Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Referendum motions approved by school board

The Baldwin-Woodville Board of Education took the first formal steps in the building referendum process at the regular meeting Monday night. At last month's meeting, the board agreed upon June 3, 2008 for the date of the referendum; now two initial resolutions authorizing general obligation bonds and a resolution approving the form of notices and the official referendum ballot have been approved as required by law.

The two bond resolutions, one for a new intermediate school not to exceed $16,775,000, and another for an indoor swimming pool not to exceed $3,500,000 carried on a six to one vote. Voting yes were board members Mike Bondarenko, Todd Graf, Dustin Klanderman, Deb Rasmussen, Tom Schumacher and Jeff Campbell. Voting no was John Hinz.

The resolution approving the form of referendum notices and official referendum ballot was approved unanimously.

In discussion prior to the vote, Hinz asked if the increased borrowing affects the percentage of the school district's state aid, which is currently 68 percent. District financial advisor Steve Apfelbacher of Ehlers and Associates explained that there are no guarantees of state aid percentages from year to year regardless of debt. Each year the state figures state aid based upon all districts in the state. For the purposes of this project, Apfelbacher said he figured 63 percent state aid.

"What if the district's valuation goes down?" asked district resident Ken Rundhaug. "How does that affect our state aid?"

Apfelbacher said that's one of numerous variables that can affect a district's state aid percentage, either up or down. He said Ehlers and Associates bases their estimates on past and present information and past experience.

Rundhaug also suggested that school districts could re-align to spread students out to prevent over-crowding.

Superintendent Rusty Helland informed the board the new School Public Relations Committee met last week and the turnout was good. He said the group divided into two subcommittees: the hard copy committee and the electronic committee. Both will work to get referendum information out to the public. Helland said that four public informational meetings have also been scheduled. (Please see related story on this page.)

Sixth grade teaching team members Jarod Dachel, DeAnn Ashlin and Scott Benoy delivered a presentation to the board regarding gender specific classes. According to the team, having gender specific classes allows teachers to structure classes differently for boys and girls. Research has shown improved achievement at this age level in gender specific classes, Dachel said.

Benoy visited gender specific classes in Somerset, and met with teachers and students there. Although it's too early to measure the results with hard data, the staff and students were pleased with the situation there, he said.

The district's WCKE test results have shown statistically significant gender differences in academic achievement at the middle school and the team hopes to improve this through gender specific classes.

"We all know that boys and girls are different," said Benoy. "With these classes, the curriculum content stays the same, the way it is presented is different," he said.

The team said that research shows that grades four, five and six are the optimal time for gender specific classes.

Enrollment in gender specific classes will be voluntary, and the number of sections will depend upon how many students sign up this spring, according to the team.

A motion to approve open enrollment applications for the 2008-09 school year with one exception passed with a six to one vote. Voting yes were Bondarenko, Graf, Klanderman, Rasmussen, Schumacher and Campbell. Voting no was Hinz.

"Why are we accepting open enrollment students when we are crowded already?" asked Hinz.

"I look at it as a positive thing if students want to go to school here," responded Helland. "We would rather have increasing enrollment than declining and have to be cutting programs, like many districts around the state," he added.

The net number of open enrollment students is 20, according to Helland.

Following a closed session, the board approved re-admitting a student who had been expelled. The student has fulfilled the board's requirements for re-admittance. The student will be re-admitted April 1, the first day of the fourth quarter, said Helland.