DENMARK, WI — In its first meeting since the passage of two referendum questions authorizing new funding, the Denmark School Board added new positions across all levels for the upcoming schoolyear.
“We have some money that the community said, ‘spend on quality education’ and we’re starting to grow again; not huge, but it’s ticking up over the last couple years. We have situations that need to get covered,” District Administrator Tony Klaubauf said.
Saying that the recommendations were contingent upon passage of $925,000 in additional revenue for the next three years, the administration has been deliberating since last fall about which holes to fill.
4K and 5K
One area being addressed is kindergarten teaching staff. Klaubauf and ECC director Dave Harper acknowledged that kindergarten enrollment is tough to predict as many enrollments occur close to the August 1 deadline. Should final enrollments not require a sixth 4K teacher, the position will not be utilized.
“We’re at six sections for 4K right now. Right now, the sign-ups are only enough for four sections; that won’t hold, we’re 99% sure. We’re planning on five at the moment. However, if it goes back up to where it was this year there will be a sixth.” Klaubauf said after board member Nancy Van Elzen pushed for clarification.
In efforts to continue putting focus on the district’s, “number one priority” a full-time primary reading teacher for the elementary school was also added. This new position will help not only in group teaching but will assist in small group and individual literacy needs. Should the ideal candidate come forward, the position could translate to all levels of the school in individual reading needs.
Concurrent with a focus on literacy, an additional language arts position was created at the middle school to work with individuals and small groups in the morning and teach grade 7 language arts in the afternoon.
At the recommendation of high school principal Oren Nehls and in light of 80 students enrolled in Advanced Placement Psychology, space for an additional high school social studies teacher was created to meet increasing interest in the field.
Building upon revamped computer science offerings and last year’s internet bandwidth increase which earned the District a, “Standing Up for Rural Wisconsin” award, the technology integrator will assist teachers and students in using up-to-date technology most effectively. Courses involving coding and advanced computer sciences, such as the successful Minecraft program in the elementary school and increasingly technological manufacturing courses, will benefit from this assistance.
School Social Worker
In a move to address behavioral and mental stresses, Klaubauf requested a part-time school social worker to address at-risk students, “before it gets to having any kind of a problem in the school.”
“We have more students with behavioral and mental health stress, and not just the students it tends to be the families have the same stress issues going on. Really, our guidance counselors can only go so far. We have three counties that we deal with [Brown, Kewaunee, and Manitowoc] and we’re dealing with a lot of different ages, a lot of different connections to try and get these people help.” Klaubauf said.
That help ranges from counseling to spur constructive family involvement, understanding of the relationship between lifestyle and academic performance,
Special Education Director Sheryl Delwarwelle noted that current the school psychologist’s role is to screen for depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies. She noted these diagnostic duties only identify a problem and that by the time one student has been seen, there are, “three more kids coming in to be diagnosed.”
“We need somebody for that next step to get them connected to proper agencies to help their child as well as themselves.” Delarwelle said in the meeting.
An important distinction the administration made between existing faculty and the requested addition was a school social worker’s ability to follow-up with the students and families they serve and to form a more connected relationship.
“…they’ll meet with that family, learn the needs of that family and connect them to the agencies but then they stay connected to that family and make sure that implementation occurs.”
This interaction could prevent some students from being assigned to special education simply by being connected to agencies which resolve underlying mental health issues which could otherwise go unrecognized.
“The stresses on kids are different than they were 20 years ago. In a lot of ways they have it easier but in other ways it’s harder; they’re growing up quicker, they sometimes don’t have the family background they once had and that stress comes to school.” Klaubauf said.
In total, taking retirements and resignations into account, the board added 3.5 full-time positions to the District’s docket for an estimated annual cost between $180K and $300K, pending insurance options taken by the eventual hires. Should 4K enrollment not require an additional teacher, both figures will decrease.
The additions passed in one motion 4-1, with Nancy Van Elzen the lone, “nay.”