March 17, 2003

High school Honors Program marked with positive feedback, increasing enrollments

In its second year of implementation, the Hamilton High School Honors Program is earning high marks from students who have enrolled in its classes, but the district will not know until May whether student achievement has increased as a result. Hamilton Principal David Furrer reported to School Board members that 120 students enrolled in four honors courses offered in 2001-02, the inaugural year of the program. Some 217 students are enrolled this year in six honors courses.

Students enrolled in honors courses this year were surveyed about factors related to motivation, challenge, rigor, technology, high teacher standards, interest and variety of instructional strategies. Results showed that students judged the courses favorably.

In open-ended responses, students indicated that the amount of work assigned, homework and writing expectations were greater in honors courses. They said they enjoyed the quality of the teacher, in-depth discussions and labs, and learning new ways to write and research. The high expectations of the courses will benefit them as they prepare for college, according to some students.

Honors courses available this year were Biology, Communication Arts 9 and 10, Integrated Science, World Cultures and 20th Century U.S. History.

Furrer said honors course teachers will meet in May to analyze standardized test results and may recommend changes to the curriculum if necessary.

Building and Grounds matters approved

Building and Grounds Committee Chairman Jim Long reported that work was continuing on the two projects approved by voters in November. Groundbreaking ceremonies will be held June 3 for the Marcy Elementary School addition and renovation project and June 10 for the Hamilton High School fine arts and Learning Center addition.

The district will save $35,000 to $40,000 per year, increase classroom and gymnasium light levels and reduce maintenance costs by retrofitting lighting at the high school. The School Board approved a low bid from Energy Resources to replace all T-12 florescent lighting with a more energy efficient T-8 system. Also, the company will install automatic lighting sensors in the gymnasiums so that lighting levels can be turned down during noncompetitive events. The Energy Resources bid was $192,000, but a Focus on Energy grant will provide $18,500 for the project. Total cost to the district will be $173,500. Payback on the project is expected to be about 4.6 years.

Buildings and Grounds Manager Jeffrey Grove said work on the project will be at night and should be completed by June.

Youth Options Program courses approved

Requests from Michelle Burkhalter, Joshua Greene, Jaqualynne Herrmann, Brian Schlei, Norma-Jean Simon and Kelsie Trip to take WCTC courses next year under the Youth Options Program were approved. The program offers juniors and seniors in good academic standing who have no disciplinary problems the opporunity to attend a college or university. The high school pays tuition for the classes.

NCA accreditation process approved

The School Board authorized participation in the North Central Accreditation (NCA) process at Templeton Middle School for a cost of $700 and at Hamilton for a cost of $850. The accreditation process helps schools focus on school improvements related to student outcomes. It aligns with the district’s site planning process and responds to the public’s demand for greater accountability. Hamilton has been a part of the NCA accreditation process since 1966 and Templeton since 1997.

Additional early graduation request granted

School Board members agreed to allow junior Kailyn Curtis to graduate early in January, 2004. Her application was submitted after the Jan. 15 deadline because she was in Australia as part of a student exchange program. Furrer recommended that the School Board approve her application for early graduation because of the special circumstances. He said she met all the other requirements for early graduation. Curtis joins six other juniors who had been approved for 2004 early graduation at a previous meeting.

Community members recognized

Members who retired from the district’s Strategic Planning team were recognized. They were Joanne Swanson, Diane Wendelberger, Steven Campeau, Eileen Swierczek, Steve Pehowski and Theresa Danner. Those unable to attend were Bill Cassidy and Jodi Tarala.

Jeff Millbrath, a Woodside Elementary School parent, and his employer, Sharp Packaging Company, were thanked by School Board members for the generous donation of WeatherNet equipment that will connect Woodside to a national weather reporting system. Students will use the computerized equipment that is connected to Fox 6 News to study weather.

Personnel changes approved

In personnel business, the School Board appointed Anne Nitschke to a Templeton Middle School teacher aide-bookkeeper position. Nitschke had been performing the job in addition to being a substitute caller, and now will do just bookkeeping responsibilities.

March 4, 2003

Special Annual Meeting slated for property purchase

District residents will have an opportunity to vote on a proposal to purchase approximately 73 acres of land in the southern portion of the district for future school needs.

The School Board took action to establish the Special Annual meeting. The property, known as the Fleisner farm, is located on Silver Spring Road between Marcy Road and One Mile Road. The district plans to purchase about 73 acres at a cost of $2 million dollars. Five acres of homestead will be maintained by the Fleisner family. The School Board is working proactively to ensure that land is available for future building needs as development continues to occur in the community.

State law requires that voters approve land purchase at a special annual meeting. The meeting will be held on March 25, 2003 at 7:30 p.m. in the cafeteria at Hamilton High School, W220 N6151 Town Line Road, Sussex.

Money for the purchase will come from funds generated by previous property sale.

Hamilton students recognized

Hamilton School Board members recognized 50 high school seniors for their outstanding educational achievements. The students were honored for their participation in the Academic Decathlon team, high performance on the ACT, selection for the 2003 Kohl Excellence Scholarship Program or Wisconsin Academic Excellence Scholarship. Hamilton Principal David Furrer noted that 18 percent of the Hamilton students who took the ACT had scores that were in the top 10 percent in the nation.

School Board borrows money for referendum projects

With successful passage of its referendum, the School Board completed financing for the projects. 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.

The first $10 million of the loan was taken out in December as a short-term Bond Anticipation Note (BAN) at the low interest rate of 1.75 percent. That amount was refinanced into a long-term loan at a rate of 4.07 percent for 20 years. The remaining $3.6 million was borrowed in February at a 3.41 percent interest rate for 10 years.

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.

The district learned that Moody’s Investor Services affirmed its high Aa2 rating for long-term borrows and assigned the top MIG 1 rating for short-term loans. The higher the Moody’s rating, the lower the interest rate.

In its report, Moody’s wrote, ” . . . the district’s financial position will remain strong due to prudent management and steady enrollment growth.”

The district will save about $3 million in interest payments for recently approved referendum projects thanks to excellent Moody’s financial ratings.

The district’s Aa2 rating is the third highest among 16 ratings that Moody’s Investors Service gives. Since 1995 the Hamilton School District has been among an elite group of schools in the state to earn a double A bond rating.

The district’s healthy financial ratings will save taxpayers money in interest payments, but will not have an impact on the operational budget which is limited by state revenue caps.

School officials have begun working with architects and engineers on the construction projects that are expected to be out for bid in the spring. The Marcy project is anticipated to begin in April, with the high school project starting in June. Both projects are expected to be completed in September 2004.

OmniTech contract extended

A 3-year contract with OmniTech for computer support and network services was approved. Fees will increase one percent in each of the three years and the company will provide two full-time employees to deliver services.