School board takes a step back, decides to wait for Aug. 25 to vote on referendum

Taking a step back during a special meeting where they could have set in motion a set of referenda to be voted on Nov. 4 , the Oregon School Board decided Tuesday to wait on approving the measures.

Citing a need for more information and input, the board will take up the potential referenda again during its regular meeting on Monday, Aug. 25.

Board members are considering three separate referenda. One would allow the district to issue up to $54.6 million in general obligation bonds for building improvements; another would allow the district to exceed its revenue limit $300,000 on a recurring basis to cover operational expenses from the capital improvements; the last would authorize the district budget to exceed the revenue limit by $3.5 million on a recurring basis for educational staff compensation.


Board narrows down projects for potential referendum

Oregon School Board members will decide in the next few weeks whether or not to hold a multi-million dollar capital projects referendum in November that could exceed $50 million.

In the meantime, with a sizeable amount of debt set to come off the district’s books, members have been weighing how much to ask for, and what projects should take priority. Aug. 25 is the last date for the board to approve a resolution to go to a Nov. 4 referendum.

At a referendum “work session” Monday night in preparation for an upcoming special meeting on Aug. 19, board members continued to whittle down a lengthy list of repairs, upgrades and new projects to include in the referendum. In recent weeks and months, the list has been pared to around $51 million of items that school officials have essentially agreed are among the highest priority.

District technology director Jon Tanner said narrowing down a list of projects to be funded by the referendum wasn’t easy, though.


Following the footsteps

Photo by Scott De Laruelle. New Oregon High School assistant principal Josh Iverson takes some time out to chat during a day-long session on personalized learning on Monday.

Assistant high school principals often get a reputation for being the “heavy,” or the school disciplinarian. But new Oregon High School assistant principal Josh Iverson comes to his job with a different perspective – a background in special education teaching that carries on a family tradition.

The Viroqua native credits his passion for teaching special education to his mother, a long-time special education teacher.

“I had a connection and a desire my whole life to help out, working with individuals who I felt were really special and important to me, and not only the kids my mom worked with, but kids who were in my own school; they always had a special place in my heart,” he said. “When I went to college, I kind of knew I wanted to go into education of some sort, and it just kind of made sense.”


Trading spaces at OSD

Oregon School District superintendent Brian Busler said the seven changes in leadership positions at district schools is the most in “a number of years” and said he’s pleased at the quality of individuals filling the posts.

“They are talented individuals and will do an outstanding job with our students, parents, colleagues and supporting the greater Oregon school community,” he said. “We are fortunate to have such a mission based group of administrators in the Oregon School District.”

Besides Josh Iverson taking over as a new Oregon High School assistant principal, there have been a bevy of changes throughout the district’s other four schools.

Leslie Bergstrom


Ahead of the game: OSD shows rest of the state how it’s done with ‘gamification’

When Oregon School District director of technology Jon Tanner found out he won a grant to host a summer personalized learning workshop on “gamification” of classrooms, he figured it would be a good learning opportunity for district teachers.

The July 24 event ended up drawing nearly 150 educators from all around the state, from as far away as Green Bay and Milwaukee, proof positive that not only is personalized learning catching on, teachers around the state are taking notice of what’s going on in Oregon.


Board mulls options for green building

With the clock ticking on deciding to pursue a school district referendum in November, school board members explored some “green” building possibilities at a special meeting July 23.

Representatives from Bray Architects and Findorff Co. were on hand to talk about what district officials might want included in a potential Nov. 4 referendum – something that board president Dan Krause said will decided on by Aug. 19.

“There are a lot of things to get done before November, and there are always arguments for going forward and arguments against going forward,” he said. “Let’s try to move forward with the goal of doing this is November. Give your best efforts until Aug. 19 and then we’ll decide if this is the right thing to do.”

The Aug. 19 special board meeting is the latest the board can authorize a November referendum.


OSD candidates spent more than $11K in final week of election

At the conclusion of an Oregon School Board campaign that was well-advertised and highly contested, candidates poured in the money during the final days, according to recently released campaign finance reports.

The quarterly report, which was due Monday and covered March 24 through June 30, shows that in the last week leading up to the April 1 election, school board candidates spent $11,277 – an average of $1,879. Three incumbents, who were defeated – president Courtney Odorico, Wayne Mixdorf and Lee Christensen – spent an average of $2,316, while challengers Charles Uphoff, Gwen Maitzen and Barb Feeney spent an average of $1,442. Uphoff previously served on the board from 1993 to 2002, while the other two were political newcomers.


State aid to district rises

The Oregon School District (OSD) will have a bit more state aid to add to its budgeting for the 2014-15 school year. In numbers released earlier this month by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the state projects to increase its general aid by 3.73 percent, up to $19.3 million. In the 2013-14 school year, OSD received $18.6 million in state aid.

OSD finance director Kara Newton said the district had not yet projected for the state aid, and will use the DPI estimate as it moves forward in its budget process. The district will hold its annual meeting in September, she said.

Statewide, 53 percent of districts are expected to receive more aid than in 2013-14, while the other 47 percent can expect a decrease. Total state aid is expected to increase to $4.5 billion for the 2014-15 school year; a 2.1 percent increase compared to 2013-14.

Official state aid numbers will be finalized Oct. 15.


Board aims for better relations, retention

Though the 2013-14 Oregon School District budget has been approved and in place for several weeks, school board members expressed concern Monday night about recent teacher resignations and the need to retain top district staff in the future. 

The discussion centered around improving the employment environment for all teachers, looking into not just the supplementary compensation options that have been discussed in recent months but also finding out what teachers want. Board members said they want to improve the situation for teachers and that they are seeking input.

Board president Dan Krause said there are things “that are not monetary” that teachers may be interested in.”


Referendum talk heats up

More than two years after voters rejected a pair of Oregon School District referendum questions, district officials are continuing to gather information about a potential Nov. 4 referendum that’s looking more and more likely.

Board members announced at Monday’s meeting that they have scheduled a pair of special meetings later this summer to talk about a possible referendum – 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 23 and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 19. After the clear defeat of the last referenda, district officials have made slow, but steady steps in recent months to bring the possibility of a new one to the forefront.