Board finds enrollment, state aid figures don't figure

by Dave Cary Review Correspondent

PLYMOUTH – For the last 20 years or so – if not more - prevailing wisdom has been that when schools with declining enrollments receive proportionately less state aid it tends to hamper them.

The flip side being, of course, that when enrollment rises, state aid goes up along with it. Right?

Didn’t work that way for Plymouth this year, Business Manager Jon Miller told the School Board on Tuesday.

In budget estimates, the district had calculated and used an enrollment figure that turned out to be some 12 students fewer than what the actual count revealed enrollment to be – meaning that between the submitted budget and the later revision with amended figures, the enrollment had in effect gone up.

Which, Miller explained, meant that as a result of quirky state rules, the district would receive some $36,000 less in state aid.

Go figure.

• • •

Assistant Superintendent Dan Mella told the board that the three-year district plan was nearing completion and that what was needed was more plain-language discussion of it.

The plan divides into four areas or goals. First is seeing to it that all students are prepared for posthigh school education or work; the second, that the present educational environment is maintained and enhanced; the third that faculty is encouraged and directed to develop professionally. A fourth is engaging the community with the district and what is going on within it.

Mella said the plan took seriously the notion that Plymouth was a comprehensive high school. We have students that go to absolute top-of-the-line universities, he said, and also students that go directly into the workforce upon graduation.

Comprehensive means trying to meet the needs of all, not some more than others. Helping to prepare them for personal success after graduation, whatever they go into.

The plan, Mella said, was not just aimed at bringing the district to a particular point, but enabling and guiding it to go right on adapting and improving itself to meet future needs. The plan was meaty, he implied, meaning it contained descriptions of who was to do what and in what kind of time frame – a how-to rather than a set of lofty principles.

He singled out five areas emphasized by the planners:

• Ag and food science is an immediate target. The greenhouse project (this has become shorthand for what is a quantum-jump expansion of facilities and capabilities in this area) is an example of the type of thing that could be seen in the future.

• Writing – this form of communication is vital to practically all fields.

• Inclusion.

• Career exploration and focus.

• College/tech prep.

Mella said that Plymouth was a leader in this sort of planning.

Jamie Piontkowski, coordinator of Community Communications, told the board that two elements were at work in the community engagement area – Panther Panels and Panther Talks.

Panther Talks are 30- to 60-minute facilitated conversations on school topics that are open to anyone Many are scheduled as part of other meetings or on their own, and they can be scheduled into a meeting or event of a different organization. At the talks, the facilitators suggest subjects and conversation ensues; the object is to bring the community closer to school district.

Piontkowski cautioned that talk subjects cover all students in the district, not just the high-schoolers, as use of the term “Panther” might suggest.

Panther Panels are comparable, but more permanent bodies drawn from the public.

• • •

Mella also gave the board an update on Sheboygan County INSPIRE, a program being developed by several county K-12 school districts and corporations The program, he said, had its origin in the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce’s BEP board, which aimed to create school-business relationships.

These earlier efforts did not have a format to follow, Mella said, and therefore efforts were of an uneven nature and tended to stall out.

The new framework is designed to introduce kids to real work settings, which may lead to job shadowing and perhaps internships, Mella said. This is not limited to production floor experiences, either, but includes many other functions that support manufacturing as well.

The program has not received much publicity Mella said, because participants feel that good experiences will do more to publicize the program than any presentation.

Participating school districts are Sheboygan, Sheboygan Falls and Plymouth.

• • •

In other matters, the board approved creation of a $2.8 million line of credit to help with cash flow in the coming year. Miller said this was similar to what the board did last year and added that the district will pay interest once it borrows money, not for establishing or maintaining the line of credit.

Board member Richard York, Community Education liaison, told the board that four classes were taking place at the moment and that Dr. Dan Francis upcoming program on “anti-inefficiency eating” has an advance registration of 49 people.

Board member Pam Holzhaeuser, Family Resource Center liaison, said that more visits to people with newborns are continuing. Studies have shown she said, that for every $1 spent on home visits and demonstrations, some $6 in later governmental spending is saved.

Superintendent Carrie Dassow said that on Oct 29, LTC’s advanced manufacturing mobile lab will visit. The lab will be open to the public after school from 3 to 6:30 p.m. in the north parking lot.

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