Colfax school board accepts resignations, hires new staff

By Marlys Kruger

It was a busy evening for the Colfax school board with the annual audit report and budget review preceding the regular meeting July 15. With several staff resignations or retirements taking place in the past two months, the board approved new hirings for some of the positions and are waiting before filling a couple of more.

New business

As reported last month, bus driver Ralph Bradford submitted his resignation/retirement papers and the board approved hiring Kim Knutson for  the job. Knutson has been a substitute driver for the district since 2008. Nancy Finley, the high school and special education secretary announced her retirement while school nurse Julie Duce-Richard resigned, with both stating they will be spending more time with grandkids. And in a somewhat surprising turn of events, varsity boy’s basketball coach Andy Meade also resigned, saying he would like to put the job in the hands of someone who can devote more time to it. All three of the positions have not been filled as of yet. In addition, a girl’s golf team will be starting this fall with three girls so far showing interest in competing. There are four staff members interested in the head coaching position but the job has not been filled yet.

New hirees besides Knutson approved for the upcoming year include Lori Halpin as a full time middle school teacher, Christine Williams as a part time school psychologist and Lacey Sikora for an Americorps position. Halpin has been teaching in the Menomonie district for the past three years while Williams worked in the Oconto  district as a Special Education Director since 2005 and will share services with the St. Croix Central district, spending two full days a week in Colfax. Sikora, a Colfax native, graduated in May from UW-Green Bay and will work with at-risk students through the Americorps program.

Student activity fees which includes sport practice attire, lock and towel fees and physical education shirts and shorts will remain the same for next year and substitute teacher pay will remain at $90 a day and $50 for half days, which is in the same ballpark as most of the other schools in the area.

District Administrator Bill Yingst, with approval by the board, will submit a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for an Unusually Hazardous Transportation Plan, dealing with students at all grade levels who live 0-2 miles from the school. With major roads such as Highways 40 and 170 running through town bringing an increase in traffic from the sand mines, along with railroad tracks, several bridges that cross a river, road construction in past years and a lack of sidewalks in many areas, Yingst feels it is dangerous for kids to be walking to and from school. Chief Deputy Paul Gunness from the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department read the plan over and approved it to be presented to the board. Bussing the kids will not add any extra expense to the district because they will not be adding any new routes according to Yingst, and if approved by the DPI, the school will receive money for transportation costs.

The board approved keeping WEA Trust as the same dental carrier for district employees, and Yingst stated as of July 12 he had not received any petitions from tax payers concerning the Energy Efficiency Project the board approved a couple of weeks ago. Since the district decided to purchase computers and carpeting with their own funding, a deduction of $195,961 will be deducted from the last updated project scope of work. All seven board members voted in favor of the State Trust Fund loan in the amount of $900,000 for the purpose of financing energy efficiency projects.

Old business/Superintendent’s report

The total amount of  taxes collected in 2013 was $1,588,083.67 with an estimated $938,197.33 expected to be received in August.

Employees of the district will see an increase in the amount they will contribute to the Wisconsin Retirement System, from 6.65% to 7.00% while the district will contribute 8.2 %, up from 7.00 % last year. Health insurance rates for employees paid by the district will decrease by 4 %, saving the district $65,000.

The estimate of  equalized aid for the upcoming aid shows a slight increase of  $86,017 which is 1.70 % higher than last year, but Yingst emphasized this is only an estimate and the real totals will come in October.

Budget/Audit report

The audit report completed July 8 showed the district’s General Fund (Fund 10) is $1,714,932 with donations of $22,111 (Fund 21) and $3,865 in food service (Fund 50). The proposed budget for 2013-2014 shows total expenditures and other financing uses of $8,174,241 with the total school lvy estimated at $2,674,680.

Principal’s reports

With Special Education Director Polly Rudi giving her report and district principals John Dachel and Trevor Hovde’s reports, she informed the board Wisconsin’s rule for identifying students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) has changed. No later than Dec. 1, 2013 all initial SLD evaluations of public school students will use information from interventions to make eligibility decisions. Beginning Dec. 1, initial SLD evaluations at the Colfax School District will begin using information from a student’s response to intensive, scientific research based or evidence based interventions when making special education eligibility decisions.

By the time the next board meeting rolls around on August 19, football practice along with volleyball, cross country and golf practice will have begun. The first football game will be August 23 at Eleva-Strum, cross country will begin competing August 29 at Boyceville, volleyball will start with a home quadrangular August 27 and golf competition begins August 22 at Hayward.

Hovde’s report gave information on the new Summer Saunters summer school program which allowed elementary students to explore several areas of the Ice Age Trail. Students visited five different locations and walked approximately 23 miles depending on the route they selected. The program seemed to be quite successful with many parents, staff members and high school students volunteering their time to help out.