This summer will likely see some building and grounds renovations take place at the Phillips School District high school campus, ranging from a redesigned secure entrance to the building to potentially restructuring and repaving the high school parking lot.
The topic received some discussion at the school board's most recent meeting April 15, where district administrator Rick Morgan provided the board with an update on the work being done by the facility planning committee.
The secure entrance redesign, which will be paid for out of a Wisconsin School Safety grant, is slated to take place at some point this year since the grant funding must be used within 2019. The redesign would leave the main door as it currently exists, but then direct people entering the school to pass directly through the high school office. The remodel would also slightly change the
way the high school administration offices are laid out. Morgan informed the board that the details of the entry redesign are still in the planning phase.
In order to improve traffic flow issues and expand what is currently limited staff and student parking, Morgan suggested that the school will need to consider upgrading the parking lot — not only to improve safety, but also because sections of the lot itself are in need of considerable repairs.
"We feel as though this is a project we should consider taking on now from within the general fund," said Morgan.
Initial ideas presented to the school board included removing the green space between the two sections of the high school parking lot to increase the number of available parking spaces, possibly consider changing the one-way entrance to a normal two-way entrance/exit or switching the street from which people enter the school parking lot to solve traffic flow issues, and addressing drainage issues.
It was discussed that the drive-through area of the lot could be left as is, since it is in reasonably good repair.
Using funds from the school's maintenance budget, Morgan noted that the parking lot could be tackled over two consecutive years.
Plans for the possibility of redesigning the parking lot are currently being formulated by the district's contracted architectural and engineering firms. Board members were invited to come to the school to meet with the architects and engineers in coming weeks.
No formal decisions on any of the issues discussed were made by the school board at their meeting.
New board members take oath of office
Newly voted-in board members Paula Houdek and Gabriel Lind and reelected board member Stephen Willett took their oath of office, beginning three-year terms that will start with next month's board meeting.
Mark Distin, a school board member of six years, and Jim Adolph, a school board member of nine years, were recognized for their years of service to the school district and community. Both were commended by their fellow board members for having served the district well.
Technical excellence scholarship
It was announced that Phillips High School senior Darek Petruzalek is a recipient of this year's Technical Excellence Scholarship, awarded by the State of Wisconsin to seniors who are proficient in technical education subjects. Throughout Petruzalek's high school career, he has maintained a grade point average over 3.0 and 3.6 in technical coursework.
Petruzalek is planning to study at Northeast Technical College in Green Bay, and aims to become a CNC technician.
As the vice-president of the Wisconsin Technical College board of regents, Willett commented: "This is our highest award and it is not given out lightly. Mr. Petruzalek a fine representation of us, and I'm really happy that we had someone of this quality to accept the award."
Update on 4K program expansion
Progress continues with the expansion of the school's four-year-old kindergarten program, with Morgan notifying the board that there are currently three strong candidates for the position of 4K teacher.
Currently, 36 students are enrolled in next year's 4K program, and Morgan noted that he would expect that number to go up to about 50 students as the start of the school year approaches. In order for the expansion of the 4K program to not impact the school's budget, there would need to be approximately 40-45 students enrolled. In order to increase the school's revenue, the number of enrolled students would also need to increase.
"If it were to stay at the 36 students, we would be running a slight deficit in this first year, but I think it's well worth our investment even at a small deficit to get the program up and running," said Morgan. "If you take a look at our historic [enrollment] numbers, I'm very confident we are going to get within that budget-neutral range by September of next year."
Potential of additional administration staffing discussed
District administration is investigating the costs associated with the possibility of adding a middle school principal to the school staff, in order to better address student and staff needs in the middle/high school. Currently, Colin Hoogland serves as the principal of both the high school and middle school.
School board president Jon Pesko commented on the issue, saying: "During the years of the cuts, we had to cut back a lot in staff and one of the first places we started was within administration. Our early projections were that we would beseeing lower and lower numbers of students, but we have actually leveled off and have gained some."
Pesko noted that between issues such as a rise in prohibited tobacco use in students to management of extracurricular activities to addressing student mental health, there is a need to provide support to the high school administration in order to keep operations running smoothly.
"We need to budget more for this, because it has become a long, hard process to go through all these things," said Pesko. "There are a lot of things we have cut — is it time to bring some of it back? I don't know that it is. It will be up to the board, but I think it merits discussion."
Outgoing board member Mark Distin noted that there are costs to the districts that go beyond budgetary, saying: "There are two costs. One is the time and energy and resources you have to invest in taking care of those disparate problems. The other may be a greater cost; what is not getting done? What could be done better with an appropriate division of labor?"
"We appreciate the fact we can bring this to the table and it's not turned down immediately," said Morgan.
The topic will return to the board for further discussion after more detailed information can be gathered.
Policy changes presented for first reading
Three newly revised policies were presented for a first reading to the school board.
The first calls for a revision to the school policy on admission to four-year-old kindergarten, five-year-old kindergarten, and first grade, allowing for a personal meeting with parents who are requesting admission for their child prior to the legal age. It was suggested that there may be cases where a child will turn four-yearsold a few days a_ er the admission cutoff, and a personal meeting with elementary school administration could help handle individual cases such as these.
The second policy adjustment pertains to the district's policy on equal education opportunities, and adds language to allow reasonable accommodation of a student's sincerely held religious beliefs regarding examinations and other academic requirements. Requests for such accommodations would need to be made in writing and approved by the relevant principal.
The final policy change presented would restructure a student's eligibility to participate in athletics based on failing grades.
Willett expressed some concern to his fellow board members that using participation in athletic programs as a "carrot and stick" for students may not be in their best interests, saying that he believes participating in athletics teaches students critical so_ skills, such as working in a group, cooperation, and communication.
The policies will be presented for a second reading and possible approval at the school board's next meeting on May 20.
The school board approved the hiring of Glenn Ericksen as the new junior varsity so_ - ball coach and Patrick Croy as the groundskeeper. The board also approved the contract renewals for co-head track coach Justin Lindgren, co-head track coach Sarah Socha, assistant track coach Dana Janssen, and girls varsity soccer coach Mark Fuhr.
The a retirement and two resignations — business education teacher Jean Flower who was employed by the district for 13 years, bus driver Theresa Johanik who was employed for 33 years, and contracted occupational therapist Vivienne Neerdaels who had worked for the district for 14 years — were accepted.
The school is currently recruiting for six positions: Future Business Leaders of America advisor, world language teacher, paraprofessional, speech and language pathologist, three bus drivers, a 4K elementary teacher, and a cook.
Students of the month
The following middle school students were recognized as students of the month by the school board for their positive behavior: sixth grader Arianna Brill, seventh grader Arianna Riley, and eighth grade Trey Denzine.
* An announcement was made that annual review of the employee handbook is underway, and all employees and community members may now submit any potential changes, additions, revisions, or deletions. All suggestions will come before the school board, and the handbook with be up for approval by the end of the school year.
* The school board unanimously approved extending the CESA 12 contract for services estimated at $46,903.82.
* The purchase of a new Grasshopper mower was approved at the cost of $6,500.
* The school board approved changing the health insurance carrier to Security Health Plan beginning July 1, 2019. There will be no changes to the service plan.
* The school board convened into closed session to confer with legal counsel concerning strategy to be adopted by the governmental body with respect to litigation in which it is or is likely to become involved. No formal action was taken followed the closed session.
After an agonizingly long winter there was finally spring in the air as the Price County Board of Supervisors began their monthly meeting with a presentation from Peter Dahlie, chairman of the Price County Fair Association Board.
Dahlie told the board that the weather plays a heavy hand on the attendance at the fair and therefore noted that the 2018 attendance was 25% higher than the 2017 fair, which had struggled with inclement weather.
"However, the fair is always successful in the terms of making memories," Dahlie said. "This is not like a festival because of the many educational projects that are shown and so many young people being involved."
Beyond the usual animals and 4-H projects that are on exhibit, there was also a new influx of projects shown by the school districts of Phillips, Prentice, Chequamegon, and Flambeau, he said.
Dahlie noted the fair also provides local youth participants an opportunity to raise some revenue at the fairgrounds to support their groups. Price County Youth Hockey, Boy Scouts and, the 4-H clubs had good fundraising years in 2018, he added.
Dahlie noted that the entertainment will feature bands on Friday and Saturday nights as usual and there will be the kiddie tractor pull, butterfly house, juggler, petting zoo and children's museum. Besides an ATV/Lawnmower pull there will also be the traditional horse pull.
The fair lost a bit of money last year as it had to cover expenses for the rainy year of 2017, but it is hoped that the 2019 fair will be "fair and sunny."
The historic fair buildings are for the most part sound, but Dahlie said that the roofs on the North and South wings of the livestock barn have some leaks and are going to need attention. The North wing will be replaced this summer as it will be paid for through a donation and the Open Class building is
in need of a few repairs, he concluded.
Board member Paula Houdek has long been a strong supporter of the fair.
"It is important for all of us on the board to go to the fair to show that we support this countywide event," she said. "Visit with the fair board and take it all in."
On a side note, it was said that the corn dogs are great and the malted milk from the dairy stand are exceptional.
This year the K&M's carnival will be on hand and the daily gate fee is going to remain at $5 or $15 for unlimited carnival rides.
Tourism in Price County
Edward Kane and Laurie Hansen from the Park Falls and Phillips chamber groups respectively were on hand to offer an update on the newly merged chamber and county tourism efforts.
Price County eliminated their standing tourism department and added those responsibilities to the chambers for $15,000 a year each. The chamber leaders have been directed to use that funding for promotions only and not for wages or chamber expenses.
Both directors said that they have been noticing far more contacts from the area, primarily in the south of the county.
The directors said they have heard good comments sparked by the local photo on the front cover of the ATV Guide and four pages inside.
Kane said their goal thus far is to emphasize that the Price County area offers less expensive places to stay and less traffic and noise than Hayward or Minocqua and to encourage tourists to go back and forth given it is only 37 miles.
"I think we are looking at it as a different place to market and that seems to be getting some attention," Kane said. "People are coming to us asking to join in the efforts, which is a good sign."
The group now waits to see how Governor Tony Evers is going to look at funding for tourism and are hoping to be the recipient of some grants.
Grouse and timber
Board member Jim Hintz said that the Forestry and Parks Committee reports that working with the Department of Natural Resources has led to the translocation of 100 grouse in a fourcounty area.
"Those captured grouse were relocated to Missouri," Hintz said.
He also reported that there has been good logging weather this year and there is going to be a timber sale this spring which promises to be very lucrative.
"This sale should generate well over a million dollars," Hintz said.
Some of those proceeds will be put into escrow to be used for replanting.
Board member Jeff Halstrand has been organizing the county's newly named ad hoc committee looking at the status of broadband availability.
Hallstrand said that the committee is first reviewing the areas where the service is adequate and where it is almost non-existent.
Hallstrand said there is a great deal to be accomplished, but the committee members were surprised to see where the towers and lines were already in place.
"It was rather eyeopening as the committee members didn't realize that there have been a lot of efforts made already," Hallstrand said.
The board also unanimously approved appointing Joseph Baraka as the new highway commissioner.
A brief review of the state biennial budget as it stands thus far was given, with an emphasis on increases in the area of child welfare and juvenile court. Although many ideas have been presented by the governor, it will be some months before the budget is signed, and many changes are likely to occur.
Students at Prentice School District may soon have the opportunity to participate in another extracurricular sporting event, as the Chequamegon Sportsman's Club is interested in introducing a trapshooting program to the district.
Club member Jeff Ulrich was present at the school board's regular meeting April 16, where he pitched an idea for the program to board members.
The scholastic clay target program offers youth a chance to get involved in an outdoor sporting event built on sportsmanship and safe firearm usage. It is a spring sport, starting in the middle of March and running through the end of the year. Students are required to go through hunter safety courses before participating.
Depending on the success of the program, students would have the opportunity to advance to regional, state, and national meets.
Ulrich explained that several surrounding school district already participate in the program, including the Phillips and Chequamegon school districts who have a co-op team of 47 students ranging from age 12 through 18.
Ulrich explained that this fits very well with the Chequamegon Sportsman's Club's mission, which aims to
introduce youth of both genders and all ages to hunting and fishing, and promote the safe use of firearms and other weapons.
The program would not require school funding, but would rather be supported by grants through different sporting groups and local foundations.
Ulrich explained that most area organizations who support the scholastic clay target program provide youth with shotguns and shells during the events. Firearms used locally would be securely stored at the Chequamegon Sportsman's Club facility and students would be discouraged from transporting firearms in their own vehicles.
Volunteer instructors for the course will need to be certified as shotgun coaches and will have to pass a background check. Ulrich said there would be a minimum of three instructors at the start of the program and build that up to five instructors. Transportation to meets would be provided by volunteers.
"We want to retain the tradition of trapshooting and preserve the sport of it," said Ulrich. "To participate, students would need to meet the same requirements as they would for any other sport. We would work collaboratively with the school to make sure that we're meeting the same standards and expectations as other school sports."
District administrator Randy Bergman stated he would try to gauge student interest over the next month before the school board's next meeting on May 20.
No formal decisions were made by the school board at their meeting.
The resignation of the district's longtime science teacher, Quan Banh, who has taught in the district for 17 years, was accepted by the school board. Due to the needs of extended family, Banh will be relocating to Minnesota following the conclusion of the school year in June.
The difficulty of replacing Banh was discussed, as he has been an innovative and engaging teacher in the district, regularly going above and beyond the requirements of his job.
"How do you find someone to replace someone like Mr. Banh?" said Bergman. "He's done such a wonderful job with all the different things. We need to find some way to keep it going, but who do you find to do all those things?"
It was discussed that there might need to be two separate people hired to fill his role — one as a science teacher, and the other managing the school's greenhouse gardening project.
The board also approved offering contract renewals to all teachers employed by the district for the 2019-20 school year.
Possibility of changing financial consultants discussed
It was reported that the school's longtime public finance consultant Kevin Mullen, who was formerly employed by Hutchinson, Shockey, Erley & Co., has left his employment there to work for Baird.
Bergman raised the issue with the board, asking if they would like to stay with Hutchinson, Shockey, Erley & Co. as their company of choice, or switch to Baird in order to retain Mullen's services.
The board asked Bergman to look into the comparative costs and potential benefits of making the switch. No decision was made at this time.
* The board directed Bergman to budget for the refurbishment of the east gym floor, which has not been addressed in over 20 years. The cost for the refurbishment may be covered in part by remaining referendum funding, or out of the general budget if needed. The project would likely take place over the summer.
* The board made their annual approval of the receipt of the Carl Perkins Grant, which is pooled with other CESA 9 funding and helps cover specific school costs.
* The school board approved staying with their current auditors for district financial services in the 2019-20 school year.
* Students receiving scholarships will be awarded them in ceremony at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15 at the high school gym.
* It was announced that according to the U.S. News & World Report, Prentice High School ranked 52nd in Wisconsin high schools, and 1,708th in the nation.