Making the Connection

When it comes to technology, all the fancy computers and gadgets are useless without access.

That’s why Stoughton Area School District officials are excited about recent upgrades to schools that have increased students’ abilities to work online. Since last school year, the district added 100 desktop computers, 100 laptop computers and 230 Chromebooks. The district also improved 60 access points for wireless devices at the high school, moving the old systems to the elementary and middle schools.

SASD director of information systems Paul Vande Hei, who gave Stoughton School Board members a technology update at their Dec. 1 meeting, said the goal of the district is to increase access for students and teachers by adding more devices and ways to connect to technology.


District, utility disagree on lead source

Nearly three months after drinking fountains at River Bluff Middle School were turned off as a result of elevated lead levels in the water, officials from the school district and Stoughton Utilities can’t agree on the source of the problem.

Drinking water at the school was shut off Sept. 30, after district officials received test results showing elevated levels of lead in the school’s water. District director of business services Erica Pickett said at Monday night’s school board meeting that after flushing the water system, a seventh round of tests showed the only area with elevated levels is where water enters the building.

And that’s where things get a bit complicated.


Innovation in motion at Fox Prairie

Photo submitted by Derek Spellman. Fox Prairie student Kayla Schultz raises her hand to answer a question during math class. The stand-up desk is part of an Innovation Grant project with Fox Prairie fourth- and fifth-graders that explores how motion can improve student learning.

In this classroom, being sent away from your desk is not necessarily a punishment.

“It’s cool,” says Fox Prairie fifth-grader Kayla Schultz as she takes her turn at the classroom’s standing desk.

It’s part of a Stoughton Area School District (SASD) Innovation Grant in action. Last year, Fox Prairie Elementary School teachers Cassie Perkins, Mary Scott, Nancy Nortwen, Tara Hutchins, Molly Grotenhuis and Trish Rorvig were awarded a grant to pilot a program that looks at the link between student movement and academic performance. That means students in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms at Fox have desks they can stand at, exercise balls to sit on, lap pads to apply and fidgets to squeeze while learning in class.


Bracing for an emergency

Photo submitted by Derek Spellman. Stoughton High School students Taylour Halverson, left, and LaShay Edwards practice setting splints during an emergency medical responder class. The course is offered at the high school but taught by Madison College through a partnership.

Stoughton High School senior Taylour Halverson wants to become an emergency room nurse partly because you never know what could come through the door of an ER.

She is already learning some of the skills she might need in a new emergency medical responder course offered at SHS with Madison College. The class is a pilot program that allows students to receive training in multiple aspects of emergency medical care required at the scene of an accident or in sudden illness.

“(SASD school to career coordinator Cindy Vaughn) was looking for additional programs for kids to have access to and talked to some people at Madison College,” said SHS teacher Stephen Stokes. “They could not do an EMT class because you have to be 18 so they came up with this.  This program is offered as adult education/non-credit at MATC, but we are doing it dual-credit here (kids get SHS and MATC credit).”


Fab Lab open house photos

Stoughton Area School District students had a chance to visit the high school's Fab Lab  Tuesday, Nov. 18, to see what the facility offers.


Stopping the ‘summer slide’

For an elementary school student, there’s nothing quite like the freedom and unadulterated joy that comes from the three-month-long summer break. No school every day, no job, just playing, having fun and enjoying being a kid.

Unfortunately, the many weeks away from school can often have negative effects on students’ learning skills – the dreaded, so-called “summer slide” – where kids start the school year further behind on skills than they left earlier that spring. With some children, the change can put them back significantly in the new school year, leaving them behind their classmates, causing frustration, poor grades and even forcing some to re-take a grade. 


School board appoints Dirks to vacant seat

Scott Dirks is back on the Stoughton Area School District Board of Education after board members selected him from among three candidates who they interviewed before their Monday night meeting. 

A member of the board from 2011-13, he will take over the term of Pat Volk, who resigned his seat last month, citing growing difficulties to make meetings due to work commitments.

Dirks’ term will expire in April, and he told board members he intends to run again, which was a key part of the board’s decision on whom they selected to fill the open seat. 


School board has opening

The Stoughton Area School District Board of Education is down one member after Pat Volk recently resigned due to increasing schedule conflicts with board and committee meetings.

Volk was first elected to the board in 2009 and was re-elected in 2012.

Board members discussed possible questions for candidates at their Monday night meeting, with a plan to interview applicants prior to the next meeting, Monday, Nov. 17. An appointment vote will take place following the interviews, with a new board member to be seated for the regular meeting that starts at 7 p.m. The new member’s term will expire next April. 


Politics color school standards debate

Screenshot from Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website. Wisconsin students in grades 3-8 will take the Smarter Balanced assessment for the first time in spring 2015. The tests were devleoped to align with the Common Core State Standards, which have become a political controversy lately around the United States. This screenshot is one sample question from the test.

As the Nov. 4 gubernatorial election approaches, an under-the-radar issue could very well determine how Wisconsin’s public schoolchildren are taught.

The Common Core State Standards, first adopted in Wisconsin and by nearly every state in 2010 after a consortium including the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers created them, are in the midst of a new political battle. A handful of states have since replaced Common Core or are considering doing so, and earlier this year, Gov. Scott Walker asked state legislators to repeal the standards when they convene in January.

Walker faces a tough re-election challenge from Madison Metropolitan School District school board member Mary Burke, who has criticized proposals by Walker to repeal and replace the standards in various media reports.


School taxes will drop

Thanks to Stoughton voters’ support for the April referendum, the Stoughton Area School District (SASD) is not the lowest-funded public school district in Dane County.

Now, it’s up to the district to show residents that their faith – and funding – will be money well spent.

It was a time to both look back and look ahead at Monday’s school board annual budget meeting, where a room full of voters unanimously approved a $21.5 million tax levy for the 2014-15 school year, up around 1 percent from last year, and mill rate of $11.44 per $1,000 in equalized property value. The amount means the owner of a $200,000 home in Stoughton would pay around $2,288 in school taxes, down around $26 from last year. As equalized rates vary from community to community, so will the exact value of the change.