By Sarah Hall
At two back-to-back meetings on December 9, the Kohler Board of Education reviewed a range of recent school activities both celebrating the district attaining the top ranking in the state and expressing gratitude to teachers.
The board also addressed district readiness to respond to acts of violence and – in preparation for a vote in January – recommended that 296 open enrollment seats be offered to students from other districts in 2020-21.
The most intently discussed issue involved determining the number of highly-coveted seats which Kohler Public Schools – the highest-scoring district out of 421 in Wisconsin, according to recent state Department of Public Instruction report cards – opens to students from elsewhere who apply for them.
At the Committee of the Whole meeting which succeeded the regular board meeting, the board voted to recommend setting the number of these open enrollment seats at 296 for the 2020-21 school year, based on a total anticipated enrollment of 754 students and up from 267 open enrollment seats and a total enrollment of 738 this year. A formal vote on this recommendation will follow at the January board meeting.
Setting open enrollment seats at 296 would result in class sizes ranging from 17 to 24 students across the district next year, Superintendent Quynh Trueblood pointed out. Business Manager Matt Kautzer explained that although administrators are anticipating another year of declining resident population the recommended open enrollment limit also allows for a small cushion in case of growth. Currently, there is an unusually large number of enrolled students currently in second grade, and that “bump” will advance into third grade next year, where an additional section will once again be needed.
The evening’s regular board meeting began with a presentation on a “Gallery of Gratitude” created by students in grades JK through 12 as a surprise for staff.
Teachers Stacy Stanley and Jessica Ott explained how students drew portraits of and wrote notes of appreciation for teachers or other staff members of their choice.
“It was really neat to hear the students say why these people were important to them,” Stanley pointed out.
Also during “gratitude month” in November, teachers and staff were treated to coffee and doughnuts one day and received hooded sweatshirts imprinted with “We are 1” to celebrate attaining the top district ranking in the state.
“Creating that culture of kindness for all of us actually pays it forward to the children in many ways,” said Trueblood.
Later in the meeting, it was noted that while activities like these that build a positive culture are a proactive strategy to prevent school violence, Kohler Schools are also conducting drills to train students in the “Avoid, Deny, Defend” method of reacting to threats, while developing other resources to increase school safety.
Board members surmised that Kohler may be the only school district in the area which provides teachers with active threat response buttons, installed just this year, which allow them to immediately dispatch law enforcement in the event of an emergency.
In other business, the board approved the approved the hiring of Jacob Morelli as a middle/high school physical education teacher and accepted a $20,250 donation from the Frederick Kohler Trust to be used to broaden the district’s course selection.