In the final school board meeting before the start of the school year, the Watertown-Mayer school board discussed the superintendent goals for the year as well as a referendum update for the community.
Ron Wilke, superintendent for Watertown-Mayer laid out the three goals for the school district for the upcoming year. The first is refreshing the strategic road map. This idea was actually discussed previously according to Wilke, but it was decided to wait until after the referendum to see where the district stands. The reason behind this is because part of refreshing the roadmap is looking at all the district data, so a change in that data, say a referendum, is important to take into account.
The roadmap will be presented on in the middle of the school year once the election is over.
“We’ve got a lot to review and reform our decision making,” said Wilke. “There’s a lot to draw from to help shape, craft and tweak that roadmap.”
Next is marketing and communication, and few changes have already come to the district. A new logo and the quarterly newletters are part of this plan, but there’s still more to change as the school makes more efforts to compete and communicate. It’s not just things like the logo and newsletter, but also updating the athletics and activities identity according to Wilke. He’s already working with the activities director in order to facilitate this as well as staff and students to have everyone’s input.
“We’ve got some very talented people with skills in the district, very creative,” he said. “I’m very excited to bring stakeholders together to continue to build out that persona.”
The final goal of the year relates to finances, which many readers know the school is already working on with the operating levy and bond levy. Wilke stated that until election, it will be 24/7 work for communication relating to the levies and keeping the district informed of the needs. However, regardless of them, the finance and facilities committees are still working with the board to keep each other informed about the various finances in the district.
Speaking of the referendum, Wilke also presented on some updates regarding the referendum progress. All residents will be receiving, if they haven’t already received, what Wilke called a “Fast-facts flyer.” The notice of election will go out just before the election as well to remind everyone about the upcoming vote in November.
“We are really taking a community focus on this,” said Wilke. “Focusing on the school’s impact in the community, the success of our school district and the success of our students.”
Wilke reminded the board that an operating levy is a “learning levy”, essentially everything that impacts operations within a school. Teachers and their classrooms as well as supplies and more go into an operating levy. The bond levy applies to the physical needs of the buildings and grounds, such as repairing the parking lots and track or simply updating facilities.
The current operating levy brings in about $67 per student in revenue, which is quite low compared to the state as well as the area according to Wilke’s research. The reasons are many, but one of the main ones for Watertown-Mayer is the fact that state funding hasn’t kept up with inflation. One example of this is the cost of the bus contract. The cost for the contract went up 3 percent, but the state funding only went up 2 percent according to Wilke.
Ever since the last levy, the school has been working hard to reduce spending as much as it could.
“We are now updating language arts resources and math resources to become more relevant,” said Wilke. “But that does not come without expenses. We’ve gone for far too long without investing in our resources and our people.”
If this doesn’t pass, the school would have to make budget reductions, about $1.5 million over the next three years. This means having to reduce class sizes and class offerings for the year. This isn’t something that the district wants, according to the survey taken in April, so the school is hoping to maintain their goals of smaller classes and more electives with this operating levy.
“We want to continue to develop and grow to keep those electives relevant,” said Wilke. “We want to maintain class sizes, support the purchase of class resources, and allow staff to get the training they need.”
For those who are looking for more information about the referendum process for Watertown-Mayer, visit https://www.w-mreferendum2019.org. The website also has a calculator, allowing residents to see the exact tax impact of these two levies if they passed this November.