Hello and thank you for visiting our web page. The entire school community in Thorp works together to provide an excellent education for every student, and we invite you to join us! Whether you're considering a move to our community or looking for a way to be more involved in our schools, the School District of Thorp offers many opportunities.
I'm proud to serve and lead the school district as Superintendent. As a 20-year veteran educator, who has worked in rural, suburban, and urban settings, I can honestly say that we have something special in Thorp. Our small class sizes, caring and professional staff, strong academic offerings, and great co-curricular sports and recreational programs form the core of our schools. But most importantly, our entire community comes together to support and encourage our students. Please feel free to contact me for more information about our schools and again, thank you for visiting our web page.
My office phone number is 715-669-5401 ext. 2020.
John Humphries, Ed. S
School District of Thorp Superintendent
- December 18, 2018: Reflections on Growth
- February 13, 2018: Wisconsin School Funding Changes Proposed
- October 3, 2017: School Board Appreciation Week
- October 2, 2017: Invitation to Annual Meeting
- September 11, 2017: Notes on Respect, Bullying, and Children
- July 7, 2017: Introductions
- August 28, 2017: Back to School
Dear Parents and Guardians:
I want to share with you a message I wrote for the Thorp Courier a few weeks ago with exciting news about academic growth among our students. You may notice a new motto around school: "Teach Like a Champion Today." It reflects the excellent work our team is doing to use curriculum updates, new technology, and intensive training we have been getting over the past year. My newspaper message ended with a request for the community to thank a school district staff member. Change is never easy, and I am proud every day of the excellent work our whole district is engaged in. Please check it out, and Go Cardinals!
Reflections on Growth by John Humphries, Superintendent, School District of Thorp
We are having a wonderful holiday season in the Thorp School District, with lots of beautiful decorations, special treats, and warm wishes. Our concerts were great for getting into the spirit of the season. One piece that stood out to me was Glory to God in the Highest, from Handel’s Messiah, performed by the High School Choir. Soloist Brooke Boie’s soprano voice gloriously filled our Commons. I have seen this piece performed many times, and it was very special to me to witness this performance in our school. Someone joked after the concert that we could start charging admission as a way to raise funds for the next building projects!
Along with all the excitement that comes from being with hundreds of children, I am thrilled to report on great progress in our academic programs. In keeping with the season, I had a chance to reflect on the last year, and wanted to offer these thoughts and insights.Like Santa, I have a gift to share, but I will keep it under wraps for now. Please read on!
Last November, when the state report cards came out, I wrote about the focus we were putting on teacher training and curriculum improvements. I discussed new teaching methods, plans for training on how to get the most growth in elementary math and reading skills, and some curriculum supplements we were piloting. Plans for staffing and schedule changes were still being developed at that time, and some important changes were made in these areas too. Now it’s time to get an early idea about what’s working.
This year we have more accurate information because of a new progress assessment from the University of Minnesota that can tell us in about 15 minutes whether our students are on track or need help. It really adds to our comfort level when we can gather accurate information quickly.
The first bit of exciting news is all the work we are getting done on Wednesday afternoons. Our teachers have more time than ever to work together. When they have concerns about a student’s growth, they gather, create small learning groups, and give students a boost.
And where does that boost come from? At the elementary level, the boost comes from the new curriculum supplements that we piloted last year. At the middle and high school level, the boost comes from teacher-developed materials that are just starting to be developed. Students all across the district are engaged, learning more, and making great strides.
We also have some new supports for our teachers. In addition to our admin team of experienced school improvement experts, veteran Thorp teacher Jan Stroinski is focused on helping elementary staff use the new curriculum supplements, especially in math. Amy Brunsvold and Rachel Devine, our reading leaders, have helped roll out new phonics materials. And new staff member Nicole Demske helps keep all the data organized, analyzed, and flowing into the right hands at the right times. Their collective goal is to help teachers focus on student growth with training, ideas, and information.
How are our students doing? The early news is very positive. We know it’s going to take time to get where we want to be, but for now, here’s what we can say with confidence. So far this school year in reading, 72% of our students have shown growth at a level equal to or greater than students across the nation. In math, 68% of Thorp students have shown growth at a level equal to or greater than students across the nation. In other words, our students are showing tremendous growth, putting them on track to reach higher levels of achievement. Very few schools have students learning this fast. Please remember that there is a lot of work left to do and these results are coming pretty early in the process. However, they are very exciting and they represent a precious gift in a season for celebrations. At the same time that we recognize our student’s amazing learning, we recognize the gift the Thorp Community has given us--the chance to educate your children with all of these new opportunities and supports.
Let me close by asking you to give one more thing, something that’s free, but incredibly valuable. If you see a Thorp School District staff member in the next few weeks, thank them. None of this change is easy. Whether it’s one of our teachers, an aide, custodial staff member, or even a School Board member, everyone has played an important role in this continuing process. They have been very focused over the last year and it’s starting to pay off. The hard work isn’t over, and just like this season of great promise, our school district holds great promise as well.
I want to start this article by thanking the Thorp community for your support during some trying times for our students and staff. I’ve been truly impressed by the way people here rally around each other, showing their care and concern for our students and local families. Without your support, my teachers and staff would have an even bigger and more challenging job. You truly make a difference. Thank you.
I also want to thank State Representative Kathy Bernier and State Senator Terry Moulton for meeting with me and other local superintendents last week to discuss school funding changes. This past August, if you attended our annual school district meeting, you heard that Thorp is among the lowest-funded school districts in the state and has been for many years. School districts are limited in spending by state law. I can understand that. What doesn’t make any sense to me is that the spending limits are based on the amount that was spent in 1993. The average school district in WI is now allowed to spend over $10,300/student each year. This year, Thorp is limited to about $9300/student. With almost 600 students, that means we have $600,000/year less than the average district of our size. Multiply that over more than 20 years and you can understand that there are some serious problems with our statewide school finance system. Don’t get me wrong--we are grateful for the funding we receive and we work hard every day to ensure that every dollar is well spent. We simply believe in a level playing field for our students.
Thanks to State Representative Bernier and State Senator Moulton, there is some help on its way. First, they are supporting a state budget adjustment to bring Thorp and districts like ours closer to the state average. Over the next 5 years, our allowable spending will go up by about $100/year. In addition, districts like Thorp with low population densities will get some additional state aid. There is also a major redesign of the state funding system being worked on, and I am hopeful that our district will benefit from whatever comes from that. Please feel free to call your legislators and let them know how important this is to you, and to thank them for their support. We know that a child’s zip code should not determine their access to a great education so they can reach their goals and dreams.
For those of you who follow our Facebook page you’ve seen some of those dreams. Recently, English teacher Tammy Raether organized a project to honor alumni Amanda Geissler by having students write down their dreams and aspirations. I was so proud to see the many amazing hopes and dreams, from the practical “Milk 10,000 cows!” to the specific, “Become a Gastroenterologist,” to the compassionate, “I want to impact people’s lives and help others with disabilities.”
I also added my own dream…”To be the Superintendent who helps Thorp become the highest achieving school district in Wisconsin.” I know that we can get there if we work together. I encourage you to follow our progress, ask questions, and learn more. So far this year, we’ve provided training to elementary teachers on improving reading and math instruction, along with a couple of opportunities for all staff to learn about ways to improve school-wide achievement. We’ve also got a number of discussions going on in order to plan for next year. We will be looking for feedback from parents and the community about proposals for a new school calendar, programs to prevent bullying, and new academic programs. As I mentioned at the start of this article, we hope you’ll help us improve our funding situation to provide as many of these opportunities as we can. We continue to thank our community and our taxpayers for your support, and look forward to a brighter future together.
Last week, the Thorp School District joined school districts throughout the state in saluting our local education leaders during Wisconsin School Board Week.
The commemorative week is designed to recognize the contributions made by Wisconsin's school board members, including the Thorp School Board, who are charged with governing public education under state law.
Wisconsin school board members are chosen by their communities to manage local schools. They oversee multi-million dollar budgets which fund education programs for more than 867,000 students in more than 420 public school districts. Their personnel decisions affect thousands of teachers, administrators and support workers. In Thorp, our board oversees the education of more than 600 students and 75 employees. The district is one of the largest employers in the community.
School board members are volunteer leaders, responsible for formulating school district policy, approving curricula, maintaining school facilities, and adhering to state and federal education law. Legal concerns and the complexities of school finance, including budgeting and taxation, require them to spend many hours in board training programs and personal study to enhance their understanding of these issues.
Our deepest appreciation is extended to the dedicated people who make it possible for local citizens to participate in education in our community. We salute the public servants of the Thorp School Board whose commitment and civic responsibility make local control of public schools in our community possible: President Marie Karaba, Vice President Dave Burke, Treasurer Brenda Henke, Clerk Jeanette Kodl, and Member Ty Schneider.
Please join us by saying thanks to our school board members during Wisconsin School Board Week!
With today’s article, I’m glad to invite the Thorp community to the annual school district meeting. We’ve got school kicked off for the year, our new website is coming together nicely with a new look and improved navigation, and it’s time for us to hold our annual meeting. This is the meeting where voters and taxpayers have an opportunity to weigh in on the operations of the school district. In some districts, this meeting amounts to a small handful of people who meet to approve the school tax levy for the year. I would like to involve more people in this important meeting, and by working with the school board and members of my staff, we have an expanded agenda and some new opportunities that we hope will encourage more people to join us as we gather on October 23rd in the High School Multipurpose Room at 6:30 P.M.
First, we will have food and music! Our students will play selected musical pieces, and we will share a variety of desserts along with some other treats provided by Market & Johnson, the company that will manage our construction project this spring. Our school board will be introduced and thanked for their service, and I will have a chance to introduce the community to some key leadership personnel in the district. In the last year, the board has hired a new leader in every one of the four administrative positions, and we believe it’s important that you know a little about us. More importantly, I want to share the state of the district, the achievement levels of our students, and the directions we hope to be moving in the coming year. This will allow me to reflect on my first four months in the district and to share the good news and the challenges we face.
After my brief presentation, Justin Geissler of Market & Johnson and Thorp HS Grad Robbie Krzyzanowski of Wendel Corporation have been invited to share updates on the building project. This will be our first opportunity to share drawings of the new entry into the high school, the athletic additions, and the new floorplans. We hope to have some color schemes and ideas about flooring and other improvements that will be part of the project. Please join us to see what the future holds!
And finally, we will review the school district’s budget, and ask to you approve the tax levy needed to educate our students. The budget is being published in the Courier for the next 2 weeks, and by the time of the meeting there are going to be some changes as aid and property valuation information is made available by the state. We expect that our tax rate will be $7.52/$1000 of property plus $0.94 for the referendum debt, for a total mill rate estimate of $8.46. This is an increase of $0.73 over the 2016-17 actual mill rate of $7.73 and will remain one of the lowest in the area. The referendum estimate the district used was an $0.80 increase, so we have been able to reduce costs and borrow at very attractive rates resulting in lower expenses than were approved in the referendum. I look forward to sharing more good news with you on October 23rd at 6:30 PM at Thorp High School!
I want to share some plans the district has for working on issues with regard to respect, bullying and children. Before I discuss the ins and outs of policies, etc. I wanted to tell you about a change we are planning for the next few weeks. Sometime soon, our students will take over the responsibility for raising and lowering the American flags each day. This small but important act teaches civic responsibility and respect for the symbol of our freedom and democracy. I look forward to seeing our students contribute to our schools in this way. Each day in our schools, the children of Thorp are taught directly and by example how to respect others no matter their skin color, family income, or religious background. We should all recognize the important role we play in this community, helping children and young adults learn how to live peacefully and to thrive, together. Mr. John Neira, one of our Kindergarten teachers, is demonstrating our nation’s resolve in the face of adversity as he deploys to Florida with the National Guard. Elementary Principal Tyler Nelson updated the staff with this message of support, “Texas and Florida have been hit hard over the last couple of weeks and these communities and their residents have hope because of people like Mr. Neira. On behalf of our staff, I want to thank Mr. Neira for his continued service to our country. I think it is also appropriate to recognize all the men and women who support our country in so many ways. We wish Mr. Neira the best and look forward to his return. Please keep Mr. Neira and all the families impacted by these tragic events in your thoughts.”
The district’s policy on bullying and harassment puts in writing some of those basic values we share in our country--the freedom to pursue our dreams and to access a solid education for example. The policy helps guide the behaviors of adults and students in our schools and was last modified in 2010. It has general definitions and guidelines for investigation and responses to bullying and harassment. In reviewing the policy, administrators in the district have agreed that we could expand the definitions and that more specific guidance about responses would be helpful. For example, rather than just suggesting that bullies be punished, is there an opportunity to hold them accountable and teach them different behaviors? A policy change could clarify how that might work, who would be involved, and how to escalate to the next level if the first step isn’t effective.
As you may have read in the Courier article two weeks ago, we would like community input on the proposed policy changes and we welcome community members to join us for two meetings on the topic. They will take place from 5:15-6:15 on Tuesdays September 19th and October 3rd. In the first meeting, we will review the current policy and discuss some things we would like to change. We will introduce a model policy that we have been studying. In the second meeting, we will review the model policy in more depth and have a chance to discuss ideas for changes. We can consider the need for a final meeting either before or after the October 18th school board meeting. Please contact me at the school district office if you would like to join us--I would like to know how many people to make copies for, so please RSVP at 669-5401. We will meet in the Board room at the High School or in the Elementary Library, depending on the number of people we have.
Thanks for your interest.
Letter to the Editor:
I want to reach out to the community here in Thorp, to thank you and tell you how honored I am to be your new Superintendent of Schools. I also want to share some information about recent events in the district and things we have to look forward to.
As a 20+ year veteran of education, I'm thrilled to have my first opportunity to be a superintendent. I've worked in rural, suburban, and urban environments and have seen that small districts like ours have great flexibility and the opportunity to have strong relationships with people all across the district. These are unique features of a small district that were exciting to me as I considered joining your community. I was also very impressed with the level of community support for the schools including your recent referendum.
As many of you have heard, Mr. Glen Schraufnagel, our Agriculture teacher at Thorp High School, has resigned in order to take a position working with school districts all across our area. The neat thing about this type of position is the opportunity to work with dozens of educators and schools. Of course, we will miss Mr. Schraufnagel here in Thorp—we wish him all the best as he takes on some new challenges and opportunities. We will be sure to involve a wide variety of people in the process of hiring a new teacher for this critical position. Teacher turnover is always difficult for school districts, and one of my goals will be to ensure that we recruit and retain the best teachers for our students. I invite you to join me and to continue to talk about the great support our community shows for our schools. This is the type of thing that attracts excellent new teachers and helps our current staff stay right here in Thorp.
We also have a great opportunity coming up this summer with the passage of the building referendum. I have already begun meeting with our architect and project manager to ensure that the new athletic facilities and remodeling plans will meet the long-term needs of our students and staff. I'm very about excited the designs – local architect Robert Krzyzanowski, a Thorp High graduate, has been sharing some creative ideas that are sure to impress, while also staying under budget. We are using your hard-earned taxpayer dollars as efficiently as possible.
Finally, I want to invite you to stop in and visit with me this summer–the most important thing a new superintendent can do is to listen. I will look forward to meeting more people in our community in the coming days and weeks, and thank you again for welcoming me to Thorp!
Superintendent of Schools
It’s back-to-school time in Thorp, and I couldn’t be more proud of the excellent faculty and staff here in the school district! All summer, our custodial staff worked to clean and wax, trim bushes, paint, and make the schools look great. Coaches started working with student-athletes on August 1st. Our teachers started on August 9th with a full day of training in Chippewa Falls along with hundreds of other local educators.
Then, last week, we started out Monday morning with a great kickoff event. As you might have read in the articles by Alex Weise, our entire staff were shown how special and important they are. I want to thank the Courier for sending their reporter and for the weekly highlights about teachers. I am honored to be a part of a community that respects and appreciates the great work done in our schools every day.
My message for staff this year was very simple: I want them to have their best year ever. Honestly, my job couldn’t be more clear--I want every person in the district to be able to do the best job possible and I am working hard to take away everything that might distract them from that mission.
I also shared a few impressions of the district that I took from my first few weeks in town--it’s clear that something is working in Thorp because of the behavior of the children and teens in this community. Children riding their bikes stop, smile, and say hello as I walk by on the sidewalk. The teens working in restaurants, stores, and the gas station are warm and welcoming, often introducing themselves to me by name as they smile and firmly shake my hand. Then, last Friday during the national anthem at the football game, I saw something I had never seen before. The younger children off on the playground stopped, came down off the play equipment, and stood with their hands over their hearts to respect our flag. Residents of Thorp, you truly have something special going on, and I am confident that it involves strong families and great teachers. I am so honored to be a part of this school and community.
We started off the school year on Friday morning with an assembly in the elementary/middle school. The students were treated to music and even some dance moves by their teachers! Principal Tyler Nelson wished them all well and reviewed some things about how the school runs. As I left, I made a point to walk by a couple of high school classrooms and even though we were less than an hour into the school year, two of our high school science teachers already had students engaged in experiments! One group had their lab goggles on and were learning about lab safety and how to clean up chemical spills. The other had some tropical termites that were responding to certain chemical stimuli. One young lady volunteered to explain the experiment to their new Superintendent, and confidently talked about how they determined why these insects behaved the way they did. This is called “inquiry-based science” and is a great way to engage students in learning. Instead of opening to Chapter 1, let’s get our hands dirty right away and then talk about the concepts behind the activity!
We are off to a great start here in the school district--I’ll keep you updated as the year goes on.