Friday, December 19, 2014

School Funding Video From the Department of Public Instruction

SPECIAL EDITION: School Funding Video
A new video, engaging enough that community members might be inclined to watch it over the holiday break, explains how school finance works in Wisconsin and the reasons for reform efforts.
The video from the Department of Public Instruction, Our School Funding System and Why Change is Needed, features animations and interviews.
Deb Pickett in her shop
The video features an interview with Deb Pickett, a business owner and parent from Darlington, as well as interviews with members of the Kettle Moraine and Monona Grove school boards.
At the end of the video, a YouTube annotation appears on the bottom of the screen, directing viewers to the DPI's Fair Funding for Our Future webpage to learn more.
State Superintendent Tony Evers’ earlier video explaining his 2015-2017 education budget is available athttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjvxZRt8kgI.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Possible Referendum- Additional Information

You may have read a relatively recent News Shield article regarding a possible referendum in the future for our district; I wanted to take an opportunity to provide some additional information and background so that our district residents are well informed.  To begin, we are only in the planning stages at this time and do not have solid plans as of yet regarding how we will proceed; with that said, it is important to note that we will take multiple steps to ensure that taxpayers are well aware of our plans and the possible tax implications through updates like this in addition to community meetings and ongoing discussions at the board level.  It seems a bit strange to most people, but some debt for school districts is actually beneficial when it comes to State aid; this is due to how the aid formula currently works in Wisconsin. Districts receive aid through a complex formula that takes into account equalized property values, enrollment, debt payments, and other factors and provides those payments to districts for operations with the remainder of the funding generated through local property taxes from our various municipalities.  Under our current school funding formula, districts have a statutorily imposed “revenue cap” which is the amount of money a district can generate comprised of State aid and local property taxes to maintain operations (personnel, facilities, programs, supplies, etc.).  In general, if State aid goes down, property taxes go up and vice versa.  Since Barron Area is a “highly aided” district (we receive proportionately more State aid than other districts our same size) the amount of aid we stand to lose as a result of low or no debt payments is great, which translates to increases in local property taxes.  A complicating factor currently is the fact that we are in the second year of the State’s biennial budget which means that our lawmakers will begin work on a new biennial budget to start the next legislative session beginning in January 2015; this is a complicating factor simply because it is very difficult to predict what the next budget for public education will look like.  As a result, we will not be able to develop definite plans until the new biennial budget is unveiled later this spring at which time we intend to run a number of scenarios to inform how we will proceed.  Following are some facts for reference regarding the possible referenda:

·        Schools in WI are funded through 2 primary sources: 1) Equalized State Aid and 2) Local Property Taxes.  If equalized State aid goes down, local property taxes go up and vice versa.

·        If the district does not incur MORE debt by the conclusion of the 2016-2017 school year, taxpayers will likely see an increase in local property taxes. This is due to the fact that schools receive State aid on debt payments they make- by the end of 2016-2017 the district would have very little debt which means little or no corresponding aid on those payments.  

·        The district will most likely need to maintain a “levy override referendum” to continue to meet facility maintenance and upkeep needs as well as operations.  The current levy override referendum is $790,000.00 per year and will expire at the end of the 2016-2017 school year and will have to be renewed- the amount will be determined when more information is available.  It is important to note that the levy override dollars are NOT debt therefore the district does not receive any aid as a result of this increased levy authority.

·        There have been two building/ renovation projects discussed: 1) The addition of a second gym at the HS estimated at $4 Million and 2) The update of the track and FB field at the HS estimated at $2 Million.  In order to fund these projects, the district would go to a building referendum which would cause the district to incur debt which would be aidable under our current funding formula.

·        The district also intends to continue to enhance our academic infrastructure by continuing to utilize the non-recurring levy override dollars as we recently have- thus far we have updated several rooms/ areas at the high school with plans to continue with updates to the high school agriculture area, tech ed. area, and corresponding rooms as well as updates to Riverview middle school’s science and tech ed. areas in addition to other maintenance and renovation projects district-wide.

·        At current levels of property value, enrollment, and State aid, the district could incur new debt up to nearly $8 Million without increasing the current mill rate.  This is due in part to the fact that we would be receiving aid on the “new” debt if the referendum(s) pass.  Our proposal at this time would request new debt of around $6 to $7 Million.
     
As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Sincerely,
Craig G. Broeren
District Administrator
715-537-5612 ext. 402

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Couple of Things

There have been many things going on recently between recent events at the high school and the winter weather; as a result, I wanted to provide you some updates regarding both.

As a follow up regarding the threat at the high school, I wanted to share with you that we feel that we have resolved the case completely; the student who admitted to writing the threat will not be allowed on school property until through his 21st birthday and will be educated off-site, hopefully completing the requirements for a diploma.  I would also like to thank the Barron Police Department and the Barron County Sheriff’s Department for their work and resources that helped us throughout the process.  It is also important to note that the district intends to take threats of this nature very seriously the safety and security of our schools and our students is our primary responsibility.

Secondly, it is worth reminding families about our procedures for cancelling school due to inclement weather particularly in the light of the recent early snow storm.  Due to last year’s “extreme” winter, you are no doubt keenly aware of the phone calls that go out; in addition, we communicate with several television and radio outlets to ensure that everyone is informed.  It is important to note that there are occasions where the cancellations are reported inaccurately on the radio and TV- the phone calls will always contain accurate information- if you are ever in doubt, feel free to call the district office our your child’s school for confirmation or additional information. 

As was indicated above, the safety of our students is our primary concern and having buses and cars out during inclement weather does pose some significant potential issues.  With that said, I want to share with you the process for deciding whether or not to close school when weather conditions are questionable.  Although there are some days when it is a “no-brainer” to cancel school, it is much more common to have to make a judgment call based upon the conditions outside, the weather forecast, and the plans of other area districts.  I would love to say that every decision made is the right one, but that clearly is not the case; I too send my kids on the buses and have to travel the roads to get to school and fully recognize the possible problems that traveling in poor weather can create.  Most of the complexities arise due to the forecast- we have all likely experienced the cancelled school day when the weather predicted never materializes; this causes burdens for the majority of our families due to having to take off of work or attempting to line up day care in a short period of time.  With that said, I do make every effort to meet the educational needs of our students while taking into account their safety and well-being.  I appreciate your support and understanding.

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Sincerely,
Craig G. Broeren
District Administrator
715-537-5612 ext. 402

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

High School Threat Update

As you may have already heard, we had a high school student admit to writing the threat in the boys' bathroom on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 22nd.  That student is currently suspended pending a possible expulsion hearing.  For more information, please refer to the press release issued by the Barron County Sheriff's Department on October 25th.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

School and District Accountability Report Cards

As was discussed last year on this blog, the school and district accountability report cards have been released today containing data from 2013-2014.  The Barron Area School District has improved scores in nearly every category and nearly district wide.  Congratulations to our staff and students!

Below is a comparison of our data from 13-14 (first column) and 12-13 (second column). Please note that an "N/A" indicates that no score was provided by DPI due to having a tested cohort that is too small to report the data and/or no ability to compare from the previous year (e.g. growth).

For more information and to see the actual report cards go to:  https://apps2.dpi.wi.gov/reportcards/
You can also look at all school districts in the State.

District 13-14 12-13 % Change
Overall 68.9 61 12.95
Student Achievement 56.4 54.7 3.11
Student Growth 65.8 62.3 5.62
Closing Gaps 70.6 65.9 7.13
On- Track/ Readiness 83 81.1 2.34
Rating Meets Expectations Meets Few Expectations
BHS 13-14 12-13 % Change
Overall 65.4 60.5 8.10
Student Achievement 52.9 53.7 -1.49
Student Growth N/A N/A N/A
Closing Gaps 64.1 53.2 20.49
On- Track/ Readiness 85.9 81.5 5.40
Rating Meets Expectations Meets Few Expectations
RVMS 13-14 12-13 % Change
Overall 67.5 68.4 -1.32
Student Achievement 55.7 55.8 -0.18
Student Growth 60.5 62.2 -2.73
Closing Gaps 65.3 66.8 -2.25
On- Track/ Readiness 88.4 88.6 -0.23
Rating Meets Expectations Meets Expectations
Almena 13-14 12-13 % Change
Overall 63.2 N/A N/A
Student Achievement 55 N/A N/A
Student Growth N/A N/A N/A
Closing Gaps N/A N/A N/A
On- Track/ Readiness 87.6 N/A N/A
Rating Meets Expectations N/A
Ridgeland-Dallas 13-14 12-13 % Change
Overall 86.4 75 15.20
Student Achievement 76.4 68.8 11.05
Student Growth 94.2 72.7 29.57
Closing Gaps N/A N/A N/A
On- Track/ Readiness 89.5 87.7 2.05
Rating Significantly Exceeds Expectations Exceeds Expectations
Woodland 13-14 12-13 % Change
Overall 72.4 68.2 6.16
Student Achievement 56.1 50.6 10.87
Student Growth 72.5 66 9.85
Closing Gaps 75.9 70.4 7.81
On- Track/ Readiness 84.9 85.6 -0.82
Rating Meets Expectations Meets Expectations

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Schools of Recognition

After a summer hiatus from blogging, it is great to get back to the start of the 14-15 school year with some exciting news!  Our district was recently notified that 2 of our elementary schools (Woodland and Ridgeland- Dallas) are "Title 1 Schools of Recognition" for the 14-15 school year.  Ridgeland- Dallas has been a school of recognition for the past several years however, this year, Ridgeland-Dallas was the only school in the State to meet the criteria to be a school of recognition in all 3 categories (High Achieving. High Progress, and Beating the Odds).  Woodland met the criteria in one category (Beating the Odds) and has not achieved this recognition in recent history; this is a notable achievement for Woodland due to the fact that that school serves a very diverse student population. 

Congratulations to our students, staff, and parents for this significant accomplishment!

See the press release with additional information and the schools named here: http://news.dpi.wi.gov/files/eis/pdf/dpinr2014_91.pdf


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Make Up Days- Hopefully, the Final Communication!

Hello Everyone-

At least evening's regular board meeting, the board approved adding additional days to the calendar as a result of recent school closures.  The result is that we will have:

full day for students and staff on Friday, June 6th

a full day for students and staff on Monday, June 9th

and a half day for students (full day for teaching staff) on Tuesday, June 10th.

There will also be a letter going home in the coming days as well as an informational phone call.

Please contact me with questions.

Thanks,

Craig G. Broeren
District Administrator
Barron Area School District
715-537-5612 ext. 402

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Facilities Update

I wanted to take an opportunity to publically thank the communities, students, parents, and staff of the Barron Area School District for making my first year here very welcoming and engaging.  I realize that there is still several weeks left to the school year, but I wanted to be certain to communicate the many positive experiences and interactions I have had with all of our district stakeholders, particularly our students.  In addition, I feel that it is necessary to share with you what we have done and what we will continue to do with the referendum dollars our communities approved for us to access beginning last school year.  Between last year and this year we have (or will) accomplish the following:

o   Purchase of 5 new school buses to keep our fleet current
o   Purchase of 2 district cars- one for drivers education and one for district travel
o   Completion of the “off-site” storage facility for our wood chips
o   Purchase of a “chip truck” to haul and dump wood chips from the newly constructed “off-site” facility
o   Concrete and asphalt repair and replacement (ongoing)
o   Roof replacement at the Ridgeland-Dallas Elementary
o   Flooring updates to multiple schools (ongoing)
o   Multiple security updates including video cameras and controlled door access for multiple schools (ongoing)
o   Replacement of multiple doors and windows in multiple schools (ongoing)
o   Fence repair and or replacement at Almena and the High School
o   Completion of the Biology Lab remodel at the High School
o   FCE room remodel at the High School (beginning May 2014)
o   Special Ed room remodel at the High School (beginning in May 2014- paid with Federal “flow-through” dollars)
o   Multiple other miscellaneous updates and repairs to electrical, plumbing, structures, roofs, etc.

Most of the items mentioned above will be accomplished by the end of this fiscal year and will total nearly $1.5 million.  In addition we also intend to begin a fairly aggressive roof replacement plan beginning next year focusing first on the most needed areas (middle school- various locations, high school- gym) and moving on to other areas over the next few years. We will also continue work on many of the “ongoing” items mentioned above in addition to other facility and building needs as they arise.  The facility and finance committee in conjunction with our buildings and grounds department has developed a comprehensive plan for maintenance and updates to all of our facilities over the next several years.

I hope this information is helpful for our taxpayers in making some determinations about what we have done and will do with the referendum dollars we have available to us.  It is also important to note that although the majority of the referendum dollars are going towards facility update and improvements, we also continue to have a need to access some of this money to pay for the continued operations of our schools for programming, personnel, infrastructure and other costs associated with simply running a school.

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Sincerely,
Craig G. Broeren
District Administrator
715-537-5612 ext. 402

Thursday, March 20, 2014

More On Make Up Days

We have had one additional snow day since the board first acted to make up days earlier in the year; on February 21st we had to once again close school due to a snowstorm.  As a result, we may have to make up this day at the end of the year.  During our last committee meetings (March 10th and 11th) the board and I discussed the possibility of making up days within the existing school calendar as we did earlier in the year (see post regarding make up days below).  Due to the fact that the only available days left in the calendar are April 17th and 18th and are associated with the Easter holiday, the board felt that it would be in the best interest of our families and staff to steer away from using those as a result of the high likelihood that many families have planned trips and get-togethers during that time.  Therefore, we intend to wait and see what happens with the rest of the season to first determine whether or not any additional days will need to be made up; if so, we intend to make up those days during the second week of June.  There will be more information to come after our April meeting.

Please contact me at any time with questions.

Thanks, 
Craig G. Broeren
District Administrator
Barron Area School District
715-537-5612 ext. 402

Friday, March 7, 2014

New State Assessments and Common Core State Standards

I thought it would be beneficial to provide parents and community members some resources regarding  the new State tests  coming next year (2014-2015) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

An excellent resource for parents describing both information about the CCSS and the new State tests can be found here:  http://www.pta.org/files/PTA%20Wisconsin%20Assessment%20Guide.pdf

Additional information and a comprehensive listing of all of the CCSS for both English Language Arts (ELA) and Math can be found here: http://www.corestandards.org

Additional Information regarding testing for grades K-2 can be found here: http://www.palswisconsin.info/

Additional information regarding the new State tests for grades 3-8 can be found here: http://www.smarterbalanced.org/

Additional information regarding the ACT suite of tests for High School students can be found here: http://oea.dpi.wi.gov/files/oea/pdf/2012budgetprop.pdf  and here: https://www.act.org/

Hopefully this is helpful for understanding the changes to come in 14-15.  Please contact me at any time with questions!

Craig G. Broeren
District Administrator
715-357-5612 ext. 402
broerenc@barron.k12.wi.us


 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Budget Update

As promised earlier, I intend to provide our district residents with an update regarding our current budget and some estimates for next year’s budget.

To begin, February is an excellent time to take an in depth look at our district’s current financial situation largely because it is roughly half way through the budget year.  Basically, it allows us to gauge fairly accurately where were are now (in terms of revenues and expenditures) and allows us to more easily predict what the remainder of the fiscal year holds.  Clearly, we closely monitor all spending throughout the year, but the half- way point provides a degree of focus.  With that said, after conducting and in depth evaluation of our budget we are on track with where we should be for this time of year; although this is what was expected, it is always good to see that things are going as planned.  It also indicates that we can continue with our plans for facility maintenance, upkeep, and improvements as promised in our most recent referendum plans.  There have been several projects completed, several underway and several yet to come.

In addition to an evaluation of this year’s budget, we have also started the beginning stages of budget development and planning in preparation for 2014-2015.  As it stands now, we are predicting a balanced budget with a projected mill rate in the range of 11.0 to 12.8.  Why the large range at this point?  This is due to the fact that there are multiple “moving parts” that remain moving until next fall when we receive our equalized property values and our certification of State aid in October.  With that said, we do have the ability to fairly accurately predict where we will likely be based on three main factors: 1) student numbers, 2) equalized property value, and 3) amount of State aid.  The issue (and the primary reason for the range) is as a result of the fact that these three factors are unfortunately not finalized until October as mentioned above; however, we are quite certain that the budget will be balanced and that we will continue to meet our obligations to our students, staff and community.

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Sincerely,
Craig G. Broeren
District Administrator
715-537-5612 ext. 402

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Make Up Days

February 4, 2014

As you may know, the Board of Education met last evening at a special board meeting to act on modifying the existing school calendar to add days as a result of our most recent school closures on January 27th and 28th due to the cold weather.  As a result of last night’s meeting, the Board has included February 17th (an “off” day for both students and staff) and March 31st (an in-service day for staff) as student contact days.  What this means is that the district will be holding classes as usual on these two days.  We recognize that this may cause some issues for families who had planned on vacations or absences during those days; in the event that your child will be absent either or both of these dates, please contact the office of your child’s school and report that absence(s) as you would for any other school day.

Once again, we will hold classes on February 17th and on March 31st

The Board made this choice due to the fact that we may be able to avoid having to add days in June; in the event there are future cancellations these days are also likely to be made up and you will be contacted with additional relevant information if necessary.

We apologize for any issues this may cause.  It is our hope that we will not have to make up any additional days due to inclement weather or any other reason.

Please feel free to contact me at any time.


Sincerely,

Craig G. Broeren
District Administrator
Barron Area School District
715-537-5612 ext.402

Friday, January 17, 2014

Update on Academic Programming

I thought that this would be a great time to provide our district residents with some updates over the next two months with a Superintendent’s two favorite topics: 1) Academic Programming and 2) Budget and School Finance.  This month will be devoted to the academic programming portion with next month devoted to the budget and school finance.

There are many interesting and challenging things occurring at all levels of the Barron Area School District.  To begin, the district is currently investigating options for modifications to our pre-kindergarten and Early Childhood (EC) programming for the 2014-2015 school year.  There have been no decisions or changes made at this time, but we are considering methods to better serve our EC population (3-5 year olds with special needs) by developing programming that is specifically designed to meet the needs of these students.  At this time, we incorporate them into our existing preK classes; although this partially solves how we deliver services, it does not fully address many of our students’ needs.  We are thinking about the possibility of developing a consortium of schools in Barron county who will work together to collaboratively provide services for these students at various locations.  This would include a variety of options such as play groups, home visits and/or classroom/ academic based activities.  Once we have a plan developed, the community, and parents directly involved in particular, will be contacted.

We are also looking critically at our English as a Second Language (ESL) programming and may be making some modifications there as well.  Like the Early Childhood program, we are looking at modifications that would enhance our delivery of instruction and academic support for our ESL students district-wide.  One aspect of that approach has already been initiated by the Board of Education when they approved hiring some additional ESL staff members including a teacher and a bi-lingual aide.  The district will receive some additional funding through State and Federal sources as a result of these hires, but we must also examine what our programming looks like.  To be clear, simply hiring additional staff can begin to address our concerns, but it is not a stand-alone solution to address needs; therefore, a comprehensive program evaluation is in process to determine possible changes to maximize student learning and language acquisition. 

As I have indicated before, we have also been engaged in multiple activities to enhance our instructional practices overall.  Specifically, we have focused on a move towards data-based decision making which allows our staff members to utilize data to inform their instructional practices.  What this does, is allow our staff members to identify particular areas of need (based on data) and focus on those particular areas with specific academic interventions designed to address specific deficits (or strengths) and enhance student achievement.  Perhaps the most significant aspect of this approach is the idea that it works just as well for students who are struggling as it does for students who excel.  I am also very proud to report that the teachers in all of our schools have taken this approach and run with it; they are frequently engaged in conversations regarding student achievement and problem-solving methods to address areas of concern- it is very cool to see.

Barron Area School District is a great district but we must continuously look for ways to improve to remain competitive and focused on providing our students the absolute best opportunities at success.

As always, please feel free to contact me at any time.

Sincerely,
Craig G. Broeren
District Administrator
715-537-5612 ext. 402