April 25, 2000

Finances were the main topic of conversation April 25 at the Hamilton School Board meeting. The School Board accepted the report from the Community Budget Advisory Committee and saw the first draft of the budget being developed for the 2000-2001 school year.

The Community Budget Advisory Committee was represented by three members who presented the report. Christine Devine introduced the other 15 members who studied the budget since February and contributed to the report.

Harold Fleisner read the committee’s charge, which included identifying community priorities and analyzing ways to create efficiencies.

Reducing class size topped the priorities.

“The reduction of class size would address many issues facing the district,” Mike Remmel said.

Acknowledging that additional teachers need to be hired to implement the School Board’s previous commitment to provide a full-day kindergarten option for 5-year-olds, the committee’s top priorities were:

  • Creating an additional section for an elementary grade facing high enrollment
  • Hiring an early intervention elementary teacher
  • Establishing a technology coordinator
  • Incorporating contingency teachers in case of high enrollments
  • Maintaining buildings

To provide additional revenue, the committee recommended some increases in athletic and activity fees. It also suggested reviewing the transportation program to find efficiencies.

School Board Member Jennifer Klett agreed with the committee’s recommendation to explore transportation efficiencies.

“I know that we did look at it seven years ago,” Klett said. “I think we should have the courage to look at it again.”

As a result of a comprehensive transportation study in 1993, a consultant recommended that some Maple Avenue Elementary School students walk to school. The district did not move ahead with the recommendation because of strong opposition from parents who cited safety concerns.

School Board Member Gabe Kolesari said that if the issue was reopened, the entire district — not just one school — should be studied.

Community Budget Advisory Committee members emphasized that their recommendation was to study the matter. Reducing transportation services should be considered only if substantial savings could fund additional classroom teachers.

Remmel also noted that children’s safety should be paramount.

“Anything that you do would have to put the safety of kids first with potential savings as secondary,” he said.

Board members discussed the possibility of establishing a transportation review committee next fall.

Members who served on the Community Budget Advisory Committee include Fred Anderson, Len Anhalt, Sandi Blackwell, Christine Devine, Cindy Ertl, Paul Fleischman, Keith Haberman, Beth Hillmann, Jon Klett, An Meyers, Roger Racer, Michael Remmel, William Roehr, Pauline Wasser and Gunther Wegener.

Templeton Middle School teacher Ann Meyers, during the citizen comments portion of the meeting, spoke as an individual teacher to protest the state’s policies of shifting revenue from businesses and industries to residential property owners. Meyers said the impact on school districts has been to pit the needs of one group of children against another.

The first draft of the 2000-2001 budget anticipates a 2.89 percent enrollment increase with a 5.29 percent spending hike.

The district tax rate per $1,000 of property value is projected to be $13.91 — up 36 cents from last year.

Administrators eliminated nearly $500,000 from original budget requests and must reduce another $116,000 to bring the budget within state revenue caps. Among the requested items not in the budget is a technology coordinator, a contingency teacher, extra pay for clubs and activities, teacher retirement savings, and some supplies, materials and capitol outlay.

Additional items that remain are nine teachers to expand kindergarten program options to full-day for 5-year-olds, an elementary teacher for high enrollment areas and a speech-language clinician.

School Board members learned about the success of Hamilton High School mathematics teacher Steven Akins who was one of 35 teachers nationwide featured in a full-page USA Today newspaper advertisement.

Akins’ proposal to combine an advanced algebra and physics class has earned him a $10,000 grant from a national program. His project, “One Course, Of Course!” was selected for funding through Toyota’s Investment in Mathematics Excellence (TIME) program.

Toyota Motor Sales, USA, in partnership with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) and its Mathematics Education Trust, sponsors the program that awards up to 35 two-year grants each year.

The goal of the Hamilton project is to unify advanced algebra and basic physics curricula into one program. Key mathematics concepts will be coupled with direct applications of mathematics in real world physics. Students will experience content and relevance that is essential, but rarely achieved when the courses are taught separately, according to Akin’s proposal.

The Hamilton mathematics-physics proposal was chosen because it demonstrated creativity and emphasized innovative ways of teaching mathematics or assessing student learning.

Another Hamilton High School teacher, John Washbush, and student David Kraemer showed the board the video three students created as a community service project for the Sussex Senior Transportation Task Force.