Thursday, February 26, 2015

Boundary Lines Changes Frequently Asked Questions

At the February 24, 2015, Board of Education meeting, the board took action to move forward with exploring changing the boundary lines for the School District of Janesville. Listed below you will find some frequently asked questions regarding the School District of Janesville’s Boundary Line changes.  It is important to note that listening sessions will be set up for public input before a final decision is made.


Boundary Lines Changes Frequently Asked Questions


Q.  What is the Boundary Line Committee recommending?

A.  The School District of Janesville’s Boundary Lines Committee is recommending dissolving the elementary option areas and moving to a pathway system for elementary, middle and high school.

Q.  What is an Option Area?

A.  Option areas are physical areas within the School District of Janesville attendance area that fall between defined elementary school boundary areas.  When an elementary child enrolls in the district or moves into an option area, the family completes an option placement form requesting enrollment at any elementary school in the district.  If the student’s enrollment would not cause the recommended administrative guideline enrollment for that student’s grade to be exceeded or create an enrollment imbalance, the application will be approved.  Students who reside in an option area who are approved for enrollment in a specific school may not reactivate the option alternative to change schools.  If they wish to transfer schools, they must apply for an Intra-District Transfer during the established time period.


Q.  What is a Pathway System?

A.  A pathway system provides a complete school assignment from 5-year old Kindergarten through grade 12 for students who are enrolling in the district or moving to a new address.  Physical boundary areas are created for each of the 12 elementary schools in our district and each elementary school is assigned a middle school and high school for the pathway system.  Four (4) elementary schools are assigned to each middle school and six (6) elementary schools are assigned to each high school. 


Q.  Why the recommended change? 

A.  The Boundary Lines Committee has been reviewing enrollment trends and other matrix items for the last five years to determine best way to utilize district resources.  There are many reasons why dissolving elementary option areas and moving to a pathway system has been proposed.
·      Greater balance among middle school enrollments.  Currently three elementary schools and parts of three other elementary schools are assigned Marshall Middle School which means they have a significantly larger student population than the other two middle schools.  By dividing the elementary schools evenly between the three middle schools enrollment population will be more evenly distributed and students will have more equitable access to services and extra-curricular activities.
·      Ability to provide newly enrolling families and families moving to the area with specific school assignments based on their home address.
·      Families purchasing and/or moving into new housing can pre-plan for the schools their children will be attending. This helps with childcare, pick-up, drop-off, etc.
·      By moving to the pathway system open enrollment students will not need to re-apply for open enrollment for the transition from elementary to middle school.
·      Continuity of education with peer groups.
·      Easier transitions to the next school level.
·      Ability to create long-term future enrollment projections.
·      Convenience/equity for currently enrolled Preschool 4 Janesville (P4J) families who live in option areas.


Q. Will my child have to leave their current school?

A.  No child will be forced to leave their current school due to this process if the proposal passes.  Students who wish to utilize the new boundary areas will be given the option to transfer to their home school area based on the new boundary lines with the highest priority for the 16-17 school year.  Transfer paperwork would need to be completed during the 16-17 transfer time period which runs from December 1-15, 2015.  Applications for elementary school students would be turned into the Administrative Services Department, 527 S. Franklin St.  Applications for middle and high school students would need to be turned into the principal’s office of the school their child is currently attending or the school their child seeks to transfers out of if they will moving school levels for the upcoming school year (i.e. 5th grade students who want a different middle school assignment would turn the form into the middle school their current elementary school is assigned via the pathway system).  Only high school students on the bus route that will be switching high school assignments due to this proposal will have the option to transfer for the 15-16 school year if they need to continue to utilize district transportation.  Families will be notified if their child falls within the affected transportation attendance area/grade levels for the 15-16 high school transfer option. 

Q.  Will the district be providing transportation?

A.  The district will continue to follow State Statute 121.54 and Board Policy 3710 and accompanying Administrative Regulations for transportation which require the district to provide transportation to elementary children who live more than 2 miles from their boundary line assigned elementary school or whose address falls within a hazardous zone area (an area identified by the City of Janesville/School District of Janesville and authorized by the State of Wisconsin that is legally identified as hazardous) and middle/high school students who reside outside the city limits or whose address falls within a hazardous zone.  The current proposal would not change any current elementary or middle school bus routes and would move one high school bus route that runs near the airport from Parker High School to Craig High School.  There would be no added routes based on this proposal.  If the proposal goes through, the district will work with the City of Janesville Transit Service to review the city’s extra service schedule and regular bus routes to see how they will work with the new boundary designations.  As is currently the case, students who utilize city transit services would be responsible for payment of their own transportation or qualify for assistance through already established programs.

Q.  Is this a done deal?

A.  No.  There are several steps that still need to be followed before a final decision will be made.  See the information below regarding the timeline.

Q.  Will I have an opportunity to provide my views/input about this proposal?

A.  Yes.  Three community forum meetings will be set up – one at each middle school.  These meetings will be held in early March for community members to receive more detailed information and to bring their questions, input and/or suggestions to the attention of the Boundary Line Committee members, Board of Education and district staff.  Dates and times will be sent out via the Infinite Campus messenger service, as a press release and posted to the district website when they are finalized.  The School District of Janesville will also be setting up a boundary line e-mail address that will be identified on the district website and provided in the press release and Infinite campus messages for those people who are not able to attend the Community Forum’s and wish to provide feedback/comments.

Q.  What is the timeline?

A.  The recommendation went to the Finance, Building, and Grounds Committee on February 17, 2015, for approval and was approved to move on to the full Board of Education.

 The full board reviewed the proposal on February 24, 2015. The board did not make a final decision at this time. They simply voted to move the process forward. 

Because the Board chose to move the process forward, there will be a series of Community Forum sessions held at each middle school to obtain feedback during late February or early March. The public will receive information with the dates and times once they are set through a Press Release, Infinite Campus general message and via the district website.

The goal is to have the Finance, Building, and Grounds Committee make a final recommendation to the Board of Education at their March 17, 2015, meeting.  April 14, 2015, will be the date of the final decision by the Board.


Q. When will it take affect?

A.  If the proposal is approved on April 14, 2015, the new boundary lines and pathway system will take affect starting July 1, 2015 for new students to the district or students whose address changes after that date and they would like to go to the new attendance area school.  The pathway system for the transition to Kindergarten from P4J, 5th to 6th grade and 8th to 9th grade would take affect for the 16-17 school year. 

Q.  What if I want to transfer my student?

A.  December 1-15, 2015, students who wish to switch schools for the 2016-2017 school year to their newly defined boundary area will be allowed to complete a request for school transfer for the 2016-2017 school year. Elementary transfer forms need to be submitted to the Administrative Services Office, 527 S. Franklin Street, and middle and high school transfer forms need to be turned in to the school the student is seeking to transfer out of.  Incoming Kindergarten transfer forms need to be submitted during the two week Kindergarten enrollment period – the first two weeks in December. Families who submit their applications during the required timeframe will have official notice of placement mailed out to them by January 15, 2016.

Q.  Can students only transfer once?

A.  Students will continue to have the option to request a school transfer for the upcoming school year during the December 1-15 transfer time frame each year.  Decisions regarding approval of transfer requests will be made by administration based on criteria established per Board Policy 5130 and Administrative Regulation 5130.1.


Q.  Where can I go to find out more information?


A.  Information from recent Boundary Line Committee meetings and Finance, Buildings & Grounds meetings will be available on the district website.  The proposal was presented to the Board of Education on February 24, 2015, at the Educational Services Center and is available to watch via the district webpage.  Community Forum sessions will be set up and held at all three middle schools to provide additional information and to solicit community feedback.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Letter from State Superintendent Tony Evers

All District Administrators in the State of Wisconsin received this letter from State Superintendent Tony Evers.  He begins to answer questions about our state test for this year and years to come.  Please read below.


 Dear Colleagues:

Thanks for all you do to further the achievement of Wisconsin's children. The work of you and your staff is truly heroic given the difficult environment. As I travel the state, I too have heard concerns about the proposed changes in assessment, how those changes might impact data in the educator effectiveness and school report card systems, and whether the state should continue with testing this year.

I want you to know my principles and position regarding our state assessments.

The Badger Exam (Wisconsin’s Smarter Balanced Assessment) is a rigorous and valid assessment that was successfully piloted across Wisconsin last year. Everyone agrees this assessment is a vast improvement over the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE). The Badger Exam will measure our collective efforts to implement our more rigorous standards and will provide valuable feedback to our state’s educators and parents.

I support the annual testing requirements that presently are found in state and federal law, including the use of the same tests by all publically funded schools in our state. Annual statewide assessments are necessary to provide information about student growth and achievement to parents, educators, policy-makers, and to the community. While the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), has its faults, disaggregating student achievement data by race, poverty, disability, and English language proficiency is critical for improving learning for all students.

Wisconsin is a high achieving state overall, but we face some of the largest achievements gaps in the country. This issue is real and affects Wisconsin’s communities in different ways. An annual assessment of all students is more vital than ever to meet these challenges. Without it, we have very limited measures to inform and assist our parents, students, and educators. This principle of annual assessment remains true regardless of the test vendor or how often the test vendor changes.

Assessments should be seen as a flashlight that helps educators and parents shine a light on students’ strengths and weaknesses and supports student learning. It is the increasing use of test results as a hammer to punish schools and educators that drives much of the fatigue and frustration. Do I think that any standardized test can totally and accurately reflect all the good work that is going on in your schools? Absolutely not. Standardized tests are one important checkpoint in time, nothing more, and nothing less. But it is one checkpoint that helps us to identify achievement gaps and successful work that is being done to close those gaps.

There is a great deal of national dialogue about testing, including the number of tests, the value of formative versus summative tests, and the role of tests in high-stakes accountability and instructional improvement. I share these concerns, signed onto a national effort to examine this, and will be working with stakeholders, including many of you, to address this in Wisconsin.
Let’s get to what we know right now and a road map going forward:

1. We will administer the Badger Exam as scheduled. Every student is required to participate in an annual statewide assessment under state and federal law, which cannot be waived in either state or federal law. Wisconsin State Statute §118.30 and ESEA section 1111(b)(3) (20 U.S.C.-§6311(b)(3)) govern testing requirements. These are long-standing laws that are very clear with regard to the testing requirements. Failure to administer the required assessments at the state or local level will jeopardize up to $500 million in federal education funding.

2. If state law mandates a new Mathematics and English language arts/reading test for 2016 in grades three through eight, we will move forward to ensure that the replacement is high quality, aligned to our standards and on-line, like the Badger Exam. The preparation and hard work you, your staff, and your students have done for this year’s Badger Exam will not be wasted if the test changes for next school year.

3. I am working at the state and federal levels to delay for one year integrating the new assessment data into educator effectiveness evaluations, and school and district report cards. I support hitting the pause button on aspects of school report cards, and educator evaluations, related specifically to the new Badger Exam. I am working with legislators on a bill that would provide this delay for the 2014-15 school year. Also, the DPI is exploring flexibility under the federal ESEA waiver renewal process to delay integrating new assessment data for one year in the educator effectiveness system and the state’s school and district report cards.

4. As always, due to public reporting requirements, results will be included in WISEdash after you have had the chance to check them. We will be able to smooth the transition so the longitudinal data is still relevant from last year to this year and with whatever happens in the future. Transparency of results will continue to be a high priority, even if there is a pause in the use of this assessment on the report cards.

We will be discussing what test will be used in 2015-16 and beyond with policy-makers. If vendors change, the test will be aligned with our standards. I understand the massive amount of work that has been done over the past four years on our new standards and I continue to support your hard work in using them.

I offer the DPI’s support to you through our assessment period this spring. Contact Mike Thompson, PhD, Deputy State Superintendent, at michael.thompson@dpi.wi.gov or 608-266-3584.

Thank you for your continued service to Wisconsin’s children.

Sincerely,

Tony Evers, PhD
State Superintendent

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Press Release - Dismissal of Temporary Restraining Order

NEWS RELEASE


Date:              February 9, 2015

Release Date:  Immediate Release


Dismissal of Temporary Restraining Order

After careful consideration, Ms. Blazer has decided she wishes to seek dismissal of the temporary restraining order against Mr. Dennis Hughes.  The superintendent supports her in that decision.  With the Government Accountability Board’s (GAB) issuance of a decision affirming that Clerk Karl Dommershausen and Assistant Clerk Deb Blazer correctly determined the insufficiency of the nomination papers filed by two candidates, it is reasonable to assume that Mr. Hughes will no longer deem it necessary to harass Ms. Blazer.

The temporary restraining order (TRO) against Dennis Hughes was the result of Mr. Hughes’ aggressive and inappropriate demands that Ms. Blazer sign an affidavit to which he incorrectly insisted he was entitled, and of his repeated confrontational behavior following his initial demands.  Other District personnel observed and were subjected to additional aggressive and inappropriate behavior by Mr. Hughes.  Such behavior included;

a.       On January 12, 2015 Dennis Hughes spent all day in the lobby of the Education Services Center, waiting for responses to his challenges of nomination papers.  He was there the next day when Ms. Blazer arrived.
b.      When School District attorneys arrived at the ESC on January 13, 2015 to meet with Board Clerk Dommershausen and Assistant Board Clerk Blazer to review the standards for certification of nomination papers, Mr. Hughes aggressively and incorrectly insisted that he was entitled to attend that meeting, and attempted to follow the attorneys into the meeting.
c.         That evening, after the clerks made their decision, a decision that resulted in the same relief Mr. Hughes had sought, Mr. Hughes nonetheless continued to confront Ms. Blazer during a break in the School Board meeting. He apparently did so because he thought Ms. Blazer had not provided sufficient reasons to support the decision that had already been made.
d.         After Mr. Hughes was asked to leave the ESC, he continued to rudely and aggressively confront District personnel and Janesville Police officers.  He made videos of himself while engaged in such behavior, and posted the videos on You Tube.
e.       After being asked to leave the ESC, on January 16, Mr. Hughes waited outside for Ms. Blazer and followed her to her car, demanding that she affirm his allegations.

It is the Superintendent’s duty to protect all SDJ employees.  While the restraining order sought on behalf of Ms. Blazer related to one employee, disruptions to the workplace were experienced by many employees.  These disruptions included name-calling of employees that were not AFSCME members, repeated accusations directed toward staff, and continued badgering of employees coming into and leaving the ESC.  Under these circumstances, the superintendent asked the District’s attorneys to assist Ms. Blazer in seeking the restraining order.
The School District of Janesville continues to be concerned about Mr. Hughes’ pattern of aggressive conduct.  When Mr. Hughes did not receive precisely what he wanted at the time he wanted it and in the way he wanted it, his reaction was to angrily intimidate and insult the integrity of anyone whom he perceived to be opposing him

District employees will not hesitate to seek the assistance of police again if Mr. Hughes engages in this type of behavior in the future.  The District will seek such assistance as necessary in relation to any person disrupting our workplace.

In order that the public may fully understand the context of the events surrounding Mr. Hughes’ conduct, copies of the following documents are released with this document:

1-         The memorandum of the School District Attorney directed to the School Board and dated January 26, 2015, addressing issues of election laws and legal representation. <Click Here>

2-         The Response filed by District Clerk Karl Dommershausen and Assistant Clerk Debra Blazer with the GAB, describing the facts leading up to the rejection of nomination papers of two candidates. <Click Here>

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Rock The School House Brings Educational Opportunities to Staff and Students.

For the second year in a row, the School District of Janesville held the volunteer driven fundraiser, “Rock The School House,” at the Janesville Performing Arts Center, on January 17, 2015. Funding raised from this uplifting event will provide revenue to offset cost for staff and students to participate in enriching, educational programs beyond classroom walls including possible travel to other cities, states, and countries. All educators in the School District of Janesville were formally invited on December 8, 2014 to submit a grant application.  Ten applications were received.

Last year, educators approached the grant application process with great enthusiasm, creative thinking, and a quest for programs relevant to today’s students’ interests and futures. Grants were awarded to:

Harrison Elementary School                            Parker High School
Bridges Conference                                          AP Government Field Study Seminar
Janesville/Beijing                                             Washington, D.C.
$1,500.                                                              $1,500

Craig High School                                           Janesville Academy for International Studies
Global Summit                                                 Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Shanghai, China                                               Monterey, California
$1,500.                                                              $1,500

Parker High School                                          Madison Elementary School
Rockin’ Robotics                                              Junior Achievement Biz Town
MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts                      Milwaukee, WI
$1,500                                                               $500

Roosevelt Elementary School                         Washington Elementary School
Junior Achievement Biz Town                        Junior Achievement Biz Town
Milwaukee, WI                                                Milwaukee, WI
$500                                                                 $500



Grants that will be awarded will not cover the entire cost for staff and/or students; funding simply helps defray the cost of the programs. Many of the staff and students that are hoping to receive funding this year generously volunteered their time organizing, promoting and participating in the event.  We also had many volunteer that simply did it to help out their colleagues and students in the School District of Janesville.  Grant applications have been submitted (not yet reviewed for award) for the following programs in 2015:

  • DECA Competition – Parker High School
  • 43rd Annual Washington Seminar Field Study – Parker High School
  • Critical Issues Forum International Conference – Rock University High School
  • Junior Achievement Biz Town – Washington Elementary School
  • Global Leadership Summit – Craig High School
  • China Ambassador’s Trip – Craig High School
  • Global Education Community Coach Training and Conference – Harrison and Roosevelt Elementary Schools
  • Experience England and France (Arts Exploration) – Marshall Middle School
  • Russian Exchange Program/ Russian Club – Craig High School
  • Robotics Regional Competition-Craig and Parker High School


 As in any formal grant process, there is a criterion in place for scoring the applications.

This event is a great opportunity to support your colleagues outside of school. The School District of Janesville greatly appreciates and applauds the professional musicians who stepped up to the microphone to pay it forward by “Rocking the School House” to benefit other educators and students.

In a time when district finances are shrinking, it is imperative that we continue to find ways to offset cost for staff professional development and student learning. Rock The School House, a positive event for the entire community, does this.

Everyone is invited and encouraged to participate next year and apply for a grant. We look forward to your continued support