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Referendum Update February 1

date 02/01/2017 author Mark Elworthy category Uncategorized comment Leave a comment

Referendum Update (2/01/17)

We have reached a milestone in the planning of the referendum projects. Thank you to everyone who has contributed. We have completed the schematic design phase.  Essentially, we now know where the walls go and are 99% sure on the concept of the design for areas identified for renovation.  The next phase will focus on the details: furniture, fixtures, and equipment.

We plan to have new display boards soon. Below are some changes from the pre-referendum drawings:

  • Bathrooms in all buildings except for WHS – Today (2/1) we reviewed EUA’s updates based on DLT concerns that we were losing too many stalls due to code renovations. The initial plan was not to increase any square footage in the bathrooms; we now have decided to capture additional space wherever possible. This has increased scope so other projects may need to be scaled back. As previously shared, the renovations have resulted in the district having to follow newer building code. The new codes required an ADA stall and specific “widths and space” for movement. All make sense but take more square footage. The net result is fewer stalls, urinals, and sinks. I do believe the new codes promote more privacy with urinal privacy panels and off-set line of view from doorways.
  • Washington
  1. 4K room – Remains where it is due to load-bearing wall limitations.
  2. Conference room added (where 4K was projected to be).
  • Middle school
  1. Entrance – Current main entrance and office are being redesigned and renovated.
  2. Driveway on Elizabeth – Determined not to improve circulation and drop-off. We are still working on some options. This will be finalized later in the referendum scope to allow time for planning.
  3. MS locker rooms – These have been included in the renovations; previously not in the scope.
  4. Fine Arts area – All areas will be in different rooms. This is possible with the fitness room being returned to the former weight room (left of the gym). All areas will have significant increases in square footage and will result in improved instructional spaces for general music, choir, band, and art.
  • Lincoln – The entrance will be on the north side of the building - if you are familiar with the building, it will be about where the staff work room is currently located. We are working on some circulation improvements here.
  • High school – No major changes but all targeted renovated areas will look and operate differently. We are still working to finalize the functionality of the MPR space. The current exterior walls are the challenge.
  • Other Projects Update - HS skylight replacement. We are getting quotes. The project will be a slow process based on material availability. Some funding will be covered by insurance. We may use some referendum dollars to finish the project.

Referendum Update - January 2017

date 02/01/2017 author Mark Elworthy category Uncategorized comment Leave a comment

On Monday, January 9, the school board held a work session on projects related to the $23.5 million capital referendum. Business partners Eppstein Uhen Architects and JP Cullen were present to review the project. The presentation outlined work completed on the first phase (schematic design). Initial meetings have focused on areas that are larger in scope (Lincoln and HS PE/athletics, LMCs, and school entrances). The district has held core team meetings every other week, and focus meetings have been held at the building level as needed. Core team members are Mark Elworthy, Nathan Jaeger, Charlie Barr, Mary Kilar, David Brokopp, and Bill Kuchan. The first phase is 85% complete. The next phase is design development which will generate the bid documents. The project is scheduled to go out to bid in April.

At the meeting, the board was presented the five secure entrance designs, changes in scope at Washington, Lincoln, and the middle school, and were updated on the bathroom renovations process. The board was informed that on January 3, Nate Jaeger and Mark Elworthy met with the City of Whitewater to discuss potential traffic safety improvements at Lincoln and the middle school. It was agreed that there are many safety concerns that need to be addressed. The major changes are as follows:

1. Washington

The 4K room will no longer be relocated to the current locker room spaces. There was initial concern about the lack of natural light which we thought could be addressed by bringing in natural light from the entryway. A load-bearing wall will prohibit us from opening that room up as much as we wanted. That space will be utilized for other instructional areas and conference space. We feel this is a better outcome than the original design.

2. Lincoln

a. Entrance – The preferred staff option is on the north side of the building about 100 feet from the northeast corner. A canopy would designate the new entrance. The new entrance allows for better flow. Parking near the new entrance has been proposed to assist with student drop-offs and pick-ups.
b. Circulation - The District will approach the city to formally request changes in street parking near the school and implement a right-turn-only out of the north driveway.
    1) No parking on Prince Street between Highland Street and West Peck Street. There would be a new drop-off/pick-up area cut-in on Prince Street (west side). It would be created by a curb-cut and would be intended strictly for drop-offs and pick-ups. This would require an ordinance change which would involve gathering community input.
   2) If these changes do not improve student safety and circulation, the district will consider requesting the City of Whitewater to implement one-way driving on Prince Street between Highland Street and W. Peck Street, preferably in the southern direction. This change would also encourage parents who have students in both the middle school and elementary schools to drive around the block (clockwise) to drop off/pick up their children. This would require an ordinance change which would involve gathering community input.

3. Middle School

a. Entrance – In the pre-referendum meetings, an Elizabeth Street entrance was proposed. It has been determined not to be viable. The current office will be renovated. Additional visitor parking will be added near the current entrance.
b. Circulation - In the pre-referendum meetings, a driveway in front of the school was proposed. It is being re-evaluated for effectiveness, safety, and cost. There is a concern that it would add a second lane of traffic for students to walk through. The district is considering a cut-in for pick-up/drop-off on Elizabeth Street. In the next couple of weeks, there will be meetings with focus groups regarding LMCs, the HS PE space, the MS fine arts space, and ADA bathroom renovations and design. 

Washington Elementary nominated for Blue Ribbon Schools Award

date 01/31/2017 author Mark Elworthy category Uncategorized comment Leave a comment

Washington Elementary School in Whitewater Nominated for 
Prestigious National Blue Ribbon Schools Award


State Superintendent of Schools Tony Evers has nominated eight Wisconsin public elementary schools for the National Blue Ribbon Schools award, which is a U.S. Department of Education effort to recognize overall academic excellence or progress in improving student achievement. We are pleased to announce that Washington Elementary School is among those nominated.

“The Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in striving for solid student academic achievement,” Evers said. “Our public school nominees provide a safe and supportive learning environment where young people can build a foundation for future academic and life success. I wish our nominees well in the next phase of the Blue Ribbon Schools process.”

Schools nominated to the program must complete the Blue Ribbon Schools application and undergo a rigorous national review process. Awards, presented to “Exemplary High Performing” and “Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing” schools, are typically announced in early September. The Blue Ribbon Schools Program has recognized more than 8,500 of America’s schools since it began in 1982. To be considered for the program, schools must be among the top schools in the state for overall achievement on statewide assessments or closing achievement gaps between student groups. 

Tom Grosinske, principal of Washington Elementary, comments, “We are so proud and humbled to be nominated by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for the National Blue Ribbon Schools award through the U.S. Department of Education. This validates the incredible work our school staff has been doing for our students. We have known all along we have amazing families, a world class staff, and a very supportive school district. This nomination is evidence of the positive and student-centered culture that is Washington Elementary School.”

The 2017 nominees are:

  • Washington Elementary School, Whitewater Unified School District
  • Mountain Bay Elementary School, D.C. Everest Area School District, Weston
  • Robinson Elementary School, Laona School District
  • Shorewood Hills Elementary School, Madison Metropolitan School District
  • Oriole Lane Elementary School, Mequon-Thiensville School District
  • Elmwood Elementary School, New Berlin School District
  • Phillips Elementary School, Phillips School District
  • West Salem Elementary School, West Salem School District

Reminder of Weather Delays and Closings

date 12/14/2016 author Mark Elworthy category Uncategorized comment Leave a comment

Reminder of Weather Delays and Closings 
 
With the arrival of winter, families, students, and community members often inquire how decisions to close or delay school are made and communicated. If school is delayed or closed, our goal is to make a decision by 5:00 AM. In making the decision, the District Administrator drives the roads and consults with Nelson’s Bus Service, local snowplow drivers, and area district administrators. We will broadcast the decision on television and radio stations as well as communicate electronically via the WUSD website and Infinite Campus. If the wind chill is sustained at -35? F or a Wind Chill Warning is issued, most school districts will close, although this is a local decision.
 
While the district has the responsibility to close school due to weather, no decision of ours overrides the judgment of parents. If parents have a sincere concern for the safety of their children, they can certainly keep them home or remove them from school early.
 
 
 
Recordatorio sobre los retrasos o cancelaciones debido al clima
 
Con la llegada del invierno, las familias, estudiantes y los miembros de la comunidad a menudo se preguntan sobre las decisiones y comunicaciones que se toman acerca de cerrar la escuela o retrasar el inicio de clases. Si se cierra la escuela o se retrasa el inicio de clases, nuestra meta es tomar esas decisiones hasta las 5:00 AM. Para tomar una decisión, el administrador del distrito maneja por las calles y consulta con el servicio de buses Nelson , con los empleados locales que limpian las calles y con los otros administradores del distrito. Una vez que se haya tomado una decisión, ésta será anunciada en los canales de television y de radio y la comunicaremos también electrónicamente a través de la página web del distrito y de Infinite Campus. Si el viento frío se mantiene a -35? F o se anuncia una advertencia de vientos frios, la mayoria de distritos escolares cierran sus escuelas, aun cuando la decisión es tomada a nivel local.
 
Si bien el distrito tiene la responsabilidad de cerrar la escuela debido al clima severo, ninguna decisión nuestra va antes que la de los padres. Si los padres tienen una sincera preocupación por la seguridad de sus hijos, ellos pueden mantenerlos en casa o retirarlos temprano de la escuela. 

Thankfulness

date 11/22/2016 author Mark Elworthy category Uncategorized comment Leave a comment

November is a time when I often think back to childhood memories. As a family, we would travel to Grandma E.’s in Illinois where we would see our Illinois cousins. We would leave after dinner since both parents worked. Weather sometimes made the trip interesting, but Dad always got us there. One year the usual 4.5-hour trip took 8 hours due to snow. We were thankful to see our cousins and share our life’s adventures of the past year.
Family time is wonderful, but recent events have reminded me of the benefits of giving back to the community.

  • I am thankful that community members give back in many ways, whether it is time, money, or kindness. Many residents give regularly so that community members in need can get past hard times.
  • I am thankful to be a part of a community that cares about its residents. The Peace Circles (3) hosted by the city, university, and school district showed great compassion for our many community groups. Future Peace Circles are being considered. I learned what it means to say we have a shared value for all. Everyone has a voice.
  • I am thankful for community partnerships with the school district. Supporting our youth and families is a full-time pursuit. The community partnerships we have work to guarantee educational experiences for our children.
  • I am thankful to work and live in a community that supports and values education. Your support means so much to the students, staff, and families. Thank you for supporting the referendum.
  • I am thankful for the many opportunities our students have in academics, athletics, and arts throughout the district. I am thankful and relieved that the 50 cast members of the fall musical only visit our home once a year and clean up when they are done.
Being thankful also reminds us that there is work to be done. The response to the Tratt Street apartment fire brought out the best; unfortunately, it did not cure homelessness. The WUSD Family Emergency Fund recently was replenished by $30,000 thanks to a caring community, with three $5,000 challenge grants and others donating the other $15,000; residents will need help next year, too.
We are so fortunate to be a part of this great community.
Thank you for giving what you can.

DISTRICT AND SCHOOL REPORT CARDS FOR WUSD

date 11/21/2016 author Mark Elworthy category Uncategorized comment Leave a comment

DISTRICT AND SCHOOL REPORT CARDS FOR THE
WHITEWATER UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
 
District and School Report Cards for the Whitewater Unified School District were released November 17, 2016, by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI). The district and each school received its own report card that evaluated its performance based on multiple measures.
 
The WUSD district report card received a score of “Meets Expectations.” Whitewater High School and Whitewater Middle School also received a rating of “Meets Expectations” on their state report cards.  The three elementary schools in Whitewater increased their ratings from previous years, with Lincoln Elementary receiving a rating of “Exceeds Expectations” and Lakeview and Washington Elementary Schools each receiving a rating of “Significantly Exceeds Expectations.” 
 
“The scores reflect our commitment to educating our students,” according to Dr. Mark Elworthy, District Administrator. “We believe that having strong relationships with our students, families, and community partners is a key component of success. The work of staff to update our curriculum has also made a difference in how our students learn. The State Report Card is one of many ways we measure success. Our goal is to have students prepared to follow their dreams when they graduate.”
 
WUSD Director of Curriculum and Instruction Kelly Seichter is pleased with the scores but noted that the district is committed to continual improvement. "As a district, we were very happy to see our report card scores, but we will always continue to expect further improvement in teaching and learning," Seichter said.
 
This is the third year that DPI has issued report cards for every public school district, and the fourth year that each individual school has gotten a report card. Due to transition from former assessments, the Wisconsin DPI did not issue report cards for the 2014-15 school year.  With the report cards, each district and school earns a “score,” called an accountability index score, from 0 to 100. The score is based on performance in five priority areas:

  • Student achievement in reading and mathematics on the assessment
  • Student growth, measured by year-to-year improvements in reading and math
  • Closing gaps in performance between specific student groups (comparing English language learners, low-income students, students with disabilities, and members of racial or ethnic group with their peers)
  • On-track to graduation/postsecondary readiness, using reliable predictors of high school graduation and postsecondary success
  • Student Engagement Indicators, measuring test participation, attendance rates and dropout rates
 
It’s important to note that the 0 to 100 accountability index score is not a “percent correct” measurement. Instead, in combination with other school data, the score will help schools determine greatest strengths and opportunities for improvement. A school’s score determines where it falls on a spectrum of categories ranging from “Significantly Exceeding Expectations” down to “Persistently Failing to Meet Expectations.”
 
WUSD Current and Previous Report Card Scores and Accountability Ratings
  Score 2013-14
 
Score  2015-16 Rating 2015-16
District Report Card
 
66.1 70.2 Meets Expectations
Whitewater High School 73.2 69.2 Meets Expectations
Whitewater Middle School 71.1 63.4 Meets Expectations
Lakeview Elementary School 77.9 85.6 Significantly Exceeds Expectation
Lincoln Elementary School 62.9 76.3 Exceeds Expectations
Washington Elementary School 76.0 91.6 Significantly Exceeds Expectation
 
 
To view each of the Whitewater schools’ report cards and learn more about the accountability system, visit the state Department of Public Instruction's site http://dpi.wi.gov/accountability/report-cards.

My First 100 Days in Whitewater

date 10/27/2016 author Mark Elworthy category Uncategorized comment Leave a comment

My First 100 Days at the Whitewater Unified School District
Dr. Mark Elworthy, District Administrator
October 20, 2016

A couple weeks ago I realized I was approaching one of those milestones of a new job: the first 100 days. Over that time, many faces have become familiar and have names associated with them, and I have learned a great deal about Whitewater and the Whitewater Unified School District. Thank you for your warm reception and for sharing your hopes and dreams with me.

What have I learned? Simply put, a lot. It was, and still is, very important to me to integrate into the Whitewater Unified School District instead of asking people to learn how I operate. Listening and learning are what I do on a daily basis.

We already have strong leaders in the district and community, so I have spent time observing and learning from them. I am fortunate to have been given opportunities to meet and work with many of these leaders through civic organizations and regularly scheduled meetings, such as the monthly UW-Whitewater/City of Whitewater/WUSD leadership meetings. Much can be said about a community and school district by the way people support each other. Over and over I have witnessed people giving of their talents to help others. Everyone has their own way of helping, which makes all of us more capable of helping others.

I continue to see many excellent processes in place to help students and families. We have after-school programming for both students and adults; we are ahead of most districts in planning college and career readiness; and we have leaders readily available to engage in activities that benefit students.  Living in a college town provides opportunities and resources unavailable to most school districts. Recent growth in achievement at the elementary schools is evidence that we can achieve great things. It all started with a belief that we can make a difference in students’ lives.

Interactions with the community have been amazing. The opportunity to have so many resources and helpful people support our students sets Whitewater apart from most school districts and communities. The ongoing partnerships throughout the community have increased our ability to develop solutions to benefit students. The Whitewater Peace Gatherings, organized by city leaders, is one of many examples of the community, school district, and university coming together. For those not familiar with the Peace Gatherings, there were three gatherings this fall in an attempt to be proactive in unifying our community and strengthening our relationships. It has been a source of pride to share with my peers in education how our community has come together to promote understanding, support constructive dialogue, and respect differing viewpoints.

Referendum presentations. Presenting information about the upcoming facilities referendum to various community groups has been a great way to meet people, share the district story, and develop relationships. Connecting names and faces has personalized my relationships within the community. Feedback from the attendees has guided my planning and helped me understand what people support. Hearing people’s stories motivates me to innovate. The comprehensive process that identified future capital needs, with many opportunities for community feedback, has resonated with the participants. Student learning was at the forefront of the recommendations.

School events. The Whitewater Unified School District offers many academic and athletic opportunities for its students. Attending a variety of events has helped me understand how the district functions. We could not do the work we do without the community’s support. The connection between the community and school is evident wherever I go. The pride in how the schools operate is evident through the school spirit and support exhibited by the staff, families, and community.

Family. My family moved to Whitewater at the end of August. My wife, Karen, works at American Girl in Middleton and previously worked as an elementary school teacher. We have two daughters in Whitewater High School: Sophia is a senior and is applying for colleges with a focus on the sciences, and Maddie is a sophomore and enjoys learning American Sign Language and acting. Both girls participate in athletics. We are enjoying the opportunity to develop new relationships in the community as well as with families in the district.

Next 100 days. As I enter the next 100 days, it will be a time of strengthening the relationships the school district has with the community. It will also be a time where I learn more about district procedures and begin planning the 2017-18 school year. Thank you to all who have invited me to be a part of your group’s event. It is an honor to serve the Whitewater Unified School District.

Referendum Blog (10/24/16)

date 10/25/2016 author Mark Elworthy category Uncategorized comment Leave a comment

Dear Whitewater Community Members,
 
Thank you for taking time to learn about the November 8 Facilities Referendum and the proposed $23.5 million school building improvement plan reflects an 18-month engagement process including input from the Citizens Financial Advisory Committee, a community workshop (over 100 participants), and a community-wide survey.
 
Our District has a proud history of student achievement, upheld by our community’s support for learning and strong schools.
If approved, the November 8 Facilities Referendum will allow us to address safety and security improvements, ADA compliance updates, maintenance upgrades, and renovation of instructional spaces in all school buildings.
 
I hope you find our website helpful as you make an informed vote on November 8.
 
Sincerely,

Mark Elworthy, Ed. D.



 

Accountability for the Referendum

date 10/14/2016 author Mark Elworthy category Uncategorized comment Leave a comment

Accountability on spending referendum dollars is one of the questions we have heard when talking with community members. It's a good question. The District's history of delivering on past referendums is a good place to start. The 1994 and 1999 referendums continue to serve the district well. The high school (1994) is in great shape and operates efficiently. Updates made to the elementaries in 1999 have promoted 21st Century Learning. The 2016 referendum built upon past capital projects and enhanced the learning environment for our students. For the proposed referendum, there are two documents that state our intentions: Referendum Questions and Referendum Fact Sheet. The referendum question approved by the Board summarizes what the referendum dollars (if approved) can be spent on. The question identifies only the school buildings that have been identified for four types of upgrades: safety and security, instructional space renovations, ADA compliance, and capital maintenance. The Referendum Fact Sheet, http://www.wwusd.org/sites/whitewater.new.rschooltoday.com/files/files/Private_User/cbarr/WUSD%20Fact%20Sheet%20Final%2083016.pdf  also summarizes the scope of the projects and preliminary concepts.
 
Given the opportunity, the District intends to develop accountability measures and provide regular construction updates.


 

Referendum Update

date 10/13/2016 author Mark Elworthy category Uncategorized comment Leave a comment

As of today (10/13), Nathan (business manager) and I have made 24 presentations to community groups, including seniors, parent organizations, and municipalities. I am thankful for the strong relationships the district has formed over recent years. Community questions and feedback have provided insight as to what the community expects from its school district. We will continue to share our message throughout the community. Voting day is November 8.