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January 5, 2010

Board authorizes district to study state plan
Hamilton School Board members authorized the superintendent to sign a memorandum of understanding that could lead to the district’s participation in Wisconsin’s application for Race to the Top federal funds.

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and State Superintendent Tony Evers wrote to school districts in December asking them to sign the document by Jan. 13 so that the state’s request to the U.S. Department of Education could be funded. Federal guidelines require that only school districts that agree to implementation of the state plan will be eligible for funding if it is approved.

The difficulty for school officials is that they have not seen the state’s application and are not certain whether the additional federal funding will cover the costs of added responsibilities outlined in the memorandum. For this reason, if the state plan is approved for federal funding, local school districts will have 90 days to reconsider participation. If a school district withdraws from the agreement, it will forego its local award and participation in the Race to the Top program without penalty.

A draft of the state application was expected to be posted to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Web site in late December, but it has been delayed.

Gerald Schmitz was the only School Board member who voted against authorization.

“I am troubled by this,” said Schmitz. “We are being asked to sign something that we do not have before us in writing.”

Schmitz also questioned the distribution of funds to individual school districts.

Apportionment to schools would be based on the federal Title I formula designed to support communities that have greater levels of poverty. If the state is awarded $250 million in federal funding, for example, Milwaukee Public Schools would receive more than $52 million, Racine nearly $4.5 million and Madison $4.3 million, according to the letter from Doyle and Evers.

Hamilton, a K-12 district that serves more than 4,500 students in seven schools, is expected to receive $81,460 while small K-8 schools, such as Fox Point with some 750 students and Merton at about 950 students, would each receive more than $66,000.

School Board member Deborah Briggs and James Long said they would vote in favor of authorization because the district could opt out of the plan later.

“I am comfortable with this motion because it will allow Dr. Cooke to study the implications,” Long said.

In signing the agreement, school districts indicate that they will implement the state’s plan which includes initiatives regarding:
• standards and assessment,
• data systems,
• effective teachers and principals,
• turning around struggling schools, and
• science technology, engineering and mathematics opportunities.

Woodside presents site plan
Woodside Principal James Edmond, Jr., and Associate Principal Tara Villalobos updated the School Board on their school’s site plan progress. Two tactics indicate that students will:

• experience social and emotional growth leading to academic success through the strong and nurturing relationship established among all students, staff and families; and

• demonstrate confidence and academic success when they engage in classroom instruction based on best practice; students who continue to struggle will achieve success through differentiated instruction and intervention to meet their individual needs in mathematics and literacy.

Edmond and Villalobos presented detailed information about student achievement and new programs that support Woodside students, such as the Green and Health School initiative, Amazing American posters and contest, Shout Out recognition, Responsive Classroom Morning Meetings and school bus seating and positive behavior system.

School Board members were impressed and expressed appreciation to Woodside staff members for their accomplishments.

“You are setting the bar at a different place,” said Lynn Kristensen. “You should be very proud of what you are doing.”

Future steps include revisiting the school’s vision, reviewing the classroom placement system, ensuring curricular and instructional consistency across grade levels, implementing the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program, continuing to develop existing initiatives to increase school-community participation and aligning activities to support the district strategic plan.

Three to run for School Board
In the Superintendent’s Report, Kathleen Cooke, Ph.D., reported that the two incumbents whose positions are up for re-election this spring have filed papers to run for the School Board for another term. Gabe Kolesari, whose position is designated from the Village of Sussex, and Gerald Schmitz, who serves an at-large position, filed papers to run again.

Schmitz will be challenged by Ron Fricke for the at-large seat. A primary election will not be necessary. The general election will be April 6, and successful candidates will take office April 26.