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0928, 09 Jan 16

Around the Bend by Judy Steffes

Country Inn & Suites in WB is sold

New signs went up this week at Country Inn & Suites in West Bend as the 58-room hotel on Gateway Court has been sold.  “Previously we were with a management company and we were owned by Jim Walker,” Guy Fox, hotel general manager, said.  The new owner, Vithal Patel, is part of an investment group, West Bend Lodging.

Patel owns four other hotels including a couple in Illinois, one in Indiana and one in Michigan; the hotels include a Sleep Inn, Quality Inn, and a Baymont Hotel.”

While the hotel rates are “not likely to change” according to Fox, there will be some upgrades in the coming years. “Obviously we’re getting the new signage and an agreement was signed with Carlson to do some interior upgrades including new carpeting, new furniture, and the wallpaper will be replaced,” he said. Country Inn & Suites originally opened in May 1998.  Walker purchased it in December 2007. Able Signs & Lighting of Beaver Dam is installing the signs.

School Board President talks about Galileo testing system

This week the West Bend Education Association issued a statement about high school teacher Tanya Lohr who had been placed on paid administrative leave in connection with “the circulation of a petition outlining staff concerns with the Galileo testing system.”

Lohr, according to the WBEA, spoke to West Bend High School “Principal Bill Greymont about her concerns in her role as a union representative.”

School Board President Randy Marquardt said the administration contacted him about the situation.

“It sounds to me like certain employees are choosing what their job is or not,” he said. “The board sets standards and curriculum and a teacher is hired to teach that standard and curriculum for a certain class. We invested in the Galileo system because it is a way to track and help develop test questions that are aligned with a standard to teach students in the course. All of that ties together in the big picture of what they’re supposed to be learning and how they’re progressing toward their ACT scores and it’s a valuable tool for the teacher to use so they’re on task.”

Teachers in the West Bend School District have expressed concern the Galileo system does not align with the curriculum. Marquardt said if that’s the case then “they’re not using it correctly.”

The WBEA issued a statement response to Marquardt saying, “the problem with the ‘just teach to the standards’ argument is that the standards are so general, you can pick one you cover in your class, and the question selected by Galileo might not actually apply to that class. Another problem is the standards do not reflect the level of the course. Students doing poorly on a question may not be because the standard wasn’t taught, but rather because the standard was taught at a different level than the question asked. This is another reason why teachers were concerned about the use of Galileo for assigning student grades and determining staff compensations.”

“It’s my understanding there’s a world of questions out there that they can select from,” said Marquardt. “They can write their own and submit them and have them looked at by others and make sure it’s aligned and on point; this isn’t something we dreamed up, it’s a product that’s out on the marketplace.”

The WBEA said there may be a “world of questions” but they said there were not “quality questions.”

The West Bend School District adopted the Galileo testing system two years ago. “I know the system is used across the country but I can’t tell you how many districts have it,” he said.

“This system replaced a different testing system we purchased during my first term on the board. There were issues with connecting it with other tests and that’s why we made the switch but one of the big selling points was the ability to create the testing mechanisms and develop the questions from the library of previous reviewed questions.”

The WBEA said every state that used the Galieleo system was south of the Mason-Dixon Line and when teachers began voicing their concerns about the testing they felt the “implementation has not gone smoothly.  Galileo is both costly, and time consuming, and it has not delivered what teachers were promised late last spring.”

Marquardt said the Galileo system was going to be a tool that would help teachers.

“Now it sounds like certain people didn’t like it and weren’t going to participate in it and join in the training or learn how to use it and basically they’re not doing their job,” he said.

Questioned whether teacher reviews and pay increases were tied in with how well students performed using the Galileo testing system, Marquardt said, “As far as the compensation system, the testing is a very small part of it but it’s a valid part because otherwise what is their job.”

Marquardt confirmed the board will be reviewing the Galileo testing system.

He confirmed he did receive a call about Lohr but that was a “Human Resources decision.”

“If this is a case of someone not doing their job then there are only two choices, they either improve and start performing the duties they were hired to do or they can quit or be fired,” he said. “You don’t get to choose what your job is at that level.”

The WBEA said it is conducting, “an immediate investigation by the WBEA, Region 7, and WEAC legal as they raise serious questions about the legality of the employer’s actions.”

The WBEA said “Ms. Lohr was not placed on leave because she was not doing her job.  She was placed on leave because of a conversation she had with Principal Bill Greymont about staff concerns over Galileo testing. Second, the WBEA is unaware of any teacher in the district refusing to give the Galileo tests.  In fact, the request on our petition outlining teacher concerns was “In light of the quantity and severity of problems that have surfaced since the introduction of Galileo, we ask that it not be used for student grades, or as part of staff assessment.”

More information, according to Marquardt, is expected to be relayed to the School Board during an upcoming closed session with the superintendent.

Future of Fleet Farm in West Bend

Neighbors in West Bend are taking a wait-and-see attitude as word spreads that Mill Fleet Farm has been sold. An article in the Star Tribune said the Mills family sold to New York-based investment firm KKR. There’s a Fleet Farm in West Bend and several others in neighboring communities including Menomonee Falls and Fond du Lac.

In West Bend there had been promises since 2004 that Fleet Farm was going to build ‘the largest store in the state’ on a 30-acre parcel along Highway 33 and County Highway Z. The Mills brothers also acquired 40 adjacent acres and plans were on track for a 274,000-square-foot store.

When the announcement was made in fall that the Mills family was looking for a buyer, West Bend Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said, “Fleet Farm has been an asset to West Bend for as long as most of us can remember but their announcement may explain why they’ve been slow to expand in West Bend and elsewhere.”

Sadownikow praised the Mills family as “they’re recognizing to grow properly they need more cash to do so and hopefully whoever purchases them will recognize the excitement in this community if they chose to expand here.”

Last summer, after 11 years of a stalled project, city officials reached out to the Mills brothers. One of the owners and two corporate officials visited the site and the spark on development was relit. Although the anticipation grew in the community, city leaders said talks with the Mills brothers again cooled off.

As far as the current Fleet Farm on 18th Avenue and Highway 33, Sadownikow and others in real estate qualify the store as a “cash cow” and “an asset to their portfolio.” A statement from KKR executive Nate Taylor said, “KKR plans to invest significantly in the business, adding infrastructure, stores and local jobs.” Taylor added that KKR would “remain committed to Mills Fleet Farm’s founding values — and those shared by KKR — of honesty, integrity, hard work, service and loyalty to our customers and partners.”

Shane Hansen leaving

West Bend East High School Athletic Director Shane Hansen is leaving the school district June 30 to become a Christian life coach. “I feel a strong call from God to serve in a different capacity and I’m looking forward to serving,” said Hansen, a devout Christian who grew up in Ripon and last fall moved with his family back to his hometown. In the middle of last year Hansen, 32, found himself in the hot seat following a high-profile issue where long-time East girls varsity basketball coach Donny Gruber was fired, Ron Larsen was outspoken about the process to select a new coach, and Travis Graf, was brought in from outside of the community.

Hansen said his decision to move on had nothing to do with the coaching controversy, but was a personal one. “God is calling me to do this and to serve in this capacity,” he said. Hansen started as athletic director at East in July 2014; he replaced Jeff Rondorf who stepped down to become varsity football coach of the West Bend East Suns. West Bend High School principal Bill Greymont said “all you have to do is look at the kids in the East student section to know what kind of an affect Hanson’s had.”  Greymont said the district will follow regular process for filling the post.

WBHS senior’s essay heads to finals in D.C.

West Bend West High School senior Quinn Skidmore has taken first place in the Voice of Democracy essay contest at the state level and now heads to Washington D.C. next month to complete for the $30,000 national scholarship grand prize. John Kleinmaus, chairman with the local VFW Post, will be presenting Skidmore and her essay at the Jan. 25, West Bend School Board meeting.

Sketchy ice conditions hinder fisheree on Big Cedar Lake

A bit of a different format for this year’s 17th annual Nabob Snowmobile club Winterfest and Fisheree as the fishing portion of the event has been cancelled due to unsafe ice conditions. Organizers at the House of Heileman’s, 5723 W. Lake Drive, say they’ll still have plenty to come out and celebrate including the Winterfest tent which opens at 9 a.m.  There will be food, drink, raffles music and transportation along with great fellowship among friends and neighbors.

$20 an hour for shoveling job at Extra Mile Snow Specialists

A mild winter has made it challenging for several seasonal businesses including Extra Mile Snow Specialists, 2955 S. 18th Ave., West Bend. Owner Aron Rodman said a lot of the roofers and manual-laborers are still working because the weather has been so moderate.

That, however, has limited the pool of seasonal employees for Rodman especially when it comes to snow plow drivers and shovelers. There are shoveling and plow jobs available at Extra Mile Snow Specialists. Rodman will pay $20 an hour. Find out more by logging onto Extra Mile Snow Specialists or call Phone: 262-334-3011. Fax: 262-247-2586  E-mail:

Downtown lights to be reviewed at BID meeting

Tuesday, Jan. 12 the Downtown West Bend Business Improvement District will meet to go over a number of items including the election of officers, an update on the bridges, the marketing collaboration with the Diva Group, downtown revitalization, Main Street and right-of-way improvements and a streetscape evaluation. There will also be an update on the building lights and review of a survey after the BID turned off the lights bordering the buildings late last year to gauge community reaction, determine the significance of the lights, and whether more cost-effective LED lights should be considered.

The cost of investigating the electric conduit and lights is estimated at $15,000. Replacement of the lights could cost more than $100,000.

There were 187 people that took the survey. Of those 167 lived in West Bend, 16 owned property downtown and 33 owned a business in downtown West Bend: 154 visited the downtown while the lights were off, 143 said they noticed a difference with the building lights turned off, and 156 said they would recommend spending up to $100,000 to keep the lights on.

The lights have been in place since 2003. The survey results strongly favor fixing the lights. Tuesday’s BID meeting gets underway at 8:15 a.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.

Updates & tidbits

Five candidates have filed to run for two seats on the West Bend School Board. Candidates include current Randy Marquardt, Tiffany Larson, Rob Miller, Ken Schmidt, and Jennifer Donath.

– Sharon (Sheri) Rennicke, RN circulator, retired from Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin St. Joseph’s Hospital, on Thursday, Jan. 7. Rennicke had been with St. Joseph’s Hospital for 44 ½ years; she was hired in July 1971. During her years at SJH Rennicke worked 17 years in Pediatric/Medical Surgical and 27 ½ years in the Operating Room.

-“No Regrets,” a live satellite-stream event from Elmbrook Church, will be hosted at Community Church, 2005 S. Main St., West Bend on Saturday, Feb. 6 from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. No Regrets is a community-based outreach program to bring men closer to God and to each other. Boys ages 12-19 are also encouraged to attend. Registration is at 7:30 a.m. Featured in-house speaker is Vince D’Acchioli. The cost is $25 per person. Order tickets at

-Enjoy great music Saturday, Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. as Slinger High School hosts its 33rd annual jazz festival. Guest musicians include Mathew Buchman (piano-UW Stevens Point) and Nick Keelan (trombone-Lawrence University). Bands from Slinger High School, Hartford H.S., West Bend H.S., Lomira H.S, Kaukauna H.S, and Deforest H.S. will perform. Admission is $5 at the Slinger High School Auditorium.

-Russ Feingold will be in West Bend on Tuesday, Jan. 12 at the Washington County Democratic Party Office, 132 N. Main St., West Bend at 5:30 p.m.  Feingold is running against Ron Johnson for the U.S. Senate.  On Wednesday, Jan. 13, two of the three candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court will be at the Democratic Party headquarters at 7 p.m.

– Former West Bend High School band directors Brandon Yahn and Robert Dittmer, members of Quattro Horns, a French Horn quartet, will host a concert at the Old County Courthouse on Monday, Jan. 11, 2016 at 7 p.m. The concert is free, open to the public and will be followed by a reception.

– Northbrook Church in Richfield, will begin a new series of Life Groups in late January, that offer small groups for friendship, faith, and fun. Pastor Dean Stelow said the community groups discuss various life topics “appropriate wherever you are in your faith journey.” A person does not have to be a member of Northbrook Church to attend. Register at

-Free reunion concert by Jack Damage on Saturday, Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. at Stocky’s Fast Track Bar and Grill in West Bend.

Students at Kettle Moraine Lutheran H.S. help families in need  

Students at Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School donated $32,000 this week to the Dove and Olson families. The donations were collected through KML’s 12 Days of Christmas fundraiser. Erin Dove and daughters Lily and Bailey attended the presentation as did Kim Olson’s daughter Hannah. Both families are facing steep medical bills as Bailey Dove is battling leukemia and Kim Olson is struggling with a rare type of brain cancer. Each family was presented with a check on behalf of the school, by Pastor Randy Hughes. The KML Student Council also purchased Christmas gifts for the children of the families. Hat tip to KML student reporter Tyler Kemnitz.

Ice skating at Regner Park

Watch for the warming house at Regner Park in West Bend to open next week Thursday, Jan. 14. The ice rink will open, weather permitting. It’s been unseasonably warm this winter but we should step into a cold snap these next few days. Today’s history photo of ice skating at Regner is courtesy the West Bend Parks Department.

The warming house at Regner Park is the original bathhouse built in the 1930s during an era when President Franklin D. Roosevelt backed programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Work Projects Administration. The efforts were designed to create jobs to pull the country out of the Great Depression. The WPA developed projects to improve city streets, playgrounds, bridges and public buildings. Regner Park opened in 1935.scan0011


0928, 09 January 2016


  1. Steve Austin

    As always great piece by Judy.

    As a recently minted populist, the Fleet Farm story interests me. Seeing the ownership of the stores go from Midwest family owned to hedge fund never seems to bode well for things.

    See no need for them to build the mega-store on hwy 33 but at the same time would hate to see KKR simply take over the stores only to dress them up to sell to WalMart or Target a year or two later.

    Does the zoning approval for that Hwy 33 site allow for a Target Greatland store? Ugh.

  2. Marco Zoccoli

    Interesting agenda for the BID. One thing I am interested to see is if marketing dollars from BID funds are allocated to the DIVA group. Interesting since not all DIVA members are part of the BID. Won’t matter though the BiD board has turned into Mike Husars personal cabal. Seems all his causes and pet projects are always funded. But hey at least we have new garbage cans and Christmas lights and a surety in a bridge that is right behind Husars. With funds that average 97 k a year I wonder what is in their reserve account? As you remember the existence of the reserve account was one of the rationale to take the BID funding away from the Downtown Association.

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