WHS students were full of energy during the 2015 Homecoming pep assembly.
Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterOctober 2015 
In This Issue

Dear parents, students, friends and neighbors,
Excellence for All. That's our vision and the Watertown Way!

It is hard to believe that the holiday season is almost here. We have had a lot to celebrate over the past few months including a terrific Homecoming Week featuring our 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, Mayor John David. 

Strategic planning
As many of you may be aware, over the past year we have been working on our strategic planning process. We have completed a community strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis with staff, parents and community members, as well as a staff engagement and satisfaction survey, and we have compiled our exit survey results.

Using all of this data we have identified our points of pride. They include:
  • Our DPI district report card exceeds expectations, and is competitive locally and with our demographic benchmark districts.
  • We have improved our graduation rates by 10 percent since 2010.
  • We have increased the number of students taking the ACT from 147 in 2010 to 278 in 2015, and still are at or above the state average.
  • We have increased the number of students taking the AP exam from 127 students in 2011 to 215 in 2015.
  • Among 2015 graduates, 75 percent had a post-secondary experience, meaning a dual-credit course or an advanced placement course.
We are continuing to work on identifying our system priority areas moving into our next strategic plan:
  • Enhancing teaching and learning for every child, every day
  • Developing people and partnerships
  • Innovation
We are excited to continue developing our system priority areas and setting specific targets to help our students and staff continue to learn and grow. Read more about our strategic planning process.

We have many great events coming up for the holiday season, and our fall musical "Cinderella" promises to be a great show for the whole family. We hope to see you at one of our many holiday concerts and performances.
-Cassandra Schug
Superintendent, Watertown Unified School District
Getting the most out of middle school
Teacher designs special middle school class

Adjusting to a new school can be challenging for students. To help students make the transition successfully, Riverside Middle School English and science teacher Doreen Rompre designed a special class, "How to Be Successful in Middle School."

The class is an introduction to how neurons, the cells that process and transmit information through electrical and chemical signals, work in the brain. Rompre teaches students how they can "rewire" their brains, and how self-motivation, hard work and steady persistence play a role in student success. She wants students to understand that if they've struggled with school in the past, that doesn't have to be their future.

The class includes about 12-13 lessons during a student's Flexible Instruction Time, when he or she meets with an advisor to determine needs for the school week. Students may use the time to meet with certain teachers, or for large group classes, like music, that are of special interest to the student.

"We are training their brains to get through these first six weeks," Rompre said. "If you keep working at it, you can get stronger, and your brain will work more efficiently. That's the whole goal. You have the ability to actually train your brain, because of neuroplasticity. We can make it stronger and more efficient for us."

Developing People and Partnerships
National School Lunch Program: Celebrating a commitment to student health

Oct. 12-16 is National School Lunch Program Week, and we are sincerely grateful for our Nutrition Services staff and their commitment to the health and well-being of our students and staff. Their dedication to preparing well-balanced meals and snacks means our students can concentrate on graduating with the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in the workplace or for future studies.

Fall WHS musical announced

Plan to attend the Watertown High School fall musical, "Cinderella", Friday through Sunday, November 13-15. Tickets will go on sale Monday, Oct. 26. 

This well-known musical fairy tale tells the story of a young woman, though forced into a life of servitude by her cruel stepmother, never stops dreaming of a better life. With the help of her fairy godmother, she is transformed into a beautiful young lady and able to attend the ball to meet her prince. The book and lyrics were written by Oscar Hammerstein, with music by Richard Rodgers. Best-known songs include "In My Own Little Corner," "The Prince is Giving a Ball," "Ten Minutes Ago," "Stepsister's Lament," "A Lovely Night" and "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful."

The production is led by Ryan Moldenhauer, director/choreographer, Dave Zimmermann, (music director/producer), Sarah Hafenstein (pit orchestra director), Beth Mueller (choreographer), Reid LaDew (production assistant/sound engineer), Sue Weihert (pianist) and Dan Henkel (assistant pit director).

Visit the front office of WHS during regular school hours for reserved seating tickets. Adult tickets are $10, and student and senior citizen tickets are $7. Performances will be held in the Watertown High School Auditorium on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 13-14 at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, Nov. 15 at 3 p.m.

Staff spotlight: Gary Will and Lisa VandenHeuvel 
Lisa VandenHeuvel
Lisa VandenHeuvel has been a paraprofessional in Special Education at Lincoln Elementary School for four years. She and her husband Dennis relocated to Watertown from the Fox Valley in 1983. They have three children and four grandchildren, and this month marks their 38th wedding anniversary.

"I really enjoy coming to school every day," VandenHeuvel said. "Every day is different, and there is never a dull moment. Over the past 14 years, I have had the privilege of working in many of our schools as a special education paraprofessional, instructional paraprofessional, administrative assistant and mentor. 

VandenHeuvel said it's hard to pinpoint just one favorite school success story. "The best success is to hear one of my students say, 'Mrs. V. I can do it myself.' Then I know I've done my job." 

A little-known fact about her? VandenHeuvel loves polka music and actually has a polka station programmed into her car radio. "I grew up with it, and my father played the tuba in a polka band," she said.

She hopes her colleagues and students are happy to see her when she enters their classrooms. "Every day I learn something from the amazing teachers and students I work with," she said.

As for her best piece of advice, VandenHeuvel said, "My parents taught me to make the most of each day and always treat others how you wish to be treated, with kindness and respect. I hear those words come out of my mouth at school often. I'm so very proud of the solid education our district provides each one of our students no matter their God-given abilities. I'm thankful for the opportunity to be a small part of this process."

Gary Will has taught in the Watertown Unified School District for 33 years, 32 at Riverside Middle School and one year at Douglas Elementary School. He is a sixth-grade communication skills and math teacher at Riverside Middle School. 

Born and raised in Hustisford, Wis., Will graduated from UW­-Oshkosh where his baseball coach was Rusty Teidemann's  (current physical education teacher and coach at Watertown High School) dad. He has been married to his wife Sue for 18 years, and she is a seventh-grade teacher at Riverside. He has two sons, Hunter, age 16 and Sam, age 14.

"What I love most about teaching is to see the smiles and joy on my students' faces when they enjoy success in math and believe in who they are," Will said. "Getting to know many of the parents of my students has also been very rewarding. I believe my job as a teacher is to make sure that my students not only learn math, but just as importantly, learn how to be a better person. To see this happen on a daily basis warms my heart. I have also been lucky to teach with so many different teachers and administrators, and I have enjoyed every one of them for their talents and their own special uniqueness."

Will feels it's really hard to pin down a favorite school success story. "I guess what I most take pride in as
a sign of success, is to see former students and hear sincere 'hellos' and 'how are you
doing.' To see students one year later, or now in some cases 30 years later, and have a warm
reception from them makes me feel very rewarded and simply makes me feel like I might have
made a small difference in their lives. This makes the 33 years of teaching so very worth it, and I
will always keep this with me."

You might be surprised to know that Will has fished in professional walleye tournaments for about 30 years. "I have had a fair degree of success and at one time even contemplated fishing walleye tournaments for a living. Now, Hunter has teamed up with me to fish tournaments. In fact, this past summer he caught the largest walleye in a major tournament and won $1,000."

When students or colleagues talk about Will, he hopes they say he did what a teacher is supposed to do. "I hope I've inspired the kids to want to learn and helped guide them in their learning," Will said. "I hope I've always been a true professional, showing up every day ready to teach and taking good care of all my students. I hope my students have enjoyed having me as their teacher, were comfortable in my room and knew how much I cared about them."

Will's advice is heartfelt: "Be yourself, ­teach your own style­, take good care of the kids, and don't be afraid to say I'm sorry to parents and kids. Take special care of the less advantaged. Every year, take a couple kids under your wing who might need just a little more help. Have a special place in your heart for these kids and try to make a difference in their lives. Teach with an enthusiasm that is unmistakable."

This is Will's last year teaching. He said, "I feel very lucky to have taught and coached in Watertown for 33 years, and I am forever grateful to the people of Watertown for giving me the privilege and honor to serve them. Thanks from the bottom of my heart."

School board spotlight: Mark Putra
Mark Putra, current Board president, has been a member of the WUSD School Board off and on for nearly 10 years. "Back in the 1990s, I became frustrated with the actions of a particular board member, and my criticisms were overheard by a neighbor, who voted for me as write-in candidate," Putra said. "That single vote eventually led to being elected a year later. I served two terms, from 1996-2002, and then took a 10-year hiatus until 2012, when I returned to the board." 

Putra's family has lived in Watertown for almost 30 years and both of his daughters were educated in Watertown public schools. His wife, Sue, was a school counselor at Riverside Middle School and also served on the Wisconsin Examining Board for Family Therapists, Social Workers and Professional Counselors. His daughter, Jana, teaches art at WHS, and his daughter, Linnea, teaches medicine at Marquette University. He retired from the DNR where he served as chief of a regulatory and enforcement program that protected drinking water and groundwater. 

He sees state funding as one of the Board of Education's biggest challenges. "Public school funding is being diverted to private voucher schools, and voucher schools are not held to the same standards as public schools," Putra said. "The voucher school program has had problems with fraud, waste and scholastic underperformance."

Putra grew up in Racine, and his parents were firm believers in higher education. He graduated from Racine Lutheran High School, and earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a master's degree from Iowa State University, Ames. "My favorite teacher was Mr. Tolerico because he helped spark my interest in science," Putra said. "Mr. Tolerico was a young, energetic teacher with a flair for dramatic class room experiments."

He has two younger brothers, and his father was a WWII veteran. His mother was a stay-at-home mom who was the Wisconsin women's cycling champion, as well as an accomplished athlete in several other sports. Putra describes himself as an avid reader and said much of his spare time is spent with his four grandchildren. He also enjoys many outdoor activities including archery, golf and hunting, as well as cooking, having recently developed an interest in making sausage. 

Mark Putra is just one of the nine members of the WUSD School Board. Visit our website to learn more about our Board's members, activities and meeting dates.