Tag Archives: West Bend School Board

West Bend School Board Announces 3 Finalists for Superintendent

From the email.

Donald A. Kirkegaard — Prior to being appointed by the governor of South Dakota as secretary of education for the state in 2017, Kirkegaard was superintendent of the Meade School District and Britton-Hecla School District for nearly 23 years. He was also a principal in the Britton-Hecla School District for six years. Kirkegaard earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from South Dakota State University, a master’s degree in school administration from Northern State University, and an educational specialist degree in school district administration from the University of South Dakota.

Christopher D. Peterson — Christopher Peterson has 23 years of experience in public education, including nine as superintendent of Howards Grove School District. His experience includes serving as principal in the Manitowoc Public School District, Kimberly Area School District, and the School District of Wausaukee, and teaching in the Little Chute Area School District. Peterson earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, a master’s degree in educational administration from Marian University, superintendent certification from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and is working on a doctorate at Marian University.

Thomas J. Hoh, Ph.D. — Thomas Hoh has 20 years of experience in public education and currently serves as the executive director of secondary education for the Green Bay Area Public School District. Prior to joining the Green Bay Area Public School District, Hoh was a principal in the Ripon Area School District and also worked in the Kaukauna Area School District and Neenah Joint School District. Hoh earned his bachelor’s degree in education and master’s degree in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He earned a doctorate in education leadership from Marian University.

Liberal West Bend School Board targets November for $80 million referendum

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

As the West Bend School Board continues to search for a new superintendent after the unfortunate departure of the previous one, it is also aggressively following the liberal playbook to bamboozle the taxpayers into approving a new, massive, $80 million (plus interest) spending referendum. While every one of the school board members ran for office on a platform of conservatism and transparency, their governing is indistinguishable from the arrogant liberal school boards in Milwaukee or Madison.

Since Act 10, the liberals in Wisconsin have fought for more spending and stumbled upon a process to get school spending referendums passed that plays on the fears and best intentions of goodhearted people. The West Bend School Board is following that process and looking to take advantage of the projected “Blue Wave” in November to get more money from district taxpayers.

First, the School Board created the Citizens Facility Advisory Committee last year with a strong majority of members who were already convinced of the need to spend more money. The only questions were “on what” and “how much?” The board hired a company based in Milwaukee called Bray Architects to run the CFAC meetings. Bray brags on its website about the expensive building projects funded by referendums it helped get passed.

Bray did its job for the board and ran a rigid CFAC process that would only lead to the outcome that the board had predetermined. In one unguarded moment, the Bray facilitator admitted that “the decision to build a new Jackson school was made in the prior efforts.” The taxpayers of West Bend would be surprised to know the decision to build a new school was already made. When the facilitator was asked by a CFAC member about why they were even bothering with the committee, he answered, “because we need to help the community understand why a new Jackson is being considered.” In other words, CFAC was a sham propaganda tool from the beginning — not an actual advisory committee. Recent events confirm that conclusion.

After the bogus CFAC process, the School Board is taking the next step of spending $35,000 of our money to conduct a sham survey. The board pretends that the survey is going to be used to gauge public support for areferendum. The survey is a propaganda tool used to build support and, like CFAC, has a predetermined outcome.

The West Bend School Board has hired SchoolPerceptions to conduct the survey. A recent column

by Mark Belling exposed School Perceptions for the propaganda machine it is. Instead of conducting an objective survey that is honestly seeking answers, “the whole point of School Perceptions is to influence opinion through framing questions,” Belling writes.

The upcoming survey in West Bend will not be any different. It is telling that while asking respondents about a list of projects, there will not be an option to just say “no.” The West Bend School Board has decided to intentionally spend taxpayer money to conduct a propaganda effort under the guise of a survey with the intent to sell a spending referendum. It is a shameless act of liberal activism at taxpayers’ expense.

It is worth noting that while the West Bend School Board members are intent on jacking up spending and taxes, the transparency that constituents have enjoyed with previous boards has muddied. Many meetings are no longer recorded, meeting minutes are missing from the district’s website, the use of special and closed sessions has become the norm and many agenda items appeared to have been already discussed and decided before the public meetings. This School Board has made a practice of obscuring their actions from public view.

Furthermore, when I have repeatedly asked the elected school board members to comment on issues for more than a year, the only member of the School Board who has ever responded was Ken Schmidt. Every other Board member has refused to respond — including the two who were just elected. This is a sharp departure from previous years where even the most liberal School Board members were willing to chat with me over a cup of coffee. Elected officials have a duty to speak with their constituents. It is part of the job. Sadly, most of the members of the West Bend School Board lack the sense of duty or humility that good public service requires.

West Bend is proud of our conservatism and proud of our public schools. The School Board is failing our public schools by failing to govern as the conservatives they professed to be. Before they come hat in hand for another $80 million to spend, they need to get their house in order and rebuild the public trust that they have squandered.

 

Special Meeting to Spend Money Tonight

I’m not sure why the West Bend School Board has to do all of these things with special meetings and not as a part of their regular order, but here it is:

May 7, 2018 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend School Board will hold a special meeting at 5:15 p.m. tonight, to approve spending $35,000 on a community-wide survey regarding Jackson Elementary School and the West Bend High Schools.

The Washington County Insider has a lot of background information and financial information.

I’ll remind the gentle reader that this is part of a predictable liberal playbook to con the taxpayers into passing a referendum. The school board is about to spend, and has already spent, tens of thousands of dollars hiring sham companies whose sole purpose is to get school referenda passed. In this case, the district doesn’t even have a superintendent. This is all on the school board.

West Bend School Board Follows Liberal Playbook

From the Washington County Insider:

May 1, 2018 – West Bend, WI – Six members of the West Bend School Board, (Tiffany Larson was not in attendance), spent nearly two hours discussing a proposed survey to test the waters on a possible $80 million referendum. The referendums would focus on Jackson Elementary and the West Bend High Schools.

The survey would be created by Slinger-based School Perceptions. Bill Foster, the president of the company, was in attendance.

You can follow the link to watch the videos. Here’s where we are:

Last year, the School Board started down the path to a building referendum. They engaged an architectural firm that specialized in running a sham process to build support for the referendum. As I wrote back in August, they are following this proven roadmap to referendum:

  1. Form a committee loaded with people predisposed to support more spending
  2. The committee will conduct a needs analysis that has a very wide definition of “need”
  3. Conduct a propaganda campaign through the committee (so that it appears to be coming from the community) that bemoans all of the facility “needs” (expect to hear about sewage backups in Jackson Elementary again)
  4. The committee will determine that existing district resources are inadequate to meet the facilities “needs”
  5. Conduct a community survey with slanted questions, e.g. “Would you support a referendum to prevent the children having to learn while standing in a foot of sewage?”
  6. The committee recommends that the board go to referendum based on the survey results
  7. The School Board puts the referendum(s) on the ballot

They have completed steps 1 through 4. During the CFAC process, they even admitted that it was a sham designed to build support for a predetermined conclusion. You can find that video here.

Now they are working on step number 5. They have engaged School Perceptions, which is the go-to group for creating biased propaganda to build support for school referendums. Mark Belling wrote a column cataloging School Perceptions’ fraudulent business practices last week. Belling concluded:

Foster’s a hustler. He’s come up with a way to get hired by dozens of school districts who want to get referendums passed. Even my attempts to expose him aid his business by publicizing to other districts how he aids them in their referendum con jobs. What is not defensible is that school boards and superintendents are using public money to mislead their residents and pretending to conduct honey surveys.

Yes. That’s the same Foster who attended the West Bend School Board meeting last night.

Where are the alleged conservatives on the West Bend School Board? As far as I can tell, they are just walking down the exact same path to more spending and debt as any liberal school board would. They are using the same techniques. They are using the same propaganda. They are using the same companies. They are spending our tax dollars to advance this propaganda. And they are about to ask the taxpayers for tens of millions of dollars to dump into buildings in a district with flat-to-declining enrollment.

As far as I can tell, the Milwaukee School Board might as well be running the schools in West Bend. We would be getting the same result. But at least the liberals on the Milwaukee School Board are honest about their liberal intentions.

West Bend School Board Ousts President

You don’t see this very often. After only a year as president, Tiffany Larson was cast completely out of the leadership. Is this a tacit admission of the exceedingly poor management from the board in the past year?

The West Bend School District Board of Education restructured Monday after Kurt Rebholz and Christopher Zwygart took their oaths of office.

Joel Ongert was elected as the new president of the board with Nancy Justman as vice president. Tonnie Schmidt held her position as board clerk and Zwygart was named the board treasurer.

West Bend School Board Candidates on Bullying and Referenda

The Washington County Insider queried the West Bend School Board candidates regarding bullying and possible referenda for Jackson Elementary and the High School.

Their answers can be found in part 1 and part 2.

Overall, I would say that they are all thoughtful, considered responses.

Chris Zwygart Explains Position on Curriculum

Chris Zwygart had this letter to the editor today explaining his hand-off approach to curriculum.

I was privileged to chair the St. Joseph’s Hospital Board for several years. The majority of members were dedicated layperson volunteers from our community.

One of the board’s duties is overseeing quality and safety. We fulfilled those duties by discussing information received from highly trained medical experts from Froedtert and the hospital’s staff. The board explored how they developed the programs, the basis for their decisions and then applied good common sense before approving them. In other words, the board ensured the experts used a solid process to select safe, high-quality medical practices.

Imagine if a board member insisted on overriding the experts’ recommendation for the specific medications or amount of oxygen used during surgery. The public would be horrified. Consider the public controversy, distrust and staff dissatisfaction caused by that level of micromanagement.

Let’s translate this example to our school board. The board is responsible for approving curriculum. The board consists of part-time laypersons. If administrators and teachers propose new curriculum, the board should explore how it was developed, the basis for their decisions and apply common sense. The board should focus on the process the experts used to select high-quality curricula to advance the district’s goals. Imagine if board members insisted on imposing their choice of specific novels or scientific theories in our classrooms, contrary to the educational experts’ opinions. The public should be equally horrified. That micromanagement will breed distrust and controversy.

If elected to the school board, I join with Kurt Rebholz to ensure the board oversees the administration’s process for establishing curriculum based on collaboration with the educational experts this board hired, but not through micromanagement. Let’s not turn the specific content of our curriculum into a controversial political football up for grabs at every school board election.

– Chris Zwygart West Bend School Board Candidate

This is the same argument and example Zwygart used when I interviewed him before my column. There are two problems with this argument…

First, safety protocols in a surgery are not equivalent to curriculum choices. The former are based on provable scientific measures to prevent infection and not kill patients. The latter is very subjective and open to interpretation.

Let’s leave aside the issue of intelligent design that the lefties are focusing on. Zwygart’s and Rebholz’s position is that the school board should have almost no say in any curriculum. In the Engage NY curriculum currently being used by the school district, the 8th grade English Language Arts class lays out thus:

  • 20 Days – Launch
  • 40 Days – Refugees
  • 40 Days – Taking a Stand
  • 40 Days – Shakespeare
  • 40 Days – Sustainability of the US Food Supply Chain

Of the 180 days of school, 120 of them are being used to advance liberal social justice issues under the mantle of teaching language arts. According to Zwygart and Rebholz, the school board should not be empowered to make any changes to this because the “experts” already decided. They couldn’t replace “Taking a Stand” with “19th Century English Literature.” They couldn’t replace “Refugees” with “Immigration.” They couldn’t replace “Sustainability of US Food Supply Chain” with “Modern Fantasy Literature.” Remember the purpose of the class is to teach the language – the material is supposed to be just a means to an end. The material is just supposed to be interesting enough to hold the students’ attention.

Of course the school board should have an active role in determining curriculum. Yes, they should strongly defer to education experts and rely on their input, but the the school board has the final say. They cannot absolve themselves from responsibility for what is taught to the kids by delegating it to the staff.

The second thing wrong with Zwygart’s argument is that it could be used to render any elected board meaningless. He says, “The board consists of part-time laypersons” to point out that the school board members are not curriculum experts. That’s true. They are also not financial experts, safety experts, childhood development experts, HR experts, management experts, facilities experts, or anything else. Some of them may be an expert in one of those areas, but the board is not made up of experts. To take Zwygart’s argument to its conclusion, the school board should also defer to experts on all of those other topics. If that’s the case, then why do we even have an elected school board? Let’s just hire experts and let them run it.

Of course we have an elected school board for the precise reason that we want our local government schools to be run by the community – not the experts. We want the experts to implement the will of the people. We want Republican government – not a technocracy.

I really like Chris Zwygart and think he has a lot to offer the school district. In another slate of candidates, I could easily see myself supporting him. But I fundamentally disagree with his hands off approach to one of the most important responsibilities of the school board – determining what our kids are taught.

Proven conservatism for West Bend School Board

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

There is an election April 3, but in-person absentee voting is open at your local City Hall until the end of the day Friday. Most importantly, get out and vote for Michael Screnock for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. After that, look further down the ballot and you will find many other important races. In the West Bend School District, four candidates are contending for two seats.

The West Bend School District is in the midst of some serious challenges. The biggest challenge is that the district has been without a superintendent for the better part of a year and is just beginning the search process for a new one. Many of the other administrators have also left the district leaving a severe vacuum of leadership. Meanwhile, the School Board is charging headlong toward an unwise referendum to replace Jackson Elementary.

West Bend voters are privileged in the fact that all four candidates running have a lot in common. Monte Schmiege, Mary Weigand, Chris Zwygart and Kurt Rebholz are all devoted local citizens with deep roots in the community. All four candidates have solid, if different, backgrounds that would bring a lot to the school board. They all tout the virtues of fiscal responsibility, safe schools, transparency and all of the other things important to West Bend’s voters. They are all intent of finding a superintendent who will fill the leadership void with a clear vision, strong administrative skills and an ability to connect and communicate with the entire community.

For all practical purposes, all four candidates appear to agree on 90 percent, if not more, of the issues that will come before the board. The differences between the candidates are small, but they are real. Those differences lead me to cast my votes for Monte Schmiege and Mary Weigand.

One of the biggest differences that has emerged between the candidates revolves around the School Board’s role and responsibility when it comes to determining curriculum. Rebholz and Zwygart have made strong statements to the effect that the School Board should provide some oversight, but that the determination of curriculum should be left to the so-called experts. They eschew the responsibility for curriculum saying that part-time non-educators should not have a say in determining what is taught to our kids. I reject that notion.

The whole purpose of having an elected School Board is so that the government school district is overseen by representatives of the community. They are there to inject the community’s values into everything from budgeting to safety protocols to extracurriculars and to, yes, curriculum. And if the School Board thinks that there is better use of time in an eighth grade language arts class than spending 40 days reading about the “Sustainability of the US Food Supply Chain,” then the School Board should change the curriculum — experts or not. The School Board should not micromanage curriculum, but neither should they abandon their responsibility for it.

The other primary difference between the candidates just comes down to track record. As we learned in the School Board election last year, it is easy for candidates to bamboozle voters by touting fiscal responsibility and transparency and then abandon those values when elected. Both Rebholz and Zwygart are relative newcomers to engaging in the issues of the school district.

Meanwhile, Schmiege is the only incumbent in the race. Running for his second term, he would be the most senior member of the School Board and the only member who has been part of a search for a superintendent. He has a rock solid track record of fiscal responsibility and thoughtful leadership on the school board. He is one of the only members of the School Board willing to continually work on the boring things like revamping old policies and strictly adhering to rules governing a public board. He has also remained transparent and open to the community throughout his term. There is never any doubt about where Schmiege stands on an issue or whether or not he will stick to his convictions. He is a rock.

Weigand has been actively involved in district issues as a parent and citizen for years. She has served on the district’s Human Growth and Development Committee and is serving on the Citizens Facility Advisory Committee. Weigand is a regular feature at School Board meetings and frequently offers insightful input. Like Schmiege, there is never any doubt as to Weigand’s convictions or whether or not she will waver from them under pressure.

All four candidates say many of the same things, but only Schmiege and Weigand have the years of public history backing up those statements. They have both earned a seat on the board.

Win or lose, I truly hope that all four candidates remained involved in shaping the district’s future.

West Bend School Board Candidate Forum

There was a forum last night with West Bend School Board candidates. I was not able to attend due to a prior commitment, but the Washington County Insider did a nice job of capturing the comments.

Here is Part 1.

And Part 2.

There is some interesting stuff in there and some differentiation when it comes to curriculum and the role of the school board. More on that later…

 

Schmiege Responds

Monte Schmiege, the only incumbent running for the West Bend School Board, took issue with a recent column by John Torinus in the Washington County Daily News. Schmiege responded with this today:

Yes, I do have an agenda: I focus on student success

The Daily News recently ran an editorial by John Torinus on the recent primary, including selection of candidates for the school board election April 3. My claim to fame, according to Torinus, is having an agenda “beyond management oversight of the district,” in contrast to the board members he favors. I think all board members have an intense interest in what is best for the students, myself included, and all candidates come to the board with agendas.

Torinus does not clarify what management oversight means or what kind of agendas or judgments form the basis for such oversight. He says I am a “declared conservative.” I’ll take that. He says I am a “stickler for strict adherence to regulations, policies and procedures.” I’ll take that. Isn’t that what management oversight should be, as opposed to personal agendas that ignore regulations, policies and procedures?

Torinus calls me out for a policy proposal that suggested people addressing the board do so from their personal perspectives. It did not prevent group representation. Jason Penterman, of the WBEA, objected to the proposal with reasons, and Torinus joined in. Subsequently, Torinus wouldn’t take as satisfactory my statement that the Policy Committee would review the proposal.

Torinus typically has good, reasoned arguments in his writings. I can agree with him much of the time. In the matter of the West Bend School Board election, he and I seem to have some differences of opinion.

My agenda is stability, sustainability and student success. The district has gone through a great deal of turmoil. We need to establish stability. Capital and compensation plans must be financially sustainable. Most of all, we need to focus on student success, which is a function of many decisions, big and small. Add one more goal, safety.

West Bend School Board Primary Results

These are interesting results:

sbresults

First, who are the 505 idiots who voted for Carl Lundin? He’s the guy who dropped out. We’ll call that the “ignorant voter” quotient.

Second, the two candidates who identify themselves as Conservatives, Mary Weigand and Monte Schmiege, won convincing pluralities. Schmiege is an incumbent and one of two conservatives on the current board. Weigand is a well-known local conservative. This is, perhaps, not surprising in a conservative community like West Bend, but the results of the past few local elections seemed to indicate a softening of that demographic feature. This election seems to indicate that perhaps the previous elections were anomalies.

Third, turnout for this primary election was 35% higher than the general election last year for school board (22.53% vs. 16.68%). This is a pattern that we have seen in West Bend for a while. There is a vocal, committed, organized liberal minority. They vote more reliably than the conservative majority. This means that turnout is everything. When turnout is below 20%, liberals can win victories in local elections like they did last April. When turnout is higher, there just aren’t enough liberals to overcome the conservative vote. The liberals can turn out every single liberal in the county and they can’t win if there is even a moderate conservative turnout. It’s just math.

Let’s hope that turnout is decent for the April election. Given that the Supreme Court race is likely to be very heated, I think Schmiege and Weigand have the inside track to the school board. That bodes well for the district.

Vote Tomorrow

Tomorrow is election day in Wisconsin!

There are a number of local primaries and referenda on the ballot, but the only statewide race is the primary for the Supreme Court. There are three candidates on the ballot and the top two will move on to the general election. As I wrote a few weeks ago, it’s an easy choice. Judge Scroneck is the only conservative on the ballot, but there’s a real chance he could lose in a low turnout election. GET OUT AND VOTE!

In West Bend, we also have an unnecessary primary for the West Bend School Board. There are two seats up for that board. Originally, five candidates put their hats in the ring, which forces a primary to narrow the field to four candidates. Since then, one of the candidates dropped out, so there are only four viable candidates (no, I don’t know what happens if the candidate who dropped out wins enough votes to go on). Since the primary didn’t mean anything, I haven’t taken the time to speak with the candidates. I’ll do so before the general election and share my thoughts.

West Bend School Board Candidate Forum this Week

For most of them:

Three of the five candidates that will appear on the February 20th West Bend School Board primary election ballot will attend the January 25th candidate forum. The forum is a Thursday, at The West Bend Moose Lodge beginning at 7:00. the candidates appearing are; Mary Weigand, Christopher Zwygart, and Monte Schmiege. All three will be encouraged to stay after the forum to meet the audience and answer their questions, or hear individual concerns.

West Bend School Superintendent’s Resignation Agreement

The Washington County Insider has the resignation agreement for the former school superintendent. Go read the whole thing. As a reminder, The former West Bend School Superintendent Erik Olson resigned in December after being on a leave of absence for several months. It was widely circulated, if never officially confirmed, that he had a major medical issue but eventually recovered.

The backdrop is that Olson was hired in the summer of 2016 with a three-year contract. At the time, the school board had a majority of conservatives and moderates who hired him. In April of 2017, a liberal majority swept into power on the school board and they clearly wanted a superintendent who more closely aligned with their vision for the school district.

Olson resigned in December saying in his resignation letter that, “during my leave I have come to realize that a majority of board members and I have differing visions for the school district’s direction.”

So… what’s in the resignation agreement and what does it tell us?

Basically, the agreement pays out Olson for the remainder of his contract. He will receive the amount of his full salary until June 30, 2019 – about $238k. He’ll also get $10k for moving expenses and about $10k for unused vacation time. The school district will also pay for his benefits until June 30, 2019, or until he gets a new job. So the total actual amount is uncertain because of the variability of the cost of benefits, but it’s safe to say that the taxpayers of the West Bend School District are on the hook for something north of $300,000 to buy out Olson’s contract.

The key clause in the agreement is the “Nondisparagement” clause. It states:

The Parties agree that they will not make any statements concerning Employee’s employment with or separation of employment from the Board and District except as provided for in the statement mutually agreed to by the Parties and which is attached hereto as Exhibit A.

It’s a gag order for Olson and an excuse for the Board members to not discuss the reasons behind the resignation.

Here’s what I think happened… the liberal majority of the board didn’t want Olson around anymore because he was hired by their conservative predecessors. He hadn’t done anything wrong, so they couldn’t fire him. When Olson was sick, he truly did realize that this board would be terrible to work for, so he wanted out too. They got together and basically agreed that Olson would go away quietly and not criticize the board in exchange for paying out his contract.

Who wins? The School Board and Olson. They get to pick their own Superintendent and he gets to receive essentially his full compensation for the next year and a half as he finds a new job.

Who loses? The citizens of the West Bend School District who will have to carry the expense of two superintendents until the middle of 2019. Also the citizens and students who have to contend with the disruption of trying to recruit a new Superintendent in the middle of the year as the district is also going to be changing its teacher compensation plan, asking for more money in a referendum, etc. I fear that West Bend will struggle to attract a qualified Superintendent after the way we treated the previous two.

West Bend School Board Quorum at Convention

This is interesting.

quorum

The deal is that four members of the West Bend School Board are attending this convention. That constitutes a quorum of the School Board, so they rightfully posted it. But this seems to violate Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law which states:

19.81 (2) To implement and ensure the public policy herein expressed, all meetings of all state and local governmental bodies shall be publicly held in places reasonably accessible to members of the public and shall be open to all citizens at all times unless otherwise expressly provided by law.

Is this conference generally open to the public? Can I just go sit in the meetings and watch? Is a meeting in Milwaukee “reasonable accessible to members of the public” from the West Bend School District?

It would seem prudent for one of the school board members to hang back to avoid any legal risk to the district.

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.

Five Candidates to Vie for Two Seats on West Bend School Board

The fifth candidate triggers a primary election.

Jan. 2, 2018 – West Bend, WI – Five people have applied to run for two open seats on the West Bend School Board.

The five candidates include Carl Lundin, incumbent Monte Schmiege, Kurt Rebholz, Mary Weigand and Chris Zwygart.

There will be a primary election to trim the field to four candidates. That will be held Tuesday, Feb. 20.

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.

Letters to the Editor

This post is for my fellow Benders. The rest of y’all can talk amongst yourselves for a few minutes…

There are two really good and interesting letters to the editor in the Washington County Daily News today. The first is from Jim Geldreich, the Chairman of the Washington County Republican Party, who takes one of the local liberal columnists to task for his tired pro-tax rhetoric. Geldreich begins:

The most overused mantra of Democrats and liberal columnists is “tax breaks for the wealthy.”. We’ve heard this timeworn and uninspiring allegation since the GW Bush tax cuts of 2002. When an effective, fact-based argument cannot be put forth against Republican tax cuts, we’re told they’re “tax breaks for the wealthy” and nothing more. Therefore I’m not surprised this was the overriding theme of the majority of the last two columns by Daily News writer Al Rudnitzki. Instead of using his bi-monthly column space to educate the readers on the tax plan, he chose to demagogue the issue calling it the “Trump Tax Scam” and to take cheap shots at the Republican Party and its leadership.

Go read the whole thing.

The second letter is from Therese Sizer, who is a former West Bend School Board Member. Sizer resigned after the board passed a policy regarding board members and nepotism (as an aside, I thought her resignation was unnecessary under the policy, but she clearly thought differently). Sizer has some insightful commentary on the culture around the West Bend School Board that keeps driving good people, like the former superintendent, away. She concludes:

Let’s vow to look beyond social media gossip as our news source. Let us demand that media reports be fair, unbiased and well researched. Finally, let’s consider that real issues only find real answers through collaboration and respect. Local government is about transparency and accountability. But those can’t be just words used to whip each other. They must mean something about community spirit, collaboration and responsibility. I respectfully disagree with recently published opinions that encourage us to support one group of school board members over another. Partisanship and bullying have no place in a board room.

Go read that whole letter too.

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.

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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.