By Mary Ann Inman, REPORTER


You are in the driver’s seat. You can vote on Nov. 8. Constituents have the final say. If you believe leadership matters, read on. Clinton’s District School Board, Administrator, and Business Manager are working together to make the public school sustainable. I attended four public presentations, led by Administrator Jim Brewer and Business Manager Dan McCrea, this month. I heard their communications at meetings held by the School Board, Village Board, Public School and the Kiwanis. Messages were consistent, clear, and concise. Most importantly leadership, commitment, and passion appeared to ring true. Brewer and McCrea credited the School Board with diligent management by reducing costs associated with health insurance, supplies and staffing; including 4.75 full-time employees. Their efforts were needed to close an estimated $1.1 million budget deficit for the 2016-2017 school year. Not an easy task. In recent years, Clinton has had high employee turnover for administrative, educator, and staff positions. District turnover is at fourteen and one half percent. Some of those numbers can be attributed to retirement; but many have used our district as a stepping stone to gain experience, leading to advancement. For example, prior to hiring McCrea, the District had five Business Managers over five years, reporting to three different Administrators. School Board member Jill Gunderson said, “We used to offer good health benefits, for some, it was enough incentive to offset lower pay. Now that is gone, employee retention is a problem.” Board member Gary Gilbank added, “A couple of things I thought you should know about the upcoming referendum: This starts for the 2017-18 school year. This will NOT raise the mil rate because we have been prepaying down the debt owed on the high school and that offsets the referendum costs.”

“So there will NOT be an increase on your tax bill. This will help us retain and hire quality teachers, keep effective classroom sizes, improve technology, maintain comprehensive offerings for students, continue needed maintenance, update curriculum, and maintain the multitude of extracurricular offerings we have now.” “Our spending per pupil is below the state average and the Rock County Conference South average.” The good news is that Administrator Jim Brewer has purchased a home in rural Clinton. That act, in itself, shows commitment. Since July, he has reached out to the community collaborating with the Police Department, Fire Department, Chamber members, FFA Alumni, Kiwanis, and others. Administrator Brewer has invited anyone interested to tour facilities and see for themselves how teachers are making a difference. He has talked passionately about plans to retain good teachers, improve technology, building upkeep and more. In a very short time, he has worked in tandem with district technology experts, and developed an integrated district-wide and building specific website management system. Brewer said, “Current funding is now the same as year 2005. Declining enrollment means less funding. Nobody likes to think of students as revenue, but the reality is they are. Back in 1993, under Governor Thompson, state aide amounts were determined. Districts that were spending more then, receive more now. Districts that were thrifty, like Clinton, receive less. The District is not alone. Sixty-nine districts have referendums in process.” District enrollment is down about one percent per year, in line with numbers reported by Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. School choices are made for many reasons. Curriculum and extracurricular opportunities are two factors. Smaller schools may not offer things like hockey, strings, or certain foreign languages.

Brewer wants to enhance established traditions and retain educators. He noted Clinton has many pluses, such as the PBIS Program and extremely high participation in the performing arts. Involvement in sports is also much higher than the state average. Truancy rates are at 3.2 percent (about six percent below the state average). Sixth grade camp is a 50-year tradition, and the District offers Spanish and German. Administrator Jim Brewer and Business Manager Dan McCrea have been on the fast-track, making presentations about the Nov. 8, recurring referendum. The referendum is capped at $1.8 million.

Enrollment decreases are spread over 12 grades, disallowing staff reductions. Teacher retention has been difficult. Clinton’s teacher departure rate is about five percent above the state average. The referendum will give the District opportunities to retain good teachers. Brewer added somewhere down the road the District will need to address the aged building infrastructures (including repairs at the high school). What if the referendum fails? Further cuts may result in reductions in staff that will increase classroom sizes. Beyond this, there will be reductions in programming, courses, and materials, technology infrastructure, student access to technology, extra-curricular activities, and ability to retain and recruit effective classroom teachers. Yes, sixth grade camp will be “on the table and up for discussion.”

Administrator Brewer concluded each presentation by thanking constituents for listening and asking people to come out and vote.