Guest Opinion: Moving forward, together


(6/25/2018)

From: Superintendent Rich Dahman
Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS)

When I began as Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) superintendent nearly a year ago, it was clear that the priorities for the community and district were to address our budget deficit and facility needs in order to focus on student learning. I also knew the importance of hearing from the community and the staff throughout the process. Over the course of the past year, I have appreciated the opportunities to meet with and get input from our stakeholders. Additionally, I was extremely pleased with the valuable feedback received through the community survey earlier this year, with over 2,200 responses. Information from the survey was incorporated into our strategic planning process and has also been instrumental as we’ve moved forward with our facility discussion.

Some key points from the community survey include:

• 69 percent of all respondents would support a plan to close one or more of our elementary
schools;
• 70 percent of all respondents said we should collaborate with the community to develop a plan and ask for voter support through a bond referendum; and
• 66 percent of all respondents said we should address the school facility needs as soon as possible.

The top priorities identified from the community survey include:

1. Address district-wide building infrastructure systems that have exceeded their service life;
2. Improve building safety and security;
3. Improve energy efficiency; and
4. Improve operational efficiencies through the consolidation of schools.

 

In response to your feedback we convened a community task force on facilities to assist in developing a plan that addresses our immediate and long-term needs. The task force recommended addressing these needs in two phases. Phase one includes asking the community to support a bond referendum in November 2018 that tends to critical needs in the areas of 1) safety and security, 2) critical asset preservation, and 3) accessibility and special needs. The recommendation also centered on an amount that would have a minimal, short-term impact on the current property taxes and would conclude before phase two begins. For example, a residential property valued at $100,000 would cause an approximate $2 per month increase over the next four years.

With the support of phase one in November, we would then begin to gather input from the community regarding a long-term solution that addresses our remaining facility needs. Phase two would include a multi-year study of all WAPS’ facilities with the goal of making a long-term strategic decision based on community consensus.

I believe the plan put forth by the task force and presented to the WAPS Board on June 21, 2018, is an important step in continuing to build community trust, addressing immediate needs of our facilities, and laying the foundation for community involvement in the development of phase two. I want to thank the task force for its work and also thank community members for their input through the survey and community listening sessions. We truly value your input and opinions and I’m confident that we can continue to move forward together for our students, families and communities.

 

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