On Monday, March 12, our school board will consider a recommendation for a reduction in force. The reason is due to low enrollment at the primary level. We are anticipating around 40 students for next year’s kindergarten class. We try to be proactive in responding to current enrollment trends, whether up or down. Questions have come up since the board agenda was posted earlier this week. I thought I would address them in this letter.
- Why are we discussing a reduction in force now? More students might show up between March and August. Wisconsin Statute 118.22 states that a teacher should be given notice of nonrenewal on or before May 15. Therefore, it is important to have these conversations now. If there was a reduction in force, that person can be notified in a timely manner so they can make decisions about their future.
- Can you move a teacher to another position where there is more need? Administration has identified multiple areas in which a faculty member might be better served. That said, a position may demand different requirements and prior experience that a professional staff member does not possess. For example, a hypothetical situation would be the need for a computer science teacher. A teacher may not be qualified for that role.
- The school district and community value small class sizes. Wouldn’t this raise the number of students per class? In our current kindergarten class, we have 19, 19, and 20 students in our three rooms. If we were to go to two sections for next year, we would be looking at 20 and 20 students. This is the issue the board and administration are attempting to address.
- Our open enrollment numbers have gone up at Mineral Point. If that continues, why would we want to pursue a reduction in force? It is true that we have more students coming into Mineral Point from other school districts than leaving. A challenge is while we have an increase in open enrollment, our residential enrollment is declining. Related, a district that accepts students through open enrollment receives less funding than students whose families reside in Mineral Point. The district receives ~$7,000 for an open enrolled student and ~$10,000 for a student living within our district boundaries.
- The district’s new strategic plan is focused on community engagement and academic innovation and independence. Within that plan is a focus on the whole child. How can we best address students’ needs with a reduction in force? The new strategic plan looks to increase student engagement and provide a more personalized educational experience. In light of this plan, how we meet the needs of the whole child – academically, socially, and emotionally – with less staffing is a fair concern. Also embedded within this plan is how we might deliver instruction differently and more effectively. Class sizes are just one part of this larger, ongoing conversation of teaching and learning in the 21st century.
It is worth noting that overall enrollment trends are generally stable. If you have additional questions on this matter, or if you have ideas on how to address our current challenges, I am open to hearing what you have to say. Thank you for partnering with us as we prepare our students for a bright future in a big world.
PRINCIPAL, ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
This is Matt’s eighteenth year in public education. He started as a 5th and 6th grade teacher in a country school outside of Wisconsin Rapids, WI. After seven years of teaching, Matt served as an assistant principal, athletic director, and building principal all in Wisconsin Rapids. As an elementary principal with the Mineral Point Unified School District, he enjoys working with students, staff, and families in their collective pursuit of lifelong learning