Category Archives: Education

West Bend CFAC Plans Massive New School

The West Bend School District’s Citizens Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC) met again last night as they build their sales pitch for a referendum. You may recall that this entire process was exposed as a sham several weeks ago. In any case, last night they moved ahead with a plan to build a new Jackson Elementary that would be 44% larger than the current one to educate 24% fewer kids. Crazy math, eh? You can watch the video of some of the recording at this link, but here are the raw numbers:

The current Jackson Elementary is 59,176 square feet. In the 2008-2009 school year, 528 kids were enrolled. In the 2014-2015 school year, the district reorganized with the rebuilding of the middle schools and pulled the 5th grade out of Jackson. That left 416 kids in that year. Since then, enrollment has declined every year with only 370 kids in the school for the 2017-2018 school year. So… in the current school year, there are 158 fewer kids in the school than in 2008. The enrollment projections for the school do not predict any massive increase in enrollment anytime in the foreseeable future.

The current plan being discussed by CFAC would use a target enrollment of 400 kids and build a 85,000 square foot school for them. I know that kids are getting bigger nowadays, but sheesh! That means that in 2008, the school provided an average of 112.1 square feet per kid. In the current school year, there are 159.9 square feet per kid. The new school, if built, would provide a whopping 212.5 square feet per kid.

As a point of comparison, here are the standards in the CFAC packet and some data from our current schools.

20180111_075726

As you can see, the “Industry standard” for elementary schools is 134 square feet per child. The current Jackson Elementary provides much more than that. The proposed new school would have more space per kid than any school in the district – by far.

This what you get when you have the architecture firm that will most likely get to build the new school also doing the proposals.

 

West Bend School Board Responds to Privilege Test

There was a lot going on in West Bend last night as I was sitting on my arse watching that awesome College Football National Championship Game. Last night the West Bend School Board responded to the use of a Privilege Test in the classrooms of Badger Middle School several weeks ago. First, a little background…

The Washington County Insider broke the story last month that Badger Middle School English Language Arts students in 8th grade were given an optional “Privilege Test” that asked the students things that many consider inappropriate for a government official/teacher to ask kids – particularly without parental consent. You can follow the link to the original story to see the actual survey.

Some parents complained to the Principal and to the School Board. Last night a couple more parents spoke and the board shared their response to the controversy.

Overall, the school board got it right. The said that it was wrong for the teacher to issue the privilege test, discontinued the use of the test in the future, and have instructed the district administration to review the district policy regarding controversial subjects with the staff. This is the appropriate response from the board. I do have some lingering concerns.

The role of the West Bend School Board is to set and direct policy. The board approves curriculum, but teachers are allowed to supplement the curriculum as they see fit without board approval. This is an appropriate balance. In this case, the survey in question was presented as optional supplemental material for a part of the English curriculum.

The rub comes in from the fact that the survey introduces controversial material. The introduction of controversial material is permissible, but there is a specific board policy that addresses the introduction of controversial material. In that policy, it explicitedly states that they may study controversial subjects, but the staff is not permitted to inject their own opinion. In short, they can help the students think about the subject, but not tell them what think. It’s a classic Rousseauian educational approach.

But the policy does not leave such decisions to the teacher. The policy instructs, “Consultation with the principal shall precede the study of controversial issues…” It is not clear to me in this case if the teacher reviewed this survey with the principal prior to doing it or if the teacher was out on his or her own. What is clear to me is that the district administration and teachers involved either don’t view this survey as particularly controversial, or they outright support its use in the classroom.

Badger Middle School Principal Dave Uelmen, Assistant Superintendent Laura Jackson, and others have all expressed to various media outlets that while they can see that the material is controversial, they don’t oppose its use. Uelmen spoke at the meeting last night not to apologize or acknowledge the error, but to give a shout out to his staff. Uelmen’s wife spoke up at the meeting to chastise the parents who complained for setting a bad example for their kids. After the meeting last night, reporter Judy Steffes asked board member Joel Ongert about it and he said in respect to the specific teacher involved, it’s “a personnel matter – but the teachers are taking this hard.” That tells us that the teachers are upset that this teacher is being called out for using the survey.

And if I add into the mix some of the statements we read in the chats from the four fired English teachers at the West Bend High Schools where one teacher introduced controversial supplemental material and said, ““F*** it, there are other things parents can complain about. It would just make them look stupid,” the evidence indicates that there is a pervasive culture in the West Bend School District – particularly in the English and Language Arts departments – that wants to use classroom time for liberal social engineering instead of education. And they get really angry when parents disagree.

That’s a problem.

As I said, the School Board got the response right, but I fear that this is not the end of this issue. The staff is going to fight them on this and I suspect we will see controversial (always from the liberal perspective, have you noticed?) material foisted on the kids again.

Reinventing Higher Education in Illinois

I wish we had more of this kind of introspective thinking in the UW System.

Southern Illinois University’s enrollment is in “free fall,” and the chancellor knows whom to blame. No, not the usual suspects — a stingy legislature, rising costs, tapped-out donors.

“Why is this (enrollment drop) occurring?” SIU Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno said in October. “It’s occurring because we are not offering programs that are distinctive and relevant to today’s students.”

Boom.

Montemagno uttered these heretical (to defenders of the status quo) words as he proposed a dramatic reorganization that would lop off departments and department heads in the name of better serving students and allocating money. You don’t often hear such blunt it’s-us-not-them talk from Illinois public university presidents. They and their friendly enablers, too many pols in Springfield, battle to preserve state spending on university fiefdoms in their districts. Whether students go out of state, or enroll here and fail to succeed, are secondary concerns.

When faced with the same problem of declining enrollment in the UW Colleges, the UW Regents have decided to shuffle the organization, but leave everything else pretty much the same.

Less than Half of School Districts Have a Certified Union

Looks like teachers aren’t choosing the union.

Six years after Gov. Scott Walker and state Republicans made labor unions’ ability to retain members much more difficult, fewer than half of the state’s 422 school districts have certified unions.

In the latest certification election — held in November and required by Walker’s signature 2011 legislation known as Act 10 — staff and teachers in 199 school districts voted to remain in a bargaining unit, or 47 percent, according to the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission.

What’s frustrating is that it is now clear that Wisconsin’s forced-unionization laws kept so many teachers in unions against their will for so many years. How much money was taken out of their pay over the years to support a union they didn’t want to be in? How many decisions were made on their behalf that they didn’t want? Now that they have a choice, we see how many teachers don’t want to be in a union.

Drexel University Professor Resigns

It is appalling that someone threatened this guy with physical harm, but he does have some truly wretched views.

(CNN)A Drexel University professor who received death threats after posting several controversial tweets said Thursday he is resigning because the year-long harassment has made his situation “unsustainable.”

George Ciccariello-Maher, a professor of politics and global studies, had been teaching his class remotely via video conference after being put on administrative leave, a move that Drexel said was for his own safety.
Here is some of the stuff he said:
The professor said the threats began last December after he posted on Twitter: “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide.” He said the tweet was a joke, a “satirical jab at a certain paranoid racist fantasy and that white genocide does not exist.”
Ciccariello-Maher drew more outrage in March after tweeting that he was “trying not to vomit” watching someone give up their first-class seat for a uniformed soldier. He said he was upset about airstrikes in Iraq that killed civilians and that his post was misrepresented by “right-wing media.”
In October, the professor tweeted that “Trumpism” and the “narrative of white victimization” were to blame for the mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and more than 500 wounded.
The travesty is all of this is that Drexel University paid this guy to teach people his hate.

2nd Candidate Files for West Bend School Board

There’s only one day left to file. The deadline is next Tuesday and offices are closed until then.

Dec. 28, 2017 – West Bend resident and business owner Kurt Rebholz submitted his candidacy papers for the West Bend School Board on Thursday morning.

Rebholz is the Co-Founder and President of Bay MarketForce, LLC.

Incumbent Conservative Runs Again for School Board

I wanted to pull out this story from Steffes. It’s great news for West Bend. Schmiege is one of the two remaining conservatives on the board. It is great that he has decided to continue to serve the community.

Monte Schmiege files to run for another term on West Bend School Board

West Bend School Board Treasurer Monte Schmiege filled candidacy papers on Friday, Dec. 22 to run for another term on the West Bend School Board.  Incumbents were required to file notification by Dec. 22.

If elected this would be Schmiege’s second 3-year term. “I’ve started working on things and I need to continue,” he said. “I hate to just throw away things I’ve worked for.”

Schmiege mentioned he put forward a change in policy about a year ago which gives the board the responsibility to adopt curriculum. “Prior to that the board did not adopt curriculum,” said Schmiege. “Looking forward we have to look for a new superintendent, fix the compensation plan, handle the capital improvement projects and those are big things coming up.

“I also think it’s important to have some stability, especially at this time when there’s so much turmoil,” he said.

The deadline to file candidacy is 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 at the Education Service Center.

There are two seats up in the April 2018 election. Tim Stellmacher was the other candidate up for election and he already filed non-candidacy papers to announce he will not be running. Stellmacher was appointed to the post in May to fill the seat left vacant following the resignation of Therese Seizer.

Senator Stroebel Comments on Teacher Firings

Senator Stroebel offered a comment on the story I posted this morning regarding the teacher resignations in West Bend. He nails it.

It’s now clear former Superintendent Olson handled these inappropriate emails correctly.

No student, parent or community member should be mocked with explicit language – especially since those using bullying tactics are teachers.

Earlier this week, the West Bend Educator’s Association suggested this clear violation of public trust was not handled correctly.

Union teachers need to answer if bullying is ok and how they would have handled the situation.

Yesterday, the Washington County Insider posted a second politically charged survey offered to students.

Political agendas must stay out of the classroom.

Children must always come first.

It is unfortunate the many past achievements made by former board members, administrators and teachers are being shadowed by the lapse of judgement of some teachers.

Revisiting The Resignation of Four Teachers in West Bend

I wasn’t planning on doing this story. Falsehoods are being spread in the aftermath of the Superintendent’s resignation, however, and it needs to be told.

Right before the end of the last school year in late May, four English teachers at the West Bend High Schools resigned. Obviously, this was abrupt and caused consternation for many folks since it was happening right before finals. Since it was an HR issue and there are employment laws in effect, the district administration and school board were unable to share the real reasons for the resignation. The Superintendent’s statement said, in part:

While we understand that the timing of these resignations is not ideal, the District accepted them due to the specific circumstances leading up to the resignations. Please know that while we wish to be as transparent as possible, due to confidentiality laws and out of respect for the privacy of the educators involved, we are unable to provide further details about the specifics of their resignations.

OK, fine. We were all left to wonder, but given the fact that the resignations couldn’t wait for the end of the school year, citizens were left to speculate the worst. On social media and elsewhere, leftists who already hated this superintendent, speculated wildly that the teachers were forced out because they opposed the administration, or that their opposition to the curriculum was being punished, or that they were being “silenced,” or whatever. Given that it was an HR issue, the district administration and school board could not comment.

At the time, I asked around and filed a few open records requests to get to the bottom of the issue. I did not end up writing the story because it was an HR issue, it was over, and I thought that the Superintendent, with the support, I assumed, of the School Board, made the right call. There was no need to further embarrass the teachers involved. If anything, these teachers were treated too kindly by being allowed to resign instead of being outright fired, but I suspect that the district wanted to avoid a protracted legal case.

Now that the Superintendent that the union hated has been forced out, the union president is publicly insinuating that one of the reasons is that the Superintendent mishandled this issue. She told the Milwaukee paper:

That conflict prompted an exodus of administrators, he said, and it erupted in May with the sudden resignation of four of the six English teachers at West Bend East and West High Schools just a week before summer vacation.

Olson’s handling of those resignations appeared to exacerbate the friction in the district.

“There was a general consensus that that was not handled well,” said West Bend Educators Association President Tanya Lohr.

“General consensus,” eh? She has said similar things in social media. She fails to offer any evidence or details to support her “consensus,” so allow me to shed some light on what happened.

So… why were the four teachers forced to resign? Was it because they were champions of education and the administration wanted to purge them? Was this an example of the Superintendent mishandling the issue?

Nope. They were forced to resign because they repeatedly displayed a wanton contempt for their students, parents, administrators, and fellow educators – often in racist and sexually-charged language. They did so when chatting with each other on the district’s Google platforms and in other forums, thus making their conversations a public record. They did so repeatedly, for a long time, and continued to do so after being warned to cease their behavior. After filing my open record request back in June, I have about 1,000 pages of these exchanges that reveal a lengthy portrait of people who should not have been teaching kids. Here are some examples of how these four teachers discussed their students, parents, and peers. I do have the source documents for these quotes. They are public records. But I’ll leave them off this post in order to not circulate the teachers’ names any more than necessary.

It discussing some petty crime in the parking lot:

“It’s all the fucking ghetto asses moving up her from Milwaukee to sell their drugs to the idiot kids that live in this town.”

In a discussion over a sexually-explicit book that one of the teachers had their kids read:

“Fuck it, there are other things parents can complain about. It would just make them look stupid.”

“I hope you’re right! I can’t even blame it on the curriculum!”

I think we can tell how this teacher feels about Republicans:

“Just being in the same room with you feels too republican”

In promoting dating techniques to students:

“I told them I knew people who internet dated and it worked for them, but high schools promoting it felt weird. It reminded me of how they did a bachelor/bachelorette auction at Brown Deer. That was especially weird because most of the kids were black and it was juuuuust a bit too similar to a slave auction.”

Talking about parent teacher conferences:

“I don’t want any [parents to show up]. The more that [don’t] show up the more valuable this conference becomes!”

After telling kids that she would be available to help them with a test:

“I have 19 kids in here right not! Ugh!”

“Test corrections. I told them they could come in from 7:30-9:00. Big mistake!”

Displaying concern about helping kids:

“When I’m done grading these shit papers! I really am choking on garbage!

“I seriously don’t remember shit about the planning meeting. Was I high?”

Incidentally, the pages are full of references to late night drinking, smoking pot, being hungover, etc.

Here’s how one of them spent their day:

“Now what are you going to do all day?”

“Shop on Amazon?”

“I walked into that one…:) I actually use FB for messages with people because I don’t want to use our email server”

Again about parent teacher conferences:

“Ha… stay away, parents!”

“I hope they forgot to tell the public”

“A few of the kids already mentioned it. Fuckers.”

Here’s an exchange between a couple of men about their fellow educators:

“I just don’t understand why we create out own drama”

“Because we are working in a department full of women”

Again with the conferences:

“I like being in the library.” “Shoot the shit inbetween moron parents.”


It goes on, and on, and on. What is evident is that the four teachers who resigned had little respect for parents, students, or their peers. Their banter is the kind of stuff that you might expect to hear from 25-year-olds in the bar after a few too many drinks, but they were doing it while in school, every day, for months on end, around kids, and on the taxpayers’ dime.

As I said earlier, the administration and the school board acted appropriately in this case to cut out the cancer. If the teachers union really wants publicly insinuate that the former Superintendent mishandled this and that this was a cause for his resignation, then let’s litigate the case with the actual facts. They are public documents, after all.


Update @ 1733. Senator Duey Stroebel offered this comment on the story.

It’s now clear former Superintendent Olson handled these inappropriate emails correctly.

No student, parent or community member should be mocked with explicit language – especially since those using bullying tactics are teachers.

Earlier this week, the West Bend Educator’s Association suggested this clear violation of public trust was not handled correctly.

Union teachers need to answer if bullying is ok and how they would have handled the situation.

Yesterday, the Washington County Insider posted a second politically charged survey offered to students.

Political agendas must stay out of the classroom.

Children must always come first.

It is unfortunate the many past achievements made by former board members, administrators and teachers are being shadowed by the lapse of judgement of some teachers.

West Bend Students Given “Privilege Test”

Meanwhile in the West Bend Schools, this is happening (reported by the Washington County Insider)

The “Privilege Test” was marked “optional” however the parent said the “kids get scored on participation and that goes on their report card.” Plus he noted, “What’s a child to do when the teacher hands it to you during class… if you’re a good kid you’re doing what you’re told.”

[…]

Some of the questions are:

I have never tried to hide my sexuality.

I have never been called a derogatory term for a homosexual.

I never doubted my parents’ acceptance of my sexuality.

I have never been told that I “sound white”

I am always comfortable demonstrating PDA with people I like.

Nobody has tried to “save me” from my religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, this is the kind of transparency we have come to expect from the district:

Principal Dave Uelmen indicated he had no comment and directed all questions to Nancy Kunkler with the West Bend School District. West Bend police confirmed receiving a call from a parent and said this was a school district issue. School board members refused to comment on the situation; most said they had no idea this occurred. I have asked the district for a copy of the survey and they said I had to put in an Open Records Request to see it.
“No comment.” Jump through hoops. Close ranks. This is the normal response now.
To the issue itself, follow the link and read some of the questions on the survey. It’s not a great picture, but as you can see, the district is willing to give it to kids but not share it readily with the public. It is difficult to see how such personal questions of students is appropriate in the classroom – particularly without parental notification and consent.
UPDATE: Here’s a better picture of the survey from the Washington County Insider:
25634861_10210860711335543_423562921_o-768x1024

West Bend Schools Superintendent Resigns

As expected, the West Bend School Board met this evening to accept the resignation of Superintendent Erik Olson before the end of his contract. Here is his resignation letter.

1a1

His comment about the new school board having a different vision is spot on. The board that hired him was decidedly more rational and results-oriented than the current board. The new majority on the current board has proven to be leftist, opaque, and unprofessional. It was clear from the beginning that they did not like Superintendent Olson and were working to force him out. They succeeded and can now fill the position with someone more in line with their leftist agenda. This comes at a time when the district is implementing a new compensation plan for teachers and will be asking the voters for a more money via referendum.

I wish Superintendent Olson and his family the best. He moved his family to West Bend and invested in the community for a job where I’m sure he planned to make a positive impact. Unfortunately, he has become another victim of this dysfunctional district.

On another note, there is an election in April for two board seats. One of them is open. The other is currently held by one of the two remaining conservatives on the board, Monte Schmiege, who has not declared whether he will seek reelection. The district needs some sensible conservatives to run for the open seat and for Schmiege to run for reelection.

Resignation in West Bend School District

The West Bend School Board has a meeting tomorrow evening and this is on the agenda:

3. Reconvene into open session for possible action on administrator resignation.

Of course, there has been a lot of speculation about the Superintendent, who has been on leave since August. Is it him or one of the other administrators? The District sure has had a hard time holding onto staff this year.

Rethinking School Funding: Running the Numbers

In a post a few days ago, I postulated that one of the pillars supporting Wisconsin’s two-thirds education funding formula had crumbled and it was time to reverse course. I ran the numbers and I was wrong. It is an interesting exercise, though.

To back up a bit, before 1995, local school districts in Wisconsin were largely responsible for funding their districts with the local property tax levy. During the 1970s through early 1990s, those local districts had been jacking up their tax levies to fuel increased spending. In the early 1990s, Governor Tommy Thompson implemented a cap on how much local school districts could increase taxes. In the 1996-1996 school year, Governor Thompson agreed that the state would fund two-thirds of K-12 education in order to keep local property taxes down. Several years ago, the State rescinded the two-thirds promise, but still funds a majority of K-12 schools.

I had argued that local property taxes for school had risen so much that the original bargain was moot. Given that, I argues that the state should rescind most K-12 education spending, lift the levy caps, and return control to the local districts. A look at the data reveals a different picture.

wieducationspending

The dates are relevant. The numbers do not include federal education funds. When evaluating the data with normalized 2016 dollars, here’s what I see:

  • The spending increases that drove the need for levy caps and the shift to state funding really happened in the 80s. Notice the spending per student in 1990.
  • In the early 90s, the levy caps worked to retard the growth of spending as a surge in the student population soaked up the excess. This brought the spending per student down significantly by 1995.
  • In 1996, after the two-thirds funding went into place, the local tax levy dropped significantly – as did total spending. We were still spending nearly 41% more per student than in 1985 (remember that these are normalized numbers, so comparisons are apt).
  • Since then, spending and taxes have increased, but not in a linear fashion. They actually grew more quickly in the Doyle years, declined a bit after Act 10 in 2011, and have been increasing again since then. As of 2015, we are still spending 41.5% more per student than in 1985.
  • We are just now returning to the same level of property taxes as we had before the two-thirds funding deal was put in place.
  • Total state spending per student on K-12 education is still lower than in was before the state took over the majority of K-12 spending.

I would still like to see the state have a lesser role in K-12 funding and control, but it is safe to say that Tommy Thompson’s signature education reform continues to work for the reasons it was implemented.

Arrowhead Proposes to Track Students’ Internet Activity

Good move.

Students and parents at Arrowhead High School are pushing back against a new web-filtering service the school is putting in place, calling it an invasion of privacy and an attempt to micromanage students’ lives online.

One of the chief gripes, for the kids at least, is that the parents now can opt to get a weekly accounting of all the websites they visit during the school day. The filters will run not only on all school-owned devices but also student-owned devices if they are connected to the school’s Wi-Fi.

But that, experts suggest, might be the least of their worries.

Security and privacy advocates have raised concerns about the capacity of such providers to collect vast amounts of information about students that may be stored for years and could be hacked or co-opted for unintended purposes if not adequately protected.

“Imagine, if we had the internet search histories of a young George Bush or Barack Obama,” said Bradley Shear, a Maryland attorney who has launched a national campaign urging schools to annually delete reams of student data, including internet browsing histories, all digital communications and the biometric data — finger and palm prints, for example — some schools are now using to manage their lunch lines, libraries and more.

The worries of the opposition are fairly misguided. All of that information is already being tracked, stored, and hacked.

Wisconsin Politicians Consider School Funding Formula

This is a sticky wicket.

A commission formed by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, headed by two GOP lawmakers with a longstanding interest in K-12 education and composed of Democrats, Republicans, school officials, advocates and educators met for the first time Thursday to begin the first serious review in 20 years.

“I think there’s widespread agreement that the current school funding formula in Wisconsin is not working as well as it should,” Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, told reporters ahead of the commission’s first meeting.

But the task could be tough — rewriting the state’s school funding formula will almost certainly have a hefty price tag if lawmakers want to avoid reducing funding for dozens of school districts.

Kitchens, along with Senate Education Committee chairman Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, are leading the commission and said Thursday that while there is not a fundamental, overarching problem with the formula there are areas where the system could be improved.

“I think being realistic politically — it’s going to cost money,” Kitchens said. “If half the districts in the state lose on this plan, we’ll never get it passed. So I think that’s the expectation — that there’s going to be an investment.”

Here’s the problem… everyone hates the school funding formula because it’s a Byzantine calculation where almost every school district thinks they are getting screwed. “Fixing” it is a misnomer because there isn’t any way to tweak it that will correct that perception. Because there isn’t any real way to “fix” it, the spending advocates just use the process of “fixing” the funding formula as a stalking horse to increase spending on education. The inevitable result will be the same as it always is… the taxpayers will spend more and the school districts will still gripe that they aren’t getting enough.

Rinse.

Repeat.

Instead of going down the well-trod path, why don’t the Republicans tackle some real reform? Remember that before the mid-1990s, the local taxpayers were primarily responsible for funding K-12 education. In order to get local school districts to cut property taxes, Governor Tommy Thompson pushed through the ambitious plan for state taxpayers to take primary responsibility to fund two-thirds of K-12 education in the state. In came the aforementioned funding formula as a way to distribute the state portion of education funding in a way that was considered equitable when compared with local taxpayers’ ability to pay for their own schools.

It is time to acknowledge that one of the central purposes of Thompson’s plan has failed: state funding of K-12 education has not kept property taxes down. Immediately after the 1995-1997 budget, there was a significant drop in property taxes for schools and it remained lower for several years. But as it inevitably happens, the local property taxes crept back up year after year until they are higher than ever.

So why are state taxpayers still the primary funding source for local schools? Why don’t we return both the responsibility and control of school funding to the local taxpayers? Yes, there will still be a need for state taxpayers to help fund some school districts where the local tax base won’t support it – particularly in rural areas – but that is much, much less than what state taxpayers currently spend. With more local control, then local taxpayers can choose what they want to do with their schools and foot the bill for their choices. Here is what I would consider:

  • Cut state spending for education dramatically to just cover districts where the local tax base is too small to support the district.
  • Cut the taxes that go with that spending. There might be enough there to eliminate almost all of the state income tax (State K-12 spending = about $6.8 billion per year. State income tax brings in about $7.7 billion per year)
  • Give local districts complete discretion over their local tax levy
  • Allow local taxpayers to leverage additional funding sources, like a local sales tax, with a binding referendum.

Do we still have the stomach for real reform or are we just going to tinker with the formula?

Closed Meeting for West Bend School Board Tomorrow

This is interesting. The West Bend School Board called for a closed session tomorrow. This is on the agenda:

b. Administrative employment contract

c. Administrative compensation

d. Clarification of roles and responsibilities of specific administrators

e. Discussion of performance evaluations of specific administrators

Bear in mind that the West Bend School District’s superintendent has been on leave since August reportedly for a medical issue. Last Week, John Torinus has a column where he suggested that the School Board was looking for a new superintendent. Is he right?

On another note, I would point out again how deplorable this school board and the district have been at communicating with the public. This meeting was posted sometime late Friday or Saturday morning. That’s within legal guidelines, but hardly open communication. The Daily News doesn’t publish again until after the meeting and much of the community was already into their weekend and won’t look until Monday. Thankfully, an observant reader tipped me off to the notice or I probably wouldn’t have seen it either. Secrecy and obfuscation have become the hallmarks of this board.

West Bend School District’s CFAC Exposed as Sham

I attended the latest meeting of the Citizens Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC) for the West Bend School District last night. They accidentally dropped a bombshell.

First, a little background. The CFAC was created by the School Board. It’s specifically charged with:

…identifying and confirming needs and exploring potential solutions to our district’s facility needs at Jackson Elementary School and East/West High Schools

I will remind the gentle reader that when this was created back in August, I wrote extensively about how this was a sham process designed to lead to a referendum. Bray Architects was hired by the district to run this process and they have a sales model of selling new schools to gullible taxpayers using faux “advisory” committees that always seem to end up at the same conclusion. My interpretation has been vehemently denied.

At the meeting last night, they all but admitted that the CFAC is not about assessing needs and evaluating options – as stated in the committee’s charge. No, the decision to build a new Jackson School has already been decided and the committee’s job is to help Bray and the School Board find the best way to sell it to the taxpayer.

Fortunately, you don’t have to take my word for it. The Washington County Insider was there and has it on video. Here is the relevant video. Skip ahead to about 4:45 and listen to that exchange.

Here’s the exchange in print:

Bray facilitator: “The decision to build a new Jackson school was made in the prior efforts that was reviewed at the last committee meeting.”

Committee member: “Why do we need to go through all of this?”

Bray Facilitator: “Because we need to help the community understand why a new Jackson is being considered.”

There you have it.

The committee members are not actually determining needs and evaluating potential solutions as their charter states. The solution has been determined and they are just trying to identify the hot button “needs” that will sell it. The committee members are being used as a community focus group to help the School Board and Bray figure out the best way to sell a new school – funded with a referendum – to the citizens.

One final related, but side, note. The School District has been a woeful job of keeping the community informed. In this case, the CFAC website is hasn’t even bothered to post the agenda or minutes from the last two meetings. They don’t even have the dates and times of the meetings posted even though it is a public meeting. This is consistent with visibility to other meetings. Since earlier this year, they are doing a very poor job of posting agenda, minutes, videos, etc. like they had been doing previously. Transparency at the West Bend School District has taken a big step backward.

 

Two Seats to be Elected on West Bend School Board

FYI

Nov. 29, 2017 – West Bend, WI – Notice is hereby given of an election to be held in the West Bend Joint School District No. 1 on Tuesday, April 3, 2018. The following offices are to be elected to succeed the present incumbents listed.

The term of office for school board members is three years beginning Monday, April 23, 2018.

The following at-large seats are to be elected to succeed the present incumbents. Two 3-year seats with an expiration date of April 2021. The seats are currently held by Monte Schmiege and Tim Stellmacher.

The candidates receiving the highest number of votes will fill the two 3-year seats.

Notice is further given that a campaign-registration statement and a declaration of candidacy must be filed no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 at the Education Service Center, 735 S. Main Street, West Bend.

Notice is further given that if a primary election is necessary the primary will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.

I hope that Monte Schmiege chooses to run again. He has been an insightful and steadfast conservative voice on that board.

Mom Charged with Felony After Trying to Protect Kid from Bullying

This is outrageous.

(CNN)When Sarah Sims’ daughter complained she was being bullied in elementary school, the Virginia mother grew concerned.

Sims reached out to administrators at Ocean View Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia, where her daughter is in fourth grade, but she said she got no response. In September, Sims decided to investigate on her own.
She sent her daughter to school with a digital audio recorder in her backpack, hoping to capture audio from the classroom. School officials found out and confiscated the device, which had been in her daughter’s desk recording the school day.
Now, Sims, who is herself a student at Virginia’s Norfolk State University, is in trouble with law.
Earlier this month, Norfolk police charged Sims with a felony — intercepting wire, electronic or oral communications — and with a misdemeanor — contributing to the delinquency of a minor
[…]
Virginia is a one-party consent state, meaning it is legal for someone to record others when the person recording is involved in the conversation or when one of the parties in the conversation has given prior consent.
The Norfolk commonwealth’s attorney’s office, which would prosecute the charges, said it just received the case report and hasn’t begun investigating, according to spokeswoman Amanda Howie.
Let’s hope the DA has some common sense. But even if they drop the charges, which they should, the school’s reaction here is completely out of line. Clearly they have far more interest in concealing their behavior and protecting bullies than in serving the kids or the parents.

Graduate Students Fret Over Real World Taxation

Heh.

Talk among graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been buzzing with speculation about a proposed federal tax bill that could hike their income taxes so high some wonder whether they could complete their degrees.

“A lot of folks are debating whether they would be able to stay in school,” said Adria Brooks, co-present of the Teaching Assistants Association, a labor union representing graduate student workers at UW-Madison. “People are panicked, they’re unsure of what to do,” Brooks said.

The U.S. House approved a tax reform bill Nov. 16 that would eliminate a section of the IRS code that exempts tuition remission for graduate students from taxes, making it taxable income.

Graduate students at public universities who work as teaching or research assistants often receive tuition reductions in addition to stipends for their work.

Well, it IS income, isn’t it? If a private employer gives an employee tuition assistance, it counts as income if it’s over a certain amount. Why wouldn’t the same apply if the employer is the university?