Tag Archives: West Bend School District

Only 14% Turnout for Walkout in West Bend

Good for the kids in West Bend. Despite being encouraged by the district administration, assured that there would not be any consequences  if they walk out, and the administration pushing the protest all the way down to the 5th grade, the vast majority of the kids stayed put. Kudos to a student body that has more sense than some of the folks teaching them.



West Bend School District Facilitates Protest

This is stupid.

West Bend School District has released the following statement:

“Administrators and teachers at West Bend Joint School District #1, West Bend East High School, West Bend West High School, and Badger Middle School are aware of the potential peaceful school walkout on March 14 at 10:00 a.m. by students to show their concerns about school safety.

“The West Bend School District will not penalize students who choose to assemble peacefully for 17 minutes on March 14. After talking with students and staff, the school principals have developed plans to maintain the safety of the participating and non-participating students and to minimize interference with educational programming.

“Those students who wish to participate in the walkout will be monitored and supervised by school staff to ensure that any walkout is safe and orderly. The West Bend Police Department will also help to ensure the safety of students to assemble in predesignated areas.

“Students who choose to participate will be expected to return to class in a timely manner and resume the school day. Students who fail to return to class will be considered truant in violation of school rules. For students who choose not to participate, school administrators and teachers are planning for classroom instruction to continue.”

School is for school. The kids are there to get an education. Of the 168 hours in a week, the kids spend less than 40 in the classroom. They can protest on their own time.

The real problem is that now the school district has inserted itself into being an arbiter of political issues. Would they do this for a Black Lives Matter protest? Anti-abortion protest? Pro-2nd Amendment protest? Pro-illegal immigration protest? $15 minimum wage protest? Which ones does the school staff supervise and which ones do they prohibit?

What they should have done is reiterate to the kids the importance of education and enforced their normal policies for tardiness or unexcused absences. If the kids want to protest, then so be it. Who ever said that protesting is free of consequences?

West Bend’s Upcoming Referendum

Despite declining enrollment, the West Bend School District is running full speed with a referendum. This email from the Director of Facilities to the CFAC members went out this morning:

From: Dave Ross <daveross@wbsd-schools.org>
Date: February 23, 2018 at 9:53:33 AM CST
Subject:Update to CFAC members

Last Tuesday night, the Board of Education met for a work session to discuss the work that you have been doing and to make some decisions about what needs to be done going forward in order to keep things moving forward. Video of the meeting can be viewed at:


The meeting had three parts to it: the first was an update to the board by Bray on the work they have done to date, the second portion was dedicated to looking at the districts debt picture which was presented by Robert W. Baird and the third part was an overview of the methodology for the community survey which was presented by School Perceptions.

Here is a very brief synopsis of each part:

Matt Wolfert from Bray Architects reviewed the drawings with the board including the renovation option for Jackson. The board asked a lot of questions but seemed quite pleased with the progress that has been made to date.

Brian Brewer from R.W. Baird reviewed the debt picture of the district. The district does have some existing debt but has structured that debt wisely. In addition, the district has been putting money into the Jackson Trust. The long and short of things is that the district could do as much as an approximately $40 million referendum and not raise property taxes because of the structure of the existing debt and the Jackson Trust.

Finally, Bill Foster of School Perceptions presented on how his company would go about performing a community survey. He also advised the board to listen to the results of what the survey told them. Failing to do so often leads to an erosion of trust in the board from the community.

This was a really short overview so I would encourage you, (especially if you’ve got a spare 2 or 3 hours) to watch the video.

The last thing I wanted to do is share a little more information. During our committee meetings many of you asked for articles and/or research on the effects that a facility has on education. I thought that this article:


provided a fairly good overview but more importantly gives many references/sources for further investigation.

As always, if you have any questions, please let me know and I’ll do my best to get you an answer.

Have a great weekend.

Dave Ross

Director of Facilities and Operations



Based on the email, it looks like they are going to try to pull the “let’s spend $40 million (plus millions more in interest), but we won’t increase taxes.” Of course, that commits more of the operating budget to debt service, thus reducing funds for teachers, supplies, etc. It also completely misses the opportunity to decrease taxes as those older debts are paid off.

Such a move of spinning off debt for decades in order to keep the yearly expenses lower also increases the likelihood of tax increases in the future. It tightens the part of the budget that can be used for actual operations, and remember that enrollment in the district is expected to decline. As enrollment declines, so will funding. But the debt service must be paid. The end result is that there will be less and less money for the actual operating funds that can be used for paying staff and supporting the daily operations of the district.

Putting another $40 million on the district credit card in an era of declining enrollment is reckless fiscal management of the district. It will be interesting to hear from the school board members and school board candidates as this discussion evolves.

West Bend School District Projects Declining Enrollment

Good to know.

The district is expected to have about 6,509 students during the 2018-19 academic year and by 2023-2024 that number is expected to decline near 6,160.

“This all could change with the economy,” Van Spankeren said. The trend is normal and being seen at most other districts he said.

This academic year there are 6,729 students in the district, according to how districts are supposed to count them. The actual head count is 6,909, but students who don’t attend a full day of school, like 4K students, count as less than one.

Of course, projections could always change. I remember a few short years ago when the district was asking for a huge pile of money in a referendum that they were projecting increasing enrollment. But this projection is worth keeping in mind as the district prepares to ask for millions of dollars in a referendum to build a new Jackson Elementary that will be much, much larger than the one that’s already there.

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.

Another Member of Administration Resigns

In the West Bend School District

Jan. 17, 2018 – West Bend, WI – Hired in August 2017, Russell Holbrook the assistant superintendent for HR and operations, has now announced his resignation.

According to a memo from Laura Jackson, superintendent of teaching and learning in the West Bend School District, “Russell Holbrook announced his resignation which will go to the School Board on Monday, January 22, 2018. More information about the transition in leadership will be shared following the School Board meeting.”

The memo continued, “We appreciate the effort Russ Holbrook gave as he served in the role of Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Operations.”

Calls have been place to the district for more information about the reason behind the resignation.

Holbrook was hired after Chief Operating Officer Valley Elliehausen and Director of Accountability and Assessment Kurt Becker resigned in June 2017.  Elliehausen had been with the district since 1997.

Holbrook was also spearheading the new teacher compensation plan that they were working on for next school year.

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.


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.


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:

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.


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.

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.


West Bend Looking for New Superintendent?

John Torinus has a rather interesting column about the West Bend School District that has something of a bombshell at the end. The majority of the column is kind of a “let’s all get along and support the new school board” piece, but he drops this at the end:

Their leadership will probably mean further change at the executive level. The board majority deserves to have its own team in place.


The foremost ingredient in that effort will be leadership. Let’s get behind the new board majority and its selection for superintendent.

Here’s the back story… the current Superintendent, Erik Olson, was hired by the school board in July of 2016. In April of 2017, a triumvirate of candidates swept the board and, with Board President Tiffany Larson, constitute a new majority that has a much more liberal governing philosophy than the previous board.

In August of 2017, Superintendent took ill. I know for a fact that this was not fabricated or a cover. He was seriously ill and had to take a leave. He hasn’t returned since – presumably because his health won’t permit it, but the school board can’t comment due to privacy laws.

Now, in November of 2017, we have Torinus essentially saying that the board is embarking on a search for a new superintendent. Is the School Board using an employee’s illness as an excuse to purge him to hire their own superintendent? Is West Bend a district where the administration will be purged after every change in the school board? It would be very difficult for them to get a new superintendent in place before they put the expected referendum on the ballot next year, but perhaps they want “their guy” in place before doing that? They are also about to release a new compensation plan for the teachers that was essentially written by the teachers union. Do they need Olson out of the way before doing that?

An interesting point is that Olson has been on an Administrative leave instead of using the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The difference is that if he was out on FMLA, the school board is required to hold his position for him. If he’s on an administrative leave, he retains full pay, but the board doesn’t have to maintain employment. Convenient, eh?

I have asked Tiffany Larson for comment, but she has never responded to me since she was elected.

West Bend School Superintendent On Leave

This story was in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

After more than three months away from his job, West Bend School District Superintendent Erik Olson remains absent from his role. Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Laura Jackson continues to lead in his place.After Monday’s Board of Education meeting, President Tiffany Larson wouldn’t state the reason for the absence, but said “he is on paid administrative leave.” Olson’s last appearance at a meeting was July 24. Since then he has been on vacation, sick leave and administrative leave and continues to receive payment from the district. His administrative leave began at the beginning of October.

I haven’t commented on this because, frankly, I thought it was common knowledge. He hasn’t been at any official meetings for months and the School Board has spoken about it a couple of times. If you email his school address, someone else will respond. But based on my emails and some reaction I’m seeing on social media, this has come as a surprise.

It is frustrating people because the School Board is not telling anyone why he is out. My understanding is that it is due to personal/medical reasons, which is why state and federal regulations prohibit the School Board from commenting on the reason for his leave. If it is because of a personal/medical reason, all we can do is hope for a speedy and successful resolution for Olson and prod the School Board to consider a succession plan.

West Bend School District to Require Personal Finance Education

This is excellent.

Personal financial literacy is set to become a required class for the district.

During an August board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Laura Jackson said the personal financial literacy course is already in place and making it a requirement would affect the freshman class and all subsequent classes.

East High School business education teacher Allison Holtzer said the course is currently elective, but she has heard support for making it a required course. Allison explained some young people “are making mistakes (financial) early on, which is just setting them up for failure later on.”

The goal of making it a required class would be to give all students a solid financial literacy foundation.

“We are trying to help this upcoming generation,” Holtzer said. She explained in the last decade there has been an increase in non-traditional credit use with interest rates between 300-1,000 percent and that 54 percent of Wisconsin residents live paycheck to paycheck.

The course is typically taken by juniors and seniors, but is open to sophomores. More than half of Wisconsin school districts make the course a requirement.

There are some other good additions and changes to the course catalog, but financial literacy is critical. I’m glad to see the coming change.

New Property For Sale Next to West Bend High Schools

Well, this is curious. A couple of weeks ago the West Bend School District started down the process to a referendum(s). They want to look at Jackson Elementary School, which has been brought up as an issue in the past, but then they also threw in a look at the High Schools, which hasn’t. Here’s the charter:

As part of the 17-18 Strategic Plan, the district has committed to evaluating the district’s options to address an aging Jackson Elementary School and the East/West High School facility. To that end, the district has hired Bray Architects to assist in the process.

Three days ago, a large parcel of land that borders the high schools went on the market. Here it is:


Long time Benders might remember that this exact property was for sale once before. Several years ago the West Bend School District was asking the voters to pass a huge school referendum. In fact, it was the largest referendum in Wisconsin at the time. As part of that referendum, the district wanted to buy this parcel and build a new middle school on it. That referendum failed and this property hasn’t been for sale since. Until now…

Timing is everything, isn’t it?

County School Districts Merging

Here’s a good example of two local unit of governments deciding to merge in order to save costs and better serve the community.

After lengthy consideration and much input, the Friess Lake and Richfield Joint 1 school districts have agreed to consolidate into one district for the 2018-19 school year.

Both districts’ boards of education approved identical resolutions during their own recent regular meetings so the legal process can proceed. Friess Lake’s board approved the resolution last week, while the Richfield board approved the proposal Monday.

Richfield Joint 1 School District Administrator Tara Villalobos said both boards feel that the community’s students will be better served if the districts join.

On a side note, the the mergers of the administrations will necessarily mean that some folks will be looking for work. The superintendent of the smaller district, Friess Lake, is John Engstrom, who is actually a resident of the West Bend School District. Local folks may remember him because he was a vocal member of the local lefty establishment and ally of the teachers union fighting conservatives on the school board a few years ago. He even filed several ethics complaints against the School Board – including at least one in cahoots with then union president, Jason Penterman.

At the time, Engstrom had some comments that would apply to the current board:

“he said the board member had a duty to keep an open mind and refrain from making a decision until all the facts were in, according to board policy.”


“A school board member is not a city councilman; they’re not a pothole-fixer, they’re not a person who was elected by a group of constituents and their job is to take care of the people who elected them,” Engstrom said. “That’s hard for the general public and a new school board member to grasp.”


“I’m just kind of concerned that the new normal for the West Bend School Board is ‘We’re each going to go off and do our own thing’ and ‘Ideology trumps policy,’ ” he said.”

I would note that Engstrom and Penterman have been silent about the current board’s corrupt behavior – in fact, Penterman has been aggressively defending their allegedly illegal and undemocratic actions of late because they are ramming through initiatives he supports.

Given that Engstrom is a liberal superintendent who will likely be looking for a job and the majority of the West Bend School Board seems to be intent on pleasing the teachers union and local lefties, will we see Engstrom joining the West Bend School District?

Administrative Movement In West Bend School District


Jeridon Clark, a Mequon-Thiensville school administrator who announced in March he would take a job as the new principal of the West Bend high schools, is staying in the Mequon-Theinsville district.

Clark was expected to step into the role at the beginning of July, taking over for Tracey Conners, who has resigned after a year as the interim principal. The district also announced Monday that Director of Secondary Education and Fine Arts Jason Levash has resigned effective June 30, the sixth to administrator to leave around the end of the academic year.

It looks like Clark got a counteroffer from the Mequon District and will be staying there as the Assistant Superintendent.

The amount of turnover in the administration does seem heavier than it should be. Bearing in mind that the district has gotten a new Superintendent and a new board in the last year, some turnover is to be expected. Some people just like things they way they were and would rather move on or retire rather than deal with a new regime. But the number of departures is high and the district is clearly having difficulty finding replacements.

Turmoil in West Bend School District?

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a big, front page (on the web) story about the stuff happening in the West Bend School District. There is no new information in it. It just walks through some of the changes in the board, administration, and the recent teacher resignations. The best part of the story were the comments from former board member Therese Sizer.

The teachers union’s fight to stay relevant often puts it at odds with fiscal conservatives in West Bend who support the law. Meanwhile, some of West Bend’s loudest voices, no matter what camp they’re in, battle for their views in highly active Facebook groups. The tension appears to sometimes fuel negative relations in real life.

“It’s sort of like a perfect storm,” said Sizer, the school board member who resigned this year because of the board’s new nepotism policy. “People feel they can be aggressive over an issue, social media emboldens them and it becomes this perpetuating cycle of misinformation and unkindness.”

Sizer added that West Bend has quality schools and that she’s glad she encouraged her daughter to teach there.

“This is a very capable school district,” Sizer said. “I’d hate to see it destroyed because of a group of people who don’t know how to have a civilized discussion.”

Update of West Bend Teacher Separations


Date: May 26, 2017 at 3:06:44 PM
Subject:Update for High School Families

Good afternoon parents and community members,

We wanted to advise you about a change in District staffing at the high schools which may have a short-term impact on the remaining few days of your child’s school year. Effective today, four of our teachers elected to resign from their positions at West Bend East and West High Schools. 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. We can say factually, however, that these resignations were in no way related to any opinions expressed about curriculum.

Additionally, your child may have noticed an increased police presence during their school day today. While no specific threat was identified in advance, we were made aware of social media conversations which indicated there was the potential for disruption at some point during the school day. Thus, the decision was made, in conjunction with the West Bend Police Department, to increase officer visibility throughout the day as a precaution.

We want to reiterate that our primary focus continues to be the instruction of your children, and ensuring that they are prepared for the upcoming final exams, and the end of the school year. We will not lose sight of that focus.

Lastly, out of regard for the four educators involved, we encourage you to respect their privacy moving forward.


Erik Olson, Superintendent

Tracey Conners, Principal West Bend High Schools

I have heard from a couple of sources that this has to do with some inappropriate online activity that dates back a couple of weeks. They were told to knock it off and they didn’t. After getting caught again, they were told to resign or be fired, reportedly. Interesting that they all chose to resign. That would indicate that they knew they were caught dead to rights. Otherwise, they would have been better off to get fired and sue the district for wrongful termination.

I have asked the president of the school board for comment. So far, she has not responded (I asked yesterday). I have also filed an open records request for more details. In the meantime, I hope that the district shields the kids from as much of the unfortunate consequences of this as possible.