"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Saturday, March 31, 2012

JC McKenna May Also Face AYP Problems

So, here's the JC McKenna data. Here's the key for the alphabet soup involved. AYP is Annual Yearly Progress. PI is Proficiency Index. SH is Safe Harbor. CI is Confidence Interval. WKCE is Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam. Performance levels on the WKCE: A=Advanced, P=Proficient, B=Basic and M=Minimal. NCLB is No Child Left Behind. SWD is Students with Disabilities.

There is good news for "All Students" and "Economically Disadvantaged" students in both Math and Reading.

Math (target value is 79%): All students PI is 89.75%, Economically Disadvantaged students PI is 81.25%.
Reading (target value is 87%): All students PI is is 92.75%; Economically Disadvantaged students PI is 88.7%.

The subgroup challenging our district's achievement of AYP, and arguably that of districts across the nation is the Students with Disabilities. This is a fundamental flaw in the NCLB legislation. Certainly all students should be able to expect to increase their achievement levels WHEN COMPARED TO THEIR OWN PREVIOUS ACHIEVEMENT.  WKCE does not measure this at all. It's just an amalgam of this lumped in with all other students. Add to the fray the unreasonable expectation that SWD who qualify for special education services achieve at the same level as their regular education  counterparts and there is a ticking time bomb awaiting to go off.  Districts are severely limited in the number of SWD whose Alternate assessment results can count as Proficient or Advanced for purposes of the NCLB calculations (1% district totals). So, here's the data:

Math (target value is 79%): SWD PI is 57.55%, 29.45% lower than the target value. It's possible but not probable that this value will meet AYP through the CI calculation. The direct Safe Harbor calculation shows a 24% increase in the number of students scoring B+M and the Inverse Safe Harbor calculation shows a 29% increase as well. Both values are far from the 10% decrease required to qualify for AYP through Safe Harbor.

Reading (target value is 87%): SWD PI is 66.9%, 20.1% lower than the target value. This has more of a chance of falling within the CI to meet AYP than the Math results. If it doesn't fall in the range using the CI, safe harbor data is bleak. Both Safe Harbor calculations for reading show an INCREASE in the percent of students scoring B+M. The first Safe Harbor calculation shows a 15.4% increase, the inverse value indicates an 11.4% increase, failing miserably to meet the 10% reduction criteria to achieve AYP through Safe Harbor.

It's hard to extract all the data from the WINSS system necessary to do precise calculations of these critical NCLB AYP evaluations. As I said for the previous post, I'll decline to make any predictions. Here's the data for you to review and keep in mind once the state comes through with their answers later this spring.

TRIS WKCE Reading Data Isn't Pretty but Math Looks Safe

I'll focus on TRIS WKCE results today. It takes a lot of calculations and I'd rather split up TRIS and JC McKenna data. However, based on my abysmal track record of accurately predicting the actual state results, I will not do so. The state applies the 99th percent confidence intervals (CI) for data that are below the standard. They do not share this information so the final decision is up to them in a classic double secret probation ala Animal House.

Key: P=Proficient;A=Advanced;B=Basic;M=Minimal;PI=Proficiency Index;AYP=Adequate Yearly Progress;WKCE=Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam;CI=Confidence Interval

First the bad news:

Reading: The standard proficiency index (PI) to be met this year by Wisconsin public schools is 87%. The calculation is (P+A)+0.5(B). All students met the standard with a PI of 89.8%. Economically disadvantaged students just missed the standard at 85.75%, but application of the CI will no doubt show them meeting AYP.

Students with Disability (SWD) failed to meet the standard with a PI of 56.2%. This is 30.8% lower than the standard (35% as a percentage of the standard value). If this meets the CI calculation, it would be a bit stunning. There was a slight decrease in the Basic and Minimal performance, which values are used in the calculation of Safe Harbor. But the requirement is 10% and the calculation is only 3% decrease in the sum of these values. If the subgroup still fails AYP at this point, the state allows a second safe harbor calculation to determine AYP. If the inverse of the PI (100-PI) decreases by 10% or more, safe harbor is granted. This statistic measures if minimal performers are moving up to basic performance. TRIS increased their inverse of the PI by 9.1%, indicating that even if the overall (B+M) value has decreased slightly overall, it was achieved as basic performance decreased and minimal value increased.This is a very bad sign.

Now the good news:

Math: The standard PI for math this year is 79%. All students at TRIS met the standard handily with a PI value of 89.5%. Economically disadvantaged students earned an PI of 81.25%, also achieving AYP straight out. SWD achieved a PI of 65.3%, missing the standard by 13.7% but likely meeting AYP through the CI calculation. Even if that didn't happen, the Safe Harbor calculation shows good improvement in the math scores of this subgroup, with a 21.6% decrease in basic and minimal performance.

I don't know what the solution is, but the reading specialist at TRIS presented the intensive program they are using at TRIS this year to engage students in the reading process. Students of all achievement levels are included and challenged to their ability level. If continued, it's probable these terrible reading trends could be reversed at TRIS. I pray the cuts do not hit this valuable program.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Recommendations for Evansville School Board and Why

I recommend that the voters of the Evansville School District re-elect both incumbents to the Board of Education. Sharon Skinner and Tina Rossmiller have served the district well in their time on the board. 

Positively speaking:

1-Tina and Sharon were part of the board that created and maintained the policy to increase the fund 10 balance to the levels recommended by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. Because of this conservative approach, the district had funds available to close the $672,000 deficit this year.

2-There are so many variables in public school funding right now that the continuity of the board membership would be something that could be relied on as they forge ahead in these difficult economic times. Their experience (six years for Tina and 3½ years for Sharon) is valuable to the board. The incumbents already know a great deal of history of the district and this will save the board a lot of time necessary to describe certain situations and back-stories of a program.

3-Both Tina and Sharon are deeply involved in school and community volunteer programs. Their contributions there help them to make logical and informed votes for the board.

Politically speaking:

4-Tina and Sharon have similar philosophies and voting patterns as the challenger Mr. Reese purports to have. His addition to the board would not change the voting results in any way.   If he wants to introduce change, Mr. Reese should do some research to find out which board member’s votes he would disagree with and run against them next time around.

5-In addition to not changing the voting results in any way, electing Mr. Reese will introduce a person who is unfamiliar with the specific budget details of the district. His failure to attend School Budgets 101 in January shows he either thinks he already knows it all or isn’t willing to put in the time necessary to learn if it takes away from his private time. From experience, I know school budget understanding comes as a result of experience, often requiring over a year of intense scrutiny. The board can’t afford to wait for him to get this experience under his belt. 

6-Mr. Reese has run a contentious Facebook page on which he threw number of local citizens under the bus either by his own postings or those of his sycophants. Only when his niece became a topic of conversation, according to Mr. Reese, did he clamp down on the postings. For full disclosure, my employer and I were included in his public outrage. The items he became angry about (me not identifying his specific school district and indicating he had lived his whole life in the area when he has lived most of his life in the area) were trivial. How will he react when truly difficult problems cross the board’s path? The entire episode indicates a combative personality. The school board cannot afford this kind of divisive behavior.

7-Finally, I found it distasteful that Mr. Reese posted my questions and his answers on his Facebook page. Using my work product on his FB page is unacceptable. He was asked not to post items published in the paper but chose to ignore that request for the first four installments. Apparently he got the message from somebody else because he never posted the last question. Omitting 2/3 of the story by presenting only his answers is also pretty disingenuous. 

So, there’s my recommendation in a nutshell. I’ll probably catch some flak for this posting, but I’m not worried about it.   The positive attributes of Sharon and Tina and the political ramifications of re-electing the incumbents are more important than Mr. Reese’s behavior anyway.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It's long, but all in one place...

Okay, I'll admit that the candidate series all in one blog posting is really long. There were a few glitches in the font that I wasn't aware of and the danged layout was a bit compromised, but I was able to do it all at one fell swoop, which beat the heck out of the process last year, so I'm getting a bit more savvy.

I'm looking for input as to how folks are leaning in this race. As a reporter for the Review, I have permission from Kelly to post this on my blog. I told her it would increase coverage for the election, which is my primary objective in doing the series in the first place. I am happy for her blessing and happy to provide as much information as I can for folks to help them decide which two candidates they believe will do best for Evansville School District.

Next week, I'll do something I haven't ever done for an election since Kelly gave me a chance as a reporter. I'll don my editor's hat and make recommendations for the school board race. I'll post it here but not in the paper. I'll give everyone a week to digest the candidate series before I tell why I'm recommending my top candidates beginning March 26. If you have any input about your favorite candidate, send it my way. Stay tuned!

The Candidate Series as Promised

Newcomer Reese Challenges Incumbents Rossmiller and Skinner
No Primary Required in School Board Race
Originally Published in The Evansville Review January 11, 2012

By Melissa Hammann

In an election season that’s shaping up to be a moratorium on the prevailing controversy in each respective community, Evansville’s school board race is tame in comparison. Each year, two to three seats are up for grabs on the seven-seat school board. Only one newcomer, Mr. Marshall Reese, has challenged incumbents Tina Rossmiller and Sharon Skinner, who have both opted to run for re-election.  The election is to be held April 3, 2012.

Ms. Rossmiller indicated her reasons for keeping her hat in the ring as follows: “My desire to participate in providing our students with the best education possible is an incredible motivation. I want the community to be proud of the school district in which their students are being educated and for me, being on the school board is the best way I can help make that happen. Also, I want to use my experience as a senior member of the Board (6 years) to help bring the school board, administration and faculty together in a collaborative effort to find workable solutions to problems that face our school and district, now and in the future.”

Sharon Skinner echoed this concern for students, when asked why she was running for re-election: “I think it’s going to be a tough year as we enter next year with a 1.6 million dollar deficit. That’s a lot of money but with the many different talents on the board, I’m confident we can work together minimize the effect of the cuts on the children. Their education is vital. We don’t want the kids to suffer because of the cuts. There are many teachers in the district that are willing to step outside the box and I want to support that approach. It may be the only way for us to find good solutions for the many challenges we will face in the coming years. My three and a half years of experience here and two years of experience on a Chicago school council before that can help in that process.”

When asked why he was running for the school board at this time, Mr. Reese noted: “With the current climate in Madison, I saw that someone with a background in education would be an asset to the board.” Reese has been a teacher for ten years, eight in Beloit. Before that, he was in public relations.  “I’ve lived my whole life in the area, attending Evansville schools from K-12. Others have encouraged me to run and I believe my schedule may allow better attendance at the board meetings than some others currently serving.” When asked for further clarification, he indicated that he had done his homework by reading minutes and noticing who was absent and who was late for meetings or left early. In a follow up email, he indicated that “at least one member was late, left early, or was absent to half of the board meetings.”   
To verify Mr. Reese’s statement, a survey of all meetings from November 8, 2010 to December 7, 2011 was conducted. Thirty-eight meetings were held in that time frame.  Twenty meetings were conducted in the last fiscal year (November 8, 2011 to June 27, 2011), five of which had perfect attendance for a rate of 25 percent. Eighteen meetings have been held thus far in the current fiscal year, eight of which had all seven board members present, nearly doubling the rate to 44 percent. Mr. Reese’s observation is accurate but needs to be viewed in the context of other area school board data to be meaningful. We briefly summarize four randomly selected area school board attendance figures for comparison (Janesville, Milton, Edgerton and Madison). The Janesville school board has nine members and had attendance rates of 61 and 54.5 percent respectively for the same time periods. The Madison school board also has seven members and posted rates of 62.5 and 25 percent respectively for the same range of dates.   Milton school board, with seven sitting members, had rates of 42 and 55 percent and Edgerton school board with nine members had rates of 40 and 30 percent.
Now we are in a position to comment on this data. Only one of four districts randomly selected from our area have lower perfect attendance rates than Evansville. The comparative data illustrates that other area districts suffer absences, late arrivals or early departures at rates similar to or a bit better than Evansville. This is probably not indicative of any endemic issues on the Evansville school board but rather a reflection of hectic modern life. Likely this is why school boards and city councils are comprised of several members. Boards are functional as long as a quorum is present. While each member is expected to attend every meeting possible, it is understood that life intervenes and will force some absences, late arrivals and early departures. When asked how his presence on the Evansville school board would change this perceived attendance issue, Mr. Reese did not directly answer, but notedI only stated this because it was originally brought to my attention by community members.” More importantly, he noted, “I believe I can give the board the education perspective which is sometimes missing on school boards. I understand cuts will have to be made, and I want to make intelligent cuts. I firmly believe some cuts can be made while maintaining or improving education.” He also emphasized that “I am not running to get a candidate off the board. I am running to get a candidate with fresh ideas and a new perspective on the board.”
At the reorganizational meeting on May 2, 2011, the board voted to permanently change the meeting time to 6:30 PM to better serve their needs. Two members had recently started new jobs and they had missed the beginning of many meetings, which had variable start times that fluctuated from 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM.  After the change in start time, late arrival incidents plummeted by 71 percent. There is one documented incident this fiscal year of a board member leaving before a meeting ended just prior to executive session on November 28 at 10:03 PM. Anecdotally, there were also occasional meetings that were run quickly or started early (prior to the change in meeting time) so board members with children in various co-curricular activities could attend the events. Finally, if one were to take an individualized view of board meeting attendance rates for the 38 meetings held since November 8, 2010, members achieved attendance rates ranging from 86 to 100 percent.  If board members were assigned grades for “attendance at board meetings” using the grading scale employed by the district, the lowest grade earned by any sitting board member would be a B.  
School board elections in Madison seem to have filled the slate with proponents of the controversial Charter school and those in Janesville appear to have enticed those who believe they can improve the working relationship between the board and the district or better rein in the deficit. In contrast, Evansville’s roomy slate seems to give a nod to the currently sitting board, recognizing that they do a difficult job for very little compensation. Perhaps the pool of candidates doesn’t know how they could improve on the process. Maybe potential public servants were intimidated by the thought of the 1.6 million dollar deficit looming in the budget next year. Regardless of the number of names on the slate, all the candidates are to be commended for their willingness to hold public office in such uncertain economic times.
Stay tuned to this byline beginning in mid-February for our annual “Meet the Candidates” series of articles.
Meet the 2012 Evansville School Board Candidates
Part One of Five Originally Published in The Evansville Review February 15, 2012
By Melissa Hammann

Today we bring you the first installment of a five part series designed to introduce to the voters of the Evansville School District the three candidates running for two open positions on the Board of Education. Newcomer Reese and incumbents Rossmiller and Skinner each provided a brief biographical sketch to get the ball rolling.

Name: Marshall J. Reese
Occupation: Middle School Teacher
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Communication from University of Wisconsin- Parkside, Kenosha, WI, 19997, Master of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communication from Emerson College, Boston, MA, 1999, Teacher Certification from Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, WI, 2004
Age: 37
Other family members: Niece, Martha, a Freshman at Evansville High School
Volunteer Service: Administrative Council Chair, Lay Leader, and Advanced Lay Speaker at New Horizon United Methodist Church, Orfordville, WI. Parkview Neighbors Helping Neighbors Webmaster.
Previous Public School Affiliations: Ten years in public education including one year substitute teaching in the Evansville Community School District and eight years at Beloit Turner Middle School teaching English skills, English, communication arts, and transitions. Also taught middle school math, science, and English and elementary reading during summer school. Has also worked and/or student taught in the Germantown, Brown Deer, Glendale-River Hills, and Milwaukee school districts in a variety of capacities.
Previous Public Service or Elected Office/Years Served: None.
Recreational Pursuits: An avid Milwaukee Brewers fan. Enjoys camping, working in the wood shop, reading, staying up-to-date with technology, and spending time with the extended family and dog, Dora.

Name: Tina Rossmiller
Occupation: Accounting Assistant, Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP
Education: 3 years post-secondary education
Age: 41
Spouse: Dave Rossmiller
Spouse’s occupation: Deputy Sheriff
Other Family: Two sons: Kye, student UW-Whitewater
Ethan, junior Evansville High School
Current Volunteer Service: Sunday school teacher, Awana Secretary, parent volunteer high school.
Past Volunteer Service: Evansville Community Youth Center, JC McKenna PTSO, K-5 PTO, Evl Youth Wrestling, Evl Youth Soccer, Evl Scouts Pack 514; Economic Development Committee
Previous public service or Elected office/Years Served: Serving Second 3 year term as ECSD Board Member, CESA 2 Board of Control Board Member since election to ECSD
Hobbies: Scrapbooking and Quilting.

Name: Sharon Skinner
Occupation: Home Maker
Previous work experience: Board of trade as a trade checker on the trading floor and in the wire room in Chicago IL., Midwest Stock Exchange, Law Clerk, Kelly House, Evansville Manor as a physical therapist aide, Skaalen Nursing Home as a physical therapist aide.
Education: High School
Age: Hmm
Spouse: Fred Skinner, married 35 years
Spouse Occupation: Diesel Mechanic for 38 Years
Other Family Members:  Children Aaron Skinner-34 years old and his wife Nicole Skinner, Shannon-19 years old, Emily-18 years old, Dan-17 years old, and Shawn-15 Shields; grandchildren Cal Kittleson-13 and Liam Skinner-3.
Volunteer Services: Former Member Of the Anti-Drug Committee in Chicago, IL., Chicago Intervention Network Concerning Gangs and Safety of your children in schools, Parent Patrol, Volunteer Homicide/Violent Crime Advocate, Former Member of Parents Against Gangs, Have done intervention with the youth about drugs and gangs, Tutored at Field School,  Have been involved in the PTA/PTO for many years, Parent Volunteer for cross country, Former member of the mission board at UCC Church, Former member of the Christian education board at UCC Church, Former Leader of Youth Group At UCC Church, Member of Education Foundation Committee, Member of B.A.S.E. (Building A Better Evansville), Foster Care for 5 Years.
Previous Public School Affiliations: Eugene Field School in Chicago, IL.
Previous Pubic School or Elected Office: Elected on the Chicago School Board- which is called the local school councils in Chicago. Served 2 years. Currently serving on the Evansville school board for 3 years.
Recreational Pursuits: Ceramics, Scrap-Booking, Embroidering, Small Quilts.

Stay tuned next week as we explore how the candidates would address the needs of specialty programming and maintain a balance with remaining district priorities while facing unprecedented budgetary restrictions.

Meet the 2012 Evansville School Board Candidates
Part 2 of 5 Originally Published in The Evansville Review February 22, 2012   
By Melissa Hammann

This week the candidates were asked about how they would continue to address special program needs in the district while balancing the remaining needs of the district. The exact question follows.

Question 2: The Evansville School Board addressed Four-Year-Old Kindergarten (4K) this year for the third time in six years. They shelved it again due to prohibitive start-up costs combined with unprecedented budgetary constraints. The district has also been criticized for not having an Alternative School for students at risk who, through medical and/or other limitations, find it difficult to be successful with the standard program offerings. These and other specialty programs like Advanced Placement Classes (AP) and the Gifted and Talented curriculum (GT) meet the needs of a subset of the Evansville student body. How would you proceed to address these while balancing the remaining needs of the district in such tight budget times?

Tina Rossmiller – No answer received by press time.

Sharon Skinner
•As of last year, we had a meeting regarding 4K and many parents were there to show support. I think our preschool or 4K kindergarten children would benefit from it. But at this time, with our budget deficit the way it is, I feel that it is not the right time. But perhaps in the future if our budget changes so we have monies to start the 4K program, I believe it’s a good program.

•I believe in the Future, and if the district feels there is a need for an alternative school for our students who are at risk, it should be discussed. Many questions will need to be answered, one would be do we have enough students who are at risk, and space is a big issue that would have to be explored. I feel an alternative school would benefit if the district feels we need one, I would support it.

•As for gifted and talented programs, I feel we are committed to having every student provided with the best education they need, and to reach their goals with their own best personal accomplishments. I believe we are doing just that. I believe our gifted program is challenging our students at our school and I am sure that they will succeed. It also helps students to get ready for college testing for the ACT’s.

•I believe we have a good curriculum program. We have so many teachers who go beyond what they are teaching, and they key is students are learning. Actually, students are having fun, especially in the 4th and 5th grade reading, and the teachers are finding ways to pay for the cost of books and materials with grants and alternative funding. Curriculum is so important in every grade and all our teachers are doing a great job. The teaching styles are very unique, and assessments developed for the programs show when our students are actually learning.

•Children with medical needs or limitations, I believe they will be successful as best as they can. They are wonderful children. I believe the program is a good one and staff is doing a great job. If the program is not working, it should be looked at and figured out why it is not working and make changes accordingly.

•The specialty programs like advance placement classes(AP), I would like to see more students take these courses, I believe that it is good training for college, so they could prepare themselves when they leave high school, it is a big step, and I believe it is the school districts responsibility to make sure these classes are available. I believe with our budget being tight that we can balance these programs and still meet the needs of our students.

Our children are our future.

Marshall Reese
School districts throughout the state are venturing through unchartered waters. It makes sense to tread slowly and carefully with deliberate thought. I am not in favor of eliminating effective programs to start new programs that may or may not succeed, but I also don’t believe the Evansville Community School District should just roll over, either.

When looking at 4K, a lot has to be considered. With so many of the districts in the area offering 4K, why isn’t Evansville? While jumping on the bandwagon isn’t a great approach, 4K should be looked at very carefully. Why are some many districts offering 4K? In talking to administrators, teachers, parents, and Evansville residents it seems to be a smart program to implement. Students who were enrolled in 4K often come to kindergarten more prepared than students who did not attend 4K with simple things like knowing how to sit down and listen, line up, and walk in a straight line. Students also come more prepared for the beginning stages of reading, have a stronger fine motor grasp for writing, and recognizing most of the numbers 0-10. 4K is much more than the “free daycare” that many people claim. It gives students a great foundation that helps them “hit the ground running” especially in the area of reading. Starting up a 4K program is very expensive. Partnering with area daycares is one way to help reduce the costs while limiting student transportation issues. Looking at the Fund 10 is also a possibility. In addition to better preparing students for school, within three years, there will be a significant amount of revenue coming into the district as a result of the program and the increased enrollment in the district.

Education is no longer the one-size-fits-all approach that many of us grew up knowing. It has evolved to a more individually-based, student-centric model. As a result, there are more needs for the multiple programs that schools offer. Someone has to run these programs, but it doesn’t have to be one person running a sole program. It’s time to reduce the number of administrators – the highest paid employees of the district - and give the principals more responsibilities. To assist in the additional responsibilities, principals can recruit passionate teachers to aid them. Eventually the passion will spread to other teachers and, as a result, the program will continue with less money being spent on extra administration. The new inclusive reading program at TRIS is an example of how this passion among teachers is contagious and increases student learning!

All programs are important and have a need, so students can find and grow their talents and be successful in life. The Success Unlimited program, a program that assists students identified as at-risk for school failure, works to improve student skills necessary to earn high school credit and graduation just as the advanced placement classes and gifted and talented helps challenge other students. Offering a variety of class allows schools to reach out to students of various interests and abilities. Areas such as art, music, family and consumer education, business education, technology education, athletics, etc. are all important to students. Once a student finds an interest, it can’t be taken away.

To expand the Success Unlimited program to an alternative school should be looked in, too. There are grants available to start alternative programming that would result in no expense to the district at all. Evansville could reach out to neighboring districts to create a consortium that would aid all the involved districts. By housing the alternative school, additional revenue could be gained.

Evansville should be very proud of its Advanced Placement results. It was recently reported that Evansville ranked among the highest in the area schools with 74% of the exams taken scoring a three or higher. Having strong academic programs that provide clear results such as this will help Evansville retain and attract students from other districts, and, as a result, increase the state aid.

Ultimately, cuts are going to have to be made and new programs may have to be delayed until funding is available, but what if funding never returns? At some point, Evansville needs to reach out and generate more revenue by increasing student enrollment (4K, Open Enrollment, etc.), creating partnerships, and winning grants. Thinking outside the box can help Evansville continue on the path of success and into calmer waters.

Meet the 2012 Evansville School Board Candidates
Part 3 of 5 Originally Published in The Evansville Review February 29, 2012
By Melissa Hammann

This week the candidates were asked a modification of a question that has gone down in the annals as “most challenging school board candidate question ever.” It was originally posed in a public forum prior to the 2007 primary in which six candidates were running for two seats on the board. It is recycled here with the permission of the forum sponsors Karen Aikmann and Jim Brooks. The specific question follows.

Question 3: The School Board is asked to respond to the competing needs, wants and demands of many stakeholders in the district. Who is the primary “customer” of the school board and why?

Some of the competing demands that the school board must balance come from specialty programs discussed in last week’s article: 4K, Alternative Schools, GT and AP. It has been suggested that Evansville’s deficiencies in specialty programs like these reduce its competitive chances in today’s open enrollment public school landscape and may be contributing to its declining enrollment. The imbalance of Open Enrollment in the district has grown from -3 to -24 students in the last five years, representing a significant loss in state aid this year. Would you endorse investigating the causes of Evansville’s Open Enrollment imbalance? How would you recommend that the board proceed with such an exploration? If program inadequacies are determined to be a root cause, what path would you advocate going forward?

Sharon Skinner

The primary "customers" of our school board are our students and parents who
have the greatest investment in the outcome of the educational
process, although ultimately the entire community has a large stake in the
quality and effectiveness of our school.

Open enrollment has now been extended for 3 months which may give us more
insight into a decline in enrollment. I would support investigating this
decline. At present I understand we have no hard data as to why open
enrollment is in decline, but I would recommend requiring an exit survey for
any student transfers so as to have some insight into our enrollment
decline. The board has asked for this kind of information in the past, but
has yet to receive any data. I understand that families that have already
transferred students are probably reluctant to give reasons as to their
choices. If program deficiencies were found to be a contributing factor in
loss of open enrollment, the course of action should be addresses by studying
those deficiencies.

Marshall Reese
The primary customer of the Evansville Community School district includes all of the families and community members of the district. The community is responsible for providing tax dollars to run the school district. The families receive the direct services of a quality, well-rounded education. The community also receives the benefits when the students grow up and decide to stay in Evansville as the workers, business owners, volunteers, etc. who continue to make Evansville a great place to live! It is important, though, that the students are also a customer. They are a direct customer. The board must always put the needs of the students first when making decisions.
Next, as discussed last week, Evansville is one of the strongest schools in the region when it comes to advanced placement exams. AP exams will see continued improvement in the district and, as a result, will help turn around the open enrollment problem the district is currently experiencing. Other specialty programs like 4K and an alternative school need to be investigated, including funding options, as they will also attract students to Evansville. If the current board is serious in developing these, they will hire a superintendent with qualifications in these areas.
Further investigating the causes of Evansville’s Open Enrollment imbalance should be looked into, though it appears most of the students leave for larger school districts like Janesville. If that is truly the case, Evansville will not be able to compete with the diverse programming and opportunities a Division-I school can provide especially in athletics. In return, those districts cannot compete with the more personal nature a small community of Evansville can give students. A D-I school cannot compete with Evansville’s performance in the area of AP exams, either.
Finally, distance education and college level courses offer great opportunities for students whose interests are not being met. Ultimately, the need of the students needs to be evaluated on a regular basis, not just in times where students are leaving. A scope and sequence and curriculum need to be monitored and adjusted regularly to ensure inadequacies are turned in to strengths. The Common Core State Standards are working towards this goal and should help Evansville continue to have success.
Tina Rossmiller

While there are many stakeholders, I believe the primary customers are the students. I was elected to provide quality customer service to EACH student in our District. For students, that means the best possible full-service education. For parents, it is a safe environment in which their children can learn. For the taxpayers, it is confidence that I am being a good steward with their resources. This quality customer service is accomplished through the decisions I make at board meetings. Keeping my focus on the students helps bring the tough decisions on staffing, facilities, resource allocation, etc. into perspective. Not necessarily making those decisions easier, but at least a focal point to maintain consistency and balance, as much as possible. I believe I have done, and continue to, provide a high level of customer service over the past two terms; to the best of my ability, with the resources available at the time.
Next week we get down to the nitty-gritty budget question you’ve all been waiting for. Join us as the candidates are asked to share their approach to closing the district’s projected 1.6 million dollar deficit next year. 

Meet the 2012 Evansville School Board Candidates
Part 4 of 5 Originally Published in The Evansville Review March 7, 2012
By Melissa Hammann          

This week we asked the candidates to discuss their approach to closing the budget gap that originally was predicted to be about 8.5 percent of the total budget (1.6 million dollars). Since the questions were submitted to the candidates, the teachers have reopened and settled their contract. Concessions agreed to by the EEA are predicted to reduce the overall deficit from 1.6 million dollars to about 1.1 million dollars. 

Question 4: All Wisconsin school districts experienced dramatic cuts in revenue beginning with this fiscal year. The Evansville school board agreed to balance a $672,000 deficit budget this year using the fund balance, expressing that they expected this to be a one-time budget “fix.” The budget forecast model used by the district predicts that gap to grow to $1,600,000 next year. Even factoring in full teacher concessions and lay-offs due to declining enrollment, the model predicts over a half-million dollar shortfall, confirming board President Kathi Swanson’s assessment that using the fund balance to square the budget this year has simply delayed the inevitable and difficult decisions by a year. As a prospective board member, what approach do you advocate to balance this projected shortage in the 2012-2013 school year?

Marshall Reese
The fund balance is essentially a savings account for rainy days. Using it last year to delay the inevitable, as some have said, was reasonable. There are more stormy days ahead of us, though. While we can't deplete the fund balance completely, it may be a good idea to hold off on adding to it for the time being. The district hopes the fund balance ends up at about 10% at the end of this school year instead of the 8.6% projected balance. While it is commendable that the district is trying to save money, this money should be used to help save vital programming. As we get back on our feet, we can start increasing the fund balance again.
Next, the block scheduling also needs to be looked at. Several years ago, Edgerton went back to a traditional schedule to save money. While I understand the educational advantages of having longer classes, I question how effective it is to have up to a year off between classes such as math and Spanish or to have alternating day core classes. I believe that going back to a traditional schedule will not only improve education but will save money.
Third, having five administrators in three buildings seems excessive. Combined, these administrators cost the district over half a million dollars in salary and benefits. Before the high school was built, there were two principles for grades K-8. Today there are three. With the declining enrollment this certainly needs to be explored. It is more than just the principals, though. The administration as a whole need to be looked at to see where they can be consolidated. Everyone in today’s society is doing more. School administration can, too.
Another way to save money is to consolidate repetitive services. Look around the facilities. Is there anything else that can be consolidated? For example, the beautiful library at TRIS – which used to be a high school library – can be merged with the library at Levi Leonard. There is no reason to have two libraries in one building especially when one is centrally located just like the cafeteria. The offices at the Grove Campus could be consolidated nearby, too.
Next, the district can make changes in the schools to save money, too. In some cases, they can be setting an example for the students. Taking steps to conserve energy, for example, in all four schools can go a long way in saving money. Shutting lights off when no one is in a room, keeping windows closed in climate controlled rooms, adjusting the temperature settings by a degree or two in each building, and reducing water consumption will save money. Evansville hosts the annual Energy Fair every year. This is a wonderful event, but how much better would it be if the district could be a model district statewide in daily energy conservation while saving money.
Furthermore, to become even more environmentally friendly and save money, major purchases such as copy machines, computers, monitors, printers need to be replaced less often. Software upgrades can be done less frequently as well. Unfortunately, textbook purchases can be delayed a year or two, especially as we move towards a paperless society. It should be fairly easy to write a grant to get sets of Google Chrome Books or iPads to help replace aging books and reduce paper consumption. Email can be used as often as possible. Let students email their assignments to teachers! If paper copies must be used, they should be made back-to-back.
Finally, laying off teachers should also be considered, but only in the case of declining enrollment. Class sizes, especially in the high school, need to be looked into as well. Having classes in the single digits in many cases just is not financially responsible. I am a firm believer in offering a variety of classes and not completely cutting any programs, but specialty classes may need to be offered less frequently to increase numbers.
There are a lot of ways to save small amounts of money that will add up quickly while having a limited impact on the students. Many of these will ultimately improve the education of the students which is what we are most concerned about!
Tina Rossmiller

Let me start by saying that none of us have the magic formula to solve the budget crisis facing our school district. That being said, I think it's important to first understand that a traditional budget is a planning tool, which assumes an 'approved' bottom line, based on the previous year's actual revenue and expenses. These amounts may or may not be fixed when preparing the budget. The unknown variables cause the planning process to be difficult and often time consuming. Some of the unknowns include incoming kindergartners, open enrollment, staff retirements, insurance, and of course, the State Budget.

In the business world, there are two ways to improve your bottom line: increase revenues and decrease expenses. I believe a combination of both is necessary. Generating new revenues could be done through non-traditional sources like grants and foundations. Decreasing expenses should start with reducing non-people costs. This has provided savings over the years, but now the board is faced with the need for significant amounts that may only be realized through cuts that will directly affect our students.

I have worked with the board over the past 6 years to make the best financial decisions with the information available at the time. The results of that hard work provided additional funds to the Fund 10, as per board policy, at a steady rate. Unfortunately, not fast enough to ensure financial stability during these unprecedented economic times.

Perhaps it's time to change our approach in budgeting for the 2012-2013 school year. Zero based budgeting would do exactly that. It starts at zero each year and focuses on every line in the budget, both revenue and expense. All items are analyzed and approved based on what is needed and the associated costs. This new approach has more advantages than disadvantages, but most importantly, would allow the budget to be aligned with the newly adopted strategic goals of the district. I'm confident that implementing Zero Based budgeting will continue this positive momentum forward.

Sharon Skinner

The 2012-2013 school year will be a difficult one for our school district as well as most others. I do not think there is just one approach to balance our budget issues. The projected shortage is still over a million dollars, and we need to keep open to any and all ideas to try and balance our budget. It is important that we keep in mind the needs of our children, community, and teachers during this process. The school district has already made cuts, our teachers have made sacrifices in order to save jobs and have a successful curriculum. The district is under pressure to do more with less while trying to achieve higher standards. I have been an active board participant in helping to attain these goals for the last three years, one of the most fiscally challenging times in recent memory.

There is a good deal of work left to be done. We still have to make cuts and layoffs. It’s vital that we work with our business manager to evaluate our options. Budgeting has been a collaborative effort with the community, administration and staff in the past with the program based budgeting process. That approach was interrupted this year with the slashes in state aid. The philosophy of the district was to place the onus of the responsibility for the difficult budget decisions onto the Board and the administration. It still remains a collaborative effort on the part of the board and the administration with the guidance of the director of finance. In the end, not everyone will be happy, but we will do what needs to be done for our students, community, and teachers.

Join us next week as we finish our series by asking the candidate why the electors of the district should hire them.

Meet the 2012 School Board Candidates
Part 5 of 5 Originally Published in The Evansville Review March 14, 2012
By Melissa Hammann          

This week, we asked the candidates to tell us why we should vote for them. It is the last of a series of five articles designed to help our readers make informed choices for School Board members at the polls on April 3, 2012. The exact question follows.

Question 5: There are three candidates to fill two seats. Why should the voters of the district hire you? What skills and experiences will you bring to the board making you the best candidate for the position?

Tina Rossmiller

“Why should I be re-elected?
I believe I possess the attributes of an effective school board member, focused on moving the district forward and interested in the success of all students. Here are some of the qualities I bring to the table:
Dedication to providing each student the best education possible to prepare them for the future
Professionalism demonstrated both in and outside the school district
Commitment to spending the time and energy needed to prepare for meetings, in order to actively participate in discussion and decision making
Attentive to finances and regularly monitor the fiscal operations of the district
Collaborative attitude with fellow board members, staff and all district stakeholders
Willingness to listen with an open mind to all viewpoints, especially those who are directly affected by board decisions
Consistent in asking the tough questions and the strength to hold people accountable
Knowledge and experience in regard to finance, policy, strengths, needs and challenges of our district
Continual desire to develop a stronger relationship between the district and our community
Belief in the value of public education and the democratic process
Deep admiration and respect for the teachers and staff who educate our children every day
Understanding of the board’s role and responsibilities within the district
As you cast your ballot for the next school board member, you should be asking yourself “is this a person I can trust with the education of my child?”  I believe I have demonstrated over the last 6 years that I have the qualities necessary to accomplish that task.”
Sharon Skinner

“I have many years of experience with public schools in two different states. I have volunteered in many ways since my oldest son was in kindergarten.  I served on boards in Chicago, Illinois for 2 years and in Evansville for 3 ½ years. I have learned many things, and will continue to learn more about our public school system.

It is important to have priorities. The first is our students. I feel we are their voice and I am an advocate for their needs. I try to make sure those needs are met to the extent possible given current budget limitations.  Communication is also essential to the board. I am a good listener and I believe that it is very important to listen to students, teachers, staff and community members. I will do my best to be informed and to make sure our community, teachers and staff are informed so we can make the right decisions for the schools.

I have the time for commitment and dedication and I am willing to do the right thing for the district with your help. I understand that times are tough right now but I believe we have the strength and dedication to endure the storm that’s been brewing around us for over a year. Patience is one thing we need now, and we need to remember to value what we do have. I was part of the Board that helped build the fund balance in better years which put us in the position to pay the deficit this year out of the savings. I will continue to vote to spend tax dollars in the most effective way possible in the future.

I feel that we need to bring everybody together as a team. I believe those on the board now and the future board members will be reachable and trusting, and be open to new ideas. We have great teachers and students, and the community is an important part of that team.  I will listen, ask questions, and serve our community to the best of my ability. Let’s work together as a whole to make Evansville a greater school district than it is already. Finally, we need to remember we are all working for the same goal: excellence in education. I will be accessible, open minded and I will listen to your concerns to help in whatever capacity I can. Your voice is important. Please vote for me April 3.”

Marshall Reese
“No matter who is elected next month, big decisions will have to be made. All three of us are willing and able to make those decisions. All three of us are proud of Evansville schools. All three of us want to see the children of Evansville to be successful in every aspect of their life. It truly is not an easy decision. Regardless of what happens, though, I feel Evansville is in good hands.
I didn’t decide to run for the school board to run against anyone doing a poor job. The idea to run for school board came to me quite a while ago. With the stars currently aligned, I decided to give it a shot. It wasn’t a rash decision. I carefully think and plan important decisions out. I look at the pros. I look at the cons. The pros won, and I threw my hat into the ring. At the very least, there is a competition for this seat - a competition that did not exist three years ago. With competition comes a dialog. All the candidates have to state their opinions, so you, the voter, can make a decision. This dialog is important to me. When elected, I will continue this dialog with you.
I would like you to make that decision based on what two candidates have the most to bring to the board. What I will bring to the Board of Education is new ideas and new enthusiasm. I love Evansville! I love our schools! I want to see them to thrive more than they ever have. I have those ideas and that enthusiasm.
Over the last several weeks I have presented my ideas to the readers. I have been very specific on my thoughts. I did this to show the readers that I am willing to make unpopular decisions if it means that it is best for the children of our schools.
I will bring my expertise from the business and the education worlds to this position. I will be fair, impartial, and dedicated to this position. I give 110% to everything I do. This position will be no different.
I was raised in Evansville. Evansville’s amazing teachers educated me from kindergarten through twelfth grade. I am proud to be an Evansville graduate and I want to give back something to my community that gave so much to me.
I would appreciate your vote on April 3.”

Thus concludes this series. With the editor’s permission, the entire series will be reproduced on my blog beginning March 20. The link is provided below. Please visit at your leisure to review the candidates’ responses to help inform your vote. And then, no matter how frenzied your day is on April 3, or how tired you are at days end, please exercise your right to vote. While Wisconsin cheered the estimated 52% voter turnout in the November 2010 elections (1), that’s a fail on any grading scale I’ve ever seen. Rock County was even worse with an estimated 43% turnout (2). Sure, it was a huge improvement over typical mid-term election years, but what would have happened if there had been 80, 90 or 100% voter turnout? Let’s see if we can find out on April 3.


Link to my blog: