By Dr. Curtis Cain, Superintendent of Wentzville School District
It is hard to believe it has been almost five years since I was hired as the Superintendent of the Wentzville School District. There are many moving parts that happen day to day in a district of our size, it is good to sometimes step back and reflect on the big picture. We have so much to be proud of in the WSD: for the eighth consecutive year, our student test scores place us in the top 10% of all school districts in the state, we received a 97.5% on the Annual Performance Report for the state (the highest the WSD has scored since DESE started using the evaluation tool five years ago), our Ignite program for high school students is off to a great start partnering students with real world experiences in BJC and SSM hospitals, as well as with business leaders for those in the startup business strand. Next year, we will expand those opportunities for our students through a partnership with other school districts in the county through the St. Charles County CAPS (Center for Advanced Professional Studies) to include a third technology strand option as well.
From the day I stepped foot in the WSD, my focus has been the great challenge of continuing to provide a top tier education for all students when we are also faced with providing space for hundreds of new students each year. Three years ago, voters approved Proposition E which resulted in $50 million in new construction and as soon as that work was underway, the Board of Education approved the K-6 Plan for Growth designed to relieve crowding at the middle schools without having to return to the voters for a tax increase. The K-6 Plan also provided the District time to pay down its debt so that the next buildings could be built without a tax increase for stakeholders. Which brings us to Prop E 2018…
Proposition E is a $125 million no-tax increase bond issue to build a new high school, a new elementary school, a new gym at Holt high school and classroom additions at Barfield Early Childhood Special Education Center, Pearce Hall, and Peine Ridge Elementary. We have worked very hard to be in a position to build and expand without increasing the financial burden for the taxpayers of the WSD. In November, an independent auditor presented their findings to the Board of Education that the WSD had received a clean audit with zero modifications. Given the level and degree of detail that is examined by the auditor, this should serve as a tremendous vote of confidence for every stakeholder in the WSD. We also had an opportunity to refinance some debt in 2017, saving taxpayers over $4.5 million in interest expense over the next 15 years. This is the ninth time in the past eight years that the District has refinanced bonds for a total interest cost savings of over $23.7 million. We are pleased to also share that Moody’s has maintained its Aa2 rating for the WSD, one of the highest ratings for any school district in Missouri.
If we are to continue to rank among the best in the state in terms of the quality education we provide for our students, we must provide adequate space for all students to learn and thrive. The benefits of an excellent school district are far reaching for each student certainly, but also for the citizens of a strong community who benefit from higher home values, which boost our local economy and afford us all tremendous pride in this great community. Thank you for your continued support of the work we do on behalf of the students, families, staff and stakeholders of the Wentzville School District.