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January 17, 2022

Board accepts CFAC recommendations to educate, resurvey community

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The Hamilton School Board accepted a recommendation from the Community Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) Jan. 17 to educate employees, families and community members regarding the facility needs of the district. Once a communication plan is implemented, the committee recommended conducting additional surveys in the future to determine level of support for a potential referendum.

The School Board established the CFAC in October to study community growth, enrollment projections and facilities needs in the district. After reviewing the latest data from municipalities, the committee learned that subdivision development is expected to bring 1,757 new housing units to the district, resulting in an additional 284 students in the next five years.

The committee also reviewed the condition and serviceability of other spaces including middle and high school cafeterias and high school outdoor athletic fields. Before making recommendations to the School Board, the committee sought input in November 2021 from parents and staff on potential facility projects and learned that a large number of people were not aware of the need for new and improved facilities.

Committee members Eric Loferski and Sue Posh, along with Business Services Assistant Superintendent Shelli Reilly and Human Resources Director John Roubik presented the report. Among the facilities needs identified were limited space for additional enrollment at Lannon Elementary School and overcrowded cafeterias at Hamilton High School and Templeton Middle School. 

In addition, the district’s financial situation will be difficult due to the freezing of state aid for 2021-22 and 2022-23. The Legislature froze state aid because school districts were to receive federal COVID relief funding. However, funding was not uniform and Hamilton was allocated a relatively smaller share of the funds. The combination of increased inflation, limited federal COVID relief funding and a two-year freeze to school districts will create a significant financial hardship for Hamilton.

CFAC reviewed more than 10 potential facilities options with five having the greatest consideration. They were:

  • Build a new elementary school on district-owned property on Silver Spring for Lannon students and children from new subdivision development. Willow Spring Learning Center students will relocate to the Lannon school. Cost would be $38 million for the new school and additional costs for minor renovation at Lannon. The Willow Spring building would be sold to offset costs.
  • Renovate and expand the high school cafeteria and kitchen with one option pushing the cafeteria into the current student parking lot ($8.5 million) and another plan to move the cafeteria and kitchen into the current main gym and construct a new gym ($18.3 million).
  • Renovate and expand the Templeton cafeteria and library at a cost of $2.6 million.
  • Update high school athletic field. Because this project received low support in the surveys, the committee recommended having a separate fundraising campaign rather than putting it on a referendum.
  • Develop a plan detailing how additional operational funding would be used based on the state’s plan for future funding.

School Board members expressed their opinions about the projects and operational costs. Mike Hyland said he was concerned about the district’s overall debt and the need to prioritize the high school cafeteria. Brian Schneider said he would like to see a less expensive cafeteria option and better defined operational costs. Jay Jones wants to see the district get ahead of pending increased enrollments from subdivision growth. Gabe Kolesari spoke to the issue of inflation and the difficulty to communicate effectively to all members of the public.

The School Board accepted the CFAC recommendations to present at a future meeting following community outreach efforts and a second round of surveys.

Achievement gaps revealed in State Report Card

Instructional Services Supervisor Catherine Drago, Curriculum Specialist Whitney Roth, Special Service Supervisor John Peterson, Special Education Coordinator Katie Foy and Human Resources Director John Roubik presented information about the achievement gaps as reflected in the 2020-21 State Report Card. The report identified four priority areas:

  • Achievement – The district achievement score of 87.8 was the same or higher than 98.4% of districts in the state. The greatest gaps are seen in students with disabilities and those who are economically disadvantaged, the majority of whom scored at the basic or below basic level in English-language arts (ELA) and mathematics.
  • Growth scores focus on the pace of improvement regardless where they started. Hamilton’s growth score was 71.7. When compared to surrounding school districts, Hamilton’s growth scores are not keeping pace, and students with disabilities and students who were not proficient last year are not achieving growth.
  • Target group outcomes look at outcomes for students who have the lowest test scores. Target group students are growing in ELA at a comparable rate to the non-target group, but are growing about 20 points slower in mathematics.
  • On-track to graduate shows how students are progressing to complete their K-12 education. Hamilton’s score was 98.9% of districts in Wisconsin, and is a strength.

The district’s plan of action includes:

  • communicating belief statements that all students can learn and they learn because of what teachers do;
  • having collaborative conversations through Professional Learning Communities focused on student learning;
  • implementing a specialization model for grades 3 and 4 to ensure teachers agree on what high-quality instruction and learning looks like in each content area;
  • maximizing Tier 1 support through instructional coaching;
  • identifying students with disabilities and low socio-economic backgrounds as the focus for academic growth;
  • researching the most effective Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (formerly Response to Intervention);
  • expanding intervention choices as a result of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports teams’ review and research;
  • expanding use of EducClimber as a tool so all educators access it on a regular basis;
  • looking at credit-recovery options; and 
  • increasing inclusive practices and standards-based special education plan goals.

Summer Opportunities returns to in-person instruction

After two years of disruption due to COVID-19, the district’s Summer Opportunities Program will return to in-person instruction for students in grades 2-12 attending at the high school for enrichment, recovery and games. Students in grades 4K-1 will also attend in person at Maple Avenue for academic and enrichment programs.

The program will run June 20-July 15 with no school on July 4. Families will get information in February with registration in March.

Coordinators are associate principals Cody Leland, from Templeton, and Susan Schramka, from Silver Spring.

Parents speak

Two district parents spoke during the public comments section of the meeting. Kristin Beardsley expressed disagreement with the district’s requirement for masks until the end of January. Rachel Ziemer announced that she is running for the School Board at-large position in the April election.

No space to take Open Enrollment students

School administrators calculated that the district will not have enough classroom space to take additional Open Enrollment students for the 2022-23 school year due to projected resident enrollment and space available for special education open enrollment. Open Enrollment is a statewide program that allows students to attend public schools outside of their districts if space is available. District administrators monitor enrollment throughout the year and report back to the School Board closer to the start of school if there might be room for students from outside the district. Hyland wanted a guarantee that no Open Enrollment students will be taken, but Roubik said that is a School Board decision.

Catalogs approved with course changes

The annual submission of Templeton Middle School and Hamilton High School course catalogs had the usual edits and updates to clarify and reflect current policies and practices.

Earlier in the meeting the School Board accepted the recommendation to split Advanced Placement (AP) Physics 1 and 2 into two separate courses. In the past they were a combined one-year course. In addition AP Physics C will once again be offered.

In addition, College Reading and Writing (CRAW), which has been offered for more than 15 years, will be taught as a blended-online opton beginning in 2022-23. Blended instruction combines face-to-face two days a week and off-campus, online delivery the other days. CRAW will be offered in the traditional format as well.

At a previous meeting, the School Board approved the addition of “Intro to Theater and Performance” that was reflected in the high school catalog.

Unpaid student fees jump

The amount of unpaid student fees for high school seniors is up. Unpaid fees totaled $2,448 in 2021 compared to $1,047 in 2020 and $803 in 2019. Assistant Superintendent Shelli Reilly reported that district policy requires clearance of all unpaid fees and fines before a student is issued a parking permit. She said families with outstanding balances are sent notices every six weeks, and families with balances over $150 are turned over for collection in January and July. The district is flexible with families to minimize the impact of them when possible.

5 students approved for early graduation

The applications of eight Hamilton High School students – Benjamin Ayulo, Nadine Brahm, Isaiah Fuhriman, Gavin Hartung, Briahna Moser, Ayana Eve Phelps, Lukas Rehfeld and Isabella Scheiber – who requested to graduate early were accepted. The students met School Board policy requirements and will be eligible to graduate in January 2022.

Personnel action taken

In personnel matters, the School Board:

  • approved the resignations of Hamilton Custodian Marianne Selkey, effective Jan. 5, 2022; Silver Spring Paraprofessional Meredith Trcka, effective Jan. 20; and Hamilton Choral Teacher Marilyn Mascitti, effective at the end of the 2021‐22 school year;
  • accepted the retirement requests of Marcy Kindergarten Teacher Kaye Hunt, 22 years of service; Hamilton Mathematics Teacher Coleen (Kelly) Meyer, 32 years of service; and Maple Avenue Grade 1 Teacher Rebecca Cochran, 23 years of service. All are effective at the end of 2021-22;
  • appointed Isabella LaSpisa as a Templeton Title I paraprofessional – Title I, effective Jan. 4; Gretchen Sciortino as a Willow Springs paraprofessional, effective Jan. 10; Taylor Allen as a Woodside fitness education teacher, effective Jan. 10; Lisa Meduna as a Willow Springs paraprofessional, effective Jan. 12; Catherine Muro as a  Marcy special education paraprofessional, effective Jan. 19; Jimmy Baisden as a Silver Spring custodian, effective Jan. 13; Priscilla Rollmann as a Templeton associate kitchen employee, effective Jan. 10; Rebekah Krawiec as a Lannon and Templeton technology integration resource replacement teacher, effective Jan. 24; Erica Phillips as a Maple Avenue technology integration resource replacement teacher, effective Feb. 2; and Julie Gillette as a Lannon paraprofessional, effective Jan. 28; and
  • modified the contract of high school Speech Pathologist Jennifer Knapp from 100% to 60%, effective Jan. 24.