Why Support MTSD?

School Boards are Designed to be Governing Boards, not Management Boards

There was no abdication of voting responsibilities and there is nothing legally questionable about how the MTSD Board of Education operates. The Board establishes high level policy, and the District is responsible for figuring out how to implement it.

School board governance is seen as a unique system or form of ownership, rather than a way of management. The school board is more connected with the needs of their constituents, the general public. Meaning, the school board does not exist to run the local public school system, but to govern the individuals that do. This video does a good job of simplifying the concept.

The school board provides limits or margins of acceptability, within which the superintendent and staff are permitted autonomy. This provides the opportunity for imagination and innovation. Meaning, the school board tells the superintendent how not to operate rather than how to operate.

There is nothing legally questionable about how the MTSD Board of Education (BOE) operates. They operate under the structure recommended for the greatest student achievement. This is balanced governance, not micromanagement of the day-to-day operations of each school. The BOE establishes policies and regulations by which our schools are governed. This is typical of school boards and has not changed. The BOE consistently advocates for the students in our districts through the policies that they develop and enforce. There is transparency in these policies as they are all available on the MTSD website.

The MTSD Board of Education has also operationalized the National School Boards Association’s Key Work of School Boards. Research shows that when school board members who have served for at least 5 years indicate greater adherence to the Key Work, student achievement increases. The same researchers also found that school boards can positively impact student achievement by governing in partnership with their superintendent.

According to the Center for Public Education/National Association of School Boards, effective school boards are accountability driven, spending less time on operational issues and more time focused on policies to improve student achievement.

Apples to Apples Comparison

We believe that all data needs context. We endeavor to provide that context, in order to inform the Mequon Thiensville community. We all need to acknowledge that the last 1.5 years has been unprecedented given the pandemic. Comparing 2016 scores and data to those of the 2019-20 school year or the 2020-21 school year is misleading at best.

As educational leaders, our MTSD administration understands that academic achievement data should be looked at longitudinally, with a focus on trends, not as snapshots in time. The variability in data from year to year allows school district leaders to assess strategic initiatives and evaluate continuous improvement efforts.

We are very proud of the academic successes of our students and their accomplishments.

Early Childhood Reading is Around 90%

Since the 2016-2017 school year, the district has maintained the percentage of students in Grades K-2 reading at grade level at and around 90%.

Children who read proficiently by third grade are more likely to experience success through and beyond high school. Due to the school closure at the end of the 2019-20 school year, the student outcome data for the 2019-2020 school year is limited to the percentage of students reading at grade level at the time of the winter assessment (January) and not that which would have been measured at the end of the school year.

2015-2016 2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020
95% 91% 89% 90% 84%*

* Due to the school closure at the end of the 2019-20 school year, this data point is reflective of the percentage of students reading at grade level at the time of the winter assessment (January).

The school district has adopted the following to support early reading outcomes:

  • Providing summer academic programming focused specifically on eliminating student reading deficits.
  • Implementation of a new reading readiness assessment to identify specific student strengths and areas for growth.
  • Reinstituting pre-pandemic bell schedules to ensure teacher collaboration time within the work day focused on proactive data review and planning to differentiate instruction and inform individualized student support.
  • Transitioning to standards-based teaching and learning that supports increased flexibility to alter scope and sequence based on student cohort outcomes.
  • Professional coaching by literacy specialists to support differentiated literacy instruction.
  • Integrating a reading focus in conjunction with social studies instruction.

Homestead High School Ranks High on the ACT

For 2019, Homestead ranked 7th in the state for composite ACT scores; HHS was 3rd overall amongst public high schools.

*Source: https://www.piqosity.com/2020/12/09/top-wisconsin-high-schools-by-act-scores/

Wisconsin ACT Scores 2019

Rank School
1 Waukesha Engineering Preparatory Academy
2 Kohler High
3 Tesla Engineering Charter School
4 Lakeview Technology Academy
5 Whitefish Bay High
6 Kettle Moraine Global School for Global Leadership and Innovation
7 Homestead High
8 Middleton High
9 Cedarburg High
10 Central High - Elmbrook

In addition, Homestead students composite ACT scores have historically ranked very high amongst our area high schools.

*Source: https://wisedash.dpi.wi.gov/Dashboard/dashboard/19819

District 2019-20 2018-19 2017-18 2016-17 2015-16 Average
Whitefish Bay 25.4 24.6 24.8 24.6 25.7 25.0
Cedarburg 24.0 23.9 23.9 25.2 24.8 24.4
Mequon-Thiensville 23.7 24.1 23.8 23.8 24.3 23.9
Elmbrook 23.3 23.8 24.0 24.2 24.0 23.9
Arrowhead 23.9 23.2 23.1 23.5 23.7 23.5
Nicolet 22.9 22.1 22.5 23.7 22.3 22.7
Hamilton 22.9 22.4 22.5 22.4 22.8 22.6
Grafton 22.6 22.8 21.8 22.4 22.1 22.3
Menomonee Falls 22.2 21.9 22.1 22.2 22.4 22.2
Germantown 21.7 21.9 22.5 22.2 22.4 22.1
Franklin 21.9 21.0 21.8 21.5 21.8 21.6

Considerations:

  • Incomplete data for 2020
  • No scores yet available for 2021
  • Relative population across these districts varies

The District's Most Recent School Report Cards Score is the 2nd Highest Among K-12 Public School Districts in the State

The Mequon-Thiensville School District Significantly Exceeds Expectations on the 2018-19 School Report Cards issued in November 2019 by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. MTSD has significantly exceeded expectations all six years the District Report Cards have been produced.

In addition, all six schools in the Mequon-Thiensville School District exceed or significantly exceed expectations based on 2018-19 data. Highlights of MTSD School Report Cards include the following:

  • Donges Bay Elementary School earned its highest-ever index score of 93.8
  • Homestead High School earned its highest index score ever of 91.4.
  • Donges Bay Elementary School, Lake Shore Middle School, Steffen Middle School, and Homestead High School all earned their highest Closing Gaps index score.
  • Homestead High School earned a perfect index score for Graduation Rate Gaps.

The District's Tax Levy and Mill Rate is One of the Lowest in the Area

The MTSD's mill rate falls well below the state average and is maintained as one of the lowest mill rates compared to area school districts.

From 2016 to 2020: the tax levy in the district has risen from $37,713,405 or $8.22 per student in the 2015-16 school year to $40,480,740 or $7.68 per student in the 2019-20 school year. In the 2020-21 school year, the tax levy registered at $43,125,789 or $7.96 per student. Measuring the increase per student from Spring 2016 to Spring 2020 this is a 6% increase. Worth noting is that the increase in the general rate of inflation from May 2016 to May 2020 was 6.7%.

The MTSD's mill rate (tax payable per $1,000 dollars of the assessed value of a property) decreased from $8.15 in 2016 to $7.68 in 2020. Though residents experienced a 28 cent increase to the mill rate in the most recent school year that can be attributed to the referendum project, the MTSD's mill rate still falls well below the state average and is maintained as one of the lowest mill rates compared to area school districts.

  2015-2016 2016-2017 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020 2020-2021
Tax Levy per pupil $10,491 $10,693 $10,853 $10,712 $11,124 $12,400*
Total Tax Levy $37,713,405 $38,228,889 $38,874,953 $39,034,172 $40,480,740 $43,125,789*
Mill Rate (per $1,000) $8.22 $8.15 $8.07 $7.72 $7.68 $7.96*

*Increase attributed to the MTSD 2020 referendum.

  State Average for K-12 Districts Mequon-Thiensville Cedarburg Grafton Germantown Whitefish Bay Shorewood
Mill Rate $9.22 $7.96 $8.80 $9.69 $9.89 $8.78 $14.13

What do you, the taxpayer, get for this extra 28 cent increase to our mill rate? A lot! The 2020 referendum will add 84,170 square feet to our District buildings. This money will be used to expand and improve our schools. It will give us:

  • Space to serve our students
  • Extra footage to accommodate projected growth at the Elementary level.
  • Safer schools and campuses.

It is FALSE that Referendum funds can be used for anything other than what was initially proposed and voted on.

The District is Fiscally Reponsible

MTSD is one of only 3 public school districts in Wisconsin to hold the top Aaa ranking from Moody’s bond rating agency, denoting continued excellence in fiscal strength and performance.

Moody’s notes the following MTSD strengths to support this exceptionally strong rating:

  • Strong management team with multi-year budget forecasting plans.
  • A commitment to retaining current fund balance levels.
  • Demonstrated ability to outperform budgeted projections
  • Moderate debt and pension burden
  • Strong local tax base

Source: Moody's

The District had Significant Accomplishments Amidst the Pandemic

The MTSD Board, faculty and staff in partnership with MTSD students and families had to manage a lot of challenges this year. Together we navigated these unique times with fortitude and grace.

MTSD’s Social and Emotional staff provide leadership and coaching to grow teachers' capacity in social-emotional welfare and support our school families. We believe that through attending to the social-emotional health of all students, students will grow in all facets of their lives. Coaches support teachers in lesson development, co-teaching of lessons, and providing materials. Additionally, there are three full time school psychologists that are shared between five buildings, with the fourth full time school psychologist at the high school.

Here are a few examples of MTSD’s excellence while meeting the challenges of the last year:

  • Delivered 40 weeks of on-campus instruction for our students. We were one of only half of the school districts in the US to do this.
  • Facilitated a high quality distance learning option for 845 students.
  • Connected 100% of our families to technology resources. Every student was given their own chromebook to make on-campus and virtual learning successful.
  • Implemented new digital technologies to support teaching and learning in our schools and across our community.
  • Provided 490,000 free school meals to families via USDA nationwide waivers, feeding hundreds of our community’s children daily.
  • Steffen Middle School was selected as an AVID National Demonstration School.
  • MTSD Seniors filling out the FAFSA, a leading predictor of whether a student will go on to college, increased 1.3%, while most peer districts decreased, including a statewide decrease of 13% and a national decrease of 8%.

2020-21 Student Achievements

  • Homestead juniors Adam Garsha, Jacob Schmidman and Ethan Wang all scored a perfect 36 on their ACT exam.
  • Homestead senior Malika Daikawa earned a 2021 Student Initiative Scholarship from the Herb Kohl Education Foundation
  • Lake Shore Middle School’s forensic team won the middle school state championship.
  • Homestead senior Ava Meester was selected as a Scholastic Art Award winner.
  • Homestead senior Isabella Kramer was selected as a 2021 Wisconsin Affiliate Winner by the National Center for Women in Information Technology.
  • Homestead’s One Act, “The Edge of Reflection” won the Critic’s Choice, Directing, Outstanding Crew and Outstanding Ensemble awards at the Wisconsin High School Theatre State Festival.
  • Homestead senior Taliah Lansing and junior Ben Usatinsky won individual acting awards at the Wisconsin High School Theatre State Festival.
  • Homestead senior Hannah Kennedy was a runner-up for Journalist of the Year by the Journalism Education Association.
  • Homestead’s Dance Team finished 4th at the Wisconsin Association of Cheer/Pom Coaches, Inc. State Meet.
  • Homestead’s Boys Golf Team finished 2nd in the WIAA Division I State Tournament.
  • Four homestead Varsity Athletic Programs were recognized as North Shore Conference Champions: Boys Cross Country, Boys Golf, Boys Track & Field, Girls Track & Field.

The District Supports Social and Emotional Needs

Each MTSD school has Social & Emotional staff members to help teach these skills to students and to support MTSD students through life's challenges.

MTSD’s Social and Emotional staff provide leadership and coaching to grow teachers' capacity in social-emotional welfare and support our school families. We believe that through attending to the social-emotional health of all students, students will grow in all facets of their lives. Coaches support teachers in lesson development, co-teaching of lessons, and providing materials. Additionally, there are three full time school psychologists that are shared between five buildings, with the fourth full time school psychologist at the high school.

A Recall Diverts District Budget from Education

The cost to the City of Mequon for an election such as this is approximately $10-15,000. The School District would pay for cost of this election. A recall requires the reallocation of funds away from the educational experience of our children.

A recall is a mechanism to remove active malfeasance or criminality. It is not a mechanism to address a matter of disagreement. The community does have an instrument – regular elections – to handle debate and differences of opinion. Elections will occur in the Spring, just as they do every year.