School board agrees to 8 new positions

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, July 24, 2013

JANESVILLE—The Janesville School Board likely will revisit a proposal that failed on a 4-4 vote Tuesday night.

Board member Bill Sodemann requested that his proposal to shift $1 million in operational reserves to a fund that sets aside money to pay early-retirement benefits be reconsidered at an upcoming meeting.

Board member David DiStefano was not present at the meeting, and Sodemann suggested the vote might be different with all nine members present.

The fund shift would have the effect of increasing spending in the 2012-13 budget, which in turn would mean more state aid in 2013-14. The increase in aid would mean a decrease in the maximum allowed tax levy.

The administration estimated that if the board taxes to the maximum allowed, the tax increase on a $114,000 Janesville house would be $19 under the current scenario but $4 under Sodemann's plan.

Opponents cited uncertainty about future state funding. If the board is forced to reduce spending in a future year, that would lead to a much bigger tax increase the following year.

Board President Greg Ardrey said Wednesday morning he believes Sodemann's proposal would be on the agenda of a special meeting set for 5:30 p.m. today.

Also Tuesday, the board approved eight new administrative and support positions for the coming school year.

The vote came after lengthy discussion, which ended too late to be included in Wednesday's Gazette.

The board ultimately gave Superintendent Karen Schulte all the positions she had requested. The cost is estimated to be $538,000.

A major argument was that staff members would burn out if they did not get some relief after taking on a greater burden in the wake of position cuts in 2011.

The plan is a first installment in a five-year plan to bolster staffing and services to students. Schulte is proposing 35 new positions in the 2014-15 budget, but that proposal likely will change before the board is asked to act on it a year from now, officials said.

The new positions approved Tuesday are:

--Coordinator of Preschool for Janesville, the 4-year-old kindergarten program.

--Academic learning coach for Craig and Parker high schools

--Principal of Rock River Charter School, who would spend about two days a week as development coordinator for all the charter schools. Schulte said she sees great potential for expanding charter-school enrollments.

--Business office clerk

--Student services specialist

--Special-education program support teacher

--Two youth advocates, who work with minority students and teachers to narrow the achievement gap.

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