We are not alone #17

Things have been bad in Park Falls for a long time. A $850,000 referendum failed in April. After that they announced an unbelievable set of cuts:

  • Reduce staff by one full-time staff member in the district offices.
  • Reduce staff by one half-time staff member in the elementary school office and one half-time staff member in the high school office.
  • Reduce by one maintenance position.
  • Reduce by one transportation position.
  • Reduce by 1-1/2 food service positions.
  • Reduce by one high school history teacher, one elementary and middle school guidance counselor, one high school technical education teacher, one half-time middle school consumer education teacher, one elementary alone.gifmusic teacher, one half-time high school physical education teacher, one half-time high school English teacher, one elementary school teacher, one .6-time middle school music teacher, and one special education aide. Further reduction includes five positions due to attrition/retirements.
  • Eliminate the position of middle and high school disciplinary assistant.
  • Eliminate all middle school [grades six to eight] athletics and other extracurricular activities — club or volunteer activities only.
  • Eliminate the following sports: cheerleading, hockey, gymnastics and golf.
  • There will be varsity and junior varsity sports only, no freshman or “C” teams.
  • Two coaches only per sport, varsity and junior varsity — any others must be volunteers.
  • Only authorized WIAA programs will be funded.
  • Eliminate the summer marching band program.
  • Reduce the FBLA program by disallowing national competition, unless other funding can be found.
  • Eliminate the forensics program.
  • Cut participation in any music competitions beyond the solo and ensemble competitions.
  • Reduce district’s technology budget by $30,000.
  • Reduce building administrators’ budgets by $55,000.
  • Reduce overall maintenance budget by $25,000 – $30,000.
  • Close the swimming pool.
  • It is further recommended that all athletic coaches and extra-curricular advisors be laid off at the end of the 2006-2007 season, including the position of grades seven-12 athletic director. These positions will all be re-evaluated, posted and rehired as necessary, as per collective bargaining agreement, with first consideration being given to employees of the school district.
  • It is also recommended that a system of fees and charges be established for school activities and events to raise additional revenue. A committee has been established to determine fair fees and charges. Such fees and charges would be for all athletic and music events, for use of the building by any profit-making activity [such as drivers’ education, karate, etc.], for special course textbooks and materials, for any non-class-related school computer usage, and for anything else the committee deems appropriate.
  • They are currently working on a consolidation with Butternut (another struggling district). Apparently the consolidation will produce some temporary savings but in the long run the combination of a basic state funding system that is designed to fail, declining enrollments and “sparsity” will take them right back where they are now (unless of course our lawmakers enact real reform).

    Sparsity is used to describe the special issues faced by large geographic districts with small enrollments, for example the need to staff a French or chemistry class for only a handful of students. These sorts of diseconomies of scale along with the need to maintain schools within a couple hour drive of student’s homes create real challenges and our funding system denies districts the resources they need to meet these challenges.

    Meanwhile, (according to the Park Falls Herald) “Impacts of cuts in school district felt

    This is the part that got to me:

    Elementary School Principal Michael Plemon addressed the board during his administrative report about the “desperate need for a guidance counselor” at the elementary school.

    “I believe strongly that we need this at the elementary level,” Plemon said. “We have got a kindergarten class and a first-grade class, I’m not exaggerating when I say this, where I could already be in a situation of suspending kids from school. We’ve got a few kids in that situation that need guidance. These are children that need help and discussion, and a place for them to go and get some guidance.”

    Plemon said he is able to handle the situations and discipline on a day-to-day basis, but that those students aren’t getting the help they need to change the behaviors, and that the concerns include the other students.

    “Children today come with a lot more social issues than they once did,” Plemon said, noting the need for assistance with issues including grief, loss, self-control and other social skills, especially anger management. “You’re looking at five to maybe 10 kids in the elementary, but they have this anger management issue every day. Other kids are getting hurt because of this.”

    “It is an area I believe is vital for our elementary school,” he said.

    Waller said a good rule of thumb is one guidance counselor for each principal. The district currently has one guidance counselor, working in the high school and middle school. Waller said the item would be on the agenda for the October meeting, but many board members felt the need was important and asked if it could be placed on the agenda for the meeting scheduled for tonight, Thursday, Sept. 27.

    In response to a question from board member Jean Gottwald, Schuchardt said the position was not in the 2007-08 budget but could be added.

    How long can this insanity go on? Make some noise! Call, write, visit any and all legislators and don’t let Governor Doyle off the hook. Come November, let’s work statewide to elect people who will fix this.

    Thomas J. Mertz

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    Filed under AMPS, Budget, Elections, Referenda, School Finance, Take Action, We Are Not Alone

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