Monday, April 2, 2012

The Staffing Plan Is An Act of Faith

On April 10, 2012 the Board will have a final look at the 2012-13 student enrollment-driven staffing plan for the School District of Janesville (SDJ) and will approve it in total or in part. The staffing plan contains 5 possible contingencies for “hotspots”* and a plan to add two additional teachers to create a third grade Challenge program modeled after the highly successful 4th-8th grade Challenge program that attracts students from around the country.

Approving a staffing plan in April is one of the most difficult decisions all school districts in the state of Wisconsin have to make. This decision made by board members, two of which will be stepping off the board that evening is fraught with problems. It also ties the hands of the incoming board members because they may have voted differently than their predecessors. The incoming Board will be responsible for setting the budget and making those tough decisions with approximately 56 - 58% of the budget locked in through the staffing plan.

Why is this so difficult? Why doesn’t the School District of Janesville or any other school district in the state know how much money they will have by April 10, 2012 or why don’t they wait and figure out their staffing plan once they have all the finance information? THEY CAN’T!

State law does not allow this flexibility.

The SDJ will not receive the first DPI estimate of the property tax levy cap and amount of equalization aid until July 1, 2012. And that is just an estimate. The final certified amount of the property tax levy cap and equalization aid will not be received from the DPI until October 15, 2012.

Why not create the staffing plan in July?

According to State Statute 118.22 preliminary notices of nonrenewal for teachers along with other certified staff must be sent out by February 28, 2012. These are sent out for teachers and others who are performing well and who are NOT performing well. This means we need to make program cuts at this time based on student scheduling and based on a best guess of student enrollment. These decisions must also be approved by the Board, so they must be on a board agenda prior to February 28th 2012.

Lay off notices must be sent out prior to May 1, 2012 based on the current contract, so we must know through the staffing plan who will be laid off.

What is the status of our student enrollment during this timeframe? (February 2012)

We roll up our current enrollment numbers, study projections and also review the birth list.

How do school districts receive funding for each student?

School districts in the state of Wisconsin do not get funded for student enrollment unless that student is counted on the third Friday in September. The staffing plan must be approved 5 months before we know how many students we will have.

The school board will approve the final budget in October and set the tax levy. If more students enroll in our district after “count day” we will not be reimbursed for them through state aid until the following year if they remain in our district.

Imagine being a contractor and building a home for someone before you know how much they are willing to spend on the home and how many children they have. You build a home for a family with 2 children and you find out 6 months later after the home is built that they have 6 children. That would be a problem.

Every year when the school board approves a staffing plan they are doing it as an act of faith. There are so many variables that have yet to be determined. This is the dilemma all school districts in our state are faced with. The staffing plan is truly an act of faith!

*hotspot – A hotspot is a classroom that is almost at its teacher pupil ratio set by Board Policy.

Elementary teacher pupil ratio is 1:23 to 1:25

Middle school teacher/pupil ratio is 1:28 to 1:30

High School teacher/pupil ratio is 1:30 to 1:32

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