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Caledonia School District: What Happened?

Is the Caledonia School District idea dead? The history, where it stands, and where the issue goes from here.

So whatever happened to the idea of a Caledonia School District?  I served as the President of the Caledonia School District Steering Committee from May 2008 through September of 2009.  I will offer you the history and the challenges of creating a new school district as well as accurate information in response to many viewers of the Patch interest.

THE HISTORY

In December of 2007, approaching the end of my term on the RUSD School Board, I met with former Village of Caledonia Village President Jonathan Delagrave.  At his request, we talked about the possibility of Caledonia leaving RUSD and forming its own school district.  After reviewing the statutes that pertain to separating a school district from a unified school district, we both concluded that it was possible but concluded it would be an uphill battle.  At that time, I decided to not run for a second term, and Jonathan, for career reasons, did not seek a second term as Village President.

Ron Coutts was elected to Village President and I raised the question of whether the Board was willing to evaluate the feasibility of a Caledonia school district.  The reception from the new President was receptive.  Meanwhile, Kathy Burton, now former Village Trustee started a petition drive to garner support for the village to continue to pursue the idea.  She collected 500 signatures in a matter of a couple weeks and presented them to the Village Board.  Thanks to her efforts, the board was persuaded to conduct a feasibility study that was conducted by WISTAX (the only known entity that could gather the information needed) at a cost of $30,000.In August, WISTAX released the results in a public meeting at Olympia Brown, which laid out the process and the expenditures and concluded that it was feasable.Charged by Village President Coutts to form a citizen committee, I gathered interested persons for our first meeting in September of 2008.  After several months of meetings, a petition drive was started to gather the necessary support under the statute.  Through the first effort, more than 4,700 signatures were collected through the efforts of about 10 Caledonia citizens.

After lack of volunteers to continue the effort, the group disbanded in early 2010 with the thought in mind that if the community support, the effort could be started up again.

THE FACTS

The separation of school districts works much like a divorce.  Caledonia contributes 25% of the local taxes supporting RUSD.  Thus, Caledonia would obtain 25% of the assets of the district.  The conclusion of the study showed that the new district would keep all the schools within the boundaries of the village, which include Olympia Brown, Caddy Vista, North Park and 25 acres of land on 5 1/2 Mile Rd. and Novak Rd.  as well as Gifford Elementary. The study also conclude that Caledonia would also be responsible for 25% of the liabilities.  Currently, the liabilities are neutral due to a fund balance of $35 million and very limited outstanding debt.

Under Act 10, the new district would not have to be unionized.At the time of the study, the Caledonia mil rate would be the same as it is today for the first year because of no funding from the state in the first year, and would go progressively go down in each of the next two years.

All of this included the building of a $65 million High School.

THE ROAD BLOCKS

To move forward under current law, 20% of total electorate from the last Gubernatorial election (2010) within the boundaries of the district, must sign a petition by June 1st, of next year.  That number is approximately 10,000.  This then must be presented to the RUSD school board and they must approve the separation.  It then goes to a referendum to the whole district and must be approved by the citizens.  The school board would not even enter a dialogue so approval would have gone no further than the petition.

WHAT'S NEXT

Currently, several citizens are working with legislators to change the process for separation to be more favorable to the district which wants to separate.  Those talks are ongoing at this time.Pending the outcome, the Steering Commission can than reconvene to figure out the next steps.  As Kathy Burton has said from day one; "It's not a matter of IF it will happen, but WHEN."

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dnaiel J. Phillips April 04, 2013 at 07:14 PM
Ed, Still on the campaign traill. LOL. That was funny!
KEEP ON KEEPING ON April 04, 2013 at 07:25 PM
Before I curse here, WTH are you talking about?? What Brownfield??
Edward Willing April 04, 2013 at 07:30 PM
I haven't stopped movin since the horror of Obama being elected in 2008. I'm dog-tired, but addicted now, to getting involved locally! Sigh..... So yeah, I'll always be on a campaign trail of some kind. :)
Dnaiel J. Phillips April 04, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Never quit, never surrender!
Dnaiel J. Phillips April 04, 2013 at 07:36 PM
KOKO, The old Young Radiator currently Calstar is a toxic pit. For many years Young Radiator (as did other businesses) dumped their waste out the back door. I wouldnt worry though as long as you don't disturb the soil alls well.
Edward Willing April 04, 2013 at 07:41 PM
I have an idea.... Lets build a Walmart there and sell "fresh" produce to the public! :) I'm being sarcastic, FYI.
Dnaiel J. Phillips April 04, 2013 at 07:42 PM
Ed, Just to clarify, the lol was for your brownfield comment.
Dnaiel J. Phillips April 04, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Oh man, Mr. Willing just said the "W" word. The comments are about to heat up here on the Patch!
Suzanne Gelinskey April 04, 2013 at 07:47 PM
The article mentions that Caledonia would keep some elementary schools, and build a high school. Nothing was written about middle schools. Would one have to be built?
KEEP ON KEEPING ON April 04, 2013 at 07:47 PM
So are you saying to me that any development on the 2 adjacent lots may possibly disturb toxic materials sitting on and below the ground? Should I worry that it turns into a lake back there every time it rains? Should I worry current work on 4 mile and the huge drainage basin put in may have disturbed something? Maybe you have been around longer than I have to know this...anything ever done/checked?
Dnaiel J. Phillips April 04, 2013 at 07:53 PM
KOKO, There is light contamination on the track side of Calstar, nothing substaintial enough to be worried about. I was egging you on with my comment. Sorry for making you worried about it. The site is not a brown field, I know where you stand on Wally World and tried to get a spark out of you. So no cursing.
KEEP ON KEEPING ON April 04, 2013 at 08:02 PM
Sorry...it's a sensitive button with me. I have a son with a disability and environmental issues/causes I may have been exposed to hold a dark spot in my heart. Let's build the High School, give Wally World a fresh food stand in the parking lot, Michelle Obama will be thrilled! WIN FOR ALL!!!
Dnaiel J. Phillips April 04, 2013 at 08:13 PM
I'm ok with that as long as Moochelle stays away from Caledonia!
JW April 04, 2013 at 08:18 PM
Agreed... great article... very it provided good insight and information to know.
Edward Willing April 04, 2013 at 09:07 PM
Suzanne, from what I've learned, Caddy Vista could serve as a middle school. All 4 would be evaluated once the sp,it is starting, by looming at who registers, transfers, etc. We have four to choose from, and would likely build a fifth, for HS.
Edward Willing April 04, 2013 at 09:12 PM
Finally, we all find something to relate on as Conservatives. ;)
Denise Lockwood April 04, 2013 at 09:16 PM
I have to say this has been an interesting discussion... we'll be following up on this topic.
Suzanne Gelinskey April 04, 2013 at 09:25 PM
Thanks. I wasn't familiar with Caddy Vista, and had to look it up. Overall I think having a separate school system in Caledonia sounds very good. Any downside to it?
Dnaiel J. Phillips April 04, 2013 at 09:27 PM
On the schools or Moochelle?
Edward Willing April 04, 2013 at 09:53 PM
Yeah, Racine won't be happy. :)
Brian Dey April 05, 2013 at 12:19 PM
Mr. Phillips- The study done in 2008 showed that the first year would see about $100 per $100,000, and the lower in the second yead and steady at about $67.00 in the third year. The reason for the spike in the first year is that there is no mechanism in the statutes to estimate seat counts, so because all state funding is bases on a friday seat count in October of the year precethe funding, Caledonia would receive no state funding in the first year. That is one of the topics that will be asked of the legislature. Also, conditions are favorable for a new district. Construction costs are at 20 year lows, Act 10 will allow for the start up to not being unionized, and the legislature and Governor are highly motivated to improve education.
Brian Dey April 05, 2013 at 12:25 PM
KOKO- As things proceed, that question would have to be asked of the GAB but it is my understanding that the Nov. 2010 election would apply. As for a change of heart for the RUSD board, I don't think so. Because we account for 25% of their local revenue and only about half our kids use RUSD, they really get a bang for the buck from us. Now my belief is that it could benefit the remaining RUSD because they could receive more federal funding, would have fewer buildings to operate, and would require less staff. That is why we wanted to have the board in on the preliminary discussions. If they would do their own study, it could have a real positive impact for RUSD and the City of Racine.
Brian Dey April 05, 2013 at 12:27 PM
WI Wishes- Not sure if it would benefit Caledonia, but as the statute reads now, it would probably kill both because you are talking about 50$ of RUSD local reveues. I'm not sure the public or board could be convinced that would benefit the rest of the district.
Brian Dey April 05, 2013 at 12:31 PM
I don't think it would be wise to combine the villages for a school district. The Steering Committee looked into it and it would be creating what could be another unified. The main reason Caledonia started this was to have its own identity. Caledonia alone would have the 15th largest district in the state. Also, local control has been very successful for neighboring communities such as Raymond, union Grove, Oak Creek, Franklin, South Milwaukee, Cudahy...etc... All fare better than Unified.
Brian Dey April 05, 2013 at 12:35 PM
Suzanne- Gifford Elementary was designed to be a middle school, so the recommendation of the Committee was that if we needed a middle school, that would likely be the school. However, the Committee also looked at having all K-8 schools. The possibilities are endless as we would be starting from the ground up.
a quiet conservative April 05, 2013 at 05:54 PM
Great Topic, and I don't have anything to add except for support!!!
Christine Csepella April 05, 2013 at 09:37 PM
I am in that position right now. I'm living in Caledonia and paying private school tuition for my daughter. I will not send her to RUSD and feel they should be ashamed of the bad school reviews they have. My son will be starting school in a couple years and right now we're looking at moving farther west to avoid paying high private school tuitions, while still being taxed for a district we don't use. I know many people in my position. RUSD is driving families out of Caledonia!! I would love to volunteer and help move things along. This would greatly impact my decision to move.
Frances Martin April 06, 2013 at 04:02 PM
Hey conservatives--I'm as liberal as they come, and I've been outspoken about supporting a separate school district for Caledonia for years,because I think neighborhood schools work better for kids. I do think we need to be sure this is not a "white flight" issue,tho. If you want broad support, a better approach is not to start out by insulting folks with political views like mine. I think there are numerous issues in Caledonia that are not party or political view related, so let's drop the divisive talk show approach and work together.
Brian Dey April 08, 2013 at 11:31 AM
Fran Martin- I couldn't agree more. This will affect the total population of Caledonia and from the beginning, the steering committee has not made this about politics. As for the "white flight" issue, I know the committee took this very seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth. This has been, and will always be about giving our community it's own identity, which is exactly what our new President, Bob Bradley, is calling for. There is no exclusion in our vision or our village. While some try to make it about race exclusion, the steering committee was quick to point out that the new district ould be part of the program that reserves seats for those that choose to levae their home district, and come to ours. Our village is already diversifying in its racial make-up and the trend continues and is accelerating. The effort is to provide a better education for our community. There are only several unified districts in Wisconsin and it is our belief that smaller districts can be more attentive to the needs of an individual community. There is a vast difference between the City of Racine, and the Village of Caledonia. And it has been proven through mounds of data that smaller districts perform at a much higher level than large districts.
Denise Lockwood April 08, 2013 at 01:49 PM
You guys have impressed me today. Let me know what your next step is and either Heather or I will do a story on it.

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