October 19, 2023 at 10:10 a.m.

Barneveld School Board seeks input October 25

By John Dalton

No official action was taken but the school board is encouraging community members to attend and give input at its October 25 Annual Meeting followed by a Special Board Meeting to approve the levy before November 1.  

Superintendent Robyn Oberfoell said the  community input will help the board prepare  for its operational referendum in 2024. 

Partnering with School Perceptions, Oberfoell shared a draft of a school and community survey that will be mailed out November 1 with the board seeking community input on various topics, not just the referendum.  The board is asking the community to share thoughts on cost-cutting options, communication preferences, culture, leadership, academics, support for learning, and future planning.  

This community input will help guide the board and administration with strategic planning.  The hope is to have surveys returned no later than November 21. 

Regarding the options for an operational referendum in 2024, a spring or fall referendum needs to be decided upon. The community survey will help the school board prioritize school programs for reductions and cuts, as well as guide planning for staff reductions or reassignments. 

Oberfoell noted that the gap between expenses and the district’s revenue limit is growing.  The failed referendum in April had deepened the deficit with the need to short-term borrow to cover cash flow and payroll.  

Oberfoell encourages the school and community to come together to create a referendum question that will have the greatest chance of success.  Whether the board decides to go to the polls in April or November, the fact remains that the school district cannot continue to offer the same quality learning opportunities without raising revenue to pay for rising costs.  

Oberfoell also announced nearly $75,000.00 in total saving reductions including benefits for new teacher hires, reducing the School Nurse to part-time assistant, a resignation from a paraprofessional and in the hiring of a Dean of Students rather than an Elementary Principal. 

She mentioned that new legislation emphasizes specific methods of reading instruction, and based on data and summer planning, the District made a pledge to offer training to all elementary teachers in the Orton Gillingham multi-sensory, phonemic approach. Instead of training one or two teachers each year, the district committed to training all elementary teachers and a paraprofessional using $10,500 in Title IV Funds.

The district was also awarded a $5,000.00 grant from the Department of Justice and Office of School Safety to fund 100% the cost for Digital Mapping. Following other schools in Iowa County, Barneveld will complete the process to have a digital map created of the school building for emergency services.  

Oberfoell went on to mention that in an effort to ‘grow your own teachers’, Barneveld has partnered with Edgewood College in that any graduate student interested in earning a master’s degree and teaching license will benefit from reduced tuition costs per credit.  One credit is $325.00 and each three-credit class is self-paced to allow flexibility for students to continue current employment.  The total cost of the program is $9,750.00, which is reduced 45%.  

In Board Reports Principal Heather Schmitz asked Instructional Coach Jaye Barbeau to share information regarding the district’s response to Act 20.  Barbeau works with teachers to improve student achievement, coaching teachers to develop new skills and strategies to work with all students.  

He gave examples of situations in which teachers have needed resources and strategies to improve student achievement and classroom management. An Instructional Coach is not an administrative position or evaluator so teachers are willing to ask for support and address areas of weakness.  Barbeau praised the staff and their commitment to the school district and wanting to improve.  

The district was awarded a Mentoring Grant to train and support three teacher/mentors to support five other teachers throughout the school year. Barbeau said the mentor program has positive impacts for both mentors and mentees and lifts all participants to new skill levels.

In other Items for Action, the board approved ECCP (Early College Credit Program) and SCN (Start College Now) for 16 students for spring semester to take 22 courses.  Principal Schmitz celebrated the incredible increase in students participating in Youth Apprenticeships from 6% of eligible students last year to 31% this year.

The board also approved the final draft of the Agreement for the Fitness Center for Community Use shared by Principal Schmitz.  The revisions included a $5.00 fee for a fob for access and a $20.00 replacement if lost.

Also approved was a cooperative agreement with the Dodgeville School District providing high school Spanish I instruction for the 23-24 school year.  

After a closed executive session, the board approved  increasing  Principal Schmitz’s salary to $104,050.00 for the 23-34 school year.