Welcome to my annual address to the Waupaca School Board, staff and community regarding the state of affairs in our organization.
I use this opportunity to recognize our achievements over the past year and to share with you my thoughts on the challenges we face. The main discussion points this year will relate to working relationships and school finance.
In preparing this address, I review my comments from previous years in an effort to provide consistency and continuity in my message. While it is tempting to promote new initiatives every year to make it appear the district is constantly trying new things, it is refreshing to note I have been discussing budget concerns, student improvement processes, safety concerns and core values on a regular basis.
While our methods may change over time, our attention to these items remains consistent. Data collection and analysis, Response to Intervention, school safety initiatives, and the implementation of research based alternative instructional delivery models have been incorporated into the daily business of education in our district.
This year I will diverge a bit and add the concept of working relationships to this discussion. One can’t help but wonder how the turmoil we hear across the state is affecting the education process in the School District of Waupaca. The anxiety felt by school employees is real. The problems leading to the need for change are real. The potential problems with the proposed solutions are real. The evidence our teachers, support staff and administrators continue to do what we do best – to work every day to improve student learning – is also real.
The school board has worked hard to relieve the anxiety of change as best they can. They remain committed to staying the course of labor peace experienced over the past several years. Because this district does not prescribe to knee-jerk solutions to problems, we do not have to make drastic changes in how we work together. The change from contract to policy will be relatively seamless. That’s not to say there won’t be problems, as conflict will be inevitable. However, the district is committed to resolving conflict with conversation and transparency.
Over the years I have used this time to discuss the challenges we face as a District in the area of finance. Just tonight, the Board of Education learned more about our financial situation as we move closer to finalizing the 2011-12 budget.
The state share of district support will be reduced by $1.084 million this year. Waupaca School District employees will add approximately $804,000 towards making up that difference by contributing 5.85 percent towards our retirement this year and beyond. Cumulatively, the district will have received $2.728 million less State Aid since the 2008-09 school year. To balance this loss, we have adjusted expenditures to match the shrinking student enrollments and found ways to provide quality instruction at a lesser cost.
While administration’s work in preparing the 2011-12 budget is nearly complete, our concern for 2012-13 becomes even greater. I will repeat my call for Wisconsin to develop a better funding formula for schools. Property value should become less of a factor and poverty should become more of a factor in a new funding formula.
There is no evidence the School District of Waupaca spends too much on a per pupil basis. There is plenty evidence suggesting the taxpayers of this community are finding it more and more difficult to fill the gap created at the state level.
It is no surprise challenges continue to dominate our agenda, but we will continue to face our challenges with optimism. The School District of Waupaca is a wonderful place to work, play, attend school and live. As we continue to educate every child who walks through our doors, I am convinced our staff will make a positive difference in the lives of the more than 2300 students who entered our schools this fall.
We continue to appreciate and value the support of our community and especially parents and guardians, who continue to provide the “extras” that make Waupaca special. Thank you for all you do.
As I begin my 20th year leading the School District of Waupaca I continue to believe it is an honor to serve the Board of Education, staff, students and community. Thank you.
David Poeschl, Ph.D., is the district administrator of the Waupaca School District.