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October 18, 2004

Fine arts programming on upswing

The vision for fine arts programming that school staff and leaders had for the Hamilton School District a few short years ago is being realized to a great extent. Still more is expected to come.

Instructional Services Supervisor Dee Bauman, Ph.D., and Educational Services and Human Resources Assistant Superintendent Dean Schultz provided the School Board with an update on fine arts programming.

Compared to the number of students enrolled in the elementary band program in the spring of 2002, enrollment has increased 60 percent — from 119 to 190 students. At the high school, the band program increased from 71 members three years ago to the current 121.

The future appears just as promising as Schultz described opportunities that are being explored with the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. Parents of Willow Springs students in the half-day kindergarten program for 4-year-olds will be offered the opportunity to sign their children up for parent-paid Suzuki lessons — a method favored for young students who do not yet know how to read. Letters will be sent to parents in January to assess interest.

The partnership with the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music could expand for older students to include teaching performances, specialists working with middle and high school band students, creation of an elementary strings program, workshops, musical theater, residencies, theory and composition offerings. Schultz and Bauman will discuss opportunities with music staff at the Nov. 5 early release day.

Opening of the Hamilton Fine Arts Center brings a wider range of fine arts opportunities for students. The significantly bigger and better-equipped facility will allow students more acting, set-building and production capabilities than existed in the Little Theater. Already the summer school drama programs have drawn in greater numbers of students each year. Templeton is exploring the addition of a co-curricular drama program to complement its powerful forensics program.

The Hamilton Fine Arts Center also provides a rotating display of exemplary student artwork from throughout the school district. A committee will be established to develop a permanent collection of students pieces to be displayed in the center.

Bauman noted that two part-time coordinators were hired to handle the house administration and technical support responsibilities for the Hamilton Fine Arts Center. The calendar for the facility’s use is filling quickly. She said the facility will be in use for 20 days in June alone.
WIAA keeps Hamilton in Greater Metro Conference

Superintendent Kathleen Cooke, Ph.D., reported that the board efforts to lobby the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) were successful. The WIAA informed district officials that Hamilton would remain in the Greater Metro Conference as they requested.

The School Board approved a resolution in September outlining the negative impact that a change in conference realignment would have on Hamilton. The WIAA plan called for Hamilton to be moved from the Greater Metro to the Wisconsin Little Ten conference. The Greater Metro conference schools are geographically closer, but larger than Hamilton and other schools in the Wisconsin Little Ten.

School Board President Gabe Kolesari, Superintendent Kathleen Cooke, Ph.D., and Athletics-Activiities Director Michael Gosz met with WIAA administrators and the board of control to urge not moving Hamilton. WIAA officials informed the district last week that the district would remain in the Greater Metro Conference.

Youth Option requests approved with reimbursement option

The requests of nine Hamilton High School students to participate in the Youth Options Program next semester were approved with the expectation that students will complete their courses. The statewide program allows students in good academic and disciplinary standing who have completed 10th grade to take technical college or university courses at district expense. A proposed district policy concerning postsecondary enrollment options specifies that the district will seek tuition and fee reimbursement from students who do not complete district-paid courses.

Hamilton Principal David Furrer said that even though the students had applied to take a total of more than 25 courses for the second semester, experience indicates that not all of them will actually take the courses they list on the application. He said students sometimes list several alternatives in case they are not able to get into their first-choice course

Tax rate less than projected at Annual Meeting

School Board members approved a $38.5 million budget that includes a mil rate of $10.78 per $1,000 of property. The owner of a $200,000 home will pay $2,156 in school taxes. The mil rate is 42 cents less than school officials projected at the Annual Meeting in June and 62 cents less than the rate from last year.

The total budget increased 4.63 percent — due in part to the cost of educating 80 more students.

The lower-than-expected mil rate is attributable to community growth and higher property values that spread school costs over more and higher-valued properties. The district’s equalized valuation increased by 8.7 percent in the past year. State aid also increased by 6.19 percent.

The net tax levy — the portion of the budget paid by local taxpayers — increased to $22.89 million from $22.25 million in 2003-04. Debt service dropped from $3.32 million in 2003-04 to $3.21 million in 2004-05, a 3.16 percent decrease.

Each October, the School Board must adopt the budget, certify the tax levy and establish the tax rate after the Department of Revenue determines property values in the district. Tax bills are sent to property owners in December.

Chapter 220, Open Enrollment programs stable

The number of students participating in the Chapter 220 Voluntary Integration Program will remain at 105 students for the 2005-06 school year. The School Board approved keeping 95 Chapter 220 seats with 10 additional for students displaced because of Milwaukee Public Schools’ attendance realignment.

This year 57 students enrolled in the district through the Open Enrollment Program, while another 89 resident students used the program to enroll in schools outside of the district. Schultz reported that the district carefully controls the number of incoming seats because the district’s rising enrollment is concern for space availability. Because more aid is allotted for incoming students than the revenue lost for outgoing students, the program provides the district with $108,000 of income. The School Board approved limiting additional incoming seats to 32 students in 2005-06.

Willow staff recognize Palmer

Willow Springs Principal John Vitale and kindergarten teacher Rita Forrester spoke about why they nominated Barb Palmer for recognition. Palmer has volunteered two days a week since 1999 in the Seniors and Students Program. Vitale said Palmer is so reliable that she is like having another teacher at the school.

Personnel matter approved

In personnel matters, the School Board appointed Joelle Quimby as the Maple Avenue Special Services paraprofessional and Ellen Acuff to provide student supervision at Hamilton four hours each day.