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.


OHS musical honored at Tommy Awards

Verona, Oregon and Stoughton productions and individuals were recipients of the Overture Center for the Arts’ fifth annual Tom Wopat Awards for Excellence in Musical Theater.

Overall, 63 schools, one community theater and dozens of performers were honored for their musical productions during the 2013-14 academic year. The recipients were honored at a ceremony in Overture Hall on Sunday, June 8.

The Drowsy Chaperone Oregon High School orchestra received a Tommy Award for Outstanding Orchestra.

Individuals also recognized were Oregon High School students Helen Feest, Wesley Korpela (Man in Chair) and Mackenzie Tubridy (Adolfo) for the Drowsy Chaperone as well as Stoughton High School student Tanner Novotny (Man in Chair) for his performance in Drowsy Chaperone in Stoughton.

New this year, participants from each school nominated a single student who embodied the values of the Tommy Awards to receive a Spirit Award.


Push for contract pleases both sides

“Make hay when the sun’s shining,” goes the old farmers’ adage.

And with Oregon School District (OSD) and Oregon Education Association (OEA) officials fresh off successful negotiations to wrap up the recently completed school year, both sides seem poised to take advantage of the recent spate of sunny weather, so to speak.

After wrapping up the 2013-14 collective bargaining agreement OEA negotiations last month – a process that started in October – Oregon School Board President Dan Krause said he wanted to keep the momentum going and try to get the 2014-15 contract settled and signed as soon as possible. The school year started July 1 and runs through June 30, 2015.

“We’d like to capitalize on that momentum,” he said last month. “We don’t want to be bargaining all the time, which is what we’ve been doing the last few years. It’s frustrating.”


DPI: Student poverty rate climbs

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the percentage of public school students in the state eligible for subsidized school meals increased slightly during the past school year, continuing a decade-long trend.

In the Oregon School District, however, the percentages rose much higher in the past year.

According to a DPI press release last week, the just-completed 2013-14 school year, 43.3 percent of students in the state were eligible for free and reduced-price school meals – a tenth of a percentage rise from the previous year, and up 13.8 percent from the 2003-04 school year. In Oregon, that percentage rose from 16.9 to 20.1 percent of students eligible for free and reduced school meals from the 2012-13 school year to the 2013-14 school year.


Building their future: Trade skill students construct a house each year

Photo submitted. 2013-14 building trade class members include Austin Adams, Christian Allen, Alex Duerk, Abert Everson, Seb Goplin, Cole Hefty, Lucas Knipfer, Ryan Lynch, Jack Maerz, Abrabham Maurice, Joey Milz, Keean Paltz, Christian Poe, Jon Powers, Will Reinicke, Jesse Rogers, Mitch Spierings and Chad Walsh. The house sale closed last month.

With demand for skilled trade workers soaring, some Oregon High School students are setting themselves up for success after graduation.

OHS technology and engineering teacher Christopher Prahl’s year-long building trades course produces one new house a year (this year’s house recently had an open house), and he said it’s a great way to get students involved in the construction trades, either directly or indirectly. He said about half of his 18 students this year have already committed to various construction apprenticeships or construction management degrees.

“It’s a great learning experience,” Prahl said.

This year, the students purchased a lot in town for $75,000 and by the end of the school year, completed a more than 3,100-square-foot house. The house was listed at $369,900, and sold within 10 days of coming on the market in March.


District receives state STEM grant

Thanks to a $19,222 state grant, the Oregon School District’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) will take another step forward for the 2014-15 school year.

According to a press release last week from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the district was one of 15 chosen to receive the one-time funding, which will help enhance STEM offerings for students in grades K-5, said state superintendent Tony Evers.

“STEM education is vital to our students and the future,” he said. “These courses take an innovative approach to engage, motivate and inspire students to spark their interest in careers in science technology, engineering and mathematics. These fields hold so much potential as the source of innovation and entrepreneurship that drive economic development and the knowledge-based economy.”


Circle Complete: Oregon native Capelle retires from district

Photo by Scott De Laruelle. Sue Capelle, who has been with the Oregon School District for 15 years, along with many other teachers, retires from the district this year.

Sue Capelle always knew she wanted to teach. She just never thought she’d be able to follow her dreams in the community where she grew up.

After 15 years of serving the Oregon School District as a teacher of the hearing-impaired, Capelle is one of seven staff members retiring this year, all with well over a decade of service to the district.

They include three administrative staffers with more than 20 years’ service in the district each, the district’s director of instruction and Beth Duvick, a fifth-grade teacher at Rome Corners Intermediate.

When Capelle graduated from Oregon High School in 1971, the market was “flooded” with teachers.

“Being a practical person, I knew I would need to have skills that were sale-able,” she said.