Finally! Starting Nov. 2 we are issuing iPads to students. This is an exciting time for us and our students. Together we recognize that students need a better opportunity to access and demonstrate their learning. I am so grateful for the support our school board has provided by making personalized learning and 1 to 1 technology a priority for students. I also want to publicly thank the teachers, support staff, and administrators of MAPS for their effort, time, and willingness to step out and take a risk as we learn and prepare for the iPad deployment! Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
As we seek to better serve our students, families, and community, we are increasing our communication regarding the why behind what is happening in the District. By providing a clear message, we believe we can provide answers to your questions about our goals in personalized learning and 1 to 1 technology. We also want to provide support as we are transforming learning to prepare our children to be college and career ready.
As we increase our communication with you, I encourage you to engage in the conversation and ask us questions. We have some great opportunities for you to engage with your schools throughout the year. Not only do we open our doors for athletic events, we have activities in the elementary schools such as lighted schoolhouse. The elementaries and middle school will each have parent meetings for iPad deployments. At every building you have the opportunity to talk with teachers and administrators at parent/teacher conferences. The Board of Education has extended an invitation to you to attend listening sessions at each school and engage in a conversation with them about the issues that matter to you. Please consider attending one of the listening sessions, your input is important to us. The next listening session will be during parent/teacher conferences at Merrill High School located in the MHS Library on Nov. 12, 5:30-6:30 p.m. For a full listing of events please visit http://www.maps.k12.wi.us/pages/Merrill_Area/District/Board_of_Education/Calendar or contact your school directly.
As we continue our journey in personalized learning and 1 to 1 technology, we want to assist you by clearly stating the why behind our goals and provide you with an understanding how we will validate achievement, success, and support for our students, families, and our community.
My responsibility to you includes advocating for students and informing you of the legislative actions that will directly affect public education and our children. I have highlighted some items below:
•Senate Bill 228: Changes the Academic Excellence Scholarship Program. Reduces the number of scholarships awarded under the program from 875 scholarships to 399. 410 schools will compete for 70 scholarships. It would require a score of at least 30 on the ACT to be eligible. Only 4% of test takers score a 30 or higher. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR MERRILL: We believe if this bill passes, our students will have access to only 1 scholarship instead of 2 as it has been in the past.
•Senate Bill 227: Eliminates sales tax on materials for construction of public buildings purchased by contractors. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR MERRILL: This will streamline payment for services and materials.
•Proposal to have the State Superintendent appointed instead of elected. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR MERRILL: This is an issue of changing the state constitution and has a broader state impact.
•Potential change to/elimination of the energy exemption levy. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR MERRILL: In the past, Merrill has utilized the energy exemption levy to complete necessary maintenance projects. A change will eliminate options for Merrill in the future to address maintenance of facilities.
•Senate Bill 355: The bill indicates that a referendum can only be held during a regular spring or fall election. If a referendum fails, a district will have to wait two years before attempting another referendum. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR MERRILL: Districts that contemplate a referendum do so for a specific and identified need, whether it is for building or operations of the district. Fall elections occur in even numbered years only, while spring elections are annual. This proposal adds complexity to the planning phase at a time that schools are faced with responding to funding changes that can occur more frequently. If a referendum fails and a district has to wait 2 years, that district potentially faces critical budget shortfalls or will not be able to provide access to academic opportunities for students.
•Statewide Wisconsin Parental Choice Program (WPCP); State Expansion of Vouchers. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR MERRILL: For the 2015-16 school year we will have a decrease in state aid of $129,852. Furthermore, the cost of the voucher program is passed on to and paid for by Merrill taxpayers in the amount of $165,600 this year. It is likely that the trend moving forward is that we will see an additional 20 or more students enter the voucher program next year due to a new class of kindergarten students and additional voucher schools entering the voucher program. According to the Department of Public Instruction, only 19% of voucher students went to public school last year. To learn more see DPI press release: http://dpi.wi.gov/sites/default/files/news-release/dpinr2015_103.pdf
Legislative actions have an impact on our planning. Policies, such as the voucher expansion and changes to referendums and energy exemptions, inject instability and uncertainty into our District at a time when we are transforming our practices and preparing students to be contributing members of our communities. I encourage you to be informed on legislative actions and state policies that impact our community. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you as your superintendent.