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October 16, 2006

School Board learns results of interviews
Two strategies of the district’s Strategic Plan — development of a positive learning environment and enhancement of the district’s communication plan — prompted the district to interview more than 100 parents this summer. School Board members learned the results of those surveys.

Public Information Coordinator Denise Dorn Lindberg and Instructional Services Supervisor Margaret Bauman, Ph.D., presented a report about the interviews conducted by 21 staff members who conducted face-to-face interviews with 101 randomly selected parents. Questions were based on the Search Institute’s “40 Developmental Assets” and were designed to assess parents’ perception about the school and classroom environment in which their children learn.

The purpose of the research was not rate or rank the schools, but to learn the behaviors parents valued within the school learning environment. Lindberg and Bauman synthesized the 27 specific model behaviors that were identified by parents into 11 top findings. Parents said they value a school environment in which:

  • ALL staff members know their child and develop personal connections;
  • shy or vulnerable children are recognized and not overlooked;
  • students hold staff in high regard for their expertise;
  • staff are accessible to parents and students;
  • staff encourage the best effort of children and young people;
  • written feedback is timely, clear and specific to their child;
  • school is safe, fun, welcoming to parents and has a family feel;
  • learning opportunities are rich and students are engaged and active;
  • the environment is respectful for all;
  • diversity in our school and community is appreciated; and
  • student success is honored through multiple ways and for multiple reasons.

Results of the interviews are being shared at staff meetings and will be presented at the district’s annual Strategic Plan update in November. Staff, parents and community members will be able to obtain the full report through the district’s employee intranet and Web site.

Early Mathematic Empowerment teachers show their work
The district’s four Early Mathematic Empowerment (EME) teachers showed School Board members projects they have been working on to help improve mathematics scores among elementary school students.

EME teachers Charlotte Coe, Robyn Hassani, Nancy Lorenz and Donna Uselmann updated School Board members about the program that was conceived based on the district’s highly successful Early Reading Empowerment program. The four teachers provide mathematics intervention services for primary-level students.

They showed School Board members the mathematical boxes they created to help classroom teachers work with students in preparation for the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concept Exams. Lorenz said that after conducting an item analysis of the mathematics questions that were difficult for Hamilton students, they saw that often it was the terminology or format that students were not exposed to, not the actual math function..

For example, students understood what symmetry was but did not understand the concept of “flip” when it was used in a word problem. Another example was the confusion caused when the test used a different format for expressing a fraction than the one students were taught in school. The mathematical boxes contain material for classroom teachers to use that can help overcome such confusion.

School Board members expressed gratitude to the teachers for their impressive work.

Tax rate lower than Annual Meeting projections
School Board members certified a $42.6 million budget that includes a mil rate of $9.01 per $1,000 of property. The owner of a $200,000 home will pay $1,802 in school taxes. The mil rate is 49 cents less than last year’s rate and the estimate given at the Annual Meeting in June.

The total budget increased 5.49 percent — due in part to the cost of educating 107 more students. While the tax levy — the portion of the budget paid by local property taxpayers — increased 4.91 percent, the mil rate dropped 5.1 percent. This was due to a 10.58 percent increase in equalized property value and a 3.3 percent increase in state aid.

The 2006-07 budget includes:

  • five new teachers hired to meet increased enrollment and English Language Learner needs;
  • start-up costs for this year’s implementation of Project Lead the Way at Templeton Middle School;
  • an additional bus at Marcy Elementary School;
  • the Hamilton High School library remodeling project; and
  • adjustment of per-student capital supplies budget based on enrollment changes.

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.

Budget timeline presented
A timeline for development of the 2007-08 budget was developed by Business Services Director Bryan Ruud. Among the dates are:

  • Dec. 7 at 3:45 p.m. – open faculty and staff forum in the high school library;
  • Feb. 1 – budgets due with administrative signatures;
  • March 19, April 16 and May 1 – opportunity for community input at 7:15 p.m. – prior to School Board meetings in high school library;
  • May 21 – School Board approves final budget; and
  • June 18 – voters approve levy at Annual Meeting.

School Board members noted that the Annual Meeting date may be postponed because the school district’s budget is dependent on the work of lawmakers in Madison who must approve a new biennial state budget in 2007.

Youth Option requests approved
The requests of seven Hamilton High School students to participate in the Youth Options Program next semester were approved. 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.

Even though the students had applied to take a total of more than 16 courses for the second semester, experience indicates that not all of them will actually take the courses they list on the application. Students sometimes list several alternatives in case they are not able to get into their first-choice course.

Chapter 220, Open Enrollment seats determined
The school district will make room for an additional five students in the Chapter 220 program in 2007-08, bringing the total number of students who participate in the voluntary integration program to 110.

The district has 54 Open Enrollments students who are attending district schools. No new seats were open because space is limited in the district. People who would like to attend in the district will be put on a waiting list. Administrators will continue to monitor enrollment and may recommend opening some seats if enrollments shift.

Personnel issues decided at regular meeting
In personnel business, the School Board:

  • accepted the resignation of Elizabeth Iwen as a high school paraprofessional;
  • appointed Carroll College students Amanda Lorge and Kimberly Van Asten to work as assistants in the Hamilton Fitness Center; and
  • modified the contracts of Early Reading Empowerment teachers Marianne Baker, at Lannon, and Bridget Matthiesen, at Woodside, from 40 to 45 percent positions.