School district sees hope in state budget

by Dave Cary Review Correspondent

PLYMOUTH – Things are looking a little better than they did a month ago on the state-funding front, Dr. Clark Reinke, district administrator, Plymouth School District, told the Plymouth School Board on Tuesday, March 19.

In discussing Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to freeze revenue limits – which in effect caps the amount school districts may spend – with state legislators from this area, Reinke said they felt confident that there would be at least some expansion. One was working on a plan that would add $150 per pupil to state aid, while others were receptive to a plan developed by state Sens. Mike Ellis of Neenah and Luther Olsen of Ripon, both Republicans, that would increase state funding by some $400 million overall in the next biennium.

Reinke said that although this was good news, there were two other state-level issues he felt needed input from citizens at large. Overall, he said, he felt it was the sense of school administrators that “if we’re going to have major policy changes in the state of Wisconsin – and I’m not going to discuss tonight the pros and cons of expansion of (private school) vouchers – but I think it’s critical that all of us ask our legislators to pull those policy issues out of the budget and let them (the issues) work their way through the committee process so that everybody in the state has an opportunity to study those policy changes and offer their feedback. They should not be connected to a budget.

“I was disappointed when the governor proposed to give no increase in the revenue limits while expanding voucher funding by an additional $42 million. That certainly isn’t fair, particularly given the performance of this school district.”

At last month’s meeting, it was reported that Plymouth is in the bottom 7 percent when it comes to per-pupil spending – yet its students consistently score in the 89-90th percentile in any tests given.

The third issue, Reinke said, was the governor’s proposal to link funding to a district’s performance on the school report card. “We’ve been hearing (a lot about the school report cards) since October-November,” Reinke said, “but I can say that throughout last year, in the course of discussion with our legislators, talking about school accountability and teacher effectiveness there never was any discussion, as of linking that ‘report card’ to such an important issue as school funding.”

The “school report card” gathers data drawn from the WKCE tests given annually to students in three grades.

Reinke continued, “(That’s a) … very limited set of data there. To try to make a correlation that would guide funding based on that limited data generated by a test that wasn’t even designed for that purpose” seemed off the mark. Additional input and information was needed, he felt.

Board President Mark Rhyan added that the “school report card” program was still in its first year.

He added that he felt the next eight weeks were crucial to these issues as well as the state budget. As he has said before, legislators are well used to hearing from him, Reinke and even School Board members. What is needed is for the public to contact state legislators, two sets in particular: local representatives and members of the state’s Joint Finance Committee.

A simple statement of how the writer feels about the subject is what is needed, he said. There are talking points on the district website.

Board Vice President Tim St. Clair added that the tone should be civilized. “Nastygrams” won’t help, he said.

• • •

Rhyan reported that the district’s foundation had, since last summer, switched from having a conservator orientation to some really active fundraising. Since then, he said, the foundation has received about $200,000 in donations, half of which came from a single donor who wishes to remain anonymous. Other donations, he said, were evidently under consideration.

In other matters, high school Principal Dan Mella was named assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction as of next July 1. Mella was chosen after the board screened and interviewed some 15 candidates, from both within the system and without. Mella has a bachelor’s degree from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and master’s degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has been PHS principal since 2003.

The board accepted three donations:

• $250 from Bedford Underwriters, LTD for Plymouth High Physics Day expenses;

• $250 from Tom Roy and Assessment Partnerships, Inc., for Plymouth High Physics Day expenses; and

• $346.50 from The Fairview PTO for student field trips.

Mike Slagle, girls swimming and diving coach, has been selected to receive the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association’s Outstanding Service Award, Reinke reported. Slagle has coached at PHS for 34 seasons, and his teams have won 25 conference championships. He will be in the coaches association’s hall of fame.

Business Manager Jon Miller reported that the property the district wants to sell, located at State 67 and Hill and Dale Road, is now formally listed with Remax. Asking price, Miller said, was $595,000 – and he had been told by Realtors that the sale might take awhile.

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