Written by Bill Schanen IV
Wednesday, 11 January 2017 20:35
Because of its large program, district could benefit greatly, suffer dearly from state funding changes
Summer school funding is on the minds of school officials and state legislators, and the Port Washington-Saukville School District is poised to benefit greatly or suffer dearly if significant changes are made.
The district is supporting a Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) resolution that will be voted upon during the Wisconsin State School Board Convention in Milwaukee next week that would urge the Legislature to significantly increase state aid for summer school programs.
For the Port Washington-Saukville School District, which has one of the largest, longest-standing summer school programs in the state, the change would mean an additional $750,000 annually, Director of Business Services Jim Froemming said.
“The amount of money involved is substantial,” he said. “If this passes, our district would definitely be one of the largest winners.”
Under the state aid formula, districts use the number of minutes of summer school education provided every year to calculate full-time student equivalent enrollment figures. In the case of the Port-Saukville School District, the 1,500 students who attend summer school are the equivalent of 126 full-time students under the aid formula. Currently, districts can count 40% of those students — 50 in the case of the Port-Saukville School District — as full-time students for the purposes of state aid.
The WASB resolution calls for the aid formula to be changed so that 100% of the full-time equivalent students can be counted in enrollment figures.
Whether the call for such a change will gain any traction in the Legislature is uncertain, but at the very least the resolution may help ward off the opposite reaction from lawmakers intent on cutting funding for public education, officials said.
“Part of this resolution is a reaction to preliminary discussions among some legislators to eliminate all financial support for summer school programs,” Supt. Michael Weber said. “That would be devastating to summer school programs throughout the state.”
It would be particularly devastating to the Port Washington-Saukville School District, whose summer school enrollment is worth about $500,000 annually under the state revenue limit formula, Froemming said.
When asked if the elimination of state funding for summer school would doom the district’s long-standing program, Weber said, “I really don’t know.
“My guess is no, it would not, but we would have to take money away from something else important to maintain our summer school program.”
At stake is a six-week program that officials say has long been an important part of the public school education provided by the district. Remedial programs help elementary and middle school students stay on track and is one of the reasons Port Washington High School has a graduation rate of almost 100%, Weber said.
The enrichment programs — everything from fishing and athletics to arts and engineering — help keep students engaged academically and socially over the long summer break, helping to reduce the so-called summer learning slide.
Froemming noted that the program also provides attractive jobs for both veteran educators and new teachers looking for experience and an entree into the district that they can parlay into full-time employment.
“A five-hour-a-day job for six weeks in summer is pretty attractive for a lot of teachers,” Froemming said.
Among the other WASB resolutions supported by the district is one calling for the repeal of the school start date mandate law enacted in 1999 that prevents districts from beginning their school years before Sept. 1.
One of the justifications for the law is that beginning classes earlier in the summer would deprive the tourism industry of seasonal workers during a peak tourism period.
The WASB argues, however, that most students — those in kindergarten through eighth grade — are not part of the workforce, so earlier starts to the school year would not have a significant impact on the tourism industry.
Local school officials said they are not intent on making significant changes to the school start date but believe districts should have the freedom to draft a calendar that works best for the students they educate.
“I’ve not been a strong supporter of the Sept. 1 start date and I’ve not been a strong opponent of it,” Weber told the School Board Monday. “What I am opposed to is dictating to local communities and school districts what their calendars should look like.”
Written by Bill Schanen IV
Wednesday, 04 January 2017 19:31
Port, Saukville residents launch bids to unseat two longtime board members
Two longtime Port Washington-Saukville School Board members face rare challenges in the April election.
Scott Fischer, a Saukville village trustee, is running against Sara McCutcheon, who has represented the Village of Saukville on the School Board for 20 years.
“I just think it might be time for a change, and I want to see if I can contribute,” Fischer said.
In her two decades on the board, McCutcheon recalls running in only one contested election. She fended off a challenge from Jim Cryns in 2008.
McCutcheon, 51, owns and operates Silk Screen Specialists in Grafton.
Fischer, 48, is the director of facilities at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee.
Another longtime incumbent, Brian McCutcheon, is facing a challenge from Aaron Paulin, a 38-year-old social studies teacher at West Bend West High School who is making his third run in as many years for a seat representing the City of Port Washington.
McCutcheon, who is Sara McCutcheon’s brother-in-law, is retired. He’s 59.
Marchell Longstaff, who was first elected to the board in 2014, is running unopposed to retain her seat representing the Town of Port Washington.
Board members serve three-year terms.
Supt. Michael Weber said that prospective candidates have also expressed interest in a new at-large seat the district is in the process of creating, although they will have to wait until 2019 to get their names on the ballot.
The new seat would address the problem the school district has had finding candidates or even appointees to fill a seat representing a small, sparsely populated section of the district in the towns of Saukville and Grafton, which has been vacant for more than a year.
The board intends to change this seat to an at-large position that can be filled by a resident who lives anywhere in the district, not just in this small area.
Board bylaws currently call for the board to consist of five members from the City of Port Washington, two from the Village of Saukville and one each from the Town of Port Washington and the towns of Saukville and Grafton. The proposed change would only affect the Saukville-Grafton town seat.
Although board members are elected from and represent specific areas of the district, all voters can vote for all candidates. For example, a Village of Saukville resident can vote for a City of Port Washington School Board candidate.
The proposed change, seen by officials as a preferred alternative to reducing the number of board members to seven, is not, however, a quick fix, and is one that must be approved by voters.
The board must circulate a petition and collect the signatures of 500 district residents to have a resolution put on the April 2017 ballot.
If the measure is approved by voters, it will not take effect until the three-year term of the current town of Saukville-Grafton seat expires in April 2019.
A vacant Saukville-Grafton town seat was not always a problem. For 16 years it was occupied by Jim Eden, who served as board president for two of those years before resigning in March 2014.
The board appointed Paul Krechel in July of that year. Krechel ran unopposed in the April 2015 election but resigned in October of that year.
Despite the district’s efforts to find an appointee to fill the seat, as well as an April 2016 election that failed to attract a registered or even a write-in candidate, the seat has remained vacant since Krechel’s departure.
Written by Ozaukee Press
Wednesday, 28 December 2016 18:48
With just a week to go before the spring election slate is determined, city and town of Port Washington voters know there will be at least one new member of their governing bodies.
In the city, 5th District Ald. Kevin Rudser was the only candidate to submit noncandidacy papers by the Dec. 23 deadline, City Administrator Mark Grams said Tuesday.
Jonathan Pleitner, 1890 Aster St., has filed nomination papers for Rudser’s seat, he said.
None of the other incumbents up for election — 1st District Ald. Mike Ehrlich, 3rd District Ald. Bill Driscoll and 7th District Ald. Dan Becker — filed noncandidacy forms.
City Clerk Susan Westerbeke said last week a number of people have inquired about nomination papers.
But only Becker has returned his nomination papers, Grams said.
In the Town of Port, Supr. Jim Rychtik is not seeking re-election.
His seat, as well as those held by Supr. Mike Didier, Chairman Jim Melichar and Treasurer Mary Sampont, are all up for election in spring.
Three seats on the Port Washington-Saukville School Board will also be on the ballot.
They include the City of Port Washington post currently held by Brian McCutcheon, Village of Saukville seat held by Sara McCutcheon and Town of Port seat held by Marchell Longstaff.
The city and town positions are for two-year terms, while the School Board seats are for three-year terms.
Nomination papers for the city and town seats are due at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3.
School Board candidates must file a registration statement and declaration of candidacy by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3.
If any incumbent fails to file noncandidacy forms and does not submit nomination papers, the deadline will be extended by 72 hours.
The general election will be held on Tuesday, April 4.
If more than two candidates seek any one office, a primary election will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 21 December 2016 20:58
Port officials postpone considering new options for operating facility, job of harbormaster until Jan. 3
Plans to have the Port Washington Harbor Commission and Common Council discuss in closed session changing the way the marina is operated and the job of the harbormaster were abruptly cancelled this week.
City Administrator Mark Grams said the topic will probably be on the Tuesday, Jan. 3, Common Council agenda.
Harbor Commission members will likely be invited to the session to participate in the discussion, Grams said, since they will not have a meeting before that date.
Both the Harbor Commission and Common Council had been scheduled to discuss the topic in closed sessions and cited on their agendas as an exemption to the open meetings law that allows closed session discussions of personnel matters.
But after Ozaukee Press objected to the closed session, Grams said the decision was made to delay the discussion since the wording on the agendas did not allow it to be considered in open session.
The Jan. 3 discussion will be held in open session, he said.
Officials have said the potential changes to the marina operation are prompted by the fact the facility has lost money for the past two years and, despite a robust summer season, is expected to lose money again this year.
Grams told the Harbor Commission on Monday that the marina is expected to be $25,000 to $30,000 in the red by the end of the year.
The commission also reviewed audit reports from the last 14 years, which showed that while the facility had maintained a surplus for many years, it has had a couple of rough years recently.
Commission Chairman Gerald Gruen Jr. noted that a contingency fund was to have been established during profitable years so that when unforeseen expenses and shortfalls arose the marina would have money to address them.
“When we were prosperous, we thought there are going to be issues ahead and we need to have some cash set aside,” Gruen said.
That could have helped the marina through recent issues, such as the unexpected $75,000 cost of repairing a leak in the fuel tanks in 2014.
There is such a fund, Grams said, and it has about $154,000 in it — significantly less than the $374,000 that was in the account in 2011.
Unless things turn around, he added, “It’s not going to be long until that is down to zero.”
The Common Council has always stressed the need for the marina to pay its way, he added.
During budget talks this year, the Finance and License Committee and some aldermen brought the issue up, suggesting it may be time for changes in the operation of the marina to save money.
Ald. Bill Driscoll, a member of both the Harbor Commission and Finance and License Committee, said the time to act is now.
“If you lose money for 10 years and have to close down, people are going to ask, ‘Why didn’t you see thing coming and do something?’” he said. “Somewhere along the line, we have to ask, ‘How many years do we have to lose money before something has to be done?’”
But Gruen suggested the city look at expenses other than personnel to trim the marina costs.
“There are a lot of ways we can cut expenses. It doesn’t have to be employees,” he said. “This marina has made money almost every year.”
A few bad years, he added, aren’t a reason to panic, especially since the reasons were largely out of the city’s control — cold weather, poor fishing and the leaky fuel tanks.
Dick Laske, who has a boat in the marina, concurred.
“If you make the harbormaster a part-time function, the quality of the marina could suffer,” he said. “I don’t understand the logic of that.”