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School crisis plan approved

At their Dec. 17 meeting, members of the Prentice School Board reviewed and approved the school's safety and crisis plan, which recently underwent some minor revisions.

District administrator Randy Bergman reported that the plan was reviewed and updated by the safety committee, which includes Brad Swenson of the fire department, Sheriff Brian Schmidt, and school board member Darrell Pierson.

The plan includes a new safe location kids can be relocated to in the event of an emergency that necessitates evacuation. That location is not disclosed in order to protect the safety of the students, according to Bergman, and has been changed after the school evacuation in 2018 following a threat later determined to be a hoax. Bergman acknowledged that some parents would like to know the location, but the location or locations will remain undisclosed.

The plan also includes a map of the facility, along with the

number of kids in each classroom.

A safety drill was recently conducted at the school, and was completed without incident, according to Bergman. The district was locked down in seconds and Bergman reported that all the teachers and students reacted well.

The possibility of having an onsite officer — known as a school resource officer — was raised by board member Nick Adams, who asked whether the district has considered that option. A similar model is used in the Phillips School District through a partnership with the Phillips Police Department, and the part-time officer's salary is divided between the school and the police department.

Bergman noted that budgeting for the expense of an officer might be difficult for Prentice School District. Currently, Deputy Laurie Zondlo of the Price County Sheriff's Office is a regular presence in the school through the DARE program, and Bergman also noted that other deputies who are out on patrol occasionally stop by the school, walk the halls, and talk with the students.

The crisis plan was unanimously approved by the school board.

Board discusses petition for fair athletic competition

A copy of a petition coming from a handful of small schools to go before the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association in April was provided to school board members by Bergman. He requested board members read and review the petition, which proposes that the amendment be made to the WIAA constitution, using the state's free and reduced lunch numbers to determine at which division level student athletes should compete.

The petition states: "... the more affluent the community/district and the lower the free and reduced lunch rate, the better statistical chance of winning percentage for regular season play as well as success within the state tournament series."

If the amendment were approved, it would create a new six team division I state tournament format.

Bergman indicated he would like Prentice to join the other schools on the petition in order to reduce the inequities presented by small schools competing in tournaments against more privileged school districts.

Board member Dianne Gierman said she had mixed feelings about the petition, saying, "In other words, poorer districts aren't as good at athletics? They say there is a direct correlation."

"For the purposes of fair play, you end up with inequity if you just use the enrollment as your factor," said school board president Randy Erickson. "For example, if we were to play one of the big Milwaukee schools, it would not be fun for the kids at all. We'd get crushed every time ... like our football team this year. It wasn't necessarily fun for our kids."

"I've seen our numbers dropping for sports in the past 15 years," said Adams, pointing out that Prentice often plays against teams from Wisconsin Rapids, Assumption, Marshfield Columbus, or Wausau Newman.

"We're always playing bigger schools, or not necessarily bigger schools, but schools that can pull competition," he said. "They've been trying to figure this out for years — how to make it more fair. This is just one way they've found that it correlates. It's not like they said, 'you're poor so you can't compete.'"

"We're not saying we have bad athletes — we have good athletes," commented board member Anna Mundt. "The kids don't want to play schools like Newman Catholic that can recruit, because they don't feel like it's fair. Every time we have to go down to Wausau and play Newman Catholic I hear it from my own kids."

No vote was taken, although discussion indicated a majority of board members agreed with signing the petition.

Use of Ogema gym for sports practice discussed

During the public comment section of the meeting, school board member Dennis Hartmann commented that he had received a request from the district's softball coach to use the Ogema gym for pitching practice.

A number of potential issues were raised by other board members and Bergman, including the fact that the Ogema building is not heated, does not have running water, or working restrooms. The concern of setting a precedent for using the closed building was also discussed.

Board member Emily Blomberg said that the only reason it would make sense to practice in Ogema would be if there isn't adequate space in the Prentice school building.

Erickson noted that as the Ogema gym will likely not even be an option next year, the issue of practice space will need to be resolved eventually, and recommended that the softball coach be encouraged to move practice to Prentice.

Other business

* The school board unanimously approved renewing the cooperative football agreement with Rib Lake.

* Bergman reported that he will begin serving on the Ogema library board after the Town of Ogema removed the school district's designee, Jane Holm. Wisconsin states state that the library board should include the superintendent of the local school district or their designee.


SINGING IN THE SEASON

Chequamegon exceeds state expectations
School district ranked 88th out of 421 statewide

The Chequamegon School District was the top-scoring local school district on the state-issued school report cards released in November. Chequamegon scored a 79 for the 2018-19 school year, earning an "exceeds expectations" designation.

That score was the second-highest in the 14-member Cooperative Education Service Agency No. 12, behind only the School District of Maple (84.4) in Douglas County.

Chequamegon's score also marks three years of continuous improvement for the district. Since a low of 65 in the 2015-16 school year, the district has steadily climbed to 70.9 (2016-17) and 72.6 (2017-18).

The report cards are issued annually by the Department of Public Instruction as part of the state accountability system. The reports compile data across priority areas in student achievement, growth, closing gaps, and on-track and postsecondary success. They also measure chronic absenteeism and dropout rates.

Of those priority areas, Chequamegon's 768 students are together performing above the state score in all but student achievement, which measures students' level of knowledge against state academic standards in English Language Arts and mathematics. Students at Chequamegon scored 61.5, while the state scored 62.3. There is growth in this category, however, as the district improved by nearly 2 points since its last report card.

In the district growth category, which measures the speed at which students are learning from year to year, Chequamegon is excelling, outpacing the state by 10.5 points and beating its previous score by 6.6 points. The figure is significant because it shows Chequamegon is exceeding how much students in the district are statistically predicted to grow.

"We made this high level of growth because we have spent

a great deal of time using professional development on how to effectively reach these groups within our district, and by using student achievement data to target the areas where our students show need," explained Mark Weddig, district administrator for Chequamegon.

In the area of closing achievement gaps between student groups, (low-income students, English learners, students with disabilities, and those in minority racial or ethnic groups), the district is outperforming the state by 11.3 points. This is despite the district seeing a steady increase in the percentage of students with disabilities and those considered economically disadvantaged.

Chequamegon is also exceeding the state score in the final priority area of on-track and postsecondary readiness, scoring an 89 to the state's score 84.8. This area is measured by graduation and attendance rates, third grade ELA achievement, and eighth-grade mathematics scores.

In addition to the districtwide report card, the DPI provides a report card for every school in each school district. Of Chequamegon's five schools, Park Falls Elementary, Chequamegon High School, and Chequamegon Middle School scored in the exceeds expectations category. Glidden Elementary and Class ACT Charter School were graded with an alternative rating due to enrollment size. Both were determined to be satisfactory.

Weddig, speaking to a crowd of about 10 people at a school listening session Dec. 5 in Glidden, said this is the first time the district and all its schools have graded in the exceeds expectations level.

"Every year when the report card comes out they tend to throw some other factor into it, so it makes it difficult to compare year to year," Weddig said. "But, we're going to strive to go up continuously because we're going to focus on students that need to grow in reading and math. That's what we feel is most important to focus on."

Of district schools, Chequamegon Middle School lead the way, with an 81.8 score. The middle school topped state scores in every priority area.

Chequamegon High School showed the single highest jump, earning a 79.6, a 12.6 point increase from the 2017-18 score of 67. However, DPI cautions against direct comparisons between any scores that move 10 or more points in one year. When contacted regarding the increase, DPI officials concluded the fluctuation at CHS was due to an increase in data availability, as the school this year qualified for measurement in student growth and closing gaps priority areas thanks to the additional scores from ninth and 10th grade ACT Aspire test results. Those scores were not included in the 201718 report card.

Park Falls Elementary scored 75.9. As state standard testing results reported on earlier in the year have indicated, the school is behind in student achievement when it comes to English and math, scoring a 60.2 to the state grade of 65.7. However, growth in those two core areas is showing improvement, increasing 12.4 points from the year previous, thanks mostly to its increased math scoring.

The elementary's English scoring is also behind in closing achievement gaps. The school decreased in this category from the year previous, slipping 3.4 points. Of the three schools scored on the expectations scale, Park Falls Elementary has the highest percentage of students with disabilities (18.6%) and those considered English learners (6.5%), but principal Marilyn Brink says that although the higher percentage could be a contributing factor, the focus is on improving the learning of all students.

"In the last several years, we have invested time and effort in making sure we are clear in what we want students to know/learn and be able to do," said Brink in an email. She said the school is also taking steps to make sure it is accurately measuring what students have learned each year, then using the results to improve instruction.

Last year the elementary teachers worked to align math instruction, materials, and assessments more closely to Common Core standards, and new English material was piloted in first and fourth grades. "The results from the pilot were positive and we have adopted the new program for the other elementary grades this year," said Brink.

For more information on the 2018-19 report card or to view the documents in full, visit the DPI website at https://apps2. dpi.wi.gov/reportcards/.


Referendum to be topic of Jan. 13 meeting

A special meeting of the Phillips School Board will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 13, for the purposes of designing the language for a possible referendum in April. At the school board's regular meeting on Jan. 20, the school board will take a vote, determining whether a majority of members support the pursuit of a referendum to tackle the district's facility needs.

The school board got a glimpse of what the next several months might look like on Dec. 16, when Megan Prestebak of Miron Construction provided members with a strategic timeline for the passage of a referendum — should the board choose to pursue one.

With the results of a community survey completed this past fall indicating a referendum could pass — albeit narrowly — Prestebak told board members it would be important to keep engaging the community in active discussion around the district's facility needs.

Additionally, since every vote will count, Prestebak told the board that the referendum question would need to be worded in a way that the majority of the community will support. For example, the school board will need to determine whether or not to include the potential demolition of a portion of the current elementary school in the list of projects referendum funding will go toward.

If the demolition is not referenced in the referendum, no referendum money can be put toward that project, and it will need to be paid for by other means.

Prestebak pointed out that since state statute allows school districts to ask two ballot questions per year, hypothetically, Phillips could attempt to go to referendum in

April and try again in November if they fail in passing a referendum in the spring. However, that will limit the district to asking one question per attempt — making the language particularly important.

With the clock ticking down to the Jan. 28 deadline to pass a resolution to go to referendum, board member Paula Houdek expressed her concerns about keeping the community engaged and informed about the district's needs.

Houdek also commented that there are restrictions surrounding promoting or advocating for the referendum while in an official school capacity.

District administrator Rick Morgan noted that a community committee will be formed after the school board votes whether or not to go to referendum.

Prestebak also commented saying that while the school district's information must remain completely factual, board members are allowed to express their personal opinions outside of their capacity as a school board member.

Board reviews district's academic and career planning options

Board members were given a brief visual tour of the district's academic and career planning webpage by high school counselor Rebecca Macholl, who highlighted all the changes to the page since 2018.

Members of the public can locate the webpage by visiting the school district's website at www.phillips.k12.wi.us and selecting 'ACP Student Resources' under the 'District' tab.

One of the key changes is the online program utilized for students in grades 6-12 to work on career planning. In the past, the district has used Career Cruising, which has now shifted statewide to a new program known as Xello.

Students' information from Career Cruising transferred smoothly to Xello, according to Macholl, who also reported that the students are finding Xello more user friendly.

Macholl noted that the structure of Xello is very different than Career Cruising, using four lessons at every grade level from sixth-12th grade. The purpose of the levels are to "help gain awareness of self, explore postsecondary and career options, document their academic and career plans, and review and revise their plans as needed," according to the district's website.

Another area of the webpage that was updated pertains to postsecondary options in Price County, which has been updated with the most recent available information on the county's labor market, gathered in 2017. That information, which was released by the Department of Workforce Development, states that the top five growing occupations in Price County include professional and business services, construction, education and health services, selfemployed unpaid family workers, and personal care services.

This is a change from the previous data, which formerly included manufacturing on the list — which are now replaced by self-employed unpaid family workers and personal care services. However, Macholl noted that manufacturing continues to be a large employer in Price County.

Several of the board members noted that it is problematic that the data for the Department of Workforce Development is so outdated, coming from 2017.

Policy changes

Job descriptions for both an elementary and a sixth-12th grade school counselor were reviewed and approved by the school board after a second reading.

Presented for a first reading was a slight revision to the district policy on board member compensation, adding language that states board members should receive per-meeting or annual salary reimbursement as established by the annual meeting. The added wording was "or annual salary."

It was also reported that the policy committee is considering developing a new policy to address therapy dogs in schools, which are different that service dogs (which the district already has a policy for).

School calendar

The 2020-21 school calendar was presented to the school board, with a total of 175 student days, nine staff in-service days, and two staff and parent contact days, for a grand total of 186 teacher work days.

Graduation is planned for May 28, 2021, which would also be the last day of classes. For unexpected school closures, the make-up days would be planned for Feb. 26, June 1, and June 2.

Board member Stephen Willett express some concerns about religious holidays, including the Monday following Easter — April 5, 2021 — which he felt should be listed as a vacation day.

Director of pupil services Vicki Lempke commented that some parents have to work on that Monday, raising issues with finding childcare.

Students of the month

The following students were recognized as students of the month by the school board for their positive behavior: kindergartener Kalle Heikkinen, fifth grader Emmet Knudson, sixth grader Kadin Slack, seventh grader James Vollendorf, and eighth grader Iliana Winter. High schoolers recognized as students of the quarter included sophomore Mara Mulligan and senior Ana Angelo.

Other business

The resignation of Chris Krueger, a paraprofessional at Phillips Elementary, was accepted by the board.


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