Your Schools: School district ‘stats’ can be eye-openingAt last week’s School District of River Falls annual meeting, I shared with the 50-some citizens in attendance my version of the “State of the District.”
By: Tom Westerhaus, School Superintendent, River Falls Journal
At last week’s School District of River Falls annual meeting, I shared with the 50-some citizens in attendance my version of the “State of the District.”
While taking some good natured ribbing from colleagues about my being “Windy Westerhaus” (I’m not known for brevity!), several residents made it a point to let me know they appreciated the information shared and asked me to pass along some of the statistics in one of my columns.
Enrollment for 2011-12: 3,050 students total, slightly up from last year’s 3,047.
We have 1,390 pre-K and elementary students in four buildings, 661 students at Meyer Middle School, and 999 high school students at River Falls High School and the Renaissance Academy.
Our enrollments have continued to hover around 3,000 students the past few years without the larger decreases many smaller districts are seeing.
Open enrollments: 95 students enrolling into our district, 22 enrolling in other districts, for a net gain of 73 students. We receive 2/3 funding for all open enrolled students coming into our district who have been placed in our existing classrooms.
The district hasn’t added classrooms or teachers to accommodate open enrolled students who are spread throughout classrooms across the district.
Last year’s graduating class had 273 students and a graduation rate of 99.63%. Ninety percent of graduates took the ACT test to get into college this year, with 80% of last year’s seniors actually attending post-secondary institutions this fall (62%-4 year colleges, 18% 2 year degree or certification programs).
The additional 20% of students are working, in the military, or delaying college for various reasons.
River Falls students do well academically. Our WKCE state tests results last year showed 93% of 4th graders proficient or advanced in reading, 88% proficient or advanced in math. Likewise, 97% of 8th graders were proficient or advanced in reading, 89% in math.
And at the high school, 88% of our 10th graders were proficient or advanced on the state test, while 86% were proficient or advanced in math.
Last year, 68 juniors took the PSAT (pre-college entrance exam); two of those students are National Merit semi-finalists.
One hundred ninety-six juniors and seniors took the national Advanced Placement exams last year, with 80% of those students scoring a 3, 4, or 5 on a 5-point scale, thereby qualifying them to receive free college credits for course work completed in River Falls High School.
The year before I came to the district, we had 12% of our families who qualified for free and reduced-price lunches in school. That number has now doubled to 24% of our students on free and reduced lunches.
We have 42 students in the English Language Learners (ELL) program this year, speaking 13 different languages (Korean, Spanish, Amharic, Arabic, Hmong, Gujarati, Vietnamese, Turkish, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, German, Patois, and Farsi.)
10.8% of our students qualify for and receive special education services, compared with a 5-year state average of 14.02%
We have 439 full- and part-time employees this year, 1/3 of who are new to the district in the past four years. This year we have 219 teachers, 13 administrators, 45 bus drivers/mechanics, 5 supervisors, 16 Kids Club employees, 23 custodians, 81 paraprofessionals and special ed. aides, 25 secretaries and volunteer coordinators, 6 food service personnel, and 6 accounting and technology personnel.
Employees are paying their own portion of retirement this year, and health insurance premiums paid by the district have been capped at 87.5%. Both of these are consistent with Governor Walker’s new budget parameters.
Total employee compensation packages for teachers in 2011-12 were decreased by 4.6%, with 0% increase or less for all other employee groups. Our district’s current stable financial position for this year is owed in large part to employees earning less and paying more, not unlike the private sector during these rough times.
The health insurance carrier for the district is periodically bid out to receive the best premium rates. Two years ago we did just that and changed to a different carrier as a result. Last year, the new carrier proposed steep increases so our district received a significantly lower premium cost from the original carrier, so we went back to our first carrier.
Over 700 participants from the community have participated in 104 fee-based classes offered through Community Ed, and 10 senior citizens will be a part of the Senior Tax Exchange Program (STEP) by volunteering 600+ hours in the schools.
In my last column, I mentioned the survey parent of students in the district will be asked to complete concerning changing of school start times. The survey is now ready, and parents are reminded to take 5 minutes to complete the School Start Time Survey that was recently emailed to parents’ home email addresses from the UW-RF Survey and Research Center.
Surveys need to be completed by Monday, Oct. 3, in order to be considered in the results. If email is not an option for a family, parents are asked to contact their child’s school office for a hard copy survey to complete.