Minimal Increase In Coleman 2016-2017 School Tax Levy
After a budget presentation by District Administrator Polomis electors present for the Coleman School District Annual Meeting on Monday, Sept. 19, unanimously approved the proposed tax levy for the 2016-2917 school year at $4,383,525, up 1.62 percent from last year.
This supports a total budget of $9,523,526, which is up just .31 percent from last year. The levy includes payment of $180,924 for non-referendum debt service and $525,000 to pay on the referendum debt, plus the operations levy of $3,677,601, which is down slightly from $3,749,250 last year.
The budget will be adopted and the tax levy certified by the School Board at its next regular meeting, which is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 24.
Polomis was happy to report there are 45 students attending school outside the district under open enrollment, and 74 students coming in from other districts, which is a financial advantage of $28,000 for the district. He said this huge increase in the number of students coming in through open enrollment is a big feather in their cap and reflects well on the quality education offered at Coleman.
Local property taxes of $3,674,969 are expected to cover 48 percent of the total $7,684,944 operating budget for the district for the current school year. State revenues are budgeted at $3,456,308, federal revenues at $228,650, and other local revenues at $325,017.
There are 693 resident students, 335 in elementary school, 147 in middle school and 211 in high school. With 48.6 licensed staff members, the overall student to staff ratio is 15 to 1. There are two administrators, one technology director, one bookkeeper, 4.74 administrative assistants, a director of building and grounds with two full time and six part time custodians, a director of food service with six part time workers, plus three part time library aides, a nurse, and 16 part-time teacher aides.
Polomis, who handles double duties as District Administrator and High School Principal, said the board is looking at facilities needs, but felt keeping the mill rate stable is very important. He felt holding a referendum for building improvements on top of another referendum would not be fiscally responsible, so major projects will wait until the current referendum debt is paid. "We're trying to plan ahead, to keep the mill rate stable for our constituents," Polomis said.
Board salaries will remain as they have been for several years, at $1,642 for the year for the president and clerk and $1,552 for the year for other board members, plus $35 for each extra evening meeting, conference or seminar and $65 for each all day conference,seminar or meeting attended.
Before the vote to keep the salaries unchanged, a questioner from the floor asked how long it had been since they had a raise. Board President Ryan Wendt said it had been a long time, but added it was that way because each time there was an attempt from the public for an increase the board voted it down. With that said, Board member Barbara Krause Klug moved to keep it the same again this year. Barbara VanDrisse promptly seconded and everyone voted in favor.
Board members will continue being reimbursed for expenses incurred for travel outside the district in the performance of their duties, for example to attend conventions and seminars. This is mainly paid for those who attend the annual School Boards convention in Milwaukee. Polomis said the amount is minimal. Krause-Klug noted she is a member of the CESA Board, but attendance at meetings is paid by them, so there is no cost to the district.
In routine actions the public authorized the board to direct and provide for the prosecution or defense of any legal proceedings in which the district is interested. To questions from the floor, Polomis said their regular legal representatives are Boardman and Clark. Wendt added they are not the cheapest attorneys, "but cheapest isn't always best." Polomis explained the law firm is used by many other school districts and by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
The board once again was authorized to furnish school lunches for students and provide necessary funding.
Due to changes in state law, the board no longer needs Annual Meeting authorization to provide free text books for students or to sell land belonging to the district.
The regular monthly board meeting was called to order immediately after the annual meeting.
Due to a state-level decision to end the SAGE program that was used to help pay for reducing student to teacher ratios in early elementary years, Coleman and many other districts are enrolling in the Achievement Gap Reduction (AGR) program that replaced it.
During time for public comment, Josh Koenig wanted to know why the decision was made to go with other programs, such as peer mentoring rather than the SAGE-required 18:1 student teacher ratio. He asked if a matrix had set up to determine if SAGE is working.
Elementary/Middle School Principal Yvette Marshall said as SAGE progressed educators found it was not working as expected and the program was allowed to sunset in favor of the AGR program for kindergarten through grade 3 classes. Coleman and many other districts that formerly had SAGE funding are now in the AGR program.
Marshall said Coleman is not doing any peer tutoring for staff members, but is doing mentoring and providing extra instructors through AGR to keep small size kindergarten classes. She said they are setting grade level goals for reading and math, and using strategies to meet these goals. Baseline data from students will be obtained from assessments that are currently underway.
Jen Galbarith wanted to know in what grades AGR is being used to accomplish reduced class sizes. Marshall said DPI guidelines say the ratio must be 18 students per teacher or 30 students for each two teachers/aides for a class. Coleman is using that model for kindergarten. AGR is being used for instructional coaching for instructors in grades one through three.
Galbraith said she is an instructor for adult education and her class sizes are going in the direction of 16 to 1, and expressed hope the board would move in that direction. She wondered if behavioral problems would increase due to the larger class sizes. Marshall said it was too early in the year to determine this, but Ecuclimber, a computer program, will keep track of both behavior problems and academics. She said she not only tracks behavior problems, but can tell the time of day that behavior changes.
The Coleman PBIS program also tracks data through the Edu-Care program.
"This is really a learning year," Marshall said. "We are all exploring this together - administration, teachers and coaches - this is important for everybody." She added, "This program can be very effective for student achievement. Let's see how it works for ."
Polomis said studies done by UW-Wisconsin educators over 15 years of all schools in the state showed that smaller class sizes beyond kindergarten had no particular benefit.
Nancy Morstad asked about a survey done by the Center for Public Education that was funded by the National School Board Administration. She said there was conclusive evidence that the SAGE classrooms with 18 to 1 ratios or better resulted in improvements in student test scores. Some of them showed improvements up to the 9th grade. Since the school can make changes to the AGR program each year she asked the board to continue looking at different options, and offered to serve as a volunteer if a committee is formed to look at the options available.
She mentioned a class with 18 students last year has 25 this year, and declared that is too much for one teacher. She said that gives only 30 seconds each for teachers to give individual help. She said 2014 studies showed SAGE had a positive effect on math and reading skills and that students who had benefitted from it were less likely to drop out before graduating.
Wendt said enrollment keeps going down, which means income is going down. The district had 719 kids in 2012, and this year, even with the big increase in open enrollment, there are only 691 students. They had managed to come up with a good budget for this year, but it wasn't easy to do that, Wendt said.
Mrs. Morstad said she understood that it's difficult to make decisions, "I just don't want us locked into one."
She asked if anyone knows why enrollment numbers are going down. Polomis said Coleman is just one of many districts with declining enrollment, but this year for the first time, their open enrollment numbers had gone up, which means those parents are sending their children to school in Coleman by choice, not by necessity.
(Northeast District UW Colleges Dean Keith Montgomery had mentioned at recent county meetings that student numbers in northern Wisconsin have been dropping for several years, partly due to low vbirth rates, and partly because young families are moving elsewhere to find employment.)
On an entirely different subject, Cliff Rhode asked why some students are not allowed to use the new playground equipment.
Marshall explained the equipment is designed for students in grades three and up. Teachers of lower grades have been told their students can also use it, but for safety reasons, that should only be when the older kids are not there. "We do provide time they can safely use it," she added.
Polomis reported that juniors and seniors will have the opportunity to attend the College Fair at the UW-Marinette on Monday, Oct. 3 and interact with representatives of various colleges.
Homecoming is set for the week of October 10 through 15.
The "Tackle Cancer" game will be against Peshtigo on Friday, Oct. 14. Last year the event raised about $18,000 to give to three cancer patients and Bay Area Medical Center. There was a comment that both teams had ended up winners from that game.
Marshall reported the school year kicked off with a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new playground, with Saputo representatives Lisa Olcott and Ben Waddell attending.
She said she and Polomis have been meeting with parents in regard to a possible additional elementary recess and a meeting with parents was slated for Wednesday, Sept. 28.
She thanked Kari Fendrick for organizing the PTO Shoe Drive, which raised $1,518. Mrs. Morstad offered to help if they hold another one.
School photos are to be taken on Thursday, Sept. 29,
Literacy Night with an ice cream social will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 6.
Polomis introduced new staff members L. Allen, K. Schermer, R. Shuman, B. Zingshman, and R. Rosner, and mentioned S. McGough and K. Jarmen who started during the previous school year The board took a short recess to meet the new staff members.
The board accepted the new teachers compensation model worked out with the professional staff committee.
On recommendation of Polomis, pay for long-term substitute teachers was increased to $150 per day, which takes effect after the 11th day. Short term sub pay will continue to be $100 per day.
The board approved Jeremy Brady and Joy Rhode as co-advisors for the Washington, DC trip; George Laitenen as golf coach and Katherine Schermer as Prom Advisor. Longtime Prom Advisor Mary Stillings had stepped down, Polomis said.
The board also approved creation of two additional part time elementary aide positions.
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