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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Citizen's Building Committee Forming for Peshtigo Schools

Issue Date: January 18, 2017

Peshtigo School District has been struggling for several eyars to find ways to deal with needs for improvement or replacement of the existing Middle/ High School building.

On Wednesday, Jan. 4, the District held an Ad Hoc Committee to examine the building needs. Over 50 people were in attendance. Some in attendance felt the large number of people on hand showed that the need for doing something with Middle/High School is still viewed as a priority. Others felt the size and make-up of the group could be a hindrance to making meaningful progress.

With both of these feelings in mind, two district residents presented an idea at the Wednesday, Jan. 11 Peshtigo School District Board of Education meeting that was a little outside the usual paradigm for looking at building needs.

Clarence Coble and Jim Koronkiewicz used an agenda item to discuss and follow up on the January 4 Public Forum/Listen Session and to bring up their idea of a grassroots effort they called the Peshtigo Middle School/High School Citizen's Building Committee.

Coble explained their belief that a group of 9 to 11 people would be the ideal size to grapple with the issues of what the district really has to have in a building for this level. Koronkiewicz added that forming a citizens committee takes the school board out of the equation, with the committee acting as a liaison, a conduit for information and keeping the process moving.

Both Coble and Koronkiewicz noted that past referendums failed apparently because of a growing distrust between the general public and both the school board and Hoffmann, the Consulting and Design firm.

In their bullet points presented to the School Board, Coble and Koronkiewicz said the proposed group would like to have permission to contact Hoffman Co., as needed, pertaining to questions on building. The group also asked for use of a room in the school for meetings; permission for members of the group to access the school building as needed, including during school hours, in keeping with current security protocols; and that any expenses of the committee that might be incurred, if any, would be covered by the district, but would be approved by the School Board prior to them being incurred.

In turn, the group would keep the School Board informed on progress of committee; would inform the administration office of meeting dates for publication requirements; would report regularly to the School Board on progress of planning. They intend to make a formal request at the February School Board meeting to form this grassroots Citizen's Committee. No School Board members or members of the Administration would be on this Committee.

Coble and Koronkiewicz noted that they would like to see the larger group meet, but maybe only quarterly. Updates and presentations would be made to the larger group as well. They also envisioned their committee meetings being open to anyone who would like to attend, but only public comments would be accepted.

Several in the audience added that there was precedence in the district for a Citizen's Committees like this, harkening back to one of the construction projects at the elementary school.

District Administrator Kim Eparvier said he saw lots of good in this approach, but he also wanted to recognize all of the hard work that past Ad Hoc Committees have put in.

The School Board gave their approval of the concept and asked that it be formalized for the February meeting of the Board.

In the meantime, Coble and Koronkiewicz said they would work on the scope and structure of the Committee as well as choose a formal chair or co-chairs. Coble added that he saw this as a grass roots movement, something different than what was tried in the recent past. He reiterated that he wants this to be an effort that starts at the bottom and works its way up to the top.

The goal of the group would be to have a completed and formal recommendation for the School Board to consider by December 31, 2017. Anyone interested in being a part of this new effort is encouraged to contact either Coble or Koronkiewicz.

In other matters, the Board reviewed and approved the Open Enrollment acceptance/denial criteria for next school year. As in the past, the criteria sets limits to the number of Open Enrollment students that can be accepted without having to hire additional staff. By way of example, Eparvier noted that there are currently 69 in current census numbers projected for 1st grade. There are four sections of 1st grade. This means that up to seven open enrollment students could be accepted. By way of comparison, the current census says that there are 120 students projected for 4th grade, which is taught in five sections. This means that no new open enrollment students would be accepted.

Since most major costs for the district, like salaries/benefits and utilities, remain the same whether there are 69 or 76 students in 1st grade next year, accepting Open Enrollment students maximizes the district's income without increasing costs.

Special Education Open Enrollments are based on maximum case loads for these specialized teachers. While the district did set the maximum numbers, final determination of projected numbers for next year will be made just prior to the deadline for Open Enrollment. It was noted that in order to maintain flexibility with the utilization of staff in Early Childhood/Special Education, no Open Enrollment students will be accepted for next year in this department.

It is not often mentioned, but the Open Enrollment document approved by the Board states that the District will deny students previously expelled or being considered for expulsion from another Wisconsin school district or out-of-state school district as it applies to current Wisconsin Law.

The Board approved the hiring of Irene Hoang as a High School English teacher for the remainder of the 2016-17 school year.

A $1,000 donation was accepted from Jeff and Jan Allman to be used as two $500 scholarships for 2017 graduates. A $500 donation was accepted from Elroy and Margaret Graese to be used for the Skills USA organization. Also accepted was the donation of tables for ENC machines from NWTC, an $800 value.

School Board member Kelly Jones is representing the district at the upcoming Wisconsin Association of School Boards Convention. The Board discussed a resolution which would mandate a specific start date for the school year. Eparvier said he would like to see that mandate eliminated because he favored local control of the starting and ending dates for the school year.

With the District switching athletic conferences next school year, a mandated late start date would mean football would already have three games played before the school year even starts. As it is, football practice this summer is already slated to begin on July 31. He pointed out that a late start to the school year also means a late ending of the school year, and it's much harder to motivate students well into the second week of June. Jones will take those concerns to the convention.


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Peshtigo, WI 54157
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