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.

School Board Notes

School Board Meeting Notes – 2/22/17

Calendar Committee Update:

Parent surveys regarding the school calendar showed that parents value the fall conferences more than spring conferences. They also prefer a start date after Labor Day, (heat in classrooms an issue.) They are working now on the 2018-19 calendar. Ideas include moving from trimester to semester grading period for all schools K-12.  Beginning discussions now to give time for board policy changes and time to prepare stakeholders for changes. 

Wisconsin Forward 3-8 and ACE Results Update

Matt Rose presented information about EduClimber, a data warehouse system purchased by the school district to track the data from different assessments and behavior reports, (PBIS). The system allows teachers to access multiple data points (test results, attendance, behavior etc.) about students.

State mandated assessments are an Early Literacy Screener K-2, the Wisconsin Forward Exam 3-8, ACT Aspire 9-10, ACT 11. Maria Kucharski presented WFB test results and also showed results from similar school districts, (Mequon-Thiensville, Elmbrook, Shorewood.) Whitefish Bay outperformed these districts on most assessment measures across all grade levels and subjects. State trends in math show a decline in performance over the past five years, but Whitefish Bay has been improving each year. There is work to do to close the achievement gap between African American and Caucasian student populations.  There is evidence of this gap closing in 3rd grade. Maria Kucharski credited this to the recent implementation of Response to Intervention (RtI) practices at the elementary school. District is considering replacing STAR testing at the middle school with the ACT Aspire because many students have reached the top scores of the STAR test.

World Language Pilot Update

The purpose of the district language program for elementary students is exposure to foreign language instruction, not acquisition. In the 2016-17 school year the district has been piloting a blended approach to their elementary language program.  Students in grades 1-5 have face to face Spanish language instruction four times a month. They also have four sessions of online self-paced language instruction using the Middleberry Language program. For the purposes of the pilot, students at Richards School studied Spanish using the online program. At Cumberland, students were able to choose between German, Spanish, French or Chinese. To assess the impact and effectiveness of the pilot, students and staff were surveyed. Students were very positive about the online instruction. They especially liked having a choice of languages to study. Staff had some need for more training around the technical aspects of running the software and using the microphone enabled headsets. Staff also expressed reservations about the effectiveness of the online program for the first grade students. (Length of time to log on etc.) It was recommended that the district continue the blended program next year with some changes to how resources were allocated. (Potentially giving the 1st grade more face to face instruction and the 5th grade more online time to explore language options that they will have in middle school.)

Board Report: Seven Thriving Dispositions: Initiative/Entrepeneurialism

Board member Kristen Yunker gave a report about the importance of initiative and entrepreneurialism for our students.

Community Radio Station

Because a proposed community radio station was not able to generate sufficient community funding, the board withdrew its support of the project.

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

School Board Notes

School Board Meeting Notes – 2/08/17


The Highlights: 
  • High School shared their good news, including changes to department approaches to learning- such as the History Department changing its model of teaching from one of content to a skills based approach- and changes to the Science and Math departments, which focus on providing incoming freshmen with more inclusive and collaborative approaches.
  • Director of Business Services provided a preliminary overview of the 2017-2018 WFB school budget and is optimistic that some of the proposed increases in funding and his inital read on numbers will result in a well balanced budget.
  • The governor’s first draft of the budget came out just prior to the meeting and the preliminary glance showed indications that funding for public education may be taking some priority this year, though Mr. Yde was cautious in his outlook as it was so early in the process, and reminded that vigilance and advocacy will still be needed.


For a full transcript of our board member’s notes, please click here.

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

School Board Notes

School Board Meeting Notes – 12/14/16


  • Concealed Carry Resolution [Scroll down to read our post from December 15.]
  • Cumberland Areas of Focus
    1. Academic & Whole Child
    2. Seven Thriving Dispositions
    3. PCL Implementation (Inclusivity)
    4. All Students, All the Time (Equity)
  • State Accountability Report Card
    1. Cannot compare this data to previous years since state methods inconsistent
    2. 5/5 stars – highest rating for a district
    3. Scored 89 (Comparisons to other districts in area found in transcript)
  • District Calendar Draft for 2017-18
    1. School year beginning September 5
    2. Looking for solutions to prevent late summer release
    3. Desire to increase educator collaboration time
    4. Questioning value of spring parent-teacher conferences
    5. Spring break – 4th week in March

For a full transcript of our board member’s notes, please click school-board-notes-121416.

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

School Board Notes

School Board Meeting Notes – 11/16/16

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

High School Room 47, 7:00 pm

School Board members present:  Doug Armstrong, Kristin Bencik, Pam Woodard, Anne Kearney, Kristin Yunker, Jennifer Dragseth, Sandy Saltzstein

Top three concerns:

  • New Roof
  • New Computers
  • New Courses


The evening began with a closed meeting for an investment litigation update then opened for the following meetings:

Building and Grounds Committee Meeting- the Board received details regarding repairs and updates planned for this school year including a new roof above the HS pool & English wing which is expected to cost $470,000. Total facility maintenance to cost $605,018.

Technology upgrades include wireless AP replacement for the district, selected grade level elementary desktop replacements as well as iPad replacement/upgrade, Chrome book replacement at the MS and HS totaling $232,000. The Board will vote on the approval of the proposals and make a budget adjustment at the next regular meeting on Dec 14th. Funds are available in the operating reserve.

Instruction Committee introduced new courses for next year to support the Project Lead the Way (STEM) classes as well as to offer a high-level physics/Calculus III course to serve students (WFB and area students) who have maxed out of the current offerings. Current staff is qualified to teach these new classes. MS design and construction courses will be converting to Project Lead the Way Gateway courses for grades 6-8. Plans for offering the locker shelf project as an after school activity were shared by Mike O’Connor, to everyone’s relief.

The Calendar Committee is continuing work, will share more next time. Looking at possible change to the elementary trimester schedule.

Human Growth and Development Committee has completed review of high school curriculum and is satisfied with the current content. Planning to further examine the elementary program.

All handouts for the meetings including details on Buildings and Grounds and Technology improvement plans and new courses can be found here:

For a full transcript of our board member’s notes, please click here.

School Board Notes

School Board Meeting Notes – 11/2/16

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

The highlights from the most recent school board meeting, which took place at Richards Elementary School, include:

  • Focus plan for literacy and math
  • ESAIL (Environmental Scale for Assessing Implementation Levels) program
  • Success of the energy program
  • District investment in professional learning for staff

For a full transcript of our board member’s notes, please click here.

School Board Notes

School Board Meeting Notes – 10/17/16

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

There was a “board retreat from 6-7pm. The public was invited to attend but not comment. The topic of the retreat was the art, music and foreign language course offering given by the district. (At least 13 community members and district staff members were also in attendance. )

The board members discussed how art, music and foreign language courses fit into the district’s vision statement. There was a review of the history of the “fine arts” graduation requirement at the high school.

Concern was voiced about the “pipeline” of students choosing arts, music and foreign language and how schedule changes at the elementary and middle levels may be impacting student choices of course offerings when they get to high school.

At this point student choice of course enrollment impacts staffing levels of arts courses, creating some less than full time positions. These positions are difficult both to fill and retain.

Board members reaffirmed their commitment to arts and foreign language education. They also recognize that arts education has a great deal of community support in Whitefish Bay. They are going to pursue creative solutions given the challenges of the current fiscal environment.

Regular School Board Meeting

Current district enrollment is 3,018. The district is down 8 students from the previous year but student numbers are higher than were projected when they were creating this year’s budget. They are predicting an increase in resident enrollment in the coming years.

A summary of the Whole Child School Surveys was given. Some highlights include:

  • At Cumberland: 98% of 4th and 5th grade students report that teachers are good at teaching” indicating a high level of engagement.
  • At Richards 100% of students reported that teachers want them to do their best and 100% report that students are kind to one another.
  • At the Middle School 95% of students reported that teachers always/often have high expectations.
  • At the High School 84% of staff often/always have high expectations.

All schools use data from the reports to look for areas where they can grow and are committed to working proactively to find strategies to meet student needs.

There was an update regarding the School Board’s membership in the South East Wisconsin School Alliance. This is a regional educational advocacy group of urban and public school districts of which Whitefish Bay Public Schools is a member. The group has recently proposed a change to its mission statement which would take out the word “public”. Our school board has taken a position which opposes this change—and has asked this organization to retain its focus on public education. Our board has made a formal statement to this organization in that effect.

This year there will be curriculum renewals in the areas of music/art and human growth and development.

There was a brief update about the first meeting of the newly formed Human Growth and Development curriculum committee. This committee will be reviewing district curriculum to ensure that it is medically accurate and developmentally appropriate.

A calendar committee has been formed to review current district calendars. There has been a change of state law which requires a certain number of instructional minutes, versus number of days. This change impacts each building differently.

New proposals for middle school courses include: Design Modeling, Green Architecture, Medical Detectives and Design Challenge.

In the high school, proposed addition to the biomedical track include: Human Body Systems, Medical Interventions.

The board spent time investigating one of the “Seven Thriving Dispositions” that have been put forth by the Transformational Educational Practices committee. These are dispositions that the committee believes will be our competitive edge in the future.  Board member Jennifer Dragseth gave an overview of the philosophy of Creativity and Imagination.

(There was a final board meeting session regarding compensation models, but the AFE Board Member who was recording notes was not able to attend.)