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  • Writer's pictureEmily Berry

No summer break - school district work is in full swing

This week's school board meeting should be a revealing and busy one, as the board takes up topics that should be of keen interest to everyone with kids in our schools. Click here to see the board agenda packet.

The first somewhat controversial item is a presentation of results of the annual Youth Behavior Risk Survey. Shorewood mom and (full disclosure) friend of mine Lanette Brockman confronted the board at the May 22, asking why the results hadn't been presented to the board, discussed and shared publicly earlier, given some of the alarming results and the fact that results would have been available to administrators very soon if not immediately after students took the survey in December. No one responded to her questions at the board meeting, or offered any explanation for why the survey figures were not shared before this summer. Following the heartbreaking loss of a student to suicide earlier in the year, Lanette had asked to see the results of the YBRS, which is a standard tool that gauges how often teens are engaging in risky behavior, how safe they feel and whether they have trusted adults in their lives who they can talk to honestly. She said she had to ask several times, and finally ended up getting the results data following calls to the state Dept. of Public Instruction.

It seems strange that the school district wouldn't have turned to these results if they were really concerned about the mindset of students across the district -- not only as an answer to what might be going on that would drive a student to hurt themselves, but as another set of data telling them where to focus attention. Instead, based on the response Lanette got, the YBRS results were left unread and/or dismissed as irrelevant, until Tuesday's meeting, when the Wellness work group leaders will present plans for addressing the areas where Shorewood is out of step with the state average in a negative way.

The majority of students in grades 7-12 volunteered to take the survey, which is administered in December. There are both "positives" and "areas of concern" in the report that will go before the board. Read more here. There are several areas where answers were better than the state average, and several where we are worse. Compared to the state average, our students are less likely to say they feel under threat at school but more likely to have experienced dating violence or sexual assault. Out students were less likely to report smoking cigarettes, but much more likely to vape using e-cigarettes. They reported starting sexual intercourse later, having less sex and were less likely to have started early, and more likely to report being gay, lesbian or bisexual.

The report accompanying the results lists some ways the district plans on addressing the "areas of concern," and administrators will walk through this report at Tuesday night's meeting.

The other big item could end up being approved quickly and without much discussion -- hard to tell how many questions board members will ask about the district's preliminary budget before they approve it. Here's one item I found hard to swallow: the district is planning to spend $20,000 per year for the next three years for consultants to work with the Superintendent and board, following the end of a contract with Aspen Consulting that was costing us $50,000 a year. Read the full preliminary budget here.

Note that the school district's budget is $25 million for the general fund, which does not include special education or account for the money we borrow and the debt service we owe, nor the community resources managed by the district, which include the Community Fitness Center.

If you're interested in the big-dollar borrowing the district is considering to pay for maintenance and facilities work, you can see the most recent presentation that administrators gave to the Facilities Advisory Community Team (FACT). I'll blog about this a lot more, but there is some pretty major borrowing under discussion that could mean big tax increases and debt repayment for the next 25 years. Check out the presentation here.

Read a synopsis of the draft budget and a short explanation of school district financing here. Then come to the meeting and ask questions or offer your thoughts! Great local government starts with you. 7 p.m. in the Shorewood High School library. See you there.

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