Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Community Survey Update

As I write this it is November 9th, the day after the election; as we move past the craziness of the election, it is a good time to look to the future.  To that end, it seems an opportune time to share with you the preliminary results of the survey we conducted regarding the possible renovation of the HS gym and associated areas.  The final results of the survey will be presented to the board on November 21, 2016 at our regularly scheduled meeting at Almena elementary; this information will also be posted on our district website as well.

Strictly in terms of statistics, the first question of “Would you support the district exploring a capital referendum to renovate the high school gym at this time?” yielded 442 “yes” responses, 219 “no” responses, and 119 “undecided” responses.  The second question of “Would you support a $7 million referendum for the plan as described above?” yielded 249 “definitely yes” responses, 212 “probably yes” responses, 119 “undecided” responses, 67 “probably no” responses, and 187 “definitely no” responses.  In addition to the information indicated above, there were also district effectiveness, communication, and demographic questions asked which will be shared at the board meeting as well as posted on the web site after our November board meeting.  Another important aspect of the survey was the comments that were provided by numerous folks who completed the survey.  In evaluating the comments, some consistent themes began to emerge including- focus on academics, some confusion over our last referendum and what it is to be used for, the possibility of a weight room, our current locker rooms at the high school, and finally handicap access. 
To address some of these emerging trends, I offer the following:  Our district’s focus on academics is our primary focus without question.  We have invested a significant degree of time, money, and resources to evaluate and modify our existing programs to continue on a path towards educational excellence.  Our work in this area is never done, however our focus is and will remain first and foremost on academics and opportunities for our kids.  One of the reasons why academics seem to take a “back seat” to athletics and/or facilities is because of the very visual nature of those items.  Any community member can drive by the school or visit and see firsthand renovated facilities or classrooms and/or athletic events occurring; these too are important aspects of our schools however are not held in higher regard than our primary responsibility of educating students.  If you do not have students currently in school it is very difficult to see (if not impossible) what our focus on academics actually looks like. 
As far as the last referendum is concerned, this was an operational referendum which can be used by the board to run the district as they direct; this may take the form of building renovations as is our plan OR it can be used to simply operate the district and to maintain programming and staffing levels.  The plans for the operational referendum as outlined previously are to address the South wing of the HS through renovating areas like technology education, band, choir, agricultural education, art, etc.; however, due to the fact that this is an operational referendum, it is possible that by the time the 2021-2022 school year rolls around, the district will have to use those dollars simply for general operation depending upon the State budgets leading up until then.  This referendum, if the question is asked, would be to issue debt which can ONLY be used for the purpose outlined (e.g. the proposed modifications to the HS gym and associated area).  Once the debt is incurred on the front end, the district would make payments each year until the “loan” is paid off.
In looking at the suggested design and the possibility of a weight room, the board has indicated that the area identified as the “multi-purpose room” on the proposed plan could certainly be used for a weight room.  With respect to the existing locker rooms- we all agree that they are too small as a result of the cut backs many years ago, but to address them in any meaningful fashion would require more dollars due to their location in the HS.  Basically, they are “land-locked” between existing spaces and would require increasing the existing building footprint to a significant degree.  This was discussed, but the dollar amount to address it was a concern for the board.
Lastly with respect to handicap access and the proposed changes- since it is now 2016, we are obligated to provide adequate handicap accessible facilities as outlined in building code whenever we do construction or renovation of an area.  Since the existing gym is from around 1956, it is lacking in many aspects of current code and will therefore be brought up to code through this process if it in fact occurs.  There will be handicap accessible restrooms, bleachers, ramps, etc. that all must be part of the new design if this project takes place.

As indicated above, the board will evaluate the results of this survey at the November 21st board meeting in Almena which will provide them an opportunity to process the results as well as suggest changes prior to deciding whether or not a referendum question will be asked in the spring. 

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

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Blue Ribbon School and Some Other Things

I would like to take yet another opportunity to recognize our staff, students, and parents of Woodland elementary for receiving a national Blue Ribbon award from the United States Department of Education.  This recognition is well deserved and is a very public reflection of the incredible things going on at Woodland and the rest of our schools.  I realize that the vast majority of our local communities recognize the work and dedication of our staff and students but it is always encouraging to have this acknowledged on a national level putting our work on par with some of the very best schools in the country.  Congratulations again to our staff, students, and parents of Woodland elementary!  For more information about the Blue Ribbon Award program, please visit: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/nclbbrs/index.html or simply Google “Blue Ribbon Schools”.

On a similar note, districts across Wisconsin have received embargoed school and district accountability report cards from the State derived from last year’s State testing data.  This data will be released publically towards the end of October or early November when we intend to also share our results with the Board of Education.  Administration and teaching staff have access to the reports to begin to evaluate the data in terms of areas for improvement and/or strengths and will continue to do so over the next few weeks.  Results are looking favorable for the district in general even given the increased accountability parameters outlined by the State last year.  We intend to post our results on the district website when the school and district report cards are made available to the public.

By now you all should have received the survey regarding possible renovations/ additions to the High School gym.  I want to reiterate once again that the data collected from the surveys will determine whether or not the district will ask another referendum question this spring- If the responses lean more towards “NO” we will not move forward.  I also wanted to remind everyone that we have additional copies of the survey (both web based and paper) that we can get out to individuals with more than one taxpayer per residence (e.g. husband and wife, etc.)- simply contact the district office at 715-537-5612 and press “0” to let us know which type of survey you prefer.   

Lastly, the weather has been absolutely beautiful the last several days but as with most things it will soon come to an end.  As before, if we have to cancel school due to weather, we will utilize the emergency notification system, Facebook, radio, and television to ensure that our parents are aware in a timely fashion.  Enjoy the fall weather! 

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

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

Thursday, September 15, 2016

HS Renovation Update

The school year is now well underway and thus far, things have gone quite well.  With every new school year, there are “bugs” to work out but through good communication we can address and resolve almost anything. 

The facility/finance committee has begun the process of addressing the upcoming renovations to the High School’s South wing which includes band, choir, art, tech ed., ag ed., and other miscellaneous classrooms.  At this point, it is looking as though we will begin our renovations in this area by first addressing our technology education area; the hope is that work will begin this school year and into the summer.  One of the proposals on the table has an addition to the building which if possible, given the infrastructure and layout, will develop new space for tech ed. with the new portion attaching the existing building to the auto shop.  (Please remember that these are concepts until architects and engineers determine what is viable and cost effective.)  The reason for developing new space for tech ed. is two-fold: first, in order to address the needs of technology education appropriately, we would have to completely gut and redesign the majority of it as it exists today to get that area up to current standards (due to welding and other processes that occur in tech ed., the area needs to be largely self-contained with reference to HVAC and mechanical).  Second, if we begin work on adding space outside of the existing structure, we can continue classes as usual and not disrupt students’ education or class locations.  This approach also has the added benefit of freeing up the “old” tech ed. space for moving and expanding the other classrooms that will be addressed over time in this same area.  As mentioned above, this is a fluid process with many pieces to consider; if you are interested in our approach or planning processes, feel free to attend any of our facility/ finance committee meetings that occur every second Monday of the month at 6:00pm in the district office boardroom.  Lastly, it is worth pointing out that for each phase of the renovations, we will work closely with our staff to ensure that their classrooms and/or areas are up to 21st century standards and their expectations every step of the way.  We are also encouraging staff to look at other cutting-edge programs (WITC, industry, other schools, etc.) around the State in planning for ours.  

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

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

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Welcome to the 2016-2017 School Year

Welcome to the 2016-2017 school year!  It is always exciting to get our students back in the building even if some of them are not terribly excited to come back.  As many of you have noticed, we have done many updates to our facilities over the summer months.  To begin, we did some landscaping around the high school; I have heard that there were questions about this with reference to our new referendum.  To be clear, we do not have access to the newly approved referendum dollars until NEXT school year (2017-2018) when the new referendum takes effect.  The landscaping at the high school (as well as Riverview and the district office which were done the prior two years) was part of facility improvement plans prior to my arrival.  The rationale behind the landscaping in general is to improve the overall appearance of our excellent facilities as well as clean up the area(s).  I realize that there were a number of trees removed for the high school landscaping project, but many of these were dying and the line of trees directly in front of the building were too close to the building and also posed a possible safety concern by not allowing a decent view in and/or out of the building.  A final reason that the high school landscaping was addressed now was as a result of the work on Woodland Avenue conducted by the city; it made a lot of sense to tie these two projects together.

In addition to the landscaping, we have also replaced flooring in the high school main hall, second floor hall, and second floor classrooms, as well as the flooring in Riverview’s commons, band room hall, and the art room/FCE room hall.  We are also in the process of replacing all of the high school’s and Riverview’s academic lockers.  The high school lockers are now twice as wide as they once were which should accommodate students’ backpacks, books, coats, AND laptop bags with no issue; at Riverview we will have enough lockers installed so that EVERY student will have their own locker.  We have also completed the entire roof at Woodland and the vast majority of the roof at the high school which means that all of our facilities now have new roofs (with the exception of parts of the high school).

Lastly, I wanted to address some of the questions that have been raised regarding the possibility of another referendum.  Basically, I have heard “Really?  Another referendum, didn’t we just approve one?”  The referendum that was approved last April takes effect (as mentioned above) during the 2017-2018 school year; it is for operations as well as renovations including several rooms/areas at the high school (band, choir, agricultural ed., technology ed., art).  The other referendum has only been discussed and if approved would be to renovate the high school gym by making it much larger (able to accommodate at least two full size basketball courts), removing the stage area, adding a wrestling room/area, a multi-purpose room, and additional storage (among other things).  To be clear, the board has NOT yet authorized another referendum.  Our approach includes developing architectural plans to allow us to show the community what our potential plans look like, as well as to provide information to the public regarding this possible referendum while soliciting feedback in the form of a community survey.  If we find through the survey results that there is community support for something like this, then the board will move forward; if we find through the survey there is not, we will not move forward.  Again, this is not a “done deal”.  We intend to provide our taxpayers with all the information necessary to make an informed choice and if the survey indicates that there is not community support for a project like this, we will not move forward with another referendum question.  One of my primary goals is to ensure that our community and stakeholder groups are well informed and able to provide feedback prior to making any significant decisions that may impact local taxes.

I hope you all have had a great summer with plenty of time to relax and enjoy family and friends.

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

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

Friday, May 13, 2016

Wrapping Up

The end of the school year is always a great time to thank our parents and communities for their support of our schools.  Our parents and communities and their involvement are pivotal in the success of our schools and most importantly our children.  One of my personal goals is to always keep the best interests of our students in mind when making decisions and I know firsthand that our staff feels the same way.  As a parent as well, I also realize that other parents expect the very same.  Over the past three years I have experienced firsthand the dedication and commitment of our parents and communities and wanted to recognize and thank you all for your involvement and support.  Lastly I wanted to share a story I recently read about finding time for kids- we do it here at school every day, but my experience as a parent has shown me that it is much more difficult to do at home.

How Much Do You Earn ?

A man came home from work late, tired and irritated, to find his 5-year old son waiting for him at the door.
SON: “Daddy, may I ask you a question?”
DAD: “Yeah sure, what is it?” replied the man.
SON: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?”
DAD: “That’s none of your business. Why do you ask such a thing?” the man said angrily.
SON: “I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?”
DAD: “If you must know, I make $16.00 an hour.”
SON: “Oh,” the little boy replied, with his head down.
SON: “Daddy, may I please borrow $8.00?”
The father was furious, “If the only reason you asked that is so you can borrow some money to buy a silly toy or some other nonsense, then you march yourself straight to your room.” The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door.
The man had calmed down, and started to think: Maybe there was something he really needed to buy with that $8.00 and he really didn’t ask for money very often. The man went to the door of the little boy’s room and opened the door.” Are you asleep, son?” He asked.
“No daddy, I’m awake,” replied the boy. “I’ve been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier” said the man. Here’s the $8.00 you asked for.”
The little boy sat straight up, smiling. “Oh, thank you daddy!” He yelled. Then, reaching under his pillow he pulled out some crumpled up bills. The man saw that the boy already had money, started to get angry again. The little boy slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his father. “Why do you want more money if you already have some?” the father grumbled. “Because I didn’t have enough, but now I do,” the little boy replied.
“Daddy, I have $16.00 now. Can I buy an hour of your time?
Please come home early tomorrow. I would like to have dinner with you.”

A reminder to all of us working so hard in life. We should not let time slip through our fingers without having spent some time with those who really matter to us, those close to our hearts…

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

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

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Congrats to Our Grads and Thanks to Our Comnunities

It is hard to believe that we are only weeks away from watching the class of 2016 walk the stage in our annual commencement ceremony.  On behalf of the board of education and the district I would like to wish our graduates an early “congratulations” on their upcoming graduation!  The class of 2016 has had many substantial individual and group accomplishments this year and throughout their high school careers and I and many others know that they all have great futures and opportunities ahead of them.

In addition, I wanted to sincerely thank our communities for your outstanding support of our schools and our various programs; we would not be successful without your continued involvement and commitment which is very much appreciated.  As you may have heard, there was an extraordinary turnout of voters this spring which resulted in three excellent and effective board members retaining their seats; they are Jeff Nelson, Kelli Rasmussen, and Danette Hellmann.  The voter turnout also resulted in the district’s referendum question passing by an exceptional 401 vote margin.  Following is a table of the canvassed and now official referendum results:


Referendum Question
MUNICIPALITY



YES
NO
C / BARRON
594
268
T / ALMENA
4
3
T / ARLAND
60
65
T / BARRON
156
108
T / CLINTON
86
82
T / CUMBERLAND
5
11
T / DALLAS
107
90
T / MAPLE GROVE
163
170
T / PRAIRIE FARM
4
1
T / PRAIRIE LAKE
5
1
T/SHERIDAN - No Voters
0
0
T / SIOUX CREEK
4
9
T / SAND CREEK - No Voters
0
0
T / STANFOLD
15
34
T / STANLEY
9
6
T / WILSON
46
41
V / ALMENA
94
77
V / DALLAS
56
46
V / RIDGELAND
35
30
TOTALS
1443
1042

The difference in the totals versus the unofficial results shared on April 6th were due to two (2) late absentee ballots from the city of Barron (which were not added in until the canvassing took place) and the fact that the town of Maple Grove only reported the vote tallies from the computer based voting machines which resulted in the 160-160 tie reported in the initial unofficial results.  After the paper ballots were counted and included, the vote total in the town of Maple Grove rose to 163 “Yes” and 170 “No” illustrated above.  Aside from that, there were no other changes in the vote totals.
Again, we truly appreciate the support of our communities and will continue to provide and enhance exceptional opportunities for our students.

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

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

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

UNOFFICIAL Results from the Referendum and School Board Election

Referendum Question
MUNICIPALITY
YESNO
C / BARRON592268
T / ALMENA43
T / ARLAND6065
T / BARRON156108
T / CLINTON8682
T / CUMBERLAND511
T / DALLAS10790
T / MAPLE GROVE160160
T / PRAIRIE FARM41
T / PRAIRIE LAKE51
T/SHERIDAN - No Voters00
T / SIOUX CREEK49
T / SAND CREEK - No Voters00
T / STANFOLD1534
T / STANLEY96
T / WILSON4641
V / ALMENA9477
V / DALLAS5646
V / RIDGELAND3530
TOTALS14381032

MUNICIPALITYKelliDanetteJeffrey
RasmussenHellmannNelson
C / BARRON749686724
T / ALMENA566
T / ARLAND979596
T / BARRON229218229
T / CLINTON133127135
T / CUMBERLAND101012
T / DALLAS166163167
T / MAPLE GROVE273257267
T / PRAIRIE FARM334
T / PRAIRIE LAKE656
T/SHERIDAN - No Voters000
T / SIOUX CREEK101011
T / SAND CREEK - No Voters000
T / STANFOLD403535
T / STANLEY141415
T / WILSON646564
V / ALMENA123138131
V / DALLAS797782
V / RIDGELAND514950
TOTALS205201958020340