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SCC board explores virtual charter school plan

At Monday night’s meeting, the St. Croix Central School Board gave High School Principal Glen Webb and members of his administration permission to take the steps necessary to establish a virtual charter school in the district.

Provided a contract can be created for approval by the Department of Public Instruction and a governing board created, the board would still need to give final approval for the school to be in place by the 2014-15 school year.

In 2007 Wisconsin provided statutory regulations defining virtual charter schools. As of 2013, 29 such schools exist in Wisconsin.

Achieving virtual charter school status would benefit the district in three ways, according to Webb.

“It would help us retain students who currently leave the district to enroll in other districts with virtual charter school status,” Webb said. “The district would be able to attract students from outside of the district to open enroll in our virtual school, increasing enrollment and potentially funding. It could also attract students who are currently home schooled to enroll in the district.”

Administrators studied other virtual charter schools in the area, including the school in Cumberland, and feel they have a valid contract ready to go. Webb agreed to research whether the superintendent’s advisory council might be adapted to serve as the parent advisory council/governance board for a virtual charter school.

“Would the district be financially responsible for the school?” Board Member Jeff Redmon asked.

“They would,” Webb said.

If all of the pieces can be put in place, a grant would be available to help get the school up and running. Webb said the initial charter would be for five years, but either the district or the school could dissolve the contract before the end of that time. Ultimate operating decisions for the school would fall under the authority of the school board.

The board also directed Webb to continue to explore the possibility of securing certification for an Alternative Education Program. As with the virtual charter school, a grant would be available to help fund the program for the first year with the goal for the program to become self-sufficient after that.

“The biggest selling point from my perspective is that this program could help the kids who need it outside of the general student population,” Webb said.

“Sometimes separating (those) groups of students can positively change the culture of both groups,” Board Member John Hueg said.

CESA 10 Energy Advisor Al Bohl reviewed how the Focus on Energy program is saving energy costs for the district. Focus on Energy is a statewide incentive program supported by all the publicly held utilities.

“The program saves $2.46 for every dollar spent to provide energy,” Bohl said.

So far this year, in lighting programs alone the program has saved $4,234 at the high school, $3,150 at the middle school and $2,582 at the elementary school. The total savings pending for 2013 for all of the various energy-saving projects is $36,296 of which $31,573 will be coming from projects at the elementary school.

“Your savings is evidence that you have done a good job planning and cooperating with Focus on Energy,” Bohl said.

“The savings go into Fund 49 to offset what we’ve levied for additional projects,” said District Business Manager Jennifer Kleschold.

Middle School Principal Scott Woodington reported the overall scores for the middle school report card (74.9) ranked third in the entire CESA 11 district, behind only Grantsburg (75) and Chetek-Weyerhaeuser (77.2).

Hueg asked Woodington to address concerns expressed by a few parents that there is too much homework for middle schoolers. Woodington said the amount of homework is appropriate for an achievement-oriented curriculum.

“The homework guideline is to average not more than 10-15 minutes per core subject,” Woodington said. Teachers use a communal Google document to coordinate test loads to make sure they are evenly distributed on the calendar, he added.

Both Hueg and Board Member David Olsen encouraged Woodington to use Facebook to begin a dialogue with concerned parents.

Webb reported the number of high school students qualifying for A and B Honor Roll is down from the same quarter last year. The overall passing rate for all high school students during the first quarter was 91 percent, while 17 percent of all high school students received at least one F in the first quarter.

“I admire this transparency. Thank you,” Hueg said. “Sometimes you have to go down to come up.”

Other Business

— Elementary School principal Dr. Heidi Weisert-Peatow reported library and administration staff moved back into their refurbished offices the first week of November. To accommodate a balance between security and hospitality, the new set of double doors at the entrance to the building will be open at the start of school but locked the remainder of the day.

— The board accepted the resignation of JV football coach Ben Lamb.

— At its learning and special meeting Nov. 4, the board approved a tax levy of $4,986,205 for the 2013-14 school year with a mill rate of .01034554 to support the Fund 10 budgeted expenditures of $15,479,242; Fund 30 budgeted expenditures of $1,527.194; and Fund 80 expenditures of $70,000.

— Also at its Nov. 4 meeting, the board approved two health insurance plan options offered by Medica at a 4 percent increase over the previous rates to be capped for one year effective Jan. 1, 2014.