SFHS offificials mull over impending EWC shakeup

Board passes 2013- 14 budget, backs 3.98 percent tax levy hike
by Jeff Pederson
Sheboygan Falls News Editor

Sheboygan Falls High School sports enthusiasts have grown accustomed to familiar rivalries with a number of Eastern Wisconsin Conference foes over the years.

However, a new conference realignment plan introduced by the WIAA Board of Control is set to bring sweeping changes to the makeup of the EWC.

During a Sheboygan Falls School Board meeting on Monday, Oct. 28, Sheboygan Falls High School Athletic Director Aaron May announced the impending changes.

While Sheboygan Falls will remain a member of the EWC, longstanding conference members Plymouth, Kewaskum, Campbellsport and Waupun are set to shift to a new, yet-to-be-named conference.

In their place, current Olympian Conference members Brillion, Chilton, Manitowoc Roncalli and Valders will move into the newly configured EWC.

“Basically schools like Plymouth, which has perennially been the largest school in the EWC, and the schools to our south like Waupun, Kewaskum and Campbellsport will be shifted out and replaced by the larger schools in the current Olympian Conference, including Chilton, Brillion, Valders and Manitowoc Roncalli,” May said. “From a travel standpoint, this is much better for us, as we will not have to travel way down south even in the playoffs.”

The new-look EWC will include holdovers Kiel, (447 students) New Holstein (341), Two Rivers (531) and Sheboygan Falls (538), along with newcomers Brillion (318), Chilton (373), Manitowoc Roncalli (358) and Valders (346).

With a current enrollment of 538 students, Falls would be the largest school in the new EWC, trailed closely by Two Rivers, which currently has 531 students.

“In the absence of Plymouth, we would be the largest school in the conference,” May said. “Brillion, Valders, Roncalli and Chilton, would come in as the smaller schools in the new EWC.”

While May pointed out that while plan had yet to be finalized, he indicated that final approval was imminent..

“There has been some input from some of the schools and a few minor changes have been made,” May said. “I expect that it will be passed pretty much the way it is now.”

In other business, the board approved the 2013-14 district budget with a 3.98 percent property tax levy increase, which comes on the heels of last year’s 1.04 percent tax levy decrease.

In announcing the 2013-14 property tax rate, Director of Business Services Mary Blaha said the tax increase is due in part to a 2.28 percent decrease in state equalized aid from $9,532,266 in 2012-13 to $9,314.739 in 2013-14.

“We did not receive as much state aid as we did last year, which makes a big difference in the tax levy,” Blaha said. “The 2.28 percent state aid decrease is pretty significant. In fact, our school district is receiving $61,000 less than we received during the 2005-06 school year.”

Blaha said the structure of the district’s debt service payments and a decrease in equalized valuation also contributed to the tax hike.

“Equalized valuation fell 2.71 percent this year, which is the lowest it has been since the 1980s,” Blaha said. “That was also a big factor in the tax rate increase.”

With the exception of last year’s 1.04 percent decrease, the district has had a steady string of tax hikes, including a 9.64 percent increase in 2009-10, a 6.58 hike in 2010-11 and a 4.96 climb in 2011- 12.

After approving the 2013-14 district budget, the board approved a total tax levy of $8,996,507, which is a $344,112 increase from 2012-13 when it was $8,652,395.

The mill rate of 10.74 per thousand of assessed valuation, represents a 69 cent increase from last year, when it was $10.05 per thousand of assessed valuation.

Net total expenditures increased 4.11 percent from $22,218,682.95 last year to $23,132,468 in 2013- 14. Total district revenue increased by $257,595.58 from $18,077,883.42 last year to $18,335,479.

The board members agreed to table a new professional staff compensation plan covering a portion of the recently approved $3.87 percent wage increase, due to legal uncertainty involving the collective bargaining and union representation provisions of Act 10.

“We have been informed by our legal counsel that we should table this until the recent legal uncertainties have been clarified,” District Administrator Jean Born said. “In the past few days there have been some legal arguments and discussion that could lead to a new legal ruling in the near future, so we want to make sure all of that is cleared up before we move forward with this.”

The tabled plan calls for an evenly distributed salary increase of $965 for all teachers who have a salary above the recently established base wage of $39,000 for all teachers and $41,255 for portions that require a master’s degree.

The board approved the first reading of eight NEOLIA policies for reading instructional goals and kindergarten assessment; religion on the curriculum; employment of professional staff; professional staff, support staff and student anti harassment; staff use of personal communication devices; board owned personal communication devices; animals on district property and public requests, suggestions or complaints.

Born also noted several technical corrections to NEOLIA policies covering equal access for nondistrict sponsored student clubs and activities, homeless students, school visitors and public attendance at school events.

A list of recreation department and aquatic center events held on Wednesdays and Sundays earned board approval.

The board accepted a $450 gift from the Sheboygan Falls High School Class of 1978 for the purchase of adaptive equipment for high school physical education classes.

The board also accepted a donation of four sounds shells for the band and choir from the Sheboygan Falls Music Boosters, as well as a $300 gift from the Sheboygan Falls Athletic Boosters toward the printing cost of the school calendar.

The board approved a high school choir trip to New York City April 2-7, 2014, which involves performing in New York City, participation in a Broadway workshop and attending a Broadway show.

During the administrative reports portion of the meeting, Born said the state legislature is looking into addressing the issue of accountability for all schools that receive state funding through vouchers, including charter schools, through a bill introduced by state Assembly Rep. Steve Kestell.

Born said the bill has stalled and proponents of the school voucher system are looking to make revisions.

Born added that hearings on the common core standards held in four areas of the state have drawn considerable debate and discussion in recent weeks.

Middle School Principal Meloney Markofsky said new collaborations between departments and with the high school have produced a number of innovative programs in the first few months of the school year, including Salsa with Salsa.

Born said Dawn Matte, who recently retired from the Manitowoc School District, has provided assistance in the absence of Direct or of Special Education and Pupil Services Ann Roy, who is recovering from injuries suffered in a recent accident.

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Mary Lofy discussed the success of the redesigned professional learning community (PLC) program.

“The PLCs have been very successful in allowing teachers to go beyond their individual buildings to work with other teachers that they have never worked with before,” Lofy said. “During our professional development on Wednesdays, I used to lead a big group discussion on one topic, which didn’t really engage everyone in the same way.

“Under the new structure, teachers are grouped in their subject area with teachers from other schools in the district and sometimes even in other districts,” she said. “They are taking direction and ownership of their own learning and development within their own subject area,”

“This has been especially effective in helping teachers deal with all of the changes that are going on right now,” Born said. “It can be overwhelming and the teachers are getting together and learning from each other how to manage and balance all of the new challenges that are being thrown at them.”

Blaha noted that total district enrollment increased by 18 to 1,777 students at the recent third Friday count in September.

Representatives from Graystone Consulting, BMP Harris and CESA 6 delivered a presentation on the district’s participation in the Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) program.

The next Sheboygan Falls School Board meeting will take place Monday, Nov. 18, at 6:30 p.m.

Prior to the regular meeting, a special meeting will take place at 6 p.m. to allow all district residents to comment on the proposed purchase of approximately 11.48 acres of land in the Miley’s Meadow subdivision adjacent to Sheboygan Falls Elementary School.

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