerely,

John W. Thomsen, District Administrator

Anne Berleman Kearney, School Board President

AFE Board Discussions

Letter to the School Board on Possible Class Size Increase

In a letter to the school board, a number of concerned parents questioned and/or urged school board members to reconsider the reduction in staff at Richards Elementary School.  

Dear Dr. Thomsen, Mr. Yde, Ms. Kearney, Mr. Armstrong, Dr. Bencik-Boudreau, Ms. Yunker, Ms. Woodard, Ms. Saltzstein, and Mr. Christiansen:

I’m writing on behalf of a group of parents and community members who are interested in keeping class sizes small at Richards and maintaining the quality of Whitefish Bay’s foundational education to our youngest students at the K4-5th level.

We come to you wanting to collaborate and work creatively to come up with a solution that accomplishes the District and School Boards’ needs to address enrollment, and work within the budget while still maintaining the small class sizes, quality teachers, and quality families & students that are integral to the reputation Whitefish Bay has developed and maintained for so many years. We live in Whitefish Bay because of the quality of its schools! We are very concerned that a loss of 3 teaching positions at Richards will have a negative, long-term impact not just on our children, their families and our schools but also our community as a whole.

We have compiled a list of questions that we would like answered by the District and/or the School Board for the sake of having a better understanding of the District and Boards’ position and to hopefully enable an ongoing discussion of how we can come up with alternatives to the elimination of these positions. We would appreciate responses to these questions as soon as possible as we understand final decisions will be made by May 10th.

  1. What is the current projected 2017-2018 enrollment, by grade based on most current data? E.g. where are we seeing the distribution of non-returning students by grade?
  2. What is the current K4 enrollment data (if not included in the above response)?
  3. Based upon the most current registration/enrollment data (“current data,”) what grades will see teacher elimination?
  4. Based upon current data, are losses of sections the only option to absorb the loss of these teaching positions?
  5. If not, what alternatives are being considered? Have multi-age classrooms, redistricting, or a temporary pause on non-essential electives been considered?
  6. Could the increase in teachers to the other schools be temporarily postponed instead of the loss of the teachers at Richards?
  7. What type of enrollment numbers would be required to reinstate these positions? E.g. if there were 25 new registrants before May 10th, would that be enough, or what numbers do we need?
  8. What is the number of students per section the District/School Board is comfortable allowing, per grade?
  9. What information is being used to make determinations on optimal class sizes per grade?
  10. Are you willing to collaborate with parents to get creative on how to not eliminate these positions and meet budget challenges?
  11. Does the District intend to communicate with the impacted families the approximate class sizes they will be facing in the fall? If so, when? How often will it be updated? How will this be communicated?
  12. If the District does not intend to communicate prospective class size increases in advance of the school year, they will likely be faced with additional families leaving the District; has the District/Board considered the long term effects of the loss of these families to the District?
  1. Has the District/Board taken into consideration that enrollment and class sizes fluctuate significantly year by year and a one-year “fix” may result in much longer term impacts- loss of families, quality teachers, reputation, etc?
  2. What is the District/Board doing to better anticipate these changes in enrollment?
  3. Are the cause(s) for the declining enrollment at Richards being tracked and if so, what are they?

We thank you in advance for your prompt response and again restate how much we all appreciate your work on behalf of our students and community.

Respectfully,
Signatures of 35 Richards parents – Names withheld by AFE

School Board Notes

School Board Meeting Notes – 04/26/17

7:00 pm, WFBHS.  Anne Kearney instructed the 20+ community members in the audience about the procedure for public comment and emphasized that the Board was NOT going to be voting on staffing tonight.

Organizational Meeting.

The Board welcomed new member, W Brett Christiansen.  Anne Kearney was elected President, Kristin Yunker was elected VP and Clerk and Doug Armstrong was elected Treasurer.

Personnel & Policy Committee Meeting.

  • Salaries for classroom teachers in WFB:  Yde said range is $43,000 to $83,000 (relative to experience).  Average for a brand new teacher in this area is $41,000.
  • A significant change: Four library/media center secretaries will now be categorized as Paraprofessional I.  They will no longer get paid vacation (although they will get paid for what they’ve earned so far) and their hours have already been cut to 5.75 per day.
  • 2017-18 Staffing FTE’s (Full-Time Employment).  The staffing changes that are proposed are due to enrollment. State law requires that teachers receive notification of economic non-renewal by May 15th. Enrollment is declining due to the 220 program phase out and other factors.  The Board stated that class size is very important.  The enrollment numbers from November see a decrease of 60 students at Richards Elementary.  The Board will be issuing economic non-renewals to three teachers, including elimination of  a Richards 3rd grade teacher.
    • Superintendent Thomsen says the Board is issuing the economic non-renewals to “position the Board to add staff later if necessary.”  Thomsen and the other members of the Board repeatedly stated that this is very preliminary and setting the low end.  Yde stated that the non-renewals “came to the attention of people who do not understand our process.”  Board member Bencik-Boudreau asked the Board how information to the general public can be disseminated so there is better understanding.  Thomsen replied that they can read the School Board minutes. (If any of you have read the School Board minutes, you know they are not terribly detailed and are not available on a timely basis.)
    • After May 15th, the Board can only add (not cut) full time staff but they can both add and cut part time staff.  They also said they would reach out to the “let go” teachers to come back if we need to add staff. This could happen as early as June but could be as late as August. The Board will vote on the staffing FTE’s at the May 10, 2017 meeting.

Public comments

The first comment was from the Middle School library secretary about the handbook revision that would make her job classification go to Para I.  All the other comments (12 or 13 in all) were in reference to cutting a 3rd grade teacher at Richards.  The citizens implored the Board to reconsider.  They cited class size, demographics (not just numbers), personal experience with the current 2nd grade class, increased teacher expectations and student needs.  One parent asked that if the decrease is due to phasing out of 220 program, are we proactively working on replacing the lost students?  Also she commented that communication needs to be better and to happen sooner.

Instruction Committee

Elementary Time Study Report Update- Maria Kucharski shared the results of the study.  Click here for her report.

  • Survey Results- i.e. common team time (60 minutes/day) for collaboration and 2 recesses/day valued; met 70% of priorities
  • Refinements based on results: i.e. maintain face-to-face world language in 1st grade and up, no language lab in 1st grade, to be evaluated at other grades.
  • More to do: rename “specials” to “encore” so they are viewed as part of our core classes; common planning time for encore and special education teachers.

Equity and Excellence Update- John, Maria, Stacy reported on the work of the Closing the Achievement Gap Consortium which consists of 22 public/private schools which meet at Concordia.  Click here for their report, which includes DPI recommendations.  Recent census shows that school district is slightly more diverse than WFB village.

Board Learning- – Doug Armstrong read an insightful reflection on one of the Seven Thriving Dispositions: Effective Oral & Written Communication Skills.

Meeting adjourned 10:48pm.

Please note that these are unofficial school board meeting notes taken by an AFE board representative.  For full transcript of notes, click here.

AFE Board Discussions

Will WFB School Board Approve Increased Class Sizes?

Tonight the Whitefish Bay School Board will be asked to approve pending staffing changes for the 2017-2018 school year. While there is a net-zero loss of district staff, there is a significant cut at Richards, which plans to eliminate three teacher positions. This means consolidation of sections, presumably resulting in larger class sizes and the loss of teaching staff.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, community members are invited to speak.  We encourage you to participate and offer the following issues for consideration:
  • The importance of manageable classroom sizes;
  • The value of retaining high quality teachers in our district;
  • The potential impact on teacher morale when teachers are left to manage large classrooms;
  • The loss of opportunities for teachers to give one-on-one attention and work with small groups;
  • The possible shift in public perception of the quality of WFB education.

Specifically, we encourage you to ask the board to clarify- 

  • What their class size projections are, and what grades will be impacted? 
  • Will the teachers impacted be offered other employment in the district?  
  • Is there a plan for additional support staff to compensate for larger class sizes?

AFE has reached out to district staff for clarification on the plans for next year and received the following response from District Administrator, John Thomsen: “Right now our Richards student enrollment is trending down.  There remains many unknowns to our enrollment. State statute non-renewal timelines require us to make these non-renewals (staffing adjustments) at this time and not later.  If student enrollment trends go back up, we can always add staff back in as we have done in the past.”

We appreciate Dr. Thomsen’s prompt response and would suggest to parents that even in light of this additional information, they may want to attend tonight’s meeting to share their concerns and learn more.  Much like the state budget process currently taking place, it is important to make sure our representatives know that our priority is to provide the best education possible to all of our children.

School Board Notes

School Board Meeting Notes – 04/05/17

Cumberland Principal Jayne Heffron and Buildings and Grounds Manager Brian Chase expressed thanks to the Cumberland PTO for their donation of $25,000 to purchase enhancements for the Cumberland playground. Large play cubes and a spinner will be installed on the east side of the existing playground. It will be installed before the end of the school year so that current 5th graders have a chance to enjoy it.

The board recognized the service of school board member Jennifer Dragseth, who is stepping down from her school board position. They also approved the election results and appointed Douglas Armstrong and W. Brett Christiansen to the school board.

The board approved the curriculum renewal of K-12 Art and Music. The board also reaffirmed their commitment to the arts as integral to our students’ education.

The board approved a district policy around the usage of drones on school property. They will seek to make this policy public by announcing it in local publications.

The board approved some economic non-renewals of teacher contracts. These teachers received preliminary notices of non-renewal based on current enrollment. Dr. Thomsen emphasized that these non renewals were not performance based. The district enrollment is projected to drop in the 2017-18 school year.

Kristen Bencik reported on the district communication committee. The district has recently put a new web site in place. There has also been an increase in Facebook traffic.

Pamela Woodward reported on the district’s membership in the Southwestern Wisconsin School Alliance. They are encouraging the alliance to be more proactive in response to Governor Walker’s  budget. The governor is pushing for an increase in spending. The governor is calling this a “reform” dividend.  One way that the governor proposes to fund this increase is to require teachers to pay 12% of their health insurance costs. This would impact Whitefish Bay teachers because currently they do not pay 12% of their health insurance costs. The board spoke about  the importance of clarifying the impact of the budget for our community members.

Please note that these are unofficial school board meeting notes taken by an AFE board representative.

AFE Board Discussions

Why Does the Wisconsin Budget Matter to WFB Schools?

Whitefish Bay School District has a tradition of academic excellence, a standard that is reflected in its ranking this year as one of the Nation’s top 100 schools.  Our district has maintained this standard despite experiencing significant cuts to the state’s education budget since 2011.  The Governor’s 2017-2019 proposed budget includes a $200 per pupil increase that is tied to several contingencies. The Wisconsin Public Education Network (WPEN) has determined that this increase falls short of what students across Wisconsin need to ensure a quality education.

Our School District has experienced funding challenges that have resulted in tighter budgeting and program refinements. Without a sufficient funding increase, further cuts-beyond what has already been cut- may need to be considered. 

Make sure your local legislators know that the quality of your children’s education is a priority. Although a $200 per pupil funding increase may help our district avoid deep cuts, Advocates for Education-WFB agrees with WPEN that the increase should be closer to $300 per pupil statewide to sustain and enrich quality programming for children across the state. Lawmakers also need to understand that this funding must be free from conditions and granted outright for all Wisconsin public school students.

Here’s what you can do:

Submit Testimony to members of the Joint Finance Committee;

Testify in person at the JFC Hearing on April 5th at the Wisconsin State Fair Park Exposition Center (Register in advance with WPEN if you wish);

Contact your State Legislators.