Column: Schools strive to maximize taxpayers' investment

12:42 PM, Aug. 15, 2013  |  Comments
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As students spend a few months away from school to enjoy the summer, your district is preparing its budget for the upcoming school year to make the success of all students its priority.

While it is still too early in the process to be certain, it appears that the state budget recently signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker will not have a major negative impact on our district, at least not to the degree that it will affect the more rural districts in central Wisconsin.

According to the latest numbers, our district will receive a small increase of 1.74 percent in state aid. This is good news, as it means the district will not be subject to a decrease in funding -something that had been possible as state budget deliberations took place during the past several months. The district is committed to continuing the sound and watchful fiscal management it has implemented since August 2010 for a financially secure district now and in the future.

Regardless of what is taking place at the state level, however, our community benefits from the fact that the district has become a leader in seeking efficiencies, creating unique programs that offer services and reduce costs, and ensuring a high return on a quality educational investment for local taxpayers and students. The board, administration and all staff are all committed to these important efforts.

This year, as we continue to make progress on developing our 2013-14 budget, we are keeping two key principles at the core of every decision we make: 1. What is in the best interest of our students, and 2. Providing direct services to our students.

You, our local community members, expect a great deal from your schools, and for good reason. Our schools did very well on the new school report cards issued by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, or DPI; students continue to achieve higher-than-average scores on the ACT exam and they are rising each year; our Advanced Placement, or AP, enrollment, examinations taken and scores continue to rise; six of our varsity athletic teams earned All State Academic status; Jefferson Elementary School received the DPI School of Recognition award for the second straight year and Kennedy Elementary School earned the national Blue Ribbon Award. In addition, SPASH's graduation rate - at 92.9 percent - is higher than the state average.

While all of these indicators are strong, they motivate us further to help our students achieve to their capacities, which we believe have not yet been met.

What I find truly impressive is that we have been able to preserve and build on this level of excellence while maintaining strong fiscal discipline, remaining responsive to the needs of taxpayers and working to achieve our mission to prepare each student to be successful. During the past several years, local families, business owners and organizations all have had to tighten their belts and cut costs wherever necessary, and your district has been no different. I am proud to report that our organization has been exceptional in finding efficiencies and reducing costs, while continuing to offer exceptional educational opportunities to students and families.

Our teachers and staff members have sacrificed. For example, they have had their base wages frozen for three years, have contributed more to their health insurance and some benefits were restructured and/or reduced. In addition, at the secondary level, teachers have taken on a greater load.

Yet, as professionals, our teachers and staff members are beyond compare. Each day, as I visit schools across the district, teachers and staff are on duty, serving our students - our community's greatest assets - to the best of their individual and collective abilities. I am so very proud of them and our students. You should be, as well.

Preparing a budget for an organization as large as the district is no simple task, but our strong fiscal discipline, paired with our commitment to providing students with the best educational opportunities possible, makes for a winning formula that allows our district to be such a high-performing one.

While we are proud of our budgetary planning and fiduciary responsibility, we remember that these are not the most important parts of our mission. That belongs to our mutual students as we look forward to welcoming them back in September.

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Football fans

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Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports