School district considers public’s concerns in listening session
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — In a listening session held on Oct. 3, residents were given a chance to express their thoughts on the proposed budget reduction list being developed by the School District of Marshfield.
The planned amount of reductions correlates with the anticipated budget deficit for the 2017-2018 school year, which would occur when the current $2.5 million per year referendum expires and in the event that the Nov. 8 $3 million per year referendum does not pass.
The listening sessions provided the district a forum to educate and engage — as well as get feedback from — the community on the cause of the referendum and what could result if voters choose “no” this November.
“I can’t think of a more important community issue than that very topic of our students’ future, and I am guessing that everybody here wants to make certain that our students have the best possible education that we can provide, that they have opportunities to do as many things as we can provide to them,” said Marshfield School District Director of Business Services Pat Saucerman.
“This is not about the school board looking to start a new initiative or to find additional things to add to the budget or to try to find ways to make more for the students. This is about preserving what we currently have,” Saucerman said.
He added, “This is not about the athletic complex. I want to make that point clear because it’s been confusing to a lot of people.”
Saucerman introduced data compiled by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction that supported his assertion that the Marshfield School District is a low-spending, high-performing district.
“Take a look at the ACT composite scores. You’ll find Marshfield at the top,” added Saucerman. “Look at any standardized test you want to use, and you’ll find Marshfield at the top or very near the top, … and it’s fair to say that we are doing that in a manner that is far less in terms of overall cost than many school districts in the state.”
During the public feedback portion of the session, the proposed cuts to the gifted and talented program, which were a concern addressed en masse at the September meeting of the Marshfield School Board that 40-50 residents attended to support it, were once again advised against.
In addition, the cutting of the only licensed library media coordinator as well as positions regarding the mental and emotional health of the students were also discussed.
“With the changes in state mandates and funding, … the district gradually started cutting school counselor positions starting at the elementary level,” said Lisa Goeppinger, elementary social worker for Lincoln and Washington Schools. “Since I’ve been here, the counselor/social worker/AODA staff has gone from 11.5 FTE (full-time employees) to seven FTE, almost a 40 percent reduction.
“Even with these drastic cuts, there have not been cuts or changes in our job descriptions or our responsibilities. In fact quite the opposite has happened. There are many more programs, requirements, and expectations.
“I am speaking because it is my professional responsibility as a social worker to advocate for those students and parents that I work for and I work with. They are the ones that need you to preserve and protect the school social work position regardless of the referendum.”
The proposed reductions list is scheduled to be finalized at the Oct. 12 meeting of the Marshfield School Board.