Tag Archives: West Bend School Board

Some Further Thoughts on the West Bend School Board

There have been a few developments in the ongoing travesty of governance occurring with the West Bend School Board. You can catch up with my earlier posts (post one and post two). Basically, a group of board members led by the board president are running roughshod over and semblance of process or propriety to create two new principal positions and then appoint people into those jobs instead of running through a normal hiring process.

In thinking about it over the past couple of days, I had to take a step back and wonder if I missed something. Was there an overwhelming public push to change from one high school administration to two? Did I miss the social media push, letters to the editor, feedback in public meetings, etc? I looked, and I don’t think so.

When the new Superintendent came on board last year, he spent several months doing nothing but meeting with community groups, teachers, parents, local businesses, etc. to get feedback on what’s working and what’s not. Here is link to his findings that he released in November last year. There is no mention at all of any concern about having a single high school administration. None. One would have thought that someone might have mentioned it if it were such a concern. Perhaps a person or two mentioned it, but certainly not in any volume sufficient to make it into the top ten issues for the district.

I also followed the election we had for school board in April fairly closely. I don’t recall any of the candidates speaking to any concern or anybody from the community asking anything about it in any of the various forums. We had a robust debate about the future of the district and its problems, and the issue of a single high school principal was hardly mentioned – if ever.

So why the pants on fire urgency to make this change and appoint people to the new roles? Why the sudden need to call a special session and ram it through with no public input, no cost estimate, no planning, no hiring process? Where did all of this urgency come from?

I did notice two developments since I last wrote about this. First, the board has changed its agenda for tomorrow. On Friday, it said, “Possible board appointment of East High School Principal and appointment of West High School principal.” That language has been changed. Now it says, “Introduction of possible candidates for East High School Principal and West High School Principal.”

So apparently the board has felt enough pressure to hold off on appointing right away, but will introduce possible candidates and then appoint one of them a week or so later. It is a fig leaf of process. One wonders who they will be introducing. What was the application process? Could anyone throw their hat in?

As a side note, the school board runs the serious risk of substantial legal liability by following this path. By definition, appointing someone to a job instead of having an open and fair application and hiring process means that they are arbitrarily limiting the candidate pool.  The EEOC looks into these kind of things:

The laws enforced by EEOC prohibit an employer or other covered entity from using neutral employment policies and practices that have a disproportionately negative effect on applicants or employees of a particular race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), or national origin, or on an individual with a disability or class of individuals with disabilities, if the polices or practices at issue are not job-related and necessary to the operation of the business. The laws enforced by EEOC also prohibit an employer from using neutral employment policies and practices that have a disproportionately negative impact on applicants or employees age 40 or older, if the policies or practices at issue are not based on a reasonable factor other than age.

The whole point of having an open application process is to not only allow the opportunity to find the best candidates, but also to ensure that the process is fair and available to anyone interested in the job. Process matters and bypassing that process is an act of arbitrary discrimination by the board.

The second thing that has happened is that board member Joel Ongert has posted a lengthy defense of the his actions on his FaceBook page. In it, he makes a couple of interesting comments. First, there’s this one:

What is also exciting is that returning to the two Principal model creates an opportunity to eliminate the (open) position of Director of Secondary Education. Those job responsibilities can easily be enveloped within the two Principal roles as was done in the past.

So is there another organizational change coming? Will there be the opportunity for public input on this one? One of the complaints about a single administration was that the principal was too busy to have a good relationship with the kids. If we take the same FTE count and add in another FTE worth of responsibilities, how does that help? This position might be worth a review, but I sure hope that the board takes a serious look at it and doesn’t just accept the union’s talking points at face value (eliminating this position is a bugaboo of the union).

Ongert also makes this claim:

Not only is there no net cost to the taxpayer, there is a net savings (assuming they eliminate the Director of Secondary Education)

This is a repeat of the assertion that the decision to have two principals instead of one is a cost neutral decision. Bear in mind that they are making that assertion without the benefit of any study or cost estimate. It is a baseless claim. In fact, on the surface, it looks like it will cost more.

Right now there is one principal in five assistant principals. The working assumption is that they will now have two principals and four assistant principals – thus retaining six FTEs. But principals are paid more than assistant principals. So even with the same six FTEs, having two of them be principals will, indeed, cost more. That’s more money for administration and less for classrooms.

Finally, I return to the election we had a few short months ago. During that election, the three candidates who were running on the same platform made a big deal about transparency, research, and fiscal restraint. Then candidate Tonnie Schmidt said:

What I can guarantee is that if elected, I will request a wholesale analysis of the WBSD organization chart to ensure position redundancy is monitored and eliminated, that personnel expertise matches the position expectations and that all hiring processes are fair moving forward. I will ask the questions and set the example for accountability.

I’m running for the students who deserve equal opportunity, not forced cookie cutter approaches to education and standardized assessments.

I’m running for the employees who have missed opportunities to lead or excel because of organizational nepotism, unfair processes and bias.

I’m running for taxpayers who believed there were stalwart, conservatives overseeing their hard earned money who instead rubber stamped approvals on every suggestion.

Where is the “wholesale analysis” that was done before making this change? What about “hiring processes are fair?” When did she “ask the questions” during the board meeting where they made this decision? Why did the board “rubber stamp approval on” a suggestion allegedly made to President Larson at a listening panel? Where is the thoughtful, informed, transparent decision making we were promised?

Finally (for real this time), I have asked several times for comment from school board members. To date, the only one who has responded is Monte Schmiege, who deferred to the board leadership. While I am occasionally a critic of the school board, I am also a taxpayer and stakeholder in the district. My elected board members are refusing to even return my emails or calls. So much for constituent services or representative government. Every other elected official at least responds.

 

West Bend School Board Prepares to Appoint New Principals

Well, well… the West Bend School Board posted its agenda for its Monday meeting. It includes this:

Action Item 6:45 a. Possible Board appointment of East High School principal and appointment of West High School principal

So here’s where we are… Sometime late Wednesday, the school board president posted notice of a special meeting for Thursday afternoon. On Thursday afternoon – without any public input, study, recommendation from the administration, cost estimate, job descriptions, org structure, or any other details – the school board voted to change from one to two principals for the West Bend High Schools. And now on Monday afternoon, they intend to appoint those principals without any time for people to submit applications, public input, interviews, etc.

This has all the hallmarks of a board that has already colluded to create and then ram a couple of people into these positions. Such collusion would be illegal and a violation of open meeting laws. The lack of any real discussion of the issue on Thursday, or even asking the superintendent to weigh in, indicates that they had either already discussed it, or they have such a passive interest in asking tough questions that it borders on incompetence.  They already demonstrated astonishingly poor governance on Thursday. They appear to be about to compound that on Monday.

I will state again that two principals may indeed be preferable to one. I can certainly see the rationale for it. But the lack of transparency, nonexistent communication, eschewing of public input, failure to do even a rudimentary study of the costs or consequences, and disregard for even basic principles of good governance being displayed by this board is deplorable.

 

West Bend High Schools to Have Two Principals

I attended the meeting of the West Bend School Board that I mentioned this morning. What a deplorable example of governance.

Quick background… West Bend has two high schools in one building. It is apparently unique in this regard. Several years ago, in an effort to trim the cost of administration, the district went with a combined principal and single administrative staff. Tonight, the board voted to go back to two principals and, presumably, two staffs.

I don’t necessarily disagree with the decision itself. I see the sense in having two principals and as long as the cost of administration remains neutral or decreases, then it’s really just a matter of organizational structure. I can make an argument for either structure. But the method by which the board made their decision was an example of exceedingly poor governance.

Bear in mind that this is a board whose newest members have promised better transparency and stakeholder input. It is also a school district that was just completed a study about its communications. The study was fairly critical of the district’s communications and transparency and had several recommendations. The campaign promises and study were ignored in this process.

First, the board called a special meeting with almost no notice. The meeting notice was released the night before the meeting. They claim it was released 24 hours in advance in accordance with the law, but if they did it was by the skin of their teeth. The notice was buried in their website, but did not appear on their social media outlets or anywhere else. The only way anyone would have known about the meeting was if they happened to scan the public notices at the library this morning or dug into the meeting agendas about seven clicks down into the district’s website. Fortunately, the Washington County Insider saw it and wrote about it. That appears to be how most people who managed to attend the meeting heard about it.

Second, the description of the meeting in the notice did not mention one principal versus two. It was generic language about administrative policies. The only reason anyone knew that the board would be discussing splitting the principal position into two was because the board president emailed The Washington County Insider saying so.

In other words, the board planned to make a rather significant decision regarding the administrative structure of West Bend’s High Schools and failed to make even a cursory effort to inform the public or invite input. Indeed, their actions indicate that they were almost trying to evade public input.

During the meeting, Board President Tiffany Larson read a lengthy preamble laying out the rationale for the meeting. She stated that after hearing feedback during a listening panel, she thought that the public wanted two principals, so she brought it to the board. Board Member Monty Schmiege questioned her on this point later in the meeting. Larson admitted that the panel was actually a listening panel for hiring a new principal and was not to discuss this issue. She admitted that it was an off hand comment from someone during the meeting. One of the few speakers was an assistant principal who was a member of that panel. She questioned it and said that she did not recall the issue even being discussed. Larson also didn’t name who made the comment. Nobody can apparently even verify that the root comment that generated this meeting even happened.

A few speakers managed to speak during the public comment period. They all supported two principals, but several of them also complained about the lack of communication or notice. One person mentioned that she is a parent whose husband is a teacher and the only way she found out about the meeting was on the Washington County Insider. There was no notice to parents, faculty, staff, or anyone else.

Larson and board member Tonnie Schmidt both brushed aside concerns about communication or public input. Larson made some comments about this being a discussion in the community for years. They said that the reason for the urgency was that they wanted to get it changed prior to the new school year starting. The cited a couple of letters from former principals and comments from unnamed people in the community. Apparently, that passes for public input. I, for one, didn’t even know it was up for discussion until this morning, and now it is done. I suspect that hundreds of people will read this, the Washington County Insider, or the Daily News over the next couple of days and have had no idea this even happened.

Schmiege also made reference to the fact that the issue was discussed previously in a closed executive session and apparently the Superintendent was going to conduct a study of the issue and make a recommendation. The board acted without any research, study, cost estimates, or recommendation from the administration. We have no idea what the cost will be. We don’t know what the division of labor will be. We don’t know what the reporting structure will be. We don’t know anything. All we know is that now there will be two principals instead of one. Larson dismissed such concerns saying that West Bend had two principals for decades and it will work. Only ignorance could instill such confidence.

I would note that I did reach out this morning for comment from every board member. None of them have responded. This is the third or fourth time I’ve asked for comment without any response. The new board’s communication policy appears to be to not communicate at all.

Emergency School Board Meeting Tonight in West Bend

Well, this is curious

NOTICE OF SPECIAL BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING

Education Service Center 735 S. Main Street,

West Bend Board Room Thursday,

July 20, 2017 5:00 pm

Call to order

1. Action Item

a. High School Administrative Reorganization

2. Executive session pursuant to Wis. Stats. 19.85(1)(c) to consider employment, promotion, compensation or performance evaluation data of any public employee over which the governmental body has jurisdiction or exercises responsibility, and take any such action, if necessary, based on its discussion, namely: review and consideration of high school administrative assignments

Adjourn

This is odd for a few reasons. First, as far as I can tell, this notice went out last night or early this morning – less than 24 hours before a school board meeting. That is hardly adequate notice for a public meeting. Usually when a meeting is called with so little notice, it is done so because of some emergency or critical issue – like a security issue or a major HR issue. The stated reason for this meeting does not strike me as an emergency. It strikes me as a normal policy issue that could easy be dealt with in the normal course of business for the board. Why the last minute urgency?

Second, on the issue itself, I’m hearing that it is to discuss whether the West Bend High Schools should have a principal for each high school, as they had in the past, or continue with a single principal for both schools, as they are currently structured. If that is indeed the topic to be discussed, then why not put that in the description of the meeting? The reason stated in the public notice is very vague and dull-sounding, but I know that many school district stakeholders have a passionate interest in the issue of one principal vs. two. Why does the notice obfuscate the topic to be discussed?

Third, if the school board is calling an emergency meeting to talk about whether to have two principals instead of one, I can only assume that that means that some of them really want two. Why have an emergency meeting to just affirm the status quo? But I thought the majority of the school board members ran for office saying that they wanted fewer administrators – not more.

We’ll see what happens tonight.

UPDATE: The Washington County Insider has confirmation that this meeting is, indeed, about one vs. two high school principals. Why didn’t they put that in the meeting notice then? And, again, why the special meeting for it?

According to an email from West Bend School Board president Tiffany Larson, “It is a discussion pertaining to the benefit of returning to the traditional 2 principal arrangement or maintaining the current model of 1 principal for 2 high schools.”

New School Board Member Selected in West Bend

He certainly seems qualified. Hopefully his experience can help balance a very green board. Hat tip to the Washington County Insider.

May 24, 2017 – West Bend, WI – Tim Stellmacher was selected during a special meeting tonight to fill an open seat on the West Bend School Board. The term runs 1-year.

The seat opened after Therese Sizer resigned her post March 20.

Stellmacher was one of five people who submitted an application for the open seat. Others included Pat Seghers, Amy Swanson Kieser, Bob Miller and Tina Hochstaetter.

Stellmacher is 70 years old and has lived in West Bend since 1979.  Stellmacher said he is retired. His LinkedIn profile shows he works as a school business management consultant and previously worked in the Waupun Area and Hustisford School Districts.

New School Board Members Sworn In

So the School Board President has one year of experience. Great.

Tiffany Larson was selected as the new president of the West Bend School District Board of Education after board members Nancy Justman, Joel Ongert and Tonnie Schmidt took their oaths of office.

The meeting was called to order by Board Treasurer Monte Schmiege, as prior to the meeting he was the only remaining officer on the board. He also requested a raised-hand vote for the new president.

The group of six ultimately voted privately between Schmiege and Larson.

Protecting Our Kids

One subject that I’m a little surprised hasn’t been more of an issue in the race for the West Bend School Board is the issue of allowing firearms in our schools. One of the candidates, Tonnie Schmidt, is the co-owner of Delta Defense, which has been incredibly active in promoting more progressive and realistic means of defending out schools.

Last year I attended a forum sponsored by Delta Defense where the panelists discussed the varying benefits and worries about allowing firearms into our schools. The basic premise is that gun-free zones are targets for deranged lunatics. A more rational response is to allow people the defend themselves just like they can across the street from the school. That might mean just allowing anyone who is already licensed to carry a weapon to also do so in schools. It might mean just allowing willing teachers and staff to be armed. It might mean some other flavor of armed deterrence and defense. The point is that there is no rational basis for not allowing adults to protect themselves and our kids with access to lethal force should the worst happen. As I said in my column about this subject:

Banning the same people who safely carry a concealed weapon into grocery stores, banks, restaurants, parks and many other places from carrying that same weapon into a school is nonsensical. The ban is based on an irrational fear of guns that has been debunked everywhere else in society. And for many CCW parents, like me, it is ludicrous to disarm parents precisely at the time when they are with the people they most want to defend — their children.

Perhaps if Schmidt is elected to the School Board, this is an issue she could champion. Many of us would be 100% behind her if she did.

Justman’s Troubled Past in County

One of the West Bend School Board candidates has a troubled history in Washington County. Before taking her current job, Nancy Justman was the Executive Director of AIS, which runs the Washington County Fair Park, for about eight years. She resigned abruptly after a lot of heat for botching the budget and running up a massive debt. Mark Petersen, one of the now defunct liberal columnists for the local paper, has some of the background:

The Education Committee minutes, starting on March 31, begin to tell the story. Nancy Justman, chairwoman of AIS, “presented a draft master plan for Fair Park dated February 11, 2008, and reviewed the 32 items identified in the plan. It was noted the items have not been prioritized and there are no cost figures associated with the items.” The Education Committee members approved the draft – apparently on the basis of trust, since they accepted a “master plan” that had no cost figures and no spending priorities. In the months that followed, no plan beyond this draft was approved by the County Board.

After March 10, new supervisors were elected, summer passed and, by early November, the Finance Committee had hammered out and approved a solid county budget.

Then something odd happened: a few weeks after the budget was finished AIS asked for the extra $410,000 to cover its overruns. AIS had to know about the additional $130,000 worth of improvements, apparently approved on the fly as construction was underway. Moreover, since the summer’s main events had failed to produce the anticipated profits, someone at AIS had to have known, well before the budget was finished, that they needed an additional $410,000. So why would AIS bring it up after the budget was passed? I’d like to know.

More alarming, when the request was finally presented in December, it was still missing the dollar amounts any competent County Board needs to make a good decision. The minutes from the County Board proceedings on Dec. 9 indicate that, as they’d done nearly seven months earlier, members of the Board asked for an updated business plan, this time to be submitted no later than Jan. 15.

While not excusing the poor management of the Washington County Board at the time, Justman’s failure to provide basic budgetary information was negligence bordering on incompetence. Justman resigned and ran for the hills a couple of months later under a cloud of controversy.

TOWN OF POLK – Nancy Justman, Executive Director of the Washington County Fair Park since July 2001 has accepted a new position outside of Washington County. Her last day at the Fair Park will be April 9.

“We are sorry to see her leave. She did a good job for the Agriculture and Industrial Society,” said Gordon Tonn, board of directors president. “We wish her well in her new endeavors, and it’s unfortunate that she had to leave us. She did a good job for both the AIS and the county.”

County Board Chairman Herb Tennies was surprised when notified by the Daily News that Justman had submitted her resignation. He declined to comment until he could read a copy of the resignation letter.

Justman touts her experience working with a board as a qualification for the West Bend School Board. Experience does not always mean successful performance.

West Bend School Board Candidate Forum

The West Bend Chamber of Commerce held its forum for the candidates for the West Bend School Board. You can find a run down of the questions and responses at the Washington County Insider.

One vote for Gieryn, Miller and Cammack

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. The resignation of Therese Sizer last night puts it in a different context this morning. Here you go:

April 4 brings us another opportunity to exercise our right to elect our political and judicial leaders. While the national and state elections tend to get all of the attention, it is our local elected officials who arguably have more of a direct impact on our everyday lives. It is also our local officials who often work long hours, deal with a lot of quirky citizens and do so for little money or fame. We should all give our neighbors a big “thank you” for being willing to serve our community.

One of the important races on the ballot in West Bend and neighboring communities is for the West Bend School Board. Three of the seven board seats are on the ballot with only one incumbent running for re-election. The results of this election could push the school board in an entirely new direction.

Two incumbent school board members decided to not seek re-election. President Rick Parks and Vice President Bart Williams are both concluding their second terms and deserve a sincere thank you. While ideologically different, both Parks and Williams went about their business on the school board in a thoughtful, thorough, collegial, and effective manner. During their tenures, they navigated the district through the aftermath of Act 10, implemented a merit pay system for teachers, started a charter school, started a clinic for district staff, hired a new superintendent and many other things for which they should be proud. Thank you, gentlemen.

The third incumbent school board member did choose to seek re-election. Ryan Gieryn is running for his second term and wants to see through some of the issues he worked on in his first term including continuing to refine the teacher merit pay system, evaluate the effectiveness of the district’s testing regimen, direct the new superintendent that he helped hire and look ahead to replacing Jackson Elementary. While I did not support Gieryn when he ran the first time, his thoughtful and measured service on the board has been commendable and he has earned my vote for a second term.

There is also the issue with experience on the board. Our republican form of government is kept healthy by the constant refreshing of elected officials, but some experience in governing is necessary. An inexperienced and naïve school board shifts power to the unelected administration. If Gieryn does not win re-election, then every board member except one, Therese Sizer, would be serving their first term. Gieryn’s experience on the board will be particularly important as the new superintendent settles into his role.

Bob Miller is running for the school board for the second time having fallen just short last year. He has spent the past year talking to people, participating in school events and learning more about the district. Miller is a graduate of the district with three kids attending schools in West Bend.

He is a fiber optic technician, school bus driver, Boy Scout leader, father and husband who has some great common sense ideas to improve the district’s outcomes. A fiscal conservative, Miller wants to ensure that the district spends money wisely and has seen enough working and volunteering in the district to have some tangible ideas on how to save money. The second time is the charm for Miller and he deserves a seat on the board.

Richard Cammack has lived in West Bend for 22 years and wants to see the district improve in many areas. He believes in the importance of family, students, teachers and business and a school district that serves all constituents. Cammack considers himself a realist who needs to fully understand an issue and listen to the district’s stakeholders before making a decision. Cammack is receiving my third vote April 4.

The remaining three candidates, Tonnie Schmidt, Joel Ongert and Nancy Justman, are running as a bloc with virtually identical platforms. They all claim to be conservatives (one stands little chance of winning election in a district that is 70-plus percent conservative if one does not claim to be one). They trumpet “accountability” but only seem to want to hold administrators accountable. While that is a laudable goal, their reluctance to continue or strengthen even the mild performance pay standards for teachers is troubling.

Their repetition of the talking points coming out of the local teachers union and lefty talking heads leads one to believe that these three would be reliable agents for whatever the West Bend Education Association wants. Many of the yards in West Bend whose Hillary and Bernie signs died during the winter have now sprouted signs for Schmidt, Ongert and Justman with the coming of spring.

I will note that all three of these candidates refused to be interviewed for this column. Despite claiming to be conservatives, they had no appetite to be probed by the district’s only resident conservative columnist.

Once again West Bend is privileged to have some great people running for local office. I am happy to support three of them for the West Bend School Board. I will be happily voting for Ryan Gieryn, Bob Miller, and Richard Cammack on April 4.

 

Therese Sizer Resigns from West Bend School Board

The Washington County Insider has the story:

March 20, 2017 – West Bend, WI – Therese Sizer has resigned from the West Bend School Board.

Sizer, a clerk on the board, read a prepared statement following a vote on policy 511.1 which related to nepotism within the district.

The board passed the policy on its second reading with a 6 – 0 vote; Sizer abstained as she has a daughter that works in the West Bend School District.

The policy essentially made clear that a board member cannot vote on a measure that affects a direct relative.

After the measure passed Sizer read a 3-page statement and left the meeting.

“I didn’t take it that she was upset,” said board member Ryan Gieryn. “She made clear that she didn’t try to do anything that would have an affect on her daughter and she’s always been very ethical.”

Gieryn described Sizer’s statement as “eloquent.”

During her statement Sizer mentioned how the nepotism policy would only allow her to vote on minute amounts and she’d have to recuse herself so much that she could not fulfill her responsibilities on the oath she took to perform her duties on the board.

“Sizer just said that with this policy in place she doesn’t feel she can truly fulfill her duties as a school board member because anything she votes on would affect teachers,” said Gieryn.

Wow. Clearly she thought that the new policy would conflict with her ability to fulfill her duties. Hats off to her ethics, but it doesn’t seem that the policy would effectively prohibit a family member of a school staff member from serving. She seems to be adhering to an exceedingly strict interpretation of the policy.

As you will see in my column tomorrow, this means that if Gieryn fails to win reelection, every single board member will be in their first term. I’m all for a healthy turnover on the board, but a little experience is helpful too.

West Bend Primary Results

Hmmmm… there are some interesting nuggets in the results. Here are the primary results for West Bend as conveniently posted by the Washington County Insider.

febresults

First off, turnout was extremely low. It is not unusual for West Bend to have over 80% turnout and usually outperforms the state in turnout even in these kinds of elections. All of the state results are not in yet, but it looks like West Bend will underperform this time. This is because the school board primary wasn’t really a primary since Tina Hochstaetter dropped out and the only other thing on the ballot was the DPI race. Some school referendums and more contentious school board primaries on other parts of the state drove turnout much higher – particularly in Madison.

Second, the West Bend school board results are telling. Three candidates, Schmidt, Justman, and Ongert are running as a block. They are using almost identical campaign messaging; signs for the three of them are appearing together in the same yards; and there is a large sign for the three of them together to be seen from Highway 45 as one goes south out of town. These three also received the most votes.

The question is, why? Although every school board candidate in West Bend is running as a conservative (because conservatives stand a better chance of winning in a city that is 70% conservative), these three candidates are being strongly supported by the local lefty and pro teachers union groups. Given that it is these groups that are more passionate about changing the makeup of the school board, they are more likely to have had turned out in this micro-turnout election.

The DPI results seem to support this conclusion. This is a county that voted 66% for Don Pridemore when he ran against Evers in 2013 and Pridemore’s campaign was drastically underfunded. It is a county that typically votes 70%-80% Republican. Yet in the DPI race, the conservative candidate only received 50% of the vote. This indicates a disproportionate turnout by the left side of the electorate in West Bend. Of course, there are no other races on the ballot that exactly match the geography of the school district, so rough comparisons are what we have to go on.

I would not read too much into this election. The April turnout is typically 25%-40% and a heated DPI race will drive higher turnout. That’s 2.5 to 4 times more voters than this election and 7 of 10 Benders are conservative. The makeup of the electorate in April will look very different. I am thankful that we appear to have six decent, earnest, honorable people from which to choose.

West Bend School Board Forum

I attended the school board candidate forum hosted by Common Sense Citizens of Washington County this evening. It was a great introduction to the candidates and they all represented themselves well.

As usual, the Washington County Insider has a thorough recap, so I’ll spare you all from reading mine. Head over there and read all about it!

Feb. 8, 2017 – West Bend, WI – About 75 people turned out for the candidate forum at the West Bend Moose Lodge on Wednesday night. West Bend School Board candidates included  Rick Cammack, Ryan Gieryn, Nancy Justman, Bob Miller, Joel Ongert, and Tonnie Schmidt

Candidate Withdraws from West Bend School Board Race

Confirmed. The good news is that even though there will still be an unnecessary primary for it, there isn’t really any additional cost because there is already a primary for the DPI seat.

Jan. 4, 2017 – West Bend, WI -Earlier today there was a report on WashingtonCountyInsider.com about the chance one of the seven candidates running for West Bend School Board would bow out.

That word has now been confirmed as Tina Hochstaetter has posted a message saying she will not be part of the Spring election. However, her name will remain on the ballot.

The six candidates running for three open seats on the West Bend School Board include

The seven candidates who turned in paperwork include Joel G. Ongert, incumbent Ryan Gieryn, Nancy Justman, Richard Cammack, Bob Miller and Tonnie Schmidt.

The ballot order will be draw at 5 p.m.

Candidade Reportedly Backs Out of West Bend School Board Race

That would really stink if the taxpayers have to pay for an unnecessary primary because one of the candidates can’t make up his or her mind.

Jan. 4, 2017 – West Bend, WI – There seems to be a little confusion regarding whether a primary election will be held next month in the West Bend School District.  On Tuesday, it was reported on WashingtonCountyInsider.com that seven candidates had filed papers to run for three seats on the West Bend School Board.

Those names were confirmed with the Deb Roensch, the executive assistant to the superintendent.

Later in the evening word spread one candidate backed out.

If there are only six candidates then a primary election is not necessary, however the question remains if someone did file papers by the 5 p.m. deadline do they still have to run or can they file non-candidacy and retract the papers.

Why the big stink? Because a primary election costs taxpayers money. If it’s not needed then there would be no expense as the seats would be determined during the regular Spring Election.

Seven Candidates for West Bend School Board

I was beginning to wonder if we would even have three, but according to the Washington County Insider, seven people have thrown their hats in the ring for three seats on the West Bend School Board. Thanks for being willing to serve, folks.

Jan. 3, 2017 – West Bend, WI – There will be a primary election Feb. 21 in the West Bend School District as seven people have filed the necessary paperwork to run for three open seats on the West Bend School Board.
The candidates according to Deb Roensch, the executive assistant to the superintendent,  include Joel G. Ongert, incumbent Ryan Gieryn, Nancy Justman, Tina Hochstaetter, Richard Cammack, Bob Miller and Tonnie Schmidt.

Larson Opposes School Choice

Newly-elected West Bend School Board member, who ran as a conservative, is anti-choice.

“I am concerned that it is going to reduce the amount of programs and quality of the public schools,” said Tiffany Larson, West Bend School Board member. “I want public tax dollars used for public schools,” she said.

This is noteworthy because I don’t believe it is something she revealed when running for office. School Choice was addressed at more than one candidate forum. She did not indicate her opposition at the one I attended and I can’t find any indication that she did in the reports of the others. And when I interviewed her, I specifically asked her about School Choice. She said that School Choice worked for Milwaukee and didn’t express any opposition to it for West Bend.

Yet, here she is with a pretty standard liberal stance against School Choice.

On another note, the news story itself is quite skewed. It’s the story of a private grade school in Jackson joining the Wisconsin School Choice Program. In the article, the reporter manages to find three people to quote who oppose school choice (Larson, Tanya Lohr, and Paul Nelson), but not a single person who supports School Choice. That’s interesting in a community that has shown significant support for School Choice for years.

 

West Bend needs a super super

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here it is:

The West Bend School District is searching for a superintendent. Whoever gets the job has some big shoes to fill and some challenges to tackle. We should be as concerned about why a good superintendent would choose West Bend as we are about the School Board choosing a good superintendent.

The School Board has engaged a search company to recruit a superintendent in the wake of Ted Neitzke’s resignation. The application is already available and online. The plan is to stop collecting applications at the end of April, select candidates May 16, conduct interviews and choose a superintendent June 9 for a start date of July 1. As outlined, it is a fairly aggressive schedule.

The School Board has a lot of work to do to decide what they want to see in a new superintendent. Do they want someone from inside or outside of the district? Do they want someone looking to make radical changes or continue the current policies? Do they want someone who is an “upand- comer” or someone looking to build a legacy before retirement? Increasingly, districts are also hiring superintendents who come from outside of education like nonprofit or business leaders. Should the School Board consider a candidate without a background in education?

It is a lot to consider. It is the most consequential single decision a school board makes and it is a difficult decision to reverse if they make a bad one. Unfortunately, the School Board, through no fault of their own, is beginning its recruitment a little late in the year. The best results for recruiting a superintendent tend to happen when the search begins in January. Many of the truly superior superintendents on the market have already accepted positions. That is not to say that there are not still great candidates available, but the pool is smaller than it was four months ago.

But as the School Board considers the candidates who apply, the candidates will also be considering the West Bend School District. Good people — especially talented executives with the ability to lead an organization the size of the West Bend School District — have options. Why would a super super choose to lead the West Bend School District?

The West Bend School District is the 19th largest district in the state. It resides in a conservative county of mostly middleclass families. The business community is diverse and has a good working partnership with the school district. The students also have access to the University of Wisconsin-Washington County and Moraine Park Technical College, which are located in the district.

Within the district itself, a superintendent has a lot to work with. The School Board and outgoing superintendent built a blossoming charter school, 4K program, online education initiative, performing arts center, popular walk-in clinic for employees and data-driven management tools. The district’s employee-turnover rate is lower than other districts in the area and considerably lower than the national average. The parents and community are, for the most part, active and engaged.

The district is not without problems. There is a vicious and growing problem with heroin and other drugs. Test scores are not where they need to be. And much like many other enterprises in America, there are continuing upward pressures on costs like healthcare with downward pressures on revenue.

But the most pressing problem with the district right now is cultural. There is a small but vocal contingent of teachers, parents and agitators who have chosen to take a very personal and nasty approach to change advocacy. While some of their complaints about things like too many standardized tests are legitimate, their continued spreading of false characterizations about things like teacher turnover, open enrollment and district policies only serve to paint a negative picture of the district that does not exist.

Furthermore, their chosen tactic to personally pillory those with whom they disagree has been reprehensible. The virulent glee with which some members of our community celebrated the departures of Neitzke and School Board President Randy Marquardt on social media and in the newspaper does not speak well for West Bend. Consider how potential applicants for the superintendent’s job would recoil at the venom spat at his or her predecessor.

While it is good to be anxious about the School Board choosing the right candidate, the greater worry might just be whether or not the right candidate will choose West Bend. As we consider both sides of the recruitment equation, I urge the School Board to not be pressured to unnecessarily rush a decision. A review of large districts by Learning Point Associates advises that school districts allow up to a full year from the time of vacancy to properly recruit, hire and transition a high-level district employee. West Bend does not need to wait a full year, but neither does it need to hire someone by July 1. If the absolute right candidate is not found in this first pass at recruitment, the School Board should appoint an acting superintendent while they take the time to conduct a more thorough recruitment process. A bad hire can push an organization off the rails for years to come. It is essential that the School Board take the time necessary to find the right candidate.

Surprising Results for West Bend School Board

Wow.

schoolboardresultsFirst off, congratulations to the candidates for all running a good race. What is surprising about the results is that the lefties in the district were pushing for Larson and Donath. The conservatives were pushing for Schmidt and Marquardt. But the results are split, by that measure. On the other hand, Larson ran as a conservative despite which lefties supported her. No doubt she picked off a number of people who wanted a conservative, but were dissatisfied with Marquardt while holding onto the minority liberal vote.

What the results tell me is that the voters definitely wants conservative leadership. Schmidt and Larson both ran as staunch conservatives and Donath ran as an honest liberal. But the voters want a change from Marquardt’s style or direction. Then again, it is a 4-way race where neither of the victors topped 28% of the vote, so don’t read too much into it. In local races, the ground game has a tremendous impact and Larson and Schmidt were both very active.

Congrats to Ken Schmidt and Tiffany Larson. They ran as conservatives. May they govern as conservatives.

Another West Bend School Board Candidate Forum

There was another forum for the West Bend School Board candidates last night hosted by Common Sense Citizens of Washington County. Randy Marquardt (inc.), Ken Schmidt, and Jenn Donath attended. Tiffany Larson was absent. With the crummy weather and being the day after the other forum, I didn’t expect a huge turnout – and there wasn’t one. About 18 people attended with some of the usual suspects.

I could share my notes, but thankfully, Paula Becker beat me to the punch over on the Washington County Insider. Click through and get a blow by blow recounting of the evening.

Overall, my impressions did not change. Each of the candidates acquitted themselves well in sharing their views and opinions. They each seem like very decent people with the best interests of the students in mind. I did get a shout out from Donath for the column I wrote about Sunshine Week, so thanks for that.

I already took advantage of in person early voting where the folks at the West Bend City Hall were friendly and helpful as always, but election day in April 5th. Be sure to vote!