The message among rural school district administrators during Wednesday's State Superintendent Advisory Council meeting was simple: good, but not great.
District administrators, along with State Superintendent Tony Evers, met on Wednesday to discuss the pressing needs of rural districts around western Wisconsin and solutions to those problems.
Perhaps the most talked about topic of the day was mental health and rural district's inability to adequately address it with students.
"People have to understand kids go through issues in their lives that cause trauma and it doesn't always go away by itself and needs intervention," Dr. Tony Evers, said. "So the idea is to recognize it as early as possible and provide treatment."
However, Evers said rural districts struggle to make sure students receive the care they need in part because they don't have the practitioners necessary.
"You're just not going to find practitioners in smaller areas like you would in a big city," he said. "Needs of kids have risen dramatically around the state and especially in rural areas as it relates to mental health."
Evers and administrators also discussed changing educator licensing and staffing concerns within buildings.
"One of the goals we've made as a state is not to sacrifice quality as that's extremely important," Dr. Evers said. "But we have to make sure there's enough flexibility in the system. So we consolidated some of the licensing and changed the way teachers are prepared so it's a better match for school districts."
Matt Laudenbach is a senior at UW-Eau Claire and is spending the fall semester student teaching at Whitehall High School. Growing up in a school district that was rather urban, landing in a rural district was foreign to him.
"It's really nice to see the community that is naturally built in a school like this," he said. "All the kids know each other in every class and it's really cool to see them interact."
Despite not giving rural school districts much of a thought early on in his college career, his mindset has changed.
"It's definitely something I didn't necessarily think about before but now that I'm in this community I think it would be hard to stray away," he said.
Dr. Evers said while Governor Scott Walker is dedicating more money to rural schools in the current budget cycle, more needs to be done.
"It doesn't erase the several years of massive cuts," he said. "We're behind the eight ball and while it's a step in the right direction, we have a long way to go."