Board updated after successful Howard-Suamico referendums
By Ben Rodgers
SUAMICO – The Howard-Suamico School District is looking ahead to improving facilities and more after the successful passage of two referendum questions April 6.
Voters extended a state-imposed revenue cap limit override in the amount of $5 million from 2023-24 to 2027-28 by a 300 vote margin, 3,656 to 3,356.
This reduces a $5.85 million override voters approved in 2018 that stretches through the 2022-23 school year.
Voters also approved a facilities improvement question for issuing $98 million in new debt, 3,784 to 3,232.
Superintendent Damian LaCroix told the school board at its meeting Monday, April 12, he spent April 7 visiting staff at Bay View Middle School and Forest Glen Elementary School, the two buildings to benefit the most from the successful $98 million facilities improvement question.
“My message to both those staffs was ‘Congratulations and thank you. Congratulations on really a historic moment in time,’” LaCroix said. “It’s the same message I have for the board tonight. Congratulations and thank you. Thank you for having the courage to lead in arguably the toughest time we’ve faced.”
He cited the pandemic, political strife, civic unrest and economic uncertainty as factors facing the community as the district asked the two largest questions in its history to voters.
“For the board to have the courage to lead, to take a calculated risk, do the right thing at the right time, for the right reason, and to have the result we did is just gratifying,” LaCroix said.
Mike Jeuch, assistant superintendent of operations, said his work now shifts from working on operations of the referendum questions to working with stakeholders and educating the community on the next steps after the successful passage.
On Tuesday, April 13, district staff met with PMA, a firm contracted by the district, to finalize the financing strategy.
He said next on the agenda are core team meetings with staff from Bay View and Forest Glen.
Juech said the district will select a construction manager by the end of the month.
He said a visionary team will meet in May and June, and there will be meetings with departments and grade levels at both of the schools.
Brain Nicol, communications director, told the board the referendum website will continue to be the focal point for communication regarding the process of the referendum projects.
Kit Dailey, engagement specialist with EUA, another firm contracted by the district, told the board now is not the time to stop communication with district stakeholders after the successful votes.
“We learned that after going through such an extensive process of engagement and communication, to simply go back to normal feels awkward, and people also expect to see something happening immediately,” Dailey said. “So we need to fill that gap with strong, consistent communication.”
LaCroix said he was contacted by parents asking if the district will still require masks after the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ mask mandate March 31.
He said as a local governing body, the district has the authority to require masks, and it plans to continue doing so.
“It’s important we continue to stay the course for the time being,” LaCroix said. “What that’s going to look like in the fall is up for discussion, up for review in a few months. But I think it’s prudent at this time to stay the course.”
Nicol said Brown County Public Health announced ended its COVID-19 data dashboard and social media graphic as it has become a duplicate of information provided by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
As a result, the district’s dashboard now has two data points provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The total number of new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days, and the percentage of positive tests in the last seven days.
“We had foreseen this,” Nicol said. “Many of us (school district COVID-19 dashboard managers) shifted toward CDC county data, posted in parallel with Brown County Public Health data.”
Last meeting for Eilers
Finally, the board presented Jeff Eilers with formal recognition for his nine years of service.
Eilers was unseated by Greg Klimek in the April 6 election.
“I’ve enjoyed working next to you, and I appreciate all the time and input and work that you have done for us, especially your work with CESA,” said Teresa Ford, board president. “Jeff, thank you so much.”
Eilers said he plans to run again when the time comes.
“I really take great pride in what I did, and I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I want to get back at this table.”
Eilers received a standing ovation from those at the board meeting.