• Emily Berry

Our district has a few improvement projects in the works.

This post was first posted on my original site Sept. 25, 2017


One thing Metro Market taught me about Shorewood: we are all amateur architects and builders around here. Now is a very important time to remember that our school district is planning some large-scale work on school facilities, and you have an opportunity to voice your opinion before any shovels are in the ground or furniture is purchased.

You should attend at least one of the "community conversations" sessions scheduled to take community feedback on the district's tentative plans. Click here for a flyer listing the events. My understanding is that these are identical in terms of the information offered, but of course with different people present, each one should be at least a little different in terms of where the discussion goes. The first one will start at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday Oct. 3 at Atwater.

Students have given their thoughts, and Tuesday prior to the board meeting, faculty and staff will give their feedback about the facilities plan.

SLXLM📷📷​​

If you haven't been following, facilities emerged as a priority during the 2016 Schools Summit, and surveys of staff have borne out the idea that our buildings need some TLC. Students feel strongly, for example, that our high school should be retrofit to be ADA compliant and accessible to every student top to bottom. Today, the historic building is decidedly not wheelchair-friendly, or even crutches-friendly, which can be a problem for student athletes dealing with injuries, even if we set aside the moral imperative of ensuring that facilities support learning rather than creating a barrier for students with physical limitations. I have yet to hear anyone mention a serious proposal to do away with or build an entire new building (though I know there are plenty who would gladly take a wrecking ball to SIS), so I expect the district will develop instead a plan to upgrade facilities to make them ADA-compliant, ostensibly safer and more conducive to learning (what exactly that means is always tough to define).

Under the current plan, the board will be asked to approve a plan late this year -- possibly as soon as November -- and the district will create an "action plan" next year. I think everyone who is paying attention is pretty sure that the action will require a referendum to fund needed improvements.

Mark your calendars now for one of these conversations!

Following the session to hear from staff about facilities, the board has a regular meeting set for Tuesday night that includes a report on the way the district has communicated with the public. The draft report is posted online. The school survey conducted this year indicates most folks are happy with the way the district communicates with families and community members. I have to say, the social media presence has improved a lot in the last year, which makes me happy. Even so, some of the individual communications -- particularly in times of crises -- have left a lot to be desired (the letter about the Jones case comes to mind). I would love to see the district look at ways to make infinite campus, our big information management/email system work a little more nimbly and feel a little less like a robot that knows too much about your kids.

Up for discussion are some operating expectations for the district that board members and district staff have struggled a bit with, regarding citizenship and character, along with another set for wellness.

Setting goals for character and citizenship isn't so hard -- measuring progress and defining success is pretty tough. How do you know if your students are ethical people? How do you know if they are kind? How do you know they are "good stewards of the physical environment"? It's tougher than you would think to really find an objective marker for those things, though there were a few ideas thrown around during a work session earlier this month. One idea I found interesting: a grade for citizenship and character on every report card. Do you think that would work? I feel like a lot of parents would argue with poor marks there -- no one wants to believe their kid is unkind.

Wellness is maybe not quite as difficult to measure, but it's also tricky to know how much responsibility to place on the district. We can feed and educate kids, and make them exercise, but if you're paying attention or know any young person, helping young people stay mentally healthy is a whole other task, and it can't be handled by the schools alone -- home environment will always trump what happens at school, and school can only partially mitigate the damage done by a toxic home environment or legitimate mental illness that starts to present in adolescence.

If you have ideas about what we should expect from our district leadership in these areas, or how well they have been communicating with constituents, nothing beats showing up to meetings. 7 p.m., Shorewood High School library (second floor of the main building).

See you then!

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Below is a written version of comments I made at the board meeting tonight, April 9. Tonight will be one of the last times I speak to you as an audience member, for at least a few years. I am eager to

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Emily Berry

Shorewood, WI 53211

emily@berryschoolsblog.com