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Board looks at budget, emergency notification

The Superior School Board discussed the state budget and the district's parent notification system at the committee of the whole meeting Monday night.

The Superior School Board discussed the state budget and the district's parent notification system at the committee of the whole meeting Monday night.

Friday, State Superintendent Elizabeth Burmaster directed Department of Public Instruction staff to begin calculating state aid based on last year's funding level. The figures are $79 million less than the amount approved by the Joint Finance Committee and could lead to a $600 million increase in property taxes statewide if the old funding formulas are used for the 2007-2008 state aid calculations. The state has until Oct. 15 to notify school districts of their equalization aid levels.

Equalization aid in 2006-2007 for Superior was $29 million and projected to be $31 million this school year under the Joint Finance Committee's budget. If state funding remains the same as last year Superior School District will lose $2 million in state aid it planned for this year. The $2 million would have to be made up by the tax levy, said board member William Rehnstrand.

The levy would jump from 3 percent as planned to a 17 percent increase unless the school board makes cuts, he said.

"It's a horrible scenario and the only thing we can say ... is it looks like we're going to get a good budget for education, but I wouldn't bet my life on it," he said.

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The education piece is basically settled, said Superintendent Jay Mitchell.

"My feeling is they'll come together with something by the end of the week," he said.

Legislators are feeling the pressure of letters and calls from their constituents, Rehnstrand said.

"We're not out of the woods yet, but it's hopeful," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson, D-Beloit, Friday asked Burmaster to calculate aid at the higher funding level based on a tentative agreement between the legislature and senate. Monday, Burmaster responded that the Department of Public Instruction would proceed with calculations based on the lower school aid number because any agreements between the two houses are still tentative.

The budget may still get passed with the additional funding or lawmakers could move back the Oct. 15 deadline for the state to notify districts of their state aid levels.

However, moving back the Oct. 15 deadline could cause additional troubles for school districts that have their own notification deadlines, Rehnstrand said.

The district's budget hearing is set for Oct. 30.

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The board also discussed issues with parent notification during bomb threats at Four Corners Elementary School and Superior Middle School last week.

School Messenger, the district's emergency notification system, is working technically, said Sam Jones, director of information technology.

The system sent out calls to all parents in the district Sept. 24 notifying them a bomb threat was found at Superior Middle School. Wednesday a second call went out to parents of children at Four Corners Elementary School to notify them of a similar threat found at that school.

"I think what it did was alleviate the panic of not knowing what was going on," Mitchell said.

Administrators decided to notify all parents of the first threat and have received both positive and negative feedback about the calls, Jones said.

The decision now is to call only the parents of children attending the school experiencing an incident, he said.

The calls were both helpful and problematic. They prompted several parents to arrive and take home their children at both schools.

Some parents missed parts of the message. They didn't listen to the entire message and didn't know in which school the threat was found. Several parents didn't have the information right because they didn't listen to the full message, Mitchell said.

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It's important to get the information to parents, but they need to listen to the entire message. The district has a good evacuation plan and children are safe in case of emergencies, said board member Christina Kintop.

It's better for parents to leave their children at school when situations such as bomb threats occur. When students remain at school they have the opportunity to talk about the incident with other children and get closure, said Nancy Smith, director of health services.

"They need to diffuse," she said.

In other business:

  • The board moved forward proposals for overnight trips by the Travel Club and DECA. The Travel Club is a newly formed club at Superior High School that is planning a trip this summer to Great Britain. DECA is planning to attend an event in Chicago at the end of October. The board will consider approval of both trips Monday night.
  • The board also discussed issues with the 28th Street Project. Board members expressed concerns about the lack of signs before the lane merger and about plans by the city of Superior to plant trees along the road.

The regular board meeting starts at 7 p.m. Monday at Lake Superior Elementary School, 6200 E. Third St.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Anna Kurth covers education. Call her at (715) 395-5019 or e-mail akurth@superiortelegram.com .

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