Editor’s Note: Waupaca School District Administrator David Poeschl delivered the following State of the School Address to the Waupaca School Board Tuesday, Sept. 11.
Welcome to my annual address to the 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 my thoughts on the challenges we face. School finance issues typically take up much of this conversation because of significant changes over the past several years. While I will briefly discuss our financial situation, I will save a more detailed financial discussion for my monthly newspaper column.
As proposed last year at this time, the School Board and employees have worked through the shift from a collective bargaining agreement to a handbook environment with conversation and transparency. The working relationship between school board, administration, teachers, and support staff continues to be an effective one.
On a related note, students continue to perform well as evidenced by test scores, daily class measurements, and participation in a wide variety of extra-curricular activities. While you will hear more detail about our students’ performance on the ACT during the October Board Monitoring session, I am pleased to report the composite score for our students has increased steadily from 22.2 in 2009 to 22.8 in 2012.
The main discussion this year will relate to changes in how our schools and families will be asked to transition from the No Child Left Behind requirements to the new waiver requirements recently approved for Wisconsin by the United States Department of Education. Wisconsin’s education reform package will set higher expectations for students, educators, and schools in the following areas:
• Standards and Instruction – what and how students learn
• Assessment and Data Systems – how progress will be measured and recorded
• School and Educator Effectiveness – how the performance of teachers and administrators will be measured
Many parts of the waiver are works in progress and will continue to be phased in over the coming years. However, the first part of the reform package – redefining what it means to be proficient or advanced on the WKCE tests – is currently underway. The Department of Public Instruction will soon be issuing district and school report cards. The report cards will show a significant decline in the number of students performing at the proficient and advanced levels on the 2011-2012 WKCE tests. I must emphasize this does not reflect a change in the abilities of our students. The decrease in the number of students scoring proficient and advanced on the new report cards reflects the new and tougher benchmarks being placed on the tests administered and already reported out last year under different benchmarks.
Finally, a few thoughts in the area of school finance. Just tonight, the Board of Education learned more about our financial situation as we move closer to finalizing the 2012-2013 budget.
The State’s share of district support will be reduced again this year, this time by over $846,000. Cumulatively, State Aid for the District has been reduced by more than $3,500,000 since the 2008-2009 school year. Taxpayers have offset this reduction through an increase in property taxes since 2008-2009 by approximately $2,500,000. The nearly $1,000,000 difference has been accounted for through efficiencies in health insurance, employee retirement contributions, and other general expenditure reductions.
Over the most recent three-year period reported by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, the School District of Waupaca’s comparative cost per student has risen a total of 4.87 percent while the State’s comparative cost per student has risen by 12.06%. When compared to other school districts across Wisconsin, Waupaca has been fiscally conservative on a cost per pupil basis.
While administration’s work in preparing the 2012-2013 budget is nearing completion, our concern for 2013-14 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. The evidence suggests the taxpayers of this community are finding it more and more difficult to fill the gap created at the State level.
Challenges continue to dominate our agenda and we face those challenges with optimism. As we continue to educate every child who walks through our doors, I am convinced our staff will continue to make a positive difference in the lives of the more than 2200 students who entered our schools this fall.
We continue to appreciate and value the support of our community members who continue to provide the “extras” that make Waupaca special. Thank you for all you do.
As I begin my 21st 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.