Tag Archives: West Bend School District

West Bend School District Projects Rapid Decline in Enrollment

The West Bend School Board met last night. One of the items they discussed was new enrollment figures and projections. One might remember that the topic of declining enrollment was a key driver in the findings of the West Bend School District Private Task Force. As it turns out, enrollment is dropping faster than even the projections we used. The Washington County Insider has video and extensive coverage.

October 29, 2019 – West Bend, WI – West Bend School District Superintendent Don Kirkegaard outlined enrollment trends during the Monday night School Board meeting. The district indicated “unless there is a change in enrollment trends, the district can expect declining enrollment for the next 8-10 years.”

Superintendent Kirkegaard:

  • Our enrollment has been going south. It has been for quite a few years and it’s going to go for quite a few more years.
  • We’re down about 600 students since 2006
  • There are about 60 kids that open enroll out of Jackson. Jackson area is the largest open enrolling out of the district.
  • Projections: I made an assumption that the kindergarten class would stay the same and every kid who is in school this year stays in school throughout their whole career.
  • If you go to the high school we’re at 2184 this year. If you look at current students in the school, I added 50 kids every year once they become 9th graders, based on Holy Angels and Cabrini, typically the last few years we picked up 50 parochial kids that come to high school. You’re down to 1669 students with both east and west together.
  • This isn’t doom and gloom, it’s just reality.

II don’t know why he would use flat Kindergarten enrollment as a basis given that Kindergarten enrollment has been declining too, but even with that faulty basis, the overall district is declining.

The reality is that enrollment in the West Bend School District peaked 10 years ago with 6,902 students. This year, there are 6,279. That’s a decline of 623 students or 9%. Even the most generous projections show that the district will have just under 5,000 students ten years from now. That is a decline of almost 30% off of the most recent peak.

Again, this is not the fault of the district. While there are some numbers around the edges that have to do with School Choice or Open Enrollment, the main reason is a national demographic trend of people having fewer kids.

The enrollment trend is going to hit the district hard and fast whether the School Board acts or not. Either they can manage the decline or it will manage them. It’s past time for the citizens of the district to put some big issues on the table. The district can’t be run like it has been in the past.

 

School Task Force Presentation Tonight

Don’t forget!

The West Bend School District Private Task Force (WBSDPTF) is a group of local citizens who came together after the failed referendum to take a deep look at the district’s facilities that were the subject of the referendum. The Taskforce was not sanctioned or created by the School Board, but the School District gave the Taskforce unfettered access and reams of data. The Task Force presented its findings to the School Board on October 14th. Now the Task Force will share the findings with Common Sense Citizens of Washington County (CSCWC) and answer any questions about those findings. The meeting will take place Thursday, October 24th at The West Bend Moose Lodge beginning at 7:00PM. As always. the meeting is open to the public.

UPDATE Here is the Presentation that we will be reviewing tonight.

Task Force Findings to be Presented at Common Sense Meeting

Don’t forget.

The West Bend School District Private Task Force (WBSDPTF) is a group of local citizens who came together after the failed referendum to take a deep look at the district’s facilities that were the subject of the referendum. The Taskforce was not sanctioned or created by the School Board, but the School District gave the Taskforce unfettered access and reams of data. The Task Force presented its findings to the School Board on October 14th. Now the Task Force will share the findings with Common Sense Citizens of Washington County (CSCWC) and answer any questions about those findings. The meeting will take place Thursday, October 24th at The West Bend Moose Lodge beginning at 7:00PM. As always. the meeting is open to the public.

I am really hoping for a strong turnout of people of all different opinions. This is a great opportunity to have a robust community discussion about the future of our school district. I hope we can move past the entrenched tribal positions and into a conversation between neighbors.

Task force shows path to build more without spending more

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

Last week the West Bend School District Private Task Force (WBSDPTF) presented its facilities findings to the West Bend School Board. The Task Force is an unsanctioned group of local private citizens led by West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow who took it upon themselves to dig into the school district’s facilities after the failed referendum earlier this year. While much of the excitement is around the bold ideas around restructuring the elementary schools and updating the high school, the focus should be on the hard work that comes before the shiny new buildings.

Amongst the Task Force’s findings were three key prerequisites that must be met before putting a shovel in the ground. The district needs to create and maintain a meaningful facilities plan; the facilities must be adequately maintained; and the district must live within its means by creating efficiencies. None of these are easy, but they are necessary to provide the facilities that our kids deserve and our community can afford.

First, the district needs a plan. About a decade ago, the West Bend School Board sanctioned a community committee and spent a lot of time creating a 25-year facilities plan. At the time, the plan made some sense. Based on projections that showed continued enrollment growth for the foreseeable future, the plan laid out the updates and new construction that the district would need to support that growth.

After the plan was created, it was used as a guide for facilities spending up to and including the most recent referendum. The problem is that the plan was not sufficiently updated. Since it was created, enrollment had declined and projections are for it to decline further. Some items on the plan were completed. Other items were not. Meanwhile, the School Board continued to use the plan as a basis for making decisions. Before any more money is put into facilities, the School Board must update the facilities plan with current data and create an ongoing process to keep it updated.

Second, the district needs to fund the plan. One of the Task Force’s findings was that the capital maintenance budget is woefully underfunded. The West Bend School District has about 1.4 million square feet of buildings and has an annual capital maintenance budget of about $1.5 million. That $1.5 million budget is the highest it has been in years thanks to the School Board steadily increasing it over the past several years.

With slightly more than a dollar per square foot of funding, the district’s capital maintenance budget is underfunded by a multiple of two or three by normal standards in the private sector. This leaves facilities to decay before their time due to lack of proper maintenance. Well-constructed, properly-maintained buildings will last for generations. If we fail to properly maintain them, however, we will be forced to replace them before their time.

Third, once the district has a valid long-range facilities plan and an adequate funding to execute that plan, the School Board must do the work to execute without increasing spending or raising taxes. The Task Force found that there is sufficient money in the current budget to pay for extensive upgrades to the district’s facilities without increasing spending or raising taxes.

The Task Force’s finding that the school district could consolidate six current buildings into one would generate some of the savings necessary to keep spending flat. The savings in staffing, grass mowing, snow plowing, custodial, food service, administration, building maintenance, etc. are substantial when there is only one building instead of six. But more efficiencies can be found in the sourcing of functions that are not core competencies of a school district.

While services like food service, grounds keeping, information technology, custodial, etc. are necessary, they are not the primary purpose of a school district. There are private businesses that deliver these services better, faster, and cheaper because they are their core competencies. Each of these departments must be evaluated to see if outsourcing would provide more value to the taxpayers for less cost. In some cases, outsourcing might not make sense. Experience in the private sector shows that most of the time it will. We will never know unless the school district puts them out to bid.

The Task Force did a lot of research and study, but still only scratched the surface. Even with that scratch, however, they found that there are significant areas where the school district can save money and reallocate the spending to upgrade and maintain the district’s facilities without negatively impacting education delivery. And those savings are there without even touching the much larger spending items in the budget like staffing levels, employee benefits, and wages. Much more could be done with a bit more scratching.

Make a plan. Take care of what we own. Live within our means. These are guiding principles that citizens should expect from our government. They are principles that must be followed as the West Bend School Board considers the future of the district’s facilities.

NOTE: I am a member of the WBSDPTF. While the findings are those of the Task Force, the opinions in this column are solely mine.

Task force shows path to build more without spending more

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s the main point:

Amongst the Task Force’s findings were three key prerequisites that must be met before putting a shovel in the ground. The district needs to create and maintain a meaningful facilities plan; the facilities must be adequately maintained; and the district must live within its means by creating efficiencies. None of these are easy, but they are necessary to provide the facilities that our kids deserve and our community can afford.

[…]

Make a plan. Take care of what we own. Live within our means. These are guiding principles that citizens should expect from our government. They are principles that must be followed as the West Bend School Board considers the future of the district’s facilities.

Pick up a copy to read the whole thing.

Also, as a reminder, the Task Force’s full findings will be presented again at the Moose Lodge in West Bend at 1900 on October 24th courtesy of the Common Sense Citizens of Washington County. All are welcome to attend, listen, and ask questions.

CSCWC Meeting on Thursday to Hear WBSDPTF Findings

From the email… we’re not the best at acronyms in West Bend, but be sure to attend this!

The West Bend School District Private Task Force (WBSDPTF) is a group of local citizens who came together after the failed referendum to take a deep look at the district’s facilities that were the subject of the referendum. The Taskforce was not sanctioned or created by the School Board, but the School District gave the Taskforce unfettered access and reams of data. The Task Force presented its findings to the School Board on October 14th. Now the Task Force will share the findings with Common Sense Citizens of Washington County (CSCWC) and answer any questions about those findings. The meeting will take place Thursday, October 24th at The West Bend Moose Lodge beginning at 7:00PM. As always. the meeting is open to the public.

This will be the first opportunity for the public to hear the findings outside of the presentation at the school board meeting. Task Force members will also answer questions. I hope that people who like the findings, hate the findings, or just want to hear them in some detail will be able to attend. Yes, I will also be presenting and fielding questions, so if any of you lefties want to come and have some fun at my expense, feel free.

Leading the West Bend way

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

In the wake of the failed referendum for the West Bend School District, the mayor of West Bend, Kraig Sadownikow, organized a private task force of local leaders to evaluate the maintenance and capital projects at the district’s high school and Jackson elementary facilities and share independent findings.

The task force was generously provided funding by Kevin Steiner of West Bend Mutual Insurance and Tim Schmidt of Delta Defense to retain Zimmerman Architectural Studios to provide technical facilities expertise.

The task force presented its findings to the West Bend School Board Monday night. Those findings show a different way forward for the West Bend School District and a model for other school districts to follow.

I am a member of the task force. While the findings are those of the task force, the opinions expressed in this column are my own. I will admit that I was dubious about participating in such an endeavor. The process was enlightening and enriching. I encourage the reader to go read the complete findings in the minutes of Monday night’s meeting available on the school district’s website and elsewhere.

To summarize the task force’s findings, the West Bend School District could accomplish everything it wanted to do in the referendum and much, much more without spending a dollar more than they already are. To do that, however, it will take some smart decisions and hard work. The district has some real facilities needs. While spending money is necessary to meet those needs, spending more money is not.

First, there are some realities facing the district. Enrollment is declining and is projected to continue declining for the next decade or more. The most recent enrollment tally taken last month shows that enrollment is declining even faster than the projections made last year. This isn’t a problem with the district. It is a demographic trend that is happening throughout the state. Proactive management in an age of declining enrollment and revenues is even more crucial than in an age of plenty.

Second, the district has done a poor job of in terms of general maintenance and capital facilities management. This is a systemic problem that stretches back many years. For example, the current capital maintenance budget of about $1.5 million is woefully inadequate for a district with about 1.5 million square feet of buildings. In the elementary schools alone, there is about $22.5 million of capital expenses looming over the next decade that are mostly unfunded. Whether intentional or not, the district has been managing facilities by letting them decay prematurely due to inadequate maintenance, and then passing referendums to replace them.

Also, the school district built a 25-year capital plan several years ago. The plan was built on projections of increasing enrollment for decades to come. The reality is that enrollment is declining and will continue to decline, but the 25-year plan was never updated to reflect the new realities. A long-range capital facilities plan that is continually refreshed with current data and scrutinized in public is critical.

Before embarking on an ambitious plan to build and renovate buildings, the School Board must rectify these budgetary and planning deficiencies to demonstrate that the West Bend School District will break the cycle of neglect and replace. The district cannot make new investments in facilities before solving the problem of maintaining what they have.

The failed referendum sought to make some significant renovations to the high school and replace Jackson Elementary. For the high school, the task force validated that there are some true needs that require work.

There are also a couple of areas where the building could be upgraded to drive a lot of value for a reasonable cost.

The failed referendum also sought to replace Jackson Elementary. This is where the task force’s findings took a turn that I did not expect. The Jackson Elementary building has significant problems, but just replacing it was always folly. It is an expensive endeavor that pours a fortune into one problem while leaving all of the other problems wanting.

The task force found that the district could build a state-of-the-art new elementary school campus on the south side of West Bend. Into the new building, the district could consolidate Jackson Elementary, Decorah Elementary, Fair Park Elementary, the district offices, the maintenance shed, and Rolfs Education Center into the single building. By combining six district buildings into a single campus, the district could provide a 21st-century learning environment to far more kids while saving millions of dollars per year in operational costs.

The best part is that by taking advantage of the operational efficiencies of a streamlined district infrastructure and making a few other easily identified operational efficiencies, the task force found that the district could do upgrade at the high school, modernize the entire elementary school footprint, and increase the ongoing maintenance budget to adequate levels without spending or taxing a dollar more than they already are.

More work is needed and much more public discussion must take place, but there is a legitimate path to make significant upgrades to the West Bend School District’s facilities, break the cycle of neglect and replace, and do so without increasing spending or taxes.

The West Bend School District can lead the way. Other school districts in Wisconsin should follow.

Leading the West Bend way

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. As you might expect, it about the work of the West Bend School District Private Task Force. Go pick up a copy, and see the news story about the same topic. Here’s a thrust of the column:

To summarize the task force’s findings, the West Bend School District could accomplish everything it wanted to do in the referendum and much, much more without spending a dollar more than they already are. To do that, however, it will take some smart decisions and hard work. The district has some real facilities needs. While spending money is necessary to meet those needs, spending more money is not.

[…]

More work is needed and much more public discussion must take place, but there is a legitimate path to make significant upgrades to the West Bend School District’s facilities, break the cycle of neglect and replace, and do so without increasing spending or taxes.

West Bend School District Private Task Force Presents to School Board

The Washington County Insider has video of the presentation, comments from some attendees, and has posted the presentation. You can download the entire presentation here or check it out at the Washington County Insider.

In summary, after a metric crap ton of work, the Task Force found:

  1. The 25 year facilities plan is out of date and based on bad inputs. It needs to be redrafted and continually updated.
  2. Overall maintenance for the district is chronically underfunded by a factor of 2X-3X, leading to structured decay of facilities.
  3. These two things need to be fixed before venturing into a building/renovating initiative so that we break the cycle.
  4. There are legitimate facilities needs that need to be addressed.

Then, we offered some findings for the High School and Elementary Schools that spurred the referendum. For the High School, the Task Force identified some legitimate needs and the opportunity to do a couple of wants for a total of $21.3 million.

The Elementary Schools is where the boldest idea came into play. The Task Force evaluated several options, but the one that makes the most sense is to:

  • Build an awesome new Elementary School and Campus somewhere on the south side of West Bend and make a small addition to Green Tree Elementary.
  • Into the new Southside campus, consolidate Decorah Elementary, Fair Park Elementary, Jackson Elementary, the District Office, the maintenance shed, and Rolf Education Center. Sell all of those other properties and put them back on the tax rolls. It would mean closing and selling seven buildings/land (including the empty land that was purchased for a new Jackson Elementary) and replacing them with a single facility.
  • Total cost for this is about $28.6 million.

So far we’re spending $49.9 million. Outrageous! OWEN… WHAT THE HECK!?!? ARE YOU SUPPORTING MORE SPENDING AND A MASSIVE NEW REFERENDUM!?!?!?

Kinda, but here’s the key… through the consolidation of the elementary schools and other facilities and making some choices about outsourcing or economizing some support services like custodial, IT, grounds keeping, food service, etc., the district can free up enough of their operating budget to cover the mortgage payment for the new buildings AND put more money into maintenance so that the district’s facilities will be properly maintained moving forward.

A referendum would be required to borrow the money to execute on a plan like this, but it would not constitute incremental spending and would NOT require a tax increase. The district would be able to make major upgrades to the physical infrastructure while living within its means.

Solving problems without spending more money? That’s a conservative path forward. All you have to do is go into it with the mindset that it can be done… because it can.

I don’t usually spend much time in the comments, but if you have serious questions about the Task Force’s findings, the thought process behind them, or the homework supporting them, I will endeavor to answer them in the comments of this post. For a while…

WBSDPTF To Present to the West Bend School Board at 5:30

Don’t forget.

5:30 PM at the District Offices located at 735 S. Main St. West Bend.

I hear that the Washington County Insider will be live streaming the meeting on Facebook. I think the district posts a recording, but doesn’t stream live. Later this evening, I will post the presentation and offer some further commentary. I am hopeful that it is the beginning of a new conversation about our school district’s physical infrastructure.

Come by or tune in!

WBSDPTF To Present to School Board Tomorrow at 1730

After months of work, the West Bend School District Private Task Force is going to present our findings to the West Bend School Board tomorrow afternoon at 5:30. For some background, the Task Force was formed after the failed school referendum in April to take a hard look at the facilities issues cited in the referendum and offer some independent findings.

I was a bit dubious going into the work, but found it enlightening and enriching. We did a lot of work. We toured buildings, interviewed staff, dug through reports, spoke with many local contractors, got architectural designs and quotes, looked at neighboring districts, debated, argued, and finally reached some consensus.

The Task Force will be sharing some bold findings, but I hope it is the beginning of a different conversation about the direction of our school district.

Please attend the meeting or catch the live stream. For those who would like to see me put on pants and come out of my basement, I will be presenting a portion too.

5:30 PM at the District Offices located at 735 S. Main St. West Bend.

Come on by. You should be home before the Packer game.

West Bend School District Levies 7.17% Tax Increase

I see a story in the Washington County Daily News today where the West Bend School District has returned to the cloudy language of taxes.

WEST BEND — Good news for property owners in the West Bend Joint School District: the budget is balanced and the mill rate — read: taxes — will not increase from last year.

The district’s mill rate will remain $7.97 per $1,000 of assessed value. Thus the owner of a home valued at $203,000, for example, will pay $1,617.91 in taxes to the district.

There are several factors behind the district’s decision not to raise taxes.

West Bend is a low spending district, and was awarded an extra $299 per student in state aid for the coming year. It does have declining enrollment…

This is the game that the school district and other taxing bodies like to play. They try to pretend that the mill rate is equivalent to tax burden. It is not. For several years, after a lot of public discussion, we finally got the West Bend School District to stop doing this. It looks like they have returned to their old ways.

Here’s the deal… the tax burden is the total money extracted from the taxpayers. If the district decides that they want to extract $40 million from the taxpayers through a property tax levy, they simply divide that amount into the aggregate property values to derive the tax rate – called the mill rate. It is a simple calculation. When it comes to discussing the tax burden, the mil rate and the property values are irrelevant. The tax levy is everything.

In this case, despite receiving an increase in state aid, the West Bend School District is increasing property taxes by 7.17%.

Last year, the school district levied $39,174,600. This year, they are going to levy $41,983,435. That is a 7.17% increase in taxes no matter how you slice it.

The school district is celebrating that they kept the mill rate flat, but that is only because property values in the district have increased thanks to the good economy. They are simply raising taxes at about the same pace as property values are increasing, thus keeping the rate flat.

Why does this matter?

It matters because, despite the proclamations of the school district, the tax burden is increasing for a school district with declining enrollment. For example, let’s say you are a senior on a fixed income living in a house that was valued at $200,000. Your property taxes for the school district were $1,594 last year. After a reassessment, your house is now valued at $218,000. Even though the school district is keeping the mill rate the same, now your property taxes for the school district will be $1,737.46 – a $143.46 increase. Your income didn’t increase. You don’t derive any value from the increased property value unless you sell your house. But you are paying more. Yes, your taxes went up despite the district maintaining a flat tax rate.

The mill rate in meaningless. It is simply a derived number. The levy is everything. The levy is how much money the taxing body is extracting from the taxpayers. And however they want to spin it, the West Bend School District will increase property taxes 7.17% in a single year.

Credit to the Finance Director, Andrew Sarnow, for making this point later in the story:

“Early estimates say they will not give us much more money; in fact, it probably will be a little less,” he said. “So where does the rest of the money come from if they say we can have a little more money per child? Property taxes — which is why our levy is going up about seven percent.”

But property values are growing by about the same amount. This year, the district is worth almost $5.3 billion, which is an increase from the $4.2 billion of value last year. This is growth in size; new residences or

businesses, with a very small increase from homes getting reassessed. If homes were reassessed for a higher value, then the taxation rate does not increase but more money is acquired through taxes. A homeowner’s taxes for everything, not just the school district, would also increase if this were true. But the seven percent increase came largely through growth and not reevaluation.

What I disagree with is the supposition that most of the property value increase is from growth. Some of that is true, but in 2018, the residents of West Bend saw an average property value increase of 12% after a city-wide assessment. The City of West Bend is not the entire school district, but it is the lion’s share of property value.  So if my property value went up 12% and my mill rate is flat, did my taxes go up? yes, they did. And did my income necessarily rise to meet the tax burden? Nope. So the tax burden continues to eat into my disposable income and standard of living.

Private Task Force To Present to West Bend School Board on October 14th

This is happening.

September 25, 2019 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend School District Private Task Force (WBSDTF)  will be presenting findings to the West Bend School Board on October 14 at 5:30 p.m. at the District Offices, 735 S. Main Street.
The Task Force was formed in the wake of a failed referendum in April of 2019 and charged itself with gaining a full understanding of the condition of current facilities, researching future maintenance and capital investments, identifying operational efficiencies and communicating unbiased findings to the community and board.
“We were not asked to get involved, we volunteered.  As we have said all along that we are not a public relations firm looking for a way to sell a referendum.  At the same time, we are not looking to slash and burn funding for facilities.”  said Kraig Sadownikow, Mayor of West Bend and task force chairman.
“Along with high quality programming and engaged staff, facilities play an important role in education and should be properly maintained.  They are a community asset and must be treated as such.”
The Task Force plans to report facilities findings as it relates to High School Priorities, Elementary School Deployment and Operational Considerations.
Former West Bend alderman and task force member Ed Duquaine said, “If we keep asking the same questions, we will always get the same answers.  Someone has to have the courage to ask questions that have never been asked before in order to solve problems that have not been addressed before.  Our task force is up to that challenge.”
The Task Force is privately funded and made up of local business owners and those experienced in design, construction, facilities management and communication.
The Task Force is not affiliated with the School District or Board.
WBSDPTF members are Kevin Steiner, Tim Schmidt, Kraig Sadownikow, Randy Stark, Ed Duquaine, Dan Garvey, Mike Chevalier, Owen Robinson, Chris Kleman, Chris Schmidt and the education team from Zimmerman Design Studios.
For additional information on the West Bend School District Private Task Force contact Kraig Sadownikow at kraig@teamacs.net<mailto:kraig@teamacs.net>.

West Bend School District Annual Meeting Tonight

It’s tonight.

September 22, 2019 – West Bend, WI – The annual meeting of electors in the West Bend School District is Monday, September 23. The budget hearing begins at 6:30 p.m. in the high school auditorium and the annual meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Some of the information regarding the tax levy resolution for 2019-20 is posted below.

The annual meeting is the advisory meeting where citizens can vote on resolutions put forth by the board. The primary function is to vote on the tax levy, but as I said, it’s advisory. Based on information shared in the last school board meeting, it looks like the district saw a dramatic drop in enrollment:

“Last week, with a year ago – a week ago, it looks like we’re actually not just down about 75 to 100 students we’re actually down possibly 200 – 240 children,” said Andy Sarnow.

That obviously has an impact on state funding and the levy.

Thank goodness for the Washington County Insider for putting out this story. I consider myself pretty well-informed and this totally snuck up on me. The school district did the bare minimum in public notice for the meeting.

I don’t see a notice about the meeting on the district’s social media pages. It’s not in their events on Facebook. I get other email announcements about the district and I didn’t get anything on this. On the district’s website, there is no mention of the meeting on the District Calendar, or under “news and updates,” or under “public and annual notices,” or on the main page. The only place I found it was by clicking on “School Board” and looking at the meeting schedule.

I assume that the district put the legal notice in the newspaper, but with all of the available ways that the district has to reach out to the community, that is truly the bare minimum. Keep in mind that the district has a full time Communications Manager (PR person). This is the best they can do? One might think that they don’t want the citizens getting involved.

 

 

Mayor Sadownikow Talks about School Task Force

The Washington County Insider was at the meeting of the Common Sense Citizens of Washington County on Thursday at which West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow gave an update on the city and on the West Bend School District Private Task Force, of which I am a member.

You can read the whole story here. Here’s the first of four video where he lays out how it started and what the scope is.

Update on WBSDPTF

Worst. Acronym. Ever. But here’s the update:

August 3, 2019 – West Bend, WI  – The West Bend School District Private Task Force (WBSDPTF) continues its work and is on schedule to report findings to the school board in October of this year.

The Task Force was formed in the wake of a failed referendum in April of 2019.  The goal of the referendum was the construction of a new K-4 elementary school in Jackson and safety and infrastructure enhancements at the high schools.

“We have formed sub-committees who are focusing on the key areas we identified during our tours and discussions with staff.” stated task force organizer and City of West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow.  “Elementary School Deployment, priorities at the High Schools and Operational Efficiencies are the sub-committee topics”, he said.

The Task Force added research of Decorah and Fair Park Elementary Schools to its original tours of Jackson Elementary and the High Schools.  The group has been reviewing forecasted maintenance and capital improvement needs at the facilities, studying projected enrollment data and comparing new information to the District’s 25-year plan which was compiled almost 10 years ago.

“We are looking to see if the input data used for the 25-year plan is still valid and accurate.  We want to make sure our findings use the most current information available,” said Task Force member Chris Schmidt.

The Task Force is comprised of district taxpayers, many of whom did not know one another prior to their service.  Local columnist and Task Force member Owen Robinson recognized, “It has been an uplifting experience to witness a group of people from different backgrounds and with diverse perspectives work so hard and well together.  Our shared goal is to ensure the WBSD provides an exceptional education for our kids and those kids who follow.  This drives our purpose.”

WBDSPTF members are Kevin Steiner, Tim Schmidt, Kraig Sadownikow, Randy Stark, Ed Duquaine, Dan Garvey, Mike Chevalier, Owen Robinson, Chris Kleman, Chris Schmidt and the education team from Zimmerman Design Studios.  Members were chosen based on their design, construction, facilities management and communication expertise.

For additional information on the West Bend School District Private Task Force contact Kraig Sadownikow at www.teamacs.net.

Citizens look to future after failed school referendum

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I till say… worst. acronym. ever. Here you go:

Earlier this year, the West Bend School Board asked the voters to approve a referendum to borrow $47 million to build a new Jackson Elementary and do some major renovations to the West Bend high schools. The referendum failed and now a group of community members are stepping forward to take a hard look at the facilities at Jackson Elementary and the high schools.

It should come as no surprise to readers of this column that I was quite happy that the school referendum in West Bend failed. I believed strongly that it would have been a gross misallocation of tax dollars that would have squeezed out higher priorities. Others in the community thought differently and thought that the facilities had become dilapidated enough to warrant the taxpayers absorbing more debt. The voters in the community had a robust public debate about the issue and decided against the referendum.

While the voters have decided that they do not want to spend $74 million (the loan plus interest) on new and refurbished buildings, there are legitimate facility needs. As long as the school district provides education to kids, those kids will need buildings with classrooms, gyms, lunchrooms, playgrounds, and more. The debate is not about the need for those facilities. The debate is about the size, features, and expense of those facilities. Resources are not infinite and there is an opportunity cost of every dollar spent on a building.

One of the aspects of the referendum debate in West Bend that sowed distrust was the people who the School Board engaged to develop the proposals. Always follow the money. Both the survey firm and the architectural firm that the School Board contracted with make their business getting school referendums approved. In the case of the architectural firm, they were paid to develop plans for new and refurbished building for which they would almost certainly receive the contracts to design and build. The financial motive for the firm to go big on the taxpayers’ dime is irresistible and many people in the community did not trust that the people putting together the plans had the community’s interests at heart.

In the wake of the election, several prominent members of the community put their heads together to help the community and school district make some tough decisions on how to move forward. Delta Defense CEO Tim Schmidt, West Bend Mutual Insurance CEO Kevin Steiner, and West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow decided to assemble a private task force to take a hard look at Jackson Elementary and the high schools with an eye to assessing and prioritizing the needs. Schmidt and Steiner also committed financial resources to hire an independent architectural firm to help assess the existing facilities and provide expertise on the construction of modern educational facilities.

Members of the West Bend School District Private Task Force include people who supported the referendum, people who did not, engineers, construction experts, facilities management experts, current and former local elected leaders, and your favorite rabble-rousing local columnist, me.

The goal of the WBSDPTF is straightforward. It is to assess the facilities at Jackson Elementary and the high school and present the findings to the School Board. The WBSDPTF will not be making any recommendations about how to address those findings. That is up to the elected School Board. The WBSDPTF is not sanctioned or funded by the West Bend School Board. Perhaps most importantly, the WBSDPTF is not just another group looking for a way to build support for another referendum. It is purely an effort by a group of local private citizens who believe that education is important and are willing to donate their time, money, and expertise to help the community make some decisions.

The effort may be the start of a new chapter of uniting factional interests in the West Bend School District. The effort may be a useless waste of time and money that doesn’t go anywhere. Time will tell.

Special thanks should be extended to Kevin Steiner and Tim Schmidt. Both of these local business leaders have been generous in supporting countless local organizations, charities, public, and private initiatives. The WBSDPTF is merely the latest on a long list of things that these two CEOs have supported to help improve our community. West Bend is privileged to have such strong business leaders.

West Bend School District Private Task Force Tours Schools

Interesting. From the Washington County Insider:

June 27, 2019 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend School District Private Task Force (WBSDTF)completed tours of Jackson Elementary and the West Bend High Schools.

The WBSDTF is a group of citizens privately formed and funded whose mission is to generate and communicate independent findings related to maintenance and capital projects at the facilities mentioned.  The task force was formed in the wake of a failed referendum in April of 2019.  The goal of the referendum was the construction of a new K-4 elementary school in Jackson and safety and infrastructure enhancements at the high schools.

WBDSPTF members include Kevin Steiner, Tim Schmidt, Kraig Sadownikow, Randy Stark, Ed Duquaine, Dan Garvey, Mike Chevalier, Owen Robinson, Chris Kleman, and Chris Schmidt.  Members were chosen based on their design, construction, facilities management and communication expertise.

“We felt our first priority was to gauge for ourselves the condition of the high schools and Jackson Elementary to gain a full understanding of the intent of the failed referendum,” said task force organizer and City of West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow.

“Maintenance and capital budgets for the District’s 1.2 million square feet of buildings has been a focus of discussions so far,” said task force member and former City of West Bend Alderman Ed Duquaine.  “We requested and were given past information related to pre-referendum work, the district’s 25-year plan and completed tours with the facilities director.”

To gain a full and complete understanding of the district’s physical condition, the task force is considering touring other facilities.  “We are looking forward to where the district can go in the future, rather than looking backward to debate where we’ve been,” said task force member Dan Garvey.

Zimmerman Architectural Studios has been retained by the task force.  Their firm, led by Dave Stroik, had mechanical and electrical engineers along for the tours.  “Our role is to help assess existing conditions and bring the expertise of how modern educational facilities should be designed,” said Stroik.

The task force expects to complete its work this summer and will present findings to the school board in October.

For additional information on the West Bend School District Private Task Force contact Kraig Sadownikow at www.teamacs.net.

Wait… what!?!? Oh yeah… yes, I am on the task force. The Mayor does a good job of explaining it, but allow me to elaborate a bit from my perspective.

I was pretty happy when the referendum failed. I truly thought that it was a waste of money that would not improve education and would hamstring the district with debt for decades to come. But I do acknowledge that the school district must maintain its facilities and that, from time to time, they will need to refurbished or rebuilt.

When I was invited to participate in this task force, I was skeptical. I was worried that it would be just a group of guys looking for another way to justify a referendum. But after more discussion and learning who else was on the task force, I thought it was worth the effort. The task force is comprised of a group of local leaders, several of whom have experience in facilities, who believe in having a great school system, but who have different perspectives on how to get there. Some of us opposed the referendum. Some of us supported it. We all want to have a great school district that provides a great education and is an asset to the community.

I’m thankful to Tim Schmidt (Delta Defense) and Kevin Steiner (West Bend Mutual) for putting up the money for the architectural firm. West Bend is blessed to have strong local business leaders who care about our community.

So we are giving it a try. I don’t know where it will lead. My experience so far has been very positive. Right now we are in data-gathering mode. We have met as a group and toured both Jackson Elementary and the High Schools – the subjects of the referendum. I toured both before the referendum too, but we were able to tour as a group, ask questions, and the district has been very helpful in providing documentation, plans, studies, etc. We are probably going to tour a few more buildings and meet several times over the summer to discuss the information we received, develop our findings, and prepare them for presentation to the School Board. At that point, who knows what the School Board will do with the findings. That’s up to them. I’m hopeful that we can help be part of a solution.

Principal Wants to Reward Staff with New Building

I can’t tell you how wrong-headed I think this comment is.

WEST BEND — West Bend East High School’s principal Darci VanAdestine is on a similar path as West Bend West’s assistant principal Jennifer Potter, both of whom will begin roles with elementary schools this fall.

VanAdestine, who is moving to Jackson Elementary School, said she is proud to be part of such a thriving, positive culture where she can succeed among students, staff and parents that genuinely care and want what is best for all.

“My main priority is to keep this positive energy and success rolling,” VanAdestine said. “I would love to be able to reward the dedicated staff, community and students that through their perseverance and dedication we will get a new building sooner than later.”

The reward of good elementary schooling is not a fancy new building. The reward is kids who are smarter and better prepared for going into middle school. The building is just a necessary part of delivering an education and should not be positioned as a reward for doing your job.

Not to mention that this is as close to express advocacy as you can get by a government official. If the school board decides to put another referendum on the ballot, such advocacy would be inappropriate.

Independent Task Force to examine facilities in West Bend School District

From the Washington County Insider:

June 17, 2019 – West Bend, WI – There was a presentation Monday, June 17 at the West Bend School Board meeting as a community group stepped up to complete a facilities study in the West Bend School District. The Task Force is led by West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow, West Bend Mutual Insurance CEO Kevin Steiner and Tim Schmidt of Delta Defense.

Topic and Background from WBSD Superintendent Don Kirkegaard: In May I had a discussion with three individuals from the community: Mayor Kraig Sadownikow, Kevin Steiner/West Bend Mutual Insurance, and Tim Schmidt/Delta Defense that are forming a committee to look at our facilities. They have asked to have access to our facilities and have an opportunity to visit with Mr. Ross to discuss projects that have been completed, as well as projects that are being planned.

There is no district involvement with the committee.

They will submit a report to the Board in September and/or October. The Board can use all of or part of the information as the Board determines future facilities’ improvements.

The committee is not authorized by the Board or the Superintendent. The report will be informational only with the Board being responsible to make any and all decisions.