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All students deserve a “welcoming environment” School District of Menomonie Area District Administrator Joe Zydowsky said in a preview of a message to be sent to students of the district.

The message — focused on building a positive school culture — was shared with the board of education at its meeting on Monday. The clip will soon be viewed by all students from grades 6-12 in the district which will then include a classroom discussion on the message.

The video was part of a report created in response to students sharing concerns of the district’s policies on bullying at the previous board meeting on Oct. 14.

“All of the students in our community deserve a safe space and a welcoming environment in our schools,” Zydowsky said in the message as he invited students to join staff in making the schools the best as it can be.

Ways in which students can report incidents of harassment and bullying was also provided in the video message. These efforts are for all of our students, Zydowsky added.

Zydowsky said principals at the middle and high school spoke individually with each of the students that spoke at the last meeting along with meeting with student groups at the schools to hear concerns and get some ideas of how the district can improve.

“Obviously (addressing concerns of bullying is) something that is extremely important and something we have prioritized, but something that we have to continue to work towards,” Zydowsky said.

The report was also shared with the diversity committee at its meeting last week.

Earlier this year the board approved the addition of several school counselors, which Zydowsky said was a positive step.

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A couple of years ago the board’s diversity committee put together an inventory of ways the district is prioritizing diversity, bullying and social emotional learning. Zydowsky recommended that this be done again and then an action plan can be brought before the board. This could then be part of the district’s work plan for the 2020-21 school year.

“The purpose of that is not to push it off,” Zydowsky said, “but to have a systematic approach and to collaborate and communicate with so many of the people in our classrooms on the frontline that really are going to be the ones that are going to be making the heavy lifting on this.”

Although one instance of bullying is too many, Zydowsky said, he also clarified that a majority of students don’t have issues following school policies on bullying and harassment.

“I don’t want people walking out of here thinking that there’s some sort of epidemic in Menomonie,” Zydowsky said. “I do think we have great people and our staff do a great job of supervision.”

Board adopts 2019-2020 budget, tax levy

The board approved unanimously the 2019-20 budget and tax levy Monday. After official enrollment numbers, state aid was determined and the final budget was completed.

Property valuation of the district was also conducted. The property value of the district increased by more than five percent, while the mill rate dropped, Zydowsky said.

Also, nine students from St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Menomonie qualified for the state’s Private School Choice Program and Zydowsky said more than $64,000 of state aid for the district will go to the private school.

The next board of education meeting is scheduled for Nov. 11 at the district’s administrative services center.

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