Cindy Zahrte

Cindy Zahrte

The Tomah Area School District, along with most schools across the country, will celebrate American Education Week from November 13-17. The theme for this year is Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility.

The Wisconsin Constitution states, in part: “The legislature shall provide by law for the establishment of district schools, which shall be as nearly uniform as practicable; and such schools shall be free and without charge for tuition to all children between the ages of 4 and 20 years.” It is the responsibility of our state government to adequately fund our schools and to ensure that they are as uniform as possible. Uniformity is not required in size or equalized value, but rather, uniformity should exist in the educational programs and opportunities offered to students.

In Wisconsin, we are seeing less uniformity and less equity of educational opportunities due to the need for districts to pass a referendum to sustain or improve their current levels of programs. For districts that can easily pass a referendum, more and better educational opportunities are available − whether it is in the form of new buildings or sports complexes, improved technology, more music or art programming, additional foreign languages − the list could go on and on. For districts that struggle to pass a referendum, cuts in programming or personnel and school buildings in need of repairs are often the result. In addition, the implementation of revenue limits which date back to the 1990s continues to create increased disparity around the state for low-spending school districts like Tomah. Funding a free and appropriate education for every child in our state should not be viewed as a burden, but rather a critical obligation that will ensure continued success of our democracy.

During American Education Week, you are cordially invited and encouraged to visit one of your local schools. While the buildings may still look the same, the instructional practices and the technology inside classrooms are very different. For all community members who no longer have children in school, it is important that the school district communicates with you so you better understand the educational initiatives being implemented in our schools and can appreciate the work being done to prepare our children for the future they face.

Also during this week, please join us in recognizing the important role of our school support personnel − our bus drivers, teacher aides, food service workers and maintenance staff who allow us to meet the needs of the whole child. It is important that students are provided with a safe ride to and from school, that they receive nutritious meals, that they are provided with a learning environment that is clean and healthy and that they are given appropriate support if learning a skill is challenging. All of these services promote increased student achievement. Lastly, please join us in saying thanks to our substitute teachers, who continue to ensure instruction takes place when classroom teachers must be absent. A quality substitute teacher is worth his/her weight in gold! We don’t want our children to miss any instructional time when they are at school, and it is our substitute teachers who ensure that education continues.

Happy American Education Week! Celebrate the great public schools in our community. Acknowledge the importance of our responsibility to ensure that the children of Tomah and its surrounding communities are provided with a quality education. I know I owe a debt of gratitude to past generations of Wisconsin citizens who understood their responsibility to do the same for me!

If you have any questions or comments about the information and opinions expressed in this edition of The School Bell, please contact Cindy Zahrte, district administrator, at cindyz@tomah.k12.wi.us or 374-7002.

Cindy Zahrte is the superintendent of the Tomah Area School District.

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Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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