Janesville school, business leaders focus on increasing enrollment at meeting

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Saturday, May 21, 2011
— Local business leaders talked to Janesville public school officials Friday about enrollments and how to bolster them.

Enrollments have declined in recent years, adding to the district’s budget woes.

Forward Janesville has been meeting with Janesville School District officials to find ways the business community might be able to help the district through its budget difficulties.

Forward Janesville and the district on Friday agreed to form a task force to consider ways the district could promote its programs and increase enrollments, said Forward Janesville President John Beckord.

Enrollments are a factor in determining school funding. Districts with growing enrollments fare better than those in decline.

Beckord said it appears that marketing the district “is not something they (district officials) have taken time to explore very much.”

Beckord said Forward Janesville will offer the skills of its members who are experienced in branding and marketing to see if there are ways the district could promote a variety of programs that nearby districts or private schools don’t have.

The Janesville Virtual Academy, which offers courses online, for example, could market local courses to home schoolers, private-school students or students from other districts. Even if those students enroll for just a couple courses, that could help with the district’s enrollments.

Dave Parr, the teachers union president and teacher at the Janesville Virtual Academy, said drawing students from other school districts, boosting 4-year-old kindergarten numbers or simply drawing more families to Janesville all are ways to boost enrollment.

One thing the district could promote is its AP physics courses, which are not readily available in other communities, Parr said. Janesville has two AP physics teachers.

The two sides did not discuss the teachers contract, but that is a topic that is likely to come up another time, Beckord said.

The teachers union has declined to reopen its contract in response to a school board proposal to have teachers begin contributing to their pensions. Union leaders have said they believe the entire contract could be voided under the terms of the state budget repair bill if they do so. Some have questioned whether that’s true.

Beckord said previously that Forward Janesville was interested in exploring that issue with the union and school officials, but he said the issue did not come up Friday.

Parr said the union’s position has not changed: “The law is the law, and it’s unclear what’s going to happen with the law, so its going to sit there until there’s some clarity,” Parr said.

The issue remains a big topic of conversation in the business community, and it’s not off the table for some future meeting, Beckord said.

“It was a very positive environment, and we exchanged ideas for an hour and half,” Beckord said of Friday’s meeting. “The conclusion at the end among all parties concerned was that this was very worthwhile and worth continuing.”

Parr said he appreciated hearing a lot of good ideas and thanked Forward Janesville for inviting the union to the table.

Last updated: 5:10 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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