Your Schools: You asked and I answeredThis week I will respond to questions I’ve been asked by residents on a variety of topics.
By: Tom Westerhaus, School Superintendent, River Falls Journal
This week I will respond to questions I’ve been asked by residents on a variety of topics.
How will the transition go for administrative changes coming this summer?
For the high school principal position vacant as a result of Principal Elaine Baumann’s retirement, a committee of 18 individuals is vigorously working to find the next leader for RFHS.
I chair the committee which is made up of a board member, parents, administrators, teachers, and support staff.
The district received 36 applications and is in the process of reviewing each set of credentials to match with our criteria of expectations for the next leader, including secondary experience, personal qualities, leadership skills, knowledge and expertise, communication skills, and evidence of strong public relations and community-building.
Interviews will be conducted mid-March, with a final recommendation on the successful candidate submitted to the school board in April. That should allow time for Baumann and the new principal to plan for transition of leadership to occur mid-summer.
As announced earlier, I will be retiring in June. For the position of superintendent for the School District of River Falls, the board has hired Kenneth LaCroix of Educational Consulting Services to facilitate the search process.
The board will appoint an advisory committee comprised of administrators, teachers, staff, community members, and parents to participate in the interview process and provide feedback to the board.
Interviews will take place in April. The community will be invited to participate in the final round of interviews at the end of April when candidates will make public presentations.
Just as with the principal search, I hope to have some time before I retire to sit with the next superintendent to help the transition go smoothly.
Do students and staff need to make up the two days of schools we missed because of weather?
Staff members are always expected to make up any days missed due to inclement weather. While staff may be excused for the emergency weather, teachers work 188 days per year regardless of snow or cold by rescheduling their missed day(s). Students, on the other hand, have two days built into the school calendar, which means they can miss two days of school and not make them up.
Since we’ve already had two days off of school this year, any additional days lost will need to be made up by students, starting with Friday, June 7. (Late starts and early releases of students due to bad weather would not require make-up days.)
Meyer Middle School students did get an extra day off due to a break in the city water main near the building earlier this winter.
By extending their school day by five minutes/day, middle school students will be able to make up for the lost day without adding a day at the end of the year, unless, of course, we have another weather-related closing.
What’s the budget look like for next year?
While we are still hopeful that the legislature will try to provide more funding than the 0% increase the Governor is offering for revenue limits, the budget for next year is not looking very favorable.
Earlier indications from state senators led us to believe that we might be given an additional $200 per student for the upcoming biennium, which would have allowed us to move forward with some strategic plan initiatives and with very modest compensation increases.
However, Governor Walker’s proposed budget freezes the revenue limit and places 1% more state money into private school vouchers, property tax relief, and teacher performance compensation.
If the Governor succeeds in having his budget passed, our school board will need to decide if a deficit of approximately $400,000 can be made up by eliminating any projected compensation increases, making budget reductions, or a combination of both.
After several years of making similar reductions, you might well expect those cuts to be deep and painful.
What happens to the 1-to-1 iPad technology initiative under this budget scenario?
This is a very important effort and one that needs to be addressed in the next year or two in order to keep our students and staff updated and using appropriate technology for learning.
However, if no new dollars are allocated to our general fund by the state, the iPad initiative will be put on hold for a year. The administration will not recommend going forward with purchasing student iPads if other staff positions and various programs need to be cut.
Likewise, we will not support the addition of an Educational Technology Specialist position if other programs are cut to pay for it, even though training of our staff with current technology is absolutely vital and eventually will be necessary.
How about the expansion of the elementary Spanish program?
We are hopeful that we can expand the Spanish program into second grade next year with little or no staff time increase by using high school staff currently hired for secondary world language instruction.
What partnership is being explored with UWRF regarding Ramer field upgrades?
UWRF is looking to make significant improvements to Ramer field and stadium over the next couple of years. This is the same stadium that RFHS has played its home football games on for many years, since our high school has never had its own stadium and is not interested in spending $2 million to build one.
The university is asking the district to spend $300,000 over the next ten years to assist in the upgrades to the field (artificial turf), press box, parking, bathrooms, concession stand, etc.
Our board and school administrators are in the process of analyzing how we can participate in the upgrades without spending tax dollars or the district’s fund balance.
That might include increased adult ticket prices, booster club support, parking fees, etc. The university is seeking an answer from the district in April in order to coordinate the project with state approval of the Falcon Center project located adjacent to the football stadium.
Thanks to those residents who have asked these questions, and please don’t hesitate to keep ‘em comin’! Remember that I truly believe that our schools are YOUR River Falls Public Schools and EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS!