It takes a community: Rhinelander students, staff tout approach to education
ABOVE: Members of the Rhinelander High School building trades class are photographed with Gov. Tony Evers, center, and at far right, State Superintendent Jill Underly and instructor Wil Losch, second from right. Star Journal photo.
By Eileen Persike, editor
RHINELANDER – When the school year started earlier this month, Gov. Tony Evers and State Superintendent Jill Underly traveled the state to welcome students back to the classroom. Rhinelander High School was one of the stops on their itinerary.
“It’s the beginning of the school year and we’re always excited to talk about that and our ability as a state to move our state forward, especially with our public schools doing the great work they’re doing,” Gov. Evers said.
RHS students, staff and administration took the opportunity to talk to the two state leaders about the district’s community approach to preparing students for the future.
Student officers from the FBLA and DECA business clubs, and members of the building trades class spoke with the governor about their involvement in activities and their futures. Two students working through Inspire Rhinelander told of their job shadowing experiences, one at Health in Motion physical therapy and the other at Ponsse forestry products. Student Services staff talked about the value of matching kids with mentors and other ways to connect the schools and the community.
“It was a great pleasure and an honor to host Gov. Evers and State Superintendent Underly,” said School District of Rhinelander Superintendent Eric Burke. “They were interested in learning about our plan for preparing students for their future careers through our Inspire Rhinelander and Pathways program. They recognize that we are doing something special up here with our community wide approach to best supporting all students.”
Gov. Evers said afterward he likes what the district is doing.
“[They are] trying to make the district more integrated with the community in a whole bunch of ways, whether it’s social-emotional learning or career preparation, you name it,” Gov. Evers said. “Great to hear what they’re doing and moving forward to involve the whole community.”
At the end of August Evers announced he was disbursing and additional $15 million from federal American Rescue Plan funds to schools to provide mental health services in schools across the state, and $75 million that districts can use for staffing needs and other classroom support.
During his tour of schools, Evers said he and Underly have developed “key priorities” for kids and schools for the next biennium budget, should he be reelected in the fall. Those priorities would put $2 billion of the projected $5 billion state budget surplus into education, to “get us back to where we should be.”
In Rhinelander, Evers acknowledged $2 billion is a lot money, and said it is something that can consistently be done every year.
“For example, out of that $2 billion, we have proposed a $250 million categorical aid for mental health issues, instead of here’s a pot, here’s a pot, here’s a pot, we’re saying every year there will be money available for behavioral and mental health issues,” Gov. Evers said. “What we’re trying to do is take a first step towards getting consistent funding for our schools.”
Some of the areas Evers and Underly plan to use that money is to improve reading and literacy outcomes, make expanded access to mental health services and school nutrition permanent, invest in financial literacy and out-of-school programming, help address staff shortages to keep class sizes small and increase per-pupil and special education aids.