Tag Archives: West Bend School District

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:

property

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

Ouch.

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

Interesting.

From:tconners@wbsd-schools.org
Date: May 26, 2017 at 3:06:44 PM
Subject:Update for High School Families
Reply-To:tconners@wbsd-schools.org
———————————————–

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.

Sincerely,

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.

West Bend School District Fires Four Teachers

Well, this is unfortunate considering there are only a couple of weeks left in the school year.

Good Evening Parents,
We would like to communicate to you that there may be a change to your child’s English teacher for the remainder of the semester. Should a change need to occur, a certified English teacher will be placed in your child’s classroom to continue quality instruction and see to it that your child is prepared for success as we approach final exams.
We apologize for the disruption to the routine this may cause your child. We are confident that your child’s needs will be supported through the end of the school year.
For confidentiality reasons we are unable to provide specific details, but appreciate your understanding.

Tracey Conners

Rumors are swirling and for obvious reasons, the school district can’t disclose information since this is a personnel matter. Federal and state laws prohibit an employer from such disclosures. But my understanding is that it has something to do with inappropriate online activity of a non-sexual nature. I’m sure we will get more details in the coming days.

Turnover at West Bend School District

Huh.

May 11, 2017 – West Bend, WI – Two people in the district office in the West Bend School District have turned in their resignations.

According to a memo West Bend School Superintendent Erik Olson has received resignations from Chief Operating Officer Valley Elliehausen and Director of Accountability and Assessment Kurt Becker.

I don’t know Becker, but Elliehausen always did a nice job. We don’t yet know the reasons for these resignations, but it doesn’t strike me as unusual. There’s a new Superintendent and it’s the end of the school year. This is the time when staff tends to leave – voluntarily or not.

West Bend School Superintendent Slaps Down Union Propaganda

This is hilarious. The West Bend School Board dipped its toe into Act 10 a few years ago by integrating teacher scorecards into the teacher compensation system. Essentially, it is an effort to tie teacher compensation to teacher performance. The teachers’ union, West Bend Education Association (WBEA), hate tying pay to performance. They prefer the old compensation system where compensation is a factor of getting older and getting more degrees, whether the degree is needed for the job or not.

One of the ways that the union has been attacking the new compensation system is by bemoaning its cost. To that end, last week they released a “cost estimate” for the teacher scorecards that was based on uneducated (ironically) and uninformed guesses. It was comical.

Yesterday, the Superintendent smacked them down. Here is a comparison of their propaganda versus the actual numbers:

testing

Read the superintendent’s full statement at the Washington County Insider.

Funny stuff. I can’t wait to see the union’s response.

Just Scratching the Surface

Act 10 allowed local governments a lot more flexibility to manage their affairs in order to control costs while providing services. Many of us have been saying for years that almost none of our local governments have been using the full power of Act 10. Some have been better than others, but I can’t think of one that is doing everything it can.

Here is one example. The West Bend School District has actually been better than most school districts at using Act 10. They have done things like add a wellness clinic to provide convenient care to their employees and lower costs and implemented merit pay for employees. But I notice this in the West Bend Daily News:

A family plan now has an added cost of $20 a month. A single plan is at $5.

“Our families have never contributed to the dental plan,” Elliehausen said.

Really? Nothing? When something is free, people lack the incentive to use it judiciously. And it is virtually universal in the private sector that employees contribute to their dental plan. This is a small step to normalize compensation plans that Act 10 allows the School Board to unilaterally make, but the West Bend School District has failed to implement it until now.

West Bend School District Won’t Meet With Union About Compensation

Although Act 10 has some grey areas in it, I think the district’s lawyer’s interpretation is correct.

The West Bend School District Board of Education has declined to meet with the West Bend Education Association, citing legal counsel.

The WBEA offered to meet with the Board to discuss staff concerns within the district, but was turned down Sept. 20.

“We’ve taken this position since 2012,” Board President Rick Parks said, adding the position taken is based on legal counsel.

In the state of Wisconsin, teachers’ unions can only meet with boards to negotiate base wages; they can, however, meet for reasons other than negotiations.

“The WBEA would like to talk with the Board about the inequities in the district’s compensation plan and how those inequalities are affecting the lives and families of our teachers,” teacher and WBEA President Tanya Lohr said.

The WBEA also wants to discuss an inherent lack of loyalty or “fidelity” in the district’s compensation plan along with “unreasonable and inequitable” workloads teachers experience in the district.

The end goal is to work with the Board to rework the compensation plan for teachers.

Parks said acting on complaints from the teachers could be seen as negotiating, adding “semantics are the dickens when it comes to the law.”

The Board is legally allowed to negotiate the base wage of the teaching staff with the WBEA, but workload and pay structure are not negotiable.

West Bend Teachers Still Don’t Have Grades

This is pretty ridiculous.

West Bend School District teacher scorecards from the 2015-16 academic year, which are tied to teacher compensation, have not been finalized.

The scorecards use a 100-point system based on student surveys and test scores. Once finalized, they indicate whether or not a teacher receives a raise or stipend during the following academic year.

[…]

In a statement sent to principals, Olson said, “The purpose of this message is to update you on the progress of calculating our teacher scorecards from the 2015-16 school year. The (Curriculum and Instruction) Department has been working and continues to work with ATI (Assessment Technologies Institute) to get the accurate student growth information from over the summer. Any data received has been reviewed by the C& I Department to ensure accuracy. Once we have all the data confirmed and verified, the scorecard in MLP (MyLearningPlan) will be updated and individual teacher letters will be sent. When this occurs, we will send you notification of specific dates.”

If a grading system is to be effective, it needs to be timely. It is now the middle of September and the school year has started. How are teachers supposed to take corrective actions to improve if they don’t know their scores? There’s really no good excuse to not have the scores done and the fact that the administration isn’t even offering an estimated time for completion is troubling.

Recycling Encouraged in West Bend

This is curious.

For the 2016-17 school year, the Director of Elementary Education will be shared by Nan Lustig and Al Pauli.  Lustig  has been with the WBSD for 29 years in multiple capacities including Reading Specialist, Reading Recovery teacher, Reading and Integrated Language Arts (ILA) Coordinator, and Principal at Decorah Elementary.  Last year she served the WBSD as a Learning Specialist.

Pauli recently retired from the District after 40 years and served as Chief Academic Officer, Director of Standards and Assessments, Elementary  Principal, and was also a kindergarten teacher.  

If Pauli “retired” just last year from a leadership position in the district, why is he back as a Director this year?

West Bend Has a New Superintendent

Welcome to West Bend.

The Board of Education for the West Bend School District announced today that Erik Olson will serve as the Superintendent of the West Bend School District starting July 1, 2016. Olson replaces Ted Neitzke, who will begin his new role as Chief Education Officer at CESA 6. Neitzke has served as the superintendent since 2011.

“The school board conducted a very thorough recruiting process, with significant community input, and Erik Olson stood out as the candidate considered best qualified to lead the West Bend School District as Superintendent,” said Rick Parks, School Board president. “He brings extensive classroom experience which complements his deep administrative background. I’m excited to begin working with Erik.”

The Board approved a two-year contract for Olson with a salary of $155,000.

West Bend Narrows in on Superintendent

Looks like they are close.

After a three-month search and recruiting process, the West Bend School District Board of Education has made its preliminary decision to extend an offer for the Superintendent of Schools.

The board understands the importance of giving this process the highest level of attention and will conduct a thorough background check, along with a complete credentials review prior to making a formal offer to the preferred candidate.
The final negotiated contract will be reviewed and approved by the school district’s attorney to assure it meets all statutory and legal requirements.
There were three finalists for the position, however last week the district reported candidate Dean Gorrell, the superintendent from the Verona Area School District, withdrew from the mix.
The two remaining candidates are Brenda Lewis, assistant superintendent from the Rochester Public Schools and Erik Olson, the assistant superintendent from the Sun Prairie Area School District.
It is expected the new superintendent will be announced by June 15, 2016, and will officially assume duties on July 1, 2016.

 

Superintendent Candidates Did Not Sign Walker Recall

Well, that’s good.

A quick check to see if anyone signed the Walker Recall.  Results posted below.

• Dr. Dean Gorrell, current Superintendent of the Verona Area School District, Verona, Wisconsin  DID NOT SIGN

• Dr. Brenda Lewis, current Assistant Superintendent of the Rochester Public Schools, Rochester, Minnesota (only Wisconsin residents could sign, but her name is not there)

• Mr. Erik Olson, current Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Continuous Improvement of the Sun Prairie Area School District, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin  DID NOT SIGN RECALL

In the comments of the post at the Washington County Insider, former West Bend Mayor Kristine Deiss asks, “What has whether or not they signed the Walker recall got to do with being qualified for the job? I would hope our School Board did not ask this question.”

It’s a valid question, but it is important and I do hope that the School Board asks about it. Act 10 is the single-most important school reform in this millennium (it sure sounds impressive that way, doesn’t it?). We need to know if the incoming superintendent view Act 10 as a detriment to public education or as a tool with which to make the West Bend School District better. Given that the citizens of the district overwhelmingly support Act 10 and turned out in huge numbers to vote for Governor Walker during the recall election, a new superintendent who hates Act 10 will come in immediately out of a step with the community he or she is supposed to serve.

So yes… ask the question. Do the due diligence.

West Bend School District Chooses 3 Superintendent Finalists

From the Washington County Insider… here they are:

• Dr. Dean Gorrell, current Superintendent of the Verona Area School District, Verona, Wisconsin

• Dr. Brenda Lewis, current Assistant Superintendent of the Rochester Public Schools, Rochester, Minnesota

• Mr. Erik Olson, current Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Continuous Improvement of the Sun Prairie Area School District, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin