Maria Lara, new Howard-Suamico school board member, listen to the Monday, June 11, meeting. Ben Rodgers Photo
By Ben Rodgers
SUAMICO – Maria Lara was appointed to the Howard-Suamico school board on Monday, June 11, after Laura Barnard resigned.
Lara ran in the April 3 general election and was third in votes (2,239), behind Vanessa Moran (3,892) and Jeff Eilers (2,772). Tony Yaggie placed fourth with 1,626 votes.
“Thank you for the opportunity,” Lara said at the school board meeting. “I certainly appreciate it and I’m looking forward to it.”
Lara has previously served on the district’s Community Task Force and has a child in the district.
She will serve the remainder of Barnard’s term which expires next April.
“Maria, thank you,” said member Rachelle Paulsen. “This is not an easy job. It takes a lot of time, but you’re going to be a great fit. I’m happy about that.”
Barnard is relocating outside of the district’s geographical boundaries.
Members of the board had nothing but kind words to see her off.
“Everyone that is involved in education is appreciative of the work you’ve put into the board,” said Teresa Ford, board president. “You’ve made the district a better place.”
Eilers agreed with the impact Barnard has had over the past five years.
“Laura, what can we say?” he said. “You’ve made us better in every way you can, and we’re going to really miss you.”
Barnard was presented letters that thanked her for her service on the board from State Superintendent Tony Evers and Gov. Scott Walker.
“It has been an honor to work with you,” Barnard said to the board.
In other news, the board reviewed results for the better part of an hour from a staff survey conducted in April by School Perceptions.
The survey gauged staff opinions on planning, change readiness, student achievement, engagement, communication, culture, work environment, health and wellness, development and recognition, compensation and benefits, building leadership, department leadership, administration, salary and pay, job satisfaction, collaboration, technology, student engagement and overall satisfaction.
School Perceptions also compared HSSD to peer districts in Wisconsin with similar geographic size and socioeconomic makeup.
Moving forward, this survey will continue annually.
“The survey was designed to be used longitudinally,” said Brian Nicol, communications coordinator. “I would anticipate, given the way we used our Making Progress Survey in the past, that every year seems reasonable.”
The initial results will be broken down by school. Administration will review the results with principals to address issues in each building.
Performance is one area staff that responded said should be the first factor moving forward when factoring pay.
“We have an open door to step into that conversation because the data was a direct indicator for us,” said Damian LaCroix, superintendent.
He also said continuous improvement for the district must include informed decision making, which the survey helped illuminate.
“The big takeaway for me is we’ve got a healthy culture,” LaCroix said. “It’s not a toxic culture. I’s not a sick culture. It’s a culture that has the opportunity to get stronger.”
The board also passed two separate motions Matt Spets, assistant superintendent of operations, likened to making a triple mortgage payment to pay down district debt early.
The district will be paying off two bonds early, saving roughly $400,000 in interest payments and greatly reducing the district’s overall debt.
To do this the motions established an escrow account and transferred funds with the sole intention of making debt payments ahead of schedule.