The Tomah Area School District is seeking a renewal of the current operational referendum of $1.5 million for the next four years. In 2016, residents of our school district approved a three-year non-recurring operational referendum which allowed the District to fill a gap in revenue. The gap in funding was the result of a significant decrease in state aid. The three-year non-recurring referendum ends at the conclusion of the 2018-19 school year and, at this time, a gap in revenue still exists.
The funds from the last referendum were spent on supporting instruction, improving technology, maintaining our facilities and for the general operation of the school district. In particular, over the last three years, we have provided all students in grades 6-12 with a Chromebook, and began a pilot project with iPads for our 5th graders. We have also maintained our career-technical education classes and rigorous Advanced Placement coursework, purchasing additional online resources and materials for use. Furthermore, we have purchased thousands of books to enhance our reading curriculum at the elementary level. We have added special education teaching positions, a school counselor and a school social worker to assist us in better meeting the needs of students with disabilities, assisting high school students in career planning, and providing resources for families in need of support. Facility improvements were made as well. We were able to make improvements to Miller Elementary School by remodeling a storage area for classroom space, the office, and the food service area. The District has been proactive in replacing HVAC controls and mechanisms which improve the classroom environment and provide savings through energy efficiency. We were also able to continue maintaining existing facilities by updating the playground at Lemonweir Elementary School, adding a concession stand in the commons area at Tomah High School and contributing to the new press box which was largely built from community donations. These funds have also assisted us in making improvements in the area of school safety and security.
The Board of Education has continued to be a wise steward of taxpayer dollars. Even with the passage of the 2016 operating referendum, our mill rate currently is at a historic low and our school district is the 29th lowest spending school district in the state of Wisconsin out of 368 K-12 districts. This is good news for our taxpayers, but we must be cautious about being on a “race to the bottom”. Are there missed educational opportunities for our students due to our low spending? Are there educational services lacking for our students which are needed? We are confident that the students in the Tomah Area School District are receiving a quality education, but we must remain alert to the changing needs of our families, the workforce, and our community and provide different and improved educational opportunities so that we can be helping every child be successful. Arne Duncan, former Secretary of Education, stated: “In America, your zip code or your socio-economic status should never determine the quality of your education.” As a community, we need to ensure that this statement holds true.
We encourage all residents of the school district to become educated on the renewal of the $1.5 million non-recurring operational referendum which will be on the April 2 ballot. Please check out the Quick Link entitled, Referendum Information, on our district website at www.tomah.education. Thank you.
If you have any questions or comments about the information and opinions expressed in this edition of The School Bell, please contact Cindy Zahrte, District Administrator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 374-7002.