Work continues at Prentice campus

Work continues on the redesign of the Prentice School, with the new elementary wing pictured here. With school out for the summer, interior work is ramping up, with a hopeful end date of August.

At their regular meeting on June 20, the Prentice School Board were presented with a variety of options for how to divide the $11,500 received by the district for inflation amongst the school’s support staff.

The school currently has support staff that work 12 months of the year, 11 months, and nine months. Wendy Bant, the district bookkeeper, explained that in the past, the district has simply divided the total inflation amount equally among the employees.

However, Bant said that this results in pay inequality, since the employees are paid an hourly wage. When the inflation money is divided equally, it results in the 12-month employees earning a 21 cent raise per hour, while 11-month employees see a 25 cent raise, and nine-month employees get 30 cents.

Due to the inequality, this has resulted in a gap in the raises, with nine-month employees beginning to earn more overtime than the 12-month employees, according to Bant.

“When you take that full amount and divide it out by your hours, you get an inequality in pay,” Bant told the board. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

The board were presented with two other options for how the funds could be divided. The first option, which Bant suggested could be used for a year or two, would reverse the current strategy — resulting in the 12-month employees earning a higher raise than the 11-month employees, who in turn get a higher raise than the nine-month employees.

Bant suggested this option could be used as a short-term method to allow the salaries to balance out.

The second option would be to divide the sum into an hourly raise of 35 cents per hour, meaning that all employees would earn the same raise, but total salary would differ between the 12-, 11-, and nine-month employees.

Bant recommended considering option one for a year or two, and then switching to option two. However, she said that it would take more than two years to make up the difference that has accumulated overtime since 2011-12.

“The goal is to get everybody equal,” she said. “I think option two is the best way to go in the long run.”

After some discussion from school board members, board member Nick Adams made a motion that the school use option one this year and reconsider next year. This would result in a 39 cent increase for 12-month employees, 33 cents for 11-month employees, and 31 cents for nine-month employees. The motion was unanimously approved.

Changes approved for support staff employee handbook

A handful of changes were presented for the support staff employee handbook.

There has historically been a discrepancy between extra-duty pay, with teachers earning $35 and non-teaching staff earning $22.50. District administrator Randy Bergman recommended that it be changed to $35 for all employees.

In the past, sub bus drivers have been paid based on their routes, anywhere between $29-$37. Since it is difficult to find drivers and Bergman said he would prefer consistency, it was recommended that sub bus drivers be paid $35 regardless of which route they take.

Changes were also recommended for the number of sick days and personal days offered. Currently, teachers receive 10 sick days and two personal days each year. Sick days accumulate to 70 days, while personal days do not roll over into the next budget year. Support staff receive nine sick days and are allowed to use two of their sick days for personal reasons. Bergman said he would like to see that come more in line with the teachers, allowing support staff nine sick days and two additional personal days.

Board member Emily Blomberg asked if the district has considered allowing personal days to accumulate so that teachers could take off a week during the school year. Bergman said that currently, anything beyond the sick and personal days allowed, is granted as unpaid time off.

For funeral leave, Bergman recommended verbiage be added to the handbook to allow for staff to attend the funerals of grandparents-in-law.

Advisor coaching pay was balanced from $2,571 to an equal $2,600.

The last change was a proposed increase to sub pay, which is currently $11.50. For subs who work for the district for two years or more, the pay will be increased to $12.

Board member Dianne Gierman recommended the changes be accepted as they were presented. The motion was unanimously passed.

Achievement gap reduction report

Bergman noted that the students in first grade struggled this year, with several students Bergman referred to as low-functioning heading into the second grade. Bergman reported that two teachers assisted the struggling students this year, and will continue to do so in 2019-20.

District administration is currently considering whether the best approach would be to split the first grade class into two groups of 12, to ensure teachers can interact individually with each student.

“I think we’re going to need to divide them up so everybody gets a lot of one-on-one attention in a smaller setting,” he said.

Third grade made marked improvement in both reading and math, according to Bergman. Students in four-year-old kindergarten and kindergarten also saw improvement.

“It depends on the kids you get, but we have had a lot of kids that have been placed in special ed,” said Bergman. “We’re not sure if they are really functioning that low, or if there is something more we can do in the classroom to help them.”

Bergman pointed out that one aspect in particular that is holding back students is their ability to speak and communicate fluently.

“We’ve seen that receptive language is very low for a lot of our kids,” he said. “We’re working hard to improve that.”

Truancy issues discussed

Truancy has become a considerable problem, according to Bergman, who reported that some students missed as many as 26 days of school. Per state mandate, students are allowed to be excused in writing by a parent or guardian for no more than 10 days per school year.

Board member Nick Adams asked if the school offered any incentive to parents and students to attend.

Bergman responded that in the past the school had offered incentives to high school students, but had stopped doing it since parents should simply get their kids to school.

Board member Darrel Pierson commented that this behavior could carry over into professional careers later on in life, setting bad habits for the future.

Bergman said he spoke with all high schoolers and told them this would need to be changed next year. In addition, students who call in sick in the future will need to provide a doctor’s note to school administration.

“We have great teachers, but students have to be in the classroom to learn,” said Bergman.

Choir trip approved

The school board approved a high school choir trip to Branson, Missouri, in March 2020.

Music teacher Harmoni Jesunas said that the choir students had auditioned and been selected to perform as the opening act for the Janice Martin Show at the Americana Theater. Juilliard trained violinist and singer Janice Martin, who originally hails from Racine, headlines a cirque show featuring singers, aerialists, magicians, and jugglers.

“This is very exciting for our students,” Jesunas told school board members. “Most of the schools that have this opportunity are bigger. We might be small, but we have a great program.”

The five-day trip would fit neatly between spring sports, and choir members would have the opportunity to get a flavor for the southern community of Branson by touring local attractions, learning about the Ozark area, and attending several musical performances.

There could be approximately 35 high school students participating, along with chaperons, according to Jesunas.

The cost is approximately $800 per student, including transportation, food, and lodging. The choir will provide their own funding for the trip, raising money by selling raffle tickets, doing a bake sale and car wash, selling cookie dough, hosting a community dinner, and a brat sale. Jesunas said that some of the kids have already banked up money in their own personal choir account from fundraisers held in previous years.

The price includes renting a tour bus. Harmoni said she is also looking into taking an AmTrak train to make it more of an experience.

The trip was approved unanimously.

Building renovations update

Following the meeting, school board members received a walking tour of the renovations and additions being done at the Prentice campus, which continue on track.

Bergman reported that on the last day of school, kids in fourth through 11th grade (with the exception of the eighth grade, which was on a school trip) helped move everything out of the 1938 building in a matter of hours. Teachers and other members of staff also pitched in to help empty out the building, which is slated for demolition in the near future.

“It was a good day, said Bergman. “I was so proud of the kids for helping out.”

The kids were provided free picnic lunch for their assistance.

Three high school graduates are employed by the various companies working on the renovation.

Other business

* The resignation of 4K and early childhood teacher Kelly Kreuser was accepted by the school board, as she is departing to teach English overseas in Greece. Kreuser worked for the Prentice School District for three years.

* The school board approved the renewal of their membership with the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. Approved unanimously.

* The board approved the agenda for the annual meeting, which will be held at 8 p.m. on Monday, July 22. A budget hearing will be held at 7:30 p.m.

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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