We have been employed by the School District of Rhinelander at the elementary level for 18 years. In 1999, our district became part of the S.A.G.E. program through the Wisconsin Department of Instruction. This acronym stands for Student Achievement Guarantee in Education. This state program partners with districts, helping to provide funds to keep class sizes in grades kindergarten through third grade at 18 students per one teacher in an effort to increase achievement levels at an early age. It also promotes community involvement, increased academic rigor, more professional development and improved staff evaluation procedures.
The School District of Rhinelander’s commitment to SAGE is reviewed every five years and considered for renewal. Our school board has a strong history of upholding the notion that small class sizes provide the building blocks of essential academic skills for the school years ahead. For the last 14 years, our school board has stood fast to protect the SAGE program from budget cuts that have taken a toll on our district.
As elementary teachers who have worked in classrooms prior to SAGE being implemented, we feel cutting the program would be a disservice to all the efforts and forward progress our district and dedicated staff have made as a result of SAGE.
The first thing that came to our minds when the SAGE program was implemented into our schools was “a door opened.” We have the ability to really get to know each of our students’ strengths and areas of need, not just academically, but socially and emotionally as well. We work with all staff at Pelican Elementary to ensure our students are productive, encouraged and supported.
We set up flexible groups of students and focus on their needs in an adequate and safe space. With the smaller class sizes, there is sufficient access to computers within each classroom. We pride ourselves on helping our students toward the progress needed as determined by federal/state mandates.
If the referendum fails, this would mean up to twice the number of students in our classrooms, definitely limiting learning space and resources, not to mention direct and focused teacher attention given to our community’s greatest resource…our children.
Your “yes” vote on Feb. 19 would help ensure Rhinelander’s elementary children are preparing for the 21st century skills they need, not only to be successful students, but valuable citizens of their community as well.
Jodi Belter and Amy Rogers, Rhinelander