From: Sue Roehrich, Retired WAPS curriculum director and elementary principal
Watching District 861 events of this fall and winter leaves me confused, angry, and disappointed. I have been a cheerleader for WAPS for many years. I was proud of the comprehensive school system that put children first and provided them with so many diverse opportunities for academic and personal success.
The focus on bricks and mortar over children leaves me confused. We do not have the enrollment or budget to operate as we have in the past. The board and community have put off maintenance on buildings — with — we will address that later — when we have some money; well, it’s later and we still do not have the money- Yet, we still want to maintain all the buildings. I am angry and disappointed as I see the type of cuts that need to be made. We had a strong vocational program – we are losing these opportunities for our children: ag sciences, business education, industrial tech, and FACS; I know these may be old labels, but the chance for students to learn important life skills, job skills, and to flourish in hands-on learning classrooms has eroded. WAPS is beginning to cut art and music opportunities, as well as recommendations to reduce foreign languages and plays. We are gutting our media centers and losing the licensed media specialists, returning to only paras to make decisions about a core learning resource in our buildings. It was mentioned that SLIP can’t exist in any space other than Madison. The movement to specialize has pitted schools against each other — “our teachers and programs are better than yours” — “keep us open and close them.” Specialization has also unbalanced the availability of resources. So much is slipping away in cuts to preserve our buildings. Can’t good teachers teach successfully in any building? Even the “new” high school needs some updates. But we can afford it.
I want the School Board to be brave. I want the School Board to abandon personal agendas and focus on ALL of the WAPS children and families. When I first came to Winona about 17 years ago, the first committee I served on was a facilities study group. We recommended closing some schools. The board did not listen. The School Board is again asking for input. Don’t ask the question if you are not ready to hear the answer. Cutting programs and opportunities for children to preserve a building that is over 50 years old and in need of maintenance is foolish, expensive, and NOT in the best interest of children.
I want to be proud of this district again. I want to cheerlead for academic and personal success for children. I am tired of the bickering, discussing and again — cuts — just to save our buildings. Let’s save our education system for our children!