Benefits of one day bond are discussed by local school board
By Clay Schuldt
Special for the Argus
The Feb. 21 Caledonia School Board meeting began with a discussion with Betsy Knoche and Jeff Seeley from Ehlers, Inc. concerning the one day bond.
In November of 2011 the Caledonia School District voted to approve the one day bond for the first time. Board Chair Michelle Werner asked Knoche and Seeley to appear at the meeting to explain the one day bond as there appeared to be a misunderstanding on how exactly the bond would benefit the school.
The school board had been under the impression that the one day bond could be used to lower both debt repayments to the state as well as go into a construction fund for capital projects. However Knoche and Seeley explained that this would not happen for a few years and after further referendum votes.
To see the advantages, the district must commit to the process and vote to approve future bonds. This would require the one day bond to be voted on and approved over several years before the district would see the significant benefits.
As a result of the one day bond the district is authorized to receive $488,105 for the capital projects fund. The representatives from Ehlers recommended holding onto the money, which they termed “authority,” and go through the referendum process again to increase the schools authority.
If the school district continues to approve a bond of around $400,000 every year, sometime down the line the school district would be able to lower the state debt on capital loans as well as use the authority collected for capital projects. The board was concerned about this turn of events as they expected to show district voters immediate results from the bond.
“When we went out this fall and talked to people about voting on the one day bond, what we thought would happen is not what really happened,” said Werner. “We thought that we would have a $495,000 reduction in our state payment from what we owe to our state, and that we would also have money go into our construction fund for capital projects, but that did not happen.”
Werner felt that the board was put into a position of choosing between paying off loans or paying for school improvements.
Knoche assured the board, “Once you get into the process you can do both”. Jeff Seeley further explained they will be able to do both if the district builds up enough authority by having the voters approve future bonds. It will, however, take a few years to build up the authority.
Werner wanted to be up front with the community and admit there had been a miscommunication with Ehler, Inc. and the school district. The Ehlers representatives admitted they should have done a better job of explaining the process. Ehlers did assure the board that the literature distributed by the school prior to the November 2011 vote had been accurate and the school did reduce next year’s payment to the state by $92,002.
Werner asked to let this information sit for a month to allow the board to decide on the next course of action.
Jacquelyn Hauser’s contract as girls head golf coach for the 2011-2012 school year was ratified by the board.
The purchase of a service agreement for ECSE Behavior Assistance Services for the remainder of the school year was approved. The board hopes to train current employees to fill the position for next year.
Kennedy & Graven Law Firm and Knutson, Flynn Deans, P.A. as the school lawyers for student and/or employee matters was approved.
The 2012-2013 School Calendar was approved by the board after adding the K-2 concert on May 2 at 7 p.m.
Principal Paul DeMorett and the staff have entered into discussion on attendance policies. DeMorett has been collecting examples of attendance polices from all over the state and intends to bring to the board a recommendation for a new attendance policy later in the spring.
On Feb. 16 the Caledonia Rotary Club sponsored a leadership retreat in La Crosse for 13 Caledonia High juniors. DeMorett commended the rotary club for paying for the retreat.
A testing assessment schedule for the remainder of the year was given to the board. DeMorett pointed to April 16 and 17 as being major state testing days. As the schedule currently sits every grade except the senior class are tested on those days. It has been suggested that on those days the testing take place in the morning and give the senior class a two hour late start. DeMorett and staff are still working out the details and will bring the necessary information to the next school board meeting.
DeMorett requested some direction in terms of credit awarding for the upcoming student class registration. The board will set up a committee meeting to make sure the school is on track with the states credit policy.
DeMorett then reviewed the senior’s off campus lunch policy. At the beginning of the year seniors are allowed off campus for lunch only on Wednesday. Each quarter the class is given more opportunities in the week to go off campus. During the last quarter the seniors are allowed off campus lunch every day.
However a student with an ‘F’ grade in a class loses the privilege for the quarter. The program helps to keep students in check during their final year.
Interim Elementary Principal Jane Morken spoke to the board concerning student enrollment for next year. Current estimates have the kindergarten class coming in at 57 students and there would need to be a decision to split the students into three or two classes. A similar issue has come up with the first grade class which has 54 students. One possibility would be to create two kindergarten classes, two first grade classes and a combination kindergarten/first grade class. This combination class would allow the school to create 22 student classes which would be easier to manage.
The administration is submitting for an Access grant. If the grant is awarded to the school, the plan is to ask for a half-time reading and math interventionist for K-3 students.
Superintendent Marcia Love attended the Three Rivers Conference Governing Board meeting where a vote was passed 9-2 in favor of bringing in Winona Cotter into the conference for the 2013-2014 school year.
Love also presented the board with a current projection for enrollment in 9-12 grades for all schools in the Three Rivers/HVL Conference. A significant shift in enrollment is projected, with Winona Cotter becoming the smallest school in the conference. Caledonia is projected to drop from 300 students to 243 by the 2014-2015 school year.
Community Education Director Nancy Runningen announced Early Childhood screening would begin Thursday, March 1 and Friday, March 2. Around 50 children are scheduled to be screened with 20 children being rescreened.
The Hand in Hand Preschool programs are beginning which will include registrations for the 2012-2013 School Year. The spring open house/registration night is scheduled for March 20. Orange and red classes will be attending “The House at Pooh Corner” at Viterbo on March 20.
The superintendent/elementary principal search committee announced that they had received 10 applications as of the Feb. 20 deadline. The applications will be reviewed by the board until Feb. 28. The search team will review and rank the applications and setup interviews. Final applicants will have two interviews, the second with the board and a chance for the community to meet with top selections.
Several months ago the board discussed a possible change to the speed limit sign on Highway 44 near the school crossing. The current sign sets the speed limit at 20 mph only when children are present. Board Member Kelley McGraw argued that this wording is confusing and does not cause many drivers to slow down.
McGraw suggested adding a flashing light to the sign and change the wording to 20 MPH when flashing. The board has now been informed that the sign belongs to the city of Caledonia and it is up to the city to change the sign. The board will bring the recommendation to the city.
The board then went into closed session for negotiation discussion.