The item that drew most people to the Mineral Point School Board meeting Monday night to share their thoughts centered around the drafting of a resolution to advocate for the allowance of an authorized person other than an on-duty or off-duty officer to legally carry a concealed weapon on school grounds.
Video of the meeting can be found here (scroll down past video for more article text):
At the December meeting, the board voted 4-3 to draft a resolution to send to lawmakers urging changes in the current laws.
Board member Larry Dolphin clarified that, with current state law, a weapon, if it’s encased and secured, may be within 1000 feet of the school building. The weapon cannot be loaded, or else it would be a felony.
Board member Lisa Hay added, however, current Mineral Point School Board policy states a student cannot have a weapon on school grounds, even if encased, and it is an expellable offense. She also referenced a policy that any vehicle on school grounds should have no expectation of privacy and can be searched at anytime.
Elementary music teacher, Jeff David, shared a letter with the board that was signed by classroom teachers at the elementary. It said teachers do not support weapons in our schools and do not want students to confuse weapons with safety.
Board president Larry Steffes said he had a hard time believing every teacher at the elementary signed the letter not supporting weapons.
Sarah Fox believed a better use of resources would be to have a full time police liaison.
Mike Wagner was concerned with no protection for students at the elementary. He agreed that not everyone with a concealed carry permit should be allowed to carry guns in school, but wishes to see a full time officer at the elementary. He also wished to see the sign at door entrances stating no weapons are allowed be removed saying it is an advertisement that people inside are defenseless.
Hay questioned if this draft resolution was an attempt to save money by not hiring a full time police liaison.
Aaron Dunn said everyone in the room can agree security is a major issue and something needs to be done, but he believed the resolution was not the best solution, stating the protection should come from someone who is trained, such as a police officer.
Board member Julie Stephenson said the resolution changes nothing because it’s just a political stance. Action should be taken locally to increase safety and make an impact and the resolution was not the correct way to go about it.
Hay moved to not pass the resolution. Voting in favor of not passing the proposed resolution were Hay, Glenn Kinch, Matt Lindsey, Stephenson, Jeff Basting, and Dolphin. Voting in favor of passing the resolution was Steffes.
Kinch stated he was against the proposed resolution as drafted because he would like to see a repeal of the 1,000 foot gun law on school grounds.
The board agreed to start discussion at its next meeting of the formation of a security task force to address security issues
– Unanimously approved the resignation of Dan Burreson as head baseball coach commencing prior to the beginning of the 2016 season.
– Per state statutes, the school board shall determine the number of regular education and special education spaces available within the school district for non-residents (open enrollment) at its January meeting.
Francois brought forth the administrative team’s recommendations which include closing open enrollment for 2016-17 for grades 3, 7, as well as students across all grades that would require individual aide support, individualized instruction outside of co-taught settings, and individualized support for hearing impairments.
These numbers were reached by examining class sizes, as well as staff available.
Kinch stated he felt the district shouldn’t be adding students, rather it should be reducing staff and that 35 students in a classroom would be fine.
Hay disagreed and said she believes students’ learning outcomes are stronger when class sizes are smaller.
Superintendent Luke Francois stressed that this is only for open enrollment. If a student would move into the school district boundaries, he/she would be allowed to attend school here, no matter what grade or services they need.
The administration team’s recommendations passed with all voting yes except Kinch.
– Brent Nelson and Jay Bennett of Johnson Block were on hand to share the results of the 2014-15 district audit.
The complete audit will be placed on the district’s website and available for public inspection.
Some highlights worth noting include:
Fund balance increasing approximately $155,000 from last year. This is the district’s emergency fund and is also used for short term borrowing in between state aid payments. The goal of the district is to have a fund balance of 15% of the subsequent year’s operational expenditures and currently operates at 19%.
The most significant state revenues are the following aid programs: equalization ($4,836,403), special education ($407,081), and per pupil aid ($108,750).
Interdistrict revenues increased $148,000 primarily due to general open enrollment revenue.
The most significant federal revenues are for grants: special education (117,085), food service ($97,459), and Title I ($73,690).
Even though the Mineral Point mill rate is at 11.49 in 2015, slightly above the state average of 10.26, since 2011, the property tax levy and mill rate has decreased 8% and 3% respectively in Mineral Point. Since 2011, the average mill rate for Wisconsin K-12 districts has increased 5%.
Federal and state revenue was about 56% of the total revenue in 2015, decreasing from about 57% in 2014.
Overall district governmental fund expenditures decreased by approximately $793,000 in 14-15. This is due to a decrease in health insurance costs with the district switching to a high deductible health plan, as well as the last year of paying health insurance on behalf of retirees. In addition, there were less capital asset purchases.
Also mentioned was the stadium loan, held by the district but secured through private guaranteers. The district makes the loan payments, but all loan payments are paid with privately funded monies.
The audit was approved unanimously.
– The Wisconsin Association of School Boards provided Mineral Point Schools with a survey tool to learn which areas of government the board is in agreement with and which areas require more discussion at a local level. The survey tool was distributed to board members at no cost to the district at the last board meeting. Francois reported that, to date, only one board member has taken the survey. He asked if there was still interest among board members to continue and revisit this next month. Kinch stated he was not interested, the only member to speak up in opposition, so the matter will be brought back before the board next month.
– The board requested qualifications to continue work with a vendor to receive a detailed long term facilities plan to include performance contracting.
Francois stated the district solicited vendors through the State of Wisconsin and DPI websites, sending out nine requests.
Three were returned. All three vendors have a presence within the greater Madison area and have bids within 2% of each other for the total package cost. Each vendor has been on site touring the facilities.
The board agreed to the district recommendation of selecting a date for vendors to return to meet with the board for interviews. The board is under no obligation to select any vendor.
– Three calendar proposals for the 2016-17 school year were brought forward for consideration. All three options were presented to staff and families of students for input.
The three options included 176 days, 178, and 180. The DPI no longer requires a 180 day calendar, as long as the minimum number of instructional minutes are met.
Dolphin motioned to approve the 180 day calendar stating that all bussing and food service contracts are written for this amount so it makes fiscal sense to approve the maximum number of days the district is paying for.
Some concerns around the 180 day option include the fact there would be a half day of school the day before Thanksgiving, as well as Good Friday. Lindsey stated he believed in the past, the community spoke strongly against having school at all on Good Friday.
Voting yes for a 180 day calendar were Dolphin, Kinch, and Steffes. The motion failed 4-3.
Hay then motioned for approval of the 176 day calendar.
Steffes stated he had concerns with only three snow days being built into that calendar option, and if more than three days are used, time would need to be made up.
Voting in favor of the 176 day option were Hay, Lindsey, Stephenson, and Basting.
The motion passed.
– The board unanimously approved the proposed CESA #3 contract which is down to $23,107 for next year compared to $50,521 this year.
– The board unanimously approved Middle School Principal Vickie Dahl’s request for credit reimbursement in the amount of $220 for the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators’ Convention through Viterbo.
– Tim McKinley, Iowa County Judge Candidate, spoke to the board regarding his qualifications for the position.
– The April 5 school board election will have three candidates for two seats. The names will appear on the ballot as follows: Larry Steffes (Incumbent), Andy Busch, and Glen Pilling.