State grants could plug Janesville School District budget hole

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Saturday, April 9, 2011
— State grants to help plan three new charter schools could save the district $45,000 to $150,000 in the coming year, Superintendent Karen Schulte said Friday.

As previously reported, the administration is asking the school board to approve the applications for three state planning grants—one each for Jackson, Madison and Van Buren elementary schools.

The savings might not seem like much in an operating budget of more than $100 million, but officials are looking for any help they can get to avoid losing teachers and other staff to budget cuts.

Schulte estimates that every $53,000 saved could cover the salary and benefits of one teacher.

Approval of the grant applications is on the school board’s consent agenda Tuesday, but school board members could continue discussing the issue if one of them asks to do so.

Charter-school planning would ensue in September and continue throughout the school year. The planning would look at the best way to convert the schools to charter schools by borrowing the best practices of schools around the country.

The idea would be to bring the schools into the 21st century in the areas of technology and teaching methods while using existing buildings and staff.

The planning grants would bring $250,000 to each school.

Grant money used for training staff would offset money the schools otherwise would have spent on professional development, the school board was told at its meeting Wednesday, so that money would be freed up for use elsewhere in the budget.

Similarly, buying computer technology with grant money would allow the district to shift its technology spending to other district schools.

Each of the grant applications calls for buying 20 notebook computers, 36 iPad 2s, four SMART Boards and one Polycom video-conferencing system, with Internet bandwidth and wireless infrastructure.

Neighborhood children would attend the schools, and others who ask to attend them would be selected on a lottery basis if room were available, the principals said.

If the school board agrees, the charters would start up in September 2012. The district could apply for “implementation grants” of $250,000 for each school in each of their first two years.

The principals said there should not be a need for additional funding in the following years.

On the agenda

The Janesville School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St. Agenda items include:

--Continued discussion and possible action on 2011-12 budget cuts.

--A discussion of the textbook-adoption process, as the board considers cutting the textbooks budget for the second year in a row.

--Discussion and possible approval of the makeup of a strategic planning committee.

--Acceptance of the retirement of Food Service Manager Deb Goad, after 22 years with the district.

School board meetings are carried live on Janesville cable channels 96 and 993, but now they also can be viewed on the Internet. A link to the streaming video can be found atop the district’s home page, www.janesville.k12.wi.us.

Last updated: 5:01 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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