Wrightstown school board staying the course with back to school plan

Brian Roebke photo
Business Manager Dan Storch and Director of Special Education and Student Services Caroline Mihalski share a laugh at last week’s Wrightstown school board meeting after Mihalski chastised Storch for “stealing her thunder” by announcing the district received a $75,000 mental health grant for the next two school years.

By Brian Roebke
In July, the Wrightstown Community School District determined students would not be required to wear facial coverings when they returned to school in September, and the board of education continued to back that decision at last week’s meeting.
Superintendent Carla Buboltz said the district will use local data from Wrightstown buildings and classrooms and balance that with regional, statewide, and national data.
“What’s happening there may not be happening here,” she said.
She said they may need to make some short-term decisions if there’s an outbreak of COVID-19 cases now that the Delta variant is causing the number of cases to increase all over the country.
“Whether that’s a quarantine or some other mitigation strategies,” Buboltz said. “Ultimately we have to take care of the safety of our kids and if there’s a breakout case, we need to address that.”
As they did last year, the district will look at three things this year:
• Is there enough staff in classrooms to provide a quality education?
• Is the attendance rate high enough to provide a quality education?
• Is the school contributing to the spread?
“We will continue to look at those three pieces and communicate with our families,” she said.
She said the administration and staff are comfortable with what they are doing. They’ve encouraged staff to wear masks if they’d like to but it’s up to them.
The board agreed to hire two full-time subs to make sure staffing is where it needs to be, compared to six that were hired last year. If these people do not have a full-time assignment for a day, they will be used in a support role. Currently 80 percent of full-time staff are vaccinated.
Business Manager Dan Storch reported he’s preparing for the Sept. 29 annual budget meeting, expecting no increase in the $8.85 mill rate from last year.
Highlights include the district being in excellent financial position. “We pride ourselves on being a good value to taxpayers,” he said. “We’re a high achieving and low spending school district.”
The spending rates continue to be lower than the state average and the budget will be balanced.
Buboltz reported on the school construction process, with the remodeling of the second floor of the elementary school almost complete. There’s currently a lot of cleaning going on so teachers can move back into their rooms.
She gave kudos to Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Jason Nelson and his team for their help.
Middle School Principal Bob Caelwaerts said Nelson helps coordinate the contractors in his building, and he cooperated when he “got a harebrained idea” to move the RTI room to another room, necessitating the need to build a wall to separate a classroom.
Administrators spoke about the upcoming school year at the meeting.
Director of Special Education and Student Services Caroline Mihalski said high school and middle school staff went through Sources of Strength training during last week’s inservice.
She also reported the district received a DPI $75,000 mental health grant that will come both this year and next year.
Mihalski also presented the seclusion report, saying there were only 13 incidences during the 2020-21 school year where a student was secluded, all coming from four elementary or alternate site students with disabilities.
“Honestly, that’s kind of a feat when you know how much we have (challenging) behavior that happens,” she said.
Mihalski said the school trains teachers to keep these escalated situations from happening.
“Most of that training is about verbally deescalating students but if they get really escalated, how to keep themselves safe, how to keep students safe, and how to keep other kids safe,” she said.
All of the special education teachers and aides get trained and refresher training every year. New staff goes through eight hours of that training.
Buboltz said the district is bringing the “Don’t Widen the Plate” program, in this year. The basis is that every baseball player must pitch to or run to the same home plate that’s 17 inches wide. “We hold them all accountable to that whether they’re T-ball or they’re Major Leaguers,” she said. “The conversation with our staff was, ‘let’s hold ourselves accountable.’”
That doesn’t mean they’re going to let kids fail, but they might have to pitch closer to the plate for a while until they hit the ball instead of widening the plate.
It also means they may need to take chances because it might be the start of something that works.
Nelson also received a compliment from Activities Director Craig Haese for the condition of the athletic playing fields. “A lot of people don’t know how much work they put in there,” he said.
Haese has a goal of every student being in at least one extracurricular activity, and last year that number was 89 percent.
Elementary Principal Sarah Nelson is excited about her school’s restorative practices with the behavior team. “It was amazing,” she said. “I fully believe in the direction we’re going and our team.”
Restorative practice is a strategy that seeks to repair relationships that have been damaged, including those damaged through bullying. It does this by bringing about a sense of remorse and restorative action on the part of the offender and forgiveness by the victim.
She lauded the teachers who were shut out of their classrooms all summer, being patient and flexible.
Calewaerts said teachers in his building are excited about behavioral practices after it was rolled out to them.
“Sometimes when you’re doing something that’s new there’s a little bit of that apprehension, but there’s a lot of excitement around it,” he said. “I think it’s because staff realizes it’s going to be good for kids.”
Buboltz thanked GreenLeaf Bank and its members for donating four tables full of school supplies that were made available for students.
Tom Eggert, just recently elected by his fellow board members as president, was recognized for his nine years of service to the board. He had to leave the board due to his move outside of the school district.
The board now needs to follow the process to name a replacement within 60 days. That member would serve until the April election, when they would need to run for office as a candidate if they chose.
Personnel report
Sandra Anderson, school nutrition coordinator
Taylor Blaha, school nutrition leader
Isella Chavez, school nutrition assistant
Austin Koltz, wellness center supervisor
Jessica Olson, school nutrition leader
Holly Snyder, grade 6 teacher
Triston Winiecki, high school special ed instructional aide
Paula Isaacs, high school special ed instructional aide
Lois Sauberlich, high school RTI teacher
Travis Schuh, grade 6 teacher