Fifty-Nine Pages of Self-Aggrandizement – One Page of Truth
By Clark Palmer
I received a copy of the Antigo School District’s 2016-2017 tentative budget, on shiny paper, in bound form, a day or two before the official State-mandated “budget hearing” held August 23. Because Antigo is created as a “unified” district, the district’s citizens do NOT vote on passage of the budget—only the 9-member elected School Board does that; so, the “hearing” was a formality, little was “heard”, and acceptance was a forgone conclusion.
This essay does not discuss the budget, which surely needs discussion; this essay does not discuss the labors of Mr. Tim Prunty, the District Finance Director, as the newspaper has already praised him, twice, for the preparation of the budget in “easy-to-understand” pie charts, diagrams, and even a helpful although unnecessary tutorial on how to read your property tax bill this December. This essay speaks about the budget booklet itself, which in turn speaks volumes about the character and attitude of the School District’s entrenched administration toward its true purpose: educating the children of this District (or not). This 60-page document, besides the five pages detailing the $30+million budget, is very heavy on self-praise, full-color photos, and written complaints about stingy State support; it’s light on actual school activities, and contains only one important page on student academic achievement. That would be Page 3, entitled “S.M.A.R.T. Goals 2015-2020”. The so-called “baseline” figures mentioned there are ACTUAL Antigo School District results, the most recent available, which give us a clue as to the abysmal scholastic ranking of our District compared to others in this State.
For reading achievement, the brochure states we are 6.2% BELOW the STATE AVERAGE. In mathematics, we are 18.5% BELOW the STATE AVERAGE. This means, for example, IF 48.5% of the State’s eighth-graders are considered to be “average or proficient” in math, then ONLY 30% of Antigo’s eighth-graders are likewise. Overall, including all subjects and statewide test scores, our District ranks in the bottom 25% in the State, along with Rhinelander, Shawano, Green Bay and, of course, Milwaukee.
Consider, please, that only those few sentences on Page 3 were devoted to the District’s purpose for existence. Yes, there was also an optimistic message from the new District Administrator on Page 1.
Give him all the support you can to advance academic achievement. Elect better School Board members. That single page showing real educational results is surrounded by over fifty pages of irrelevant fluff and is an indication of the credibility gap between District payrollers and voters.
For example, this budget booklet has SIX FULL pages given over exclusively to the “Antigo Pride”(Angry Red Robin) logo—no other supporting text on the pages, nothing—just the logo. It’s no wonder some folks are amused and skeptical of our community, and that about 300 students have out-enrolled to neighboring districts, or go to private schools(or do home-schooling) in search of a better education. It’s also no surprise that many citizens confidently believe that they could do better by forming another district for educating their children. As for the rest of us, for thirty million bucks, we deserve better educators, delivering a better education to our children (and grandchildren). The sooner, the better.
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