White Lake Cuts 10 School Days
White Lake teacher Kayle Wahleithner and
her 3rd-grade students show their Schultutes - a German "first day
of school cone" filled with candy and other goodies. They are (left)
Joe Holbrook, Ali Leaver, Sara Clark, and A.J. Hipke, all of White Lake.
By Anne Egan-Waukau
Facing severe budget restraints as the result of revenue
controls and the states inequitable system of school finance, the
White Lake School District has taken the dramatic step of slicing 10 days
out of its school calendar.
The total number of instructional minutes is not reduced
under the new arrangement, which adds 21 minutes to each school day to
make up the difference. The change saves $30,000 a year in transportation
and meal costs, said Superintendent Peter Kososki. Because the district
is large geographically, transportation is one of its biggest costs.
The change in the calendar was negotiated between the
district and the White Lake Education Association. It also required a
waiver from the states 180-day requirement.
The 10 days are spread out throughout the year, with
some school weeks reduced to four days. Teachers also agreed to work five
additional in-service days.
This extraordinary step by the district and the White
Lake Education Association was taken as a last resort to save the district
from possible extinction and consolidation with another district. However,
the districts future is still uncertain under revenue controls,
according to district officials, teachers and support staff.
There are times when school boards, administrators
and teachers agree to disagree, Kososki said. But I also think
there are those times when everyone has to work together and work on the
Id be the first to compliment the teachers
on the sacrifices they are making, he said. The move to longer
days and shorter weeks helps us save money in transportation, lunch and
breakfast programs, and it enabled us to save three part-time teaching
positions, and that includes saving our SAGE (class-size reduction) program.
Without these concessions, the district would have to
combine with another school district in order to save money, and that
would mean a longer bus ride up to two hours for many of
the students, Kososki said. The nearest district is Antigo, which is 21
Id feel terrible if it happened, said
school secretary Georgia Heistad, who has worked at the school for 14
years. Its a long time and in the winter its dangerous.
Its so much time out of their day. Even now, some of the students
are out waiting for their buses before its even light out.
Still, the school could close if the damage caused by
revenue controls continues. And then, many residents agree, White Lake
would become a ghost town.
If the school goes, so goes the town, Heistad
said. The whole town is built around the school. Its part
of our heritage as a village.
Revenue controls are squeezing the blood out of
the schools in the North Woods, Northern Tier UniServ-East Director
Carol Nelson said.
Heistad said the staff is doing what it can to save
Teachers go above and beyond the call of duty,
Heistad said. Its all for the students. Somebody gave us an
opportunity to have a nice school and we owe it to these students now.
Former WLEA president Kayle Wahleithner, who has taught
3rd grade in the district for 28 years, feels the states funding
system is unfair to White Lake students. She said the efforts of the community,
teachers and administration will be futile if revenue controls remain
Its like our children are second- class
citizens in this state, she said.
Lucille Petters, 70, who volunteers as an aide in Wahleithners
There really is nothing fair in this world,
Petters said. But its particularly sad when its the
kids who are hurt.
Pat Ratzlaff, who has taught for 17 years in the district,
echoed her sentiments.
It is just a shame that just because we live in
northern Wisconsin, the funding is different, Ratzlaff said. Its
not the students fault that they are in a poor district.
Thank God for generous parents. Thank God for
generous teachers, because thats what keeps this school going,
she said. We want our kids to have the right to the same high-quality
education as everyone else in the state. We are not asking for special
benefits. We are asking for equity.
Posted December 20, 2002