skip to main navigation skip to demographic navigationskip to welcome messageskip to quicklinksskip to features
  • Continue Your Membership
  • WEAC Member Benefits

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 state’s 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 state’s 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 district’s 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 big issues.

“I’d 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 miles away.

“I’d feel terrible if it happened,” said school secretary Georgia Heistad, who has worked at the school for 14 years. “It’s a long time and in the winter it’s dangerous. It’s so much time out of their day. Even now, some of the students are out waiting for their buses before it’s 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. It’s 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 the school.

“Teachers go above and beyond the call of duty,” Heistad said. “It’s 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 state’s 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 in place.

“It’s like our children are second- class citizens in this state,” she said.

Lucille Petters, 70, who volunteers as an aide in Wahleithner’s classroom, agreed.

“There really is nothing fair in this world,” Petters said. “But it’s particularly sad when it’s 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. “It’s not the students’ fault that they are in a poor district.

“Thank God for generous parents. Thank God for generous teachers, because that’s 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

Education News