January 20, 2003

Band schedule changes approved

In what was characterized as a fine-tuning of changes that began last year, the Hamilton School Board approved a scheduling proposal for 2003-04 that will allow students to earn one credit for band and have classes that meet more often during the week.

Hamilton High School Principal David Furrer outlined the rationale for the change that was proposed by a committee of students and staff members. The school implemented changes this year that allowed students to take band for one credit instead of two by offering it on an A/B basis — opposite a physical education or citizenship class. Feedback from students and parents indicated the schedule was distracting for students who felt a more consistent schedule would be beneficial.

Hamilton has a four-period day in which classes are slated for 90 minutes Monday, Wednesday and Friday and for 75 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday with a 60-minute advisement period.

The committee recommended that a band block be scheduled during third period in which “skinnies” — or 45-minute classes — are held Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 75-minute classes are held on Tuesday and Thursday on an alternating basis. Opposite the band class would be Algebra-Geometry in ninth grade, Geometry or U.S. 20th Century History in 10th grade, Citizenship or Communications Arts in 11th grade; and Independent Study including Music Theory, on-line studies, Academic Assistant or Advanced Placement Focus in 12th grade.

Furrer said he believed “the changes will result in the continued growth of our instrumental music program in a way that also strengthens academic opportunities for all instrumental music students.”

Taxpayers to benefit from unexpected low interest rate

The School Board approved a resolution to borrow $3.6 million for projects approved in the November referendum with a happy surprise for taxpayers. Because the interest rate for the loan is lower than district officials had estimated, taxpayers will benefit. The interest rate was estimated to be 4.5 percent and actually came in at 3.41 percent. The result is that taxpayers will pay less than what had been projected in referendum information. The savings cannot be used for other district expenses because school districts operate under revenue caps.

Borrowing the money for $13.6 million worth of projects took place in two phases with the School Board taking action in December to borrow $10 million as a Bond Anticipation Note (BAN) at the low interest rate of 1.75 percent. In a year, that amount will be refinanced into a long-term loan. The first year’s low interest rate will save taxpayers thousands of dollars in interest payments.

District financial consultants had predicted the interest rate for the remaining $3.6 million would be less than 5.5 percent, but the 3.41 percent rate was a pleasant surprise.

Issuing the bonds in two separate years allowed the district to further keep interest costs down. By keeping the loan amounts at $10 million or less each year, the district was able to offer “bank-qualified” bonds that allow a larger, more competitive pool of financial institutions to bid on the bonds.

Community members voted Nov. 5 to allow the district to borrow $6.85 million for a Marcy Elementary School addition-renovation project and $6.75 million for a Hamilton High School fine arts-learning center addition that would include an auditorium.

Parish proposes building parking lot on school property

School Board members learned about a proposal from St. James Catholic Parish in which it would build a parking lot on the Willow Spring Learning Center property that would be cooperatively used by the school and the church. The School Board will take action on the matter at a future meeting if the church is able to proceed with its plans. School Board member Gabe Kolesari said he believed the proposal “could be a win-win situation for both of us.”

Open Enrollment slots identified

A total of 43 slots were declared as available for nonresident students applying to attend school through the Open Enrollment Program. The state requires each district to identify potential seats available for the upcoming school year. Educational Services and Human Resources Assistant Superintendent Dean Schultz said typically the district can expect to fill about two-thirds of the declared seats available.

Templeton site plan accepted

Templeton Middle School’s site plan was accepted. Principal Patricia Polczynski and Associate Principal Dale Kuntz reported on the plan that has existed since 1999. Polczynski noted that of the three original tactics, the second one dealing wtih developing avenues of collaboration was deemed operational last year. The remaining two that continue to be worked on are to:

  • meet state standards and maximize student achivement through active, innovative, creative and rigorous learning experiences; and
  • develop and implement alternative programming options that increase academic and behavioral success for students who are disengaged or facing academic difficulty.

The school has made significant progress in reaching the two goals and will be considered operational at the end of the school year. A new Site Plan Committee will form next year to develop a new plan.

Personnel changes approved

In personnel business, the School Board accepted the resignations of speech-language specialist Cynthia Lofy and Maple Avenue physical education teacher Diane Gundrum and the retirements of Maple Avenue first grade teacher Janet Christenson and Hamilton High School science teacher Thomas Hoffman. All are effective at the end of the school year.

January 7, 2003

Olson recognized for highest possible score on SAT

Hamilton High School senior Heather Olson was recognized for her score on the SAT. Hamilton Principal David Furrer described how Olson earned the highest possible score on the SAT test which distinguishes her in the top 1 percent among 1.3 million high school seniors who took the SAT. Only five Wisconsin students earned the prestigious honor of having the maximum score last year.

School Board President Gerald Schmitz presented her with a plaque and expressed admiration for her accomplishment.

Technology plan approved

Hamilton School Board members approved an Instructional Technology Plan that charts the course of initiatives in the district for the next three to five years. The plan, which must be certified by the state Department of Public Instruction, is required for districts apply for state or federal technology funds.

Instructional Technology and Assessment Coordinator Katie Little and Instructional Services Supervisor Margaret Bauman, Ph.D., summarized the plan based on data collected from surveys. The surveys gathered information from teachers, students, parents, School Board members and administrators related to six conditions that strongly influence the effectiveness of instructional technology. They are:

  • forward-thinking, shared vision;
  • educator proficiency with effective teaching and learning practices;
  • digital age equity;
  • effective teaching and learning practices;
  • robust access anywhere, anytime; and
  • systems and leadership.

The District Technology Committee reviewed survey data and developed recommendations that became the goals and action steps of the plan. They include:

  • Vision goal
    – Communicate the vision and mission for technology in the district.
    Action plan
    – Share the enGauge survey results with staff members
    – Inform staff members of mission and vision for technology
    – Use the vision and mission to focus staff development on effective technology integration in teaching and learning
    – Use the vision and mission to guide technology initiatives
  • Educator-proficiency goals
    1. Provide professional development to strengthen effective use of technology
    Action plan
    – Communicate ISTE Teacher Standards to all staff
    – Create a systematic, comprehensive plan for on-going technology professional development
    – Investigate tools to measure effectiveness of professional development on student achievement
    – Provide ongoing training for non-certified staff
    – Demonstrate new technologies and software at district technology meetings

    2. Provide staff development to ensure effective use of new hardware and software applications
    Action plan
    – Provide training related to new curriculum, program adoptions and special education assistive technology

    3. Create comprehensive, professional growth opportunities for administrators related to effective use of technology
    Action plan
    – Provide administrative leadership supporting technological professional development for all staff
    – Develop a schedule for administrative training in student database and analysis software
    – Remain current on new and innovative technologies related to instruction and data management

  • Systems-leadership goal
    – Administrators will understand and effectively use student database and analysis softwre to monitor and enhance student achievement
    Action plan
    – Use technology-based management system to access and maintain student records
    – Continuously monitor and analyze performance data to direct the design and improvement of program initiatives and activities
    – Use district-wide and disaggregated data to identify improvement targets at the school and district levels
    – Monitor annual yearly progress of ESEA-required disaggregated groups
    – Include effective use of technology in the learning and teaching process as one criteria in assessing the performance of instructional staff

  • Access-equity goals
    1. Improve efficiency of district technology systems
    Action plan
    – Reorganize the network tree
    – Implement an automatic virus update for all networked computers
    – Increase network speed by investigating and reducing the Internet for non-educational purposes
    – Purchase and install updated installation/distribution software (ZenWorks)
    – Investigate software purchase for timed automatic computer shutdown
    – Evaluate student management system and investigate alternatives
    – Investigate portable devices allowing for remote access of student management data
    – Provide remote access to media specialists, allowing online catalogs access all buildings
    – Design or implement an existing process for rating and choosing instructional software
    – Create a comprehensive plan to evaluate and update network hardware
    – Provide students with consumable materials and supplies necessary to utilize district technologies
    – Update Marcy infrastructure and install new wiring and hardware

    2. Effectively use district technology resources and facilities
    Action plan
    – Create plan to increase the use educational access channel to communicate district current events and instructional initiatives
    – Investigate additional RAM and Windows 2000 added to High School labs to eliminate students bypassing Fortress security

    3. Maximize computer lab use
    Action plan
    – Investigate use of inexpensive portable devices in classrooms
    – Implement daily usage log in all labs to track lab and software use and potential troubleshooting
    – Investigate opening some computer labs to the public after school hours

    4. Investigate use of educational technologies to improve student achievement, parental communication and accountability
    Action plan
    – Conduct a survey to determine computer and Internet access in the home
    – Investigate the potential for students, teachers, parents and administrators to remotely access student management system
    – Investigate and recommend upgrade or replacement of elementary productivity tools
    – Investigate technology to differentiate curriculum and provide online instruction options
    – Investigate assistive technology to support special education needs
    – Investigate costs and security risks involved in providing remote access to network files for students and staff
    – Investigate virtual learning experiences such as virtual fieldtrips and videoconferencing
    – Review district policies on technology gifts and donations

    5. Ensure all students are engaging in an educational program supported by technology
    Action plan
    – Disaggregate enrollment in technology courses by gender
    – Investigate resources to promote gender equity in technology education programs

    Little said a committee will be formed this spring to begin addressing the action plans associated with each goal.

    In other technology business, Little reported that technical support in the district has improved greatly. The district is served by OmniTech Corporation, which responds to weekly work lists submitted by staff in the district’s seven schools. The technicians service hardware, software and network matters, recommend potential efficiences, participate in Tehcnology Committee meetings and meet with Little twice a month. The contract with OmniTech expires in June. Little said she will seek bids for a new contract and report back to the School Board.

    Elementary report card sees changes

    Parents of elementary school age children are seeing refinements in report cards, based on results from a parent survey and committee recommendations. Bauman reported that the Elementary Report Card Committee recommended changes that were incorporated in report cards parents received in fall. They changes included:

    • changing first and second grade content area key to better describe the developmental nature of student progress at these grade levels;
    • revising the standards key for grades 3-5; and
    • consolidating and revising content standards.

    The report card provides information about a student’s academic progress, social and emotional development and work habits.

    Art curriculum revisions get OK

    The work of district art teachers was approved as the School Board accepted the revised K-12 art curriculum. Bauman reported that the curriculum was revised to reflect the Wisconsin Model Academic Standards for the Visual Arts. The standards involve traditional fine arts and design arts, media arts, visual learning skills and understanding of the role of art in society. The document identified important basic skills, critical thinking skills, communication skills, work habits and connections to the community that are extended and reinforced in art classes.

    School Board member Jennifer Rude Klett said she was disappointed that required art classes end at seventh grade and she would like to see more art classes available to students.

    Bauman said that offering art as an elective beginning in eighth grade is typical among school districts.

    School Board members Deborah Briggs said she has seen an increase in the number of secondary level art teachers because of the high school’s move to a 4-period day which allows students to take more elective classes. Briggs complimented the staff for including lesson plans in the curriculum document that describe how students will learn concepts.

    The quality of student artwork as reflected in the district’s Community Calendar has improved in the last 12 years, Schmitz said. He said he was impressed with the student art display at last year’s Spring Fest event held at the high school. He said he believes the new high school auditorium will offer addtional opportunities for the public to see the quality of student art.

    Marcy site plan accepted

    Marcy Elementary School’s site plan was accepted with accolades from School Board members on the outstanding achievement of its students. Principal Donald Behrens, Ph.D., reported that the plan’s tactics are to:

    • created and disseminate a vision statement;
    • improve communication among Marcy community members;
    • increase student achievement ; and
    • improve individual achievement through use of effective and innovative practices.

    Behrens reported that action plans were developed for each tactic last winter and are underway. Briggs complimented staff when Behrens pointed out that they meet in the early morning to discuss best practices.

    The fact that staff are getting together before school so they are better able to help students achieve shows the teachers’ level of dedication, Briggs said.

    Personnel changes approved

    In personnel business, the School Board appointed Michael Figueroa as Woodside cleaner and Kellie Nagel as Woodside teacher aide.