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

Friday, September 28, 2012

Warning: Predictable Rant to Ensue!

If any of you follow me regularly, you will know that I can be relied upon to rant about certain subjects. The biggest among these is voting or failing to exercise your civic right and responsibility and then qvetching about  the results. You either vote and earn the right to bitch or choose not to participate in your civic duty and lose the complaint perks. Simple and easy to remember. So, every opportunity to vote usually brings out the wild-eyed ranting maniac intent on changing the world. It never helps except to make me feel better.

So, here it is again. If you follow my print by-line in the Evansville Review, you may have read my article about the September 24 school board annual meeting. The one where every citizen in the district is eligible to vote on the tax levy for the coming school year. I just posted here on the blog to come out and vote last week. Exactly 18 citizens among more than 2000 eligible voters showed up to chime in on their view of the proposed tax levy. Every person I have ever met in this town complains bitterly about their tax bill. Of the 18 present, 15 were district employees and the rest of us were former board members. Oh the humanity. This is tantamount to leaving the fox in charge of the hen house. Really, people? REALLY? The next person who bitches to me about their tax bill who happens to fall in the category of "one of the 1,982 Evansville Community School District Electors who thought the Packer game was more important than your tax bill" and blames the school district is in for a real treat. You know who your are and so do I. By the way, how'd that Packer game work out for you?!?

By the numbers: The revenue cap was down again this year, the Fund 10 budget was down for the first time in, like, ever. The state aid was up and the non-referendum tax levy was down. Property values are predicted to remain relatively stable and the enrollment may decline a bit. All of this should point to a significantly reduced total tax levy. So why did it raise by some 1.5 percent? Because of the idiots in charge of setting up the financing for the high school referendum back in 2001 thought it would be a brilliant idea to back-load the debt so the ever increasing student enrollment could help finance the debt going forward. Except there hasn't been ever increasing student enrollment and the politicians decided that they would cut aid by $550 a kid, or nearly a million dollars, or about 8% of our total state funding. Somebody counted chickens that not only weren't hatched but weren't even a twinkle in their great-grandparents' eyes.  That means that the 2.8 million owed on the debt is the lowest debt levy the district will see until 2021. By 2020 the amount due to debt alone will be over 4 million dollars. To put that in perspective, the whole non-referendum debt owed this year is 5.15 million dollars. Even if  everything else were to remain the same for the next 8 years, which it won't, the amount of tax levy will nearly double once the referendum debt is added on in 2020. All referendum debt is outside of the revenue cap and goes on top of that in the total tax levy. Imagine that eventuality, if you can. Then the next time you see one of those board members from those days, kick him or her in the butt for me. I heard a conversation that went like this, "What were those board members thinking when they approved this?" "They were probably going based on the administrator's recommendation..." Note: it wasn't Heidi. Thanks for not being able to imagine the consequences if we didn't get increased enrollment in the district and not recognizing the fact that all state funding is at the whim of self-serving politicians who would screw their mothers if it would increase their standing in their world. That inability to think outside the box will haunt the district for a years to come.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Come Vote at the Annual Meeting! September 24th at 7 PM in the HS Media Room

Click on the link below to access the agenda and packet for the annual meeting as well as the agenda for the monthly committee meetings of the whole.

This is a meeting every elector from the ECSD can vote on the proposed tax levy. It is an advisory vote, which means the board has the final say, but they have the opportunity to get the pulse of the community at this meeting.

Highlights: The total tax levy allowed under the revenue limit for the ECSD district has increased by about $120,000 since last year. State Aid has increased by about $180,000 but the amount owed on the debt increased by nearly $350,000 this year due to the backloaded funding on the high school loan. Equalized property values are predicted to remain relatively stagnant, with a minute gain of 0.13% expected. Mill rate is expected to increase by 17 cents per thousand. Remember all the figures aren't finalized that go into the calculation of the mill rate and this is just an estimate.

Most informative about the data presented in the packet available at the school web site involves open enrollment. From 2009 to present, the open enrollment imbalance has more than doubled from a loss of $124,014.24 in 2009 to a loss of $254,172 predicted for this year. And the administration isn't convinced there's a problem yet. This has a double whammy impact. It reduces the state aid next year by dwindling the enrollment and sucks out the funding for this year as well to pay outgoing tuition. Good grief.  Anybody want to have a competition on how we could have spent that 250 grand they let walk out the doors? How many Ipads would that have bought? Let's see here. I see them offered on amazon.com for $605 for the 32 gig high end one. That would pay for nearly 420 of the suckers. Or, if you scale back to the 16 gig model, they could buy 635 of them and supply over a third of the students with them. Good good in heaven, in 3 years they could get every kid in the district an Ipad with the money they are sending down the highway to other districts because "there's no problem here." Indeed.

Stay tuned for my article in the September 26 edition of the Evansville Review regarding the annual meeting results and the committee meetings of the whole. I'll highlight the tax levy and voting results and any committee meeting results that were interesting.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

ECSD Board Meeting begins with a Board Retreat at 5 PM

Click on the link below to view the board packet for tomorrow's board meeting. This week they will start out with a board retreat presented in tandem with WASB (Wisconsin Association of School Boards) and WASDA (Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators). Regular meeting begins at 6:30 PM.

Highlights of the meetings include roles and responsibilities of board and administration, boards operation, building collaboration and working relationships, education reform in Wisconsin, school counseling curriculum, handbook committee and insurance committee updates and much much more. Come early and get a seat.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

We're now verklempt parents of a college student.

Our oldest went off to college last Thursday, explaining my absence here for the last month. She hates it when I blog about her, but she'll just have to deal. Preparing to send a kid to college is a lot more than just expensive. It's draining emotionally and physically. You shop constantly for a month, think you have everything and get to Madison and find out what critical items you forgot, like migraine meds, a bean bag chair and command adhesive hooks to hang up a calendar. I hate shopping, so this has been a month from hell just from that perspective.

We are so proud of our daughter for persevering through a challenging high school curriculum under duress of anxiety. She has already seen the advantage of being in an urban setting where she can go wherever she wants. "I'm never coming home!" She has discovered an internal strength she didn't know she had (I did, but she didn't) and already navigated some pretty serious roadblocks. She enrolled in classes that she's passionate about, which will increase the chances of her success. All in all, this has been an amazing time for her.

Our family also had the privilege of being ambassadors of sorts. Sarah has been in constant contact with her roommate from China since May. She goes by the name Echo because we gringos can't pronounce her given name properly. Echo texted Sarah on August 19, the day before she was supposed to fly to the states, asking her to find a hotel for her because she didn't know until that moment that she couldn't get  into the dorm until August 26. Good grief. How can a world-renowned university have such horrible communication skills? Failing to inform a young woman from half-way across the world that she has to get a hotel room for nearly a week far exceeds their poor track record with us. More on that later.

As soon as Echo told Sarah her predicament, Sarah said "You can stay here!" I was all for that, but two of our three cars were discombobulated, leaving only one for Bill to drive to work while I got the other two fixed. Echo had to stay at a hotel one night but we went up to whisk her away from Madison the next day. She told us she had never seen corn fields. Did she ever get a tour on the way home. She definitely has a sense for the American Rural Scene now, although we had to drive her to and from Madison most days so she could go to orientation and her placement tests. She got to move in on August 26 and we took a boatload of Sarah's gear up then too.

Echo is  an amazing young woman. She speaks English with an American accent that she picked up studying in upstate New York as a high school foreign exchange student. She has studied in Britain for a summer program. She has a biting sense of humor and self-deprecation. Our favorite remark of the weekend was when we reported to the Red Gym to retrieve her bedding to see a busload of mostly Asian international students being dropped off to get their bedding as well. "OH NO! I'm going to get lost in that sea of Asians. Not that I'm not one of them, but still!"

The best part of the whole ambassador gig was that the girls had a chance to get acquainted under a lower stress environment and found out they really like each other. Sarah introduced Echo to some other friends from Evansville going to UW-Madison and she already has a small group of folks to call friends too. A big plus.

Now, back to the lousy communication idiocy from the UW. These people seem hell-bent on insisting that your 18-year-old is a big adult with all the responsibilities therein, without factoring in the relatively low maturity level of most kids at 18. We have repeatedly been unpleasantly surprised about some policy or another on a regular basis, but the most egregious was the moped FUBAR. We purchased a used moped for Sarah in mid June to take with her to Madison. Some of you may have seen the recent article in the Wisconsin State Journal about the new moped policy enacted in June on campus. We were told about this at her orientation session on August 14, two months after said moped purchase, and I came out spitting nails.

Like cars, mopeds will now have to park in a designated lot between 8 AM and 4:30 PM, effectively making mopeds useless as transportation to and from most classes. I emailed the transportation department asking them why they didn't think it was important to inform incoming freshmen about this new policy. I got the boilerplate response from them stating that there had been public comment meetings, information was sent out to current customers, etc. "Where," I responded to the email,"in this laundry list of information dissemination have you included the parents of incoming freshmen? According to my resources, this is the largest incoming class of freshmen you have ever had and you have just managed to completely ignore 6000 potential customers." My husband, a UW-Madison alum, noted that the university also managed to hold their public comment meetings in May and June after most of the ones it effects had left for the summer. Nice, classic government maneuver. "These students are such a nuisance. Let's just change a policy while they're gone." I informed the transportation department that their response was completely inadequate and had they informed parents of this potential change, we would not have wasted the money on the moped at all. Also, please forward this complaint to somebody in charge of the transportation department since you are obviously a lackey. Maybe I was a little more polite, maybe not. Not really caring here.

A friend of mine noted that she was not a big fan of UW-Madison because of their overwhelming tone of arrogance and superiority in every communication. I agreed completely. Our daughter does not share this opinion of the university and never has. In fact, she considers it her consolation prize necessary to attend as the least expensive option on the table. I don't think she will think that way in the end after a fabulous liberal arts education, but her ability to challenge the status quo group-think already puts her ahead in my book. Yeah, verily. She does not feel indebted to the university for deeming her worthy to attend. Rather, her attitude is "I was accepted into 3 extraordinary programs and YOU are lucky to get ME, bastards!" You go girl. Note to UW-Madison: Standards are good, but they do not make you superior to any other big ten university. Get a clue and stop being so condescending. Kids nowadays are way too savvy to swallow their load of propaganda hook, line and sinker. So sit up and take note of the new world order, chancellor.