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December 6, 2011

Enrollment, staffing studied

Unless state law changes, the Hamilton School Board will have to make next year’s staffing decisions by the end of January. So School Board got their first look at enrollment projections for the 2012-13 school year in an informational report presented by Human Resources Director John Roubik.

The district started out the school year in September with 4,635. That number increased to 4,644 by the end of November. Projections for next year show enrollment at 4,714 students, a 1.7 percent increase over the start of this year.

In his written report Roubik noted that administrators will monitor the potential for legislation that would allow school districts until the end of April instead of February to send out preliminary nonrenewal notices. State law now requires final notice of nonrenewal no later than March 15. School districts have asked legislators to change the final notice to May 15 so that staffing decisions can be made using more reliable information.

Technology purchases approved

School Board members approved replacement of 260 desktop and 10 laptop computers at a total cost of $131,661 — a $60,000 saving over last year’s purchases. The district annually replaces a portion of its computers so that none is more than five years old. This year’s purchase was made earlier in the school year to avoid expected higher prices resulting from flooding in parts of the world where computer components are manufactured.

Instead of replacing machines with one model, the Informational Technology Department chose three different desktop Hewlett-Packard models ranging in price from $314 to $651 and will place them based on usage. The district will continue to reuse its existing flat panel LCD monitors.

The School Board also approved $92,830 to implement the third and final phase of its physical network infrastructure upgrade. Information Technology Manager Ryan McMillan reported that the multi-phased implementation plan has been a fiscally responsible way to upgrade and maintain the network so that network speeds increase and can sustain the latest technology.

School Board member Lynn Kristensen complimented the Information Technology Department for making wise decisions. She said she was grateful that staff paid attention to how the technology would be used and saved the district money.

School Board President Gabe Kolesari asked if the district would have to purchase a different system in the future when students bringing their own devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets. McMillan said the backbone of the network was designed to support a bring-your-own-technology (BYOT) concept. When that time comes, McMillan said the district would need to invest in its wireless network so that schools had greater density to support devices, but it will be able to use the current network.


District strategic plan progresses

Progress of the district’s Strategic Plan from its inception 21 years ago was the topic of discussion among the School Board. Four strategic plans have provided direction for the school district since 1991.  Human Resources and Organizational Development Director John Roubik gave an overview of the Nov. 29 Strategic Plan update. The team concluded that each strategy is on schedule and the work of each action team should continue.

The timeline for strategy #6, which deals with 21st century skills of financial literacy, employability skills and technological literacy, was adjusted so that financial literacy assessments will not be required until 2012 when curriculum updates are finalized. Also, the action team for Strategy #2, which is working on quality assessment practices, recommended disbanding the Assessment Leadership Team (ALT) because most members of that team are working on the intervention, screener and datawall committees for the Response to Intervention (RtI) initiative. The action team indicated that the RtI committees were doing the same work as the original ALT committee.

External facilitator for the strategic planning process, John Koehn, presented an analysis of the district’s practices against criteria for high-performing organizations as suggested by national bestselling business author Jim Collins. Committee members reacted to the analysis.

School Board member Gerald Schmitz reminisced about the first Strategic Plan which helped set a course for the district when it was deficient in almost all the state standards. He said it will take the commitment of a new group of people to carry on Hamilton’s tradition of strategic planning.

Current strategies indicate that the district will:

  • ensure rigorous, relevant curriculum and innovative instruction to support maximum achievement for each child;
  • engage and empower students, differentiate instruction and ensure continuous progress for each child by implementing quality assessment practices;
  • focus professional development on the knowledge and skills staff need as they educate student to thrive in an inter-connected, global community;
  • utilize effective communication practices to promote understanding, support and involvement of our families, community and staff;
  • create learning environments that nurture social and emotional development an respect for our diverse world; and
  • integrate and assess 21st century skills in the areas of financial literacy, employability skills and technological literacy.

Willow Springs site plan presented

The goal of Willow Springs Learning Center is stated as:

“Students will be enriched in a unique, well-defined and articulated four-year-old kindergarten program.”

Principal Margaret Tackes, Ed.D, described the year’s accomplishments. She noted that staff:

  • implemented a 4K-to-5K transitional program that included 4-year-olds visiting their home schools in May ;
  • developed a snack program for Willow Springs students to help practice skills they will need in their elementary school cafeteria;
  • helped students develop a finer skill set in greeting, personal problem-solving and tattling-versus-telling;
  • investigated behavioral systems for younger children;
  • held an evening in-service for daycare providers to bridge transitions and support of appropriate early childhood education; and
  • created a parent book club built on the premise of faculty book studies.

Among the future plans, Tackes said the school will investigate Response to Intervention strategies, further develop transitional opportunities, establish additional assembly programs that focus on interpersonal skills and look into a “fill-your-bucket” program.

School Board member Deborah Briggs said she was impressed that more than 25 parents would participate in a book group.

“What a wonderful school,” Briggs said. “It is such a great place for these children.”

Personnel committee

In personnel business, the School Board:

  • approved the retirement request of Hamilton Assistant Buildings & Grounds Manager Steve Pehowski; and
  • increased the contract of Hamilton German teacher Ryan Grusenski from 83 to 100 percent.