Boots & Sabers

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Owen

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1809, 09 Jan 16

Controversy Brewing in West Bend School District

There is another controversy brewing in the West Bend School District, but it is difficult to discern how much of a controversy it is yet. Here’s a primer:

Last year the school district implemented a new¬†assessment system called Galileo. Previously they used another system, but this one allows for more online use and has some other features. Also, it saves the district about $62k/year compared to the previous system. Here’s the email the district sent out yesterday with some explanation.

The teachers union and some of the teachers oppose the use of Galileo. They complain about some of the mechanics of Galileo, but those complaints would apply to any assessment system. The root of the agitation seems to be the fact that the results from assessments will be used for a part of the teacher evaluations.

As part of their opposition, union officials were circulating a petition in the schools opposing Galileo. You can read the petition here. So far, it’s all fine and good. The administration implemented a new system. Generally speaking, people don’t like change and, in this case, unions don’t like objective assessments being used to determine teacher performance. So there was ongoing discussion happening.

Then, something went sideways to escalate the situation. In discussions with the principal – presumably about the petition – Tanya Lohr was put on paid administrative leave. Lohr is a teacher and a long time liberal activist in the district. According to the union, she was speaking with the principal in her role as a union official – not as a teacher.

That’s really all we know about that. The union is saying that Lohr was unjustly put on leave to silence her or intimidate teachers into silence for opposing Galileo. The district, of course, can’t give their side of the story because it is a personnel issue. The very procedures and secrecy that the union demands forbids the district from commenting. So take what the union is saying with a grain of salt.

We do know that Lohr has a history of aggressively advocating her opinions regarding the functioning of the schools and has run afoul of the administration in the past. We do not know if she was already on a performance plan or violated any previous agreements with the district regarding her behavior. We also know that because of Lohr’s previous work history and knowing the inevitable backlash that would occur, it is exceedingly unlikely that the district would have put her on administrative leave without substantial cause.

Lohr’s disciplinary action has precipitated a response from many parents, teachers, and the union – particularly since it comes on the eve of finals.

That’s the story, but more questions remain. The cynic in me has me very suspicious about the timing of all of this. Things like this do not happen in a vacuum.¬†The filing deadline for the West Bend School Board was the day before Lohr was put on leave. There are two seats up for election and five candidates on the ballot. One incumbent, the school board President, Randy Marquardt, is running for reelection. He is a conservative and leads the slim conservative majority on the board.

How convenient is it that this “crisis” has been precipitated and the teachers agitated on the eve of a school board election that could oust the conservative board president and tip the majority to the liberals? The answer is “very.” In fact, Waring Fincke, our local socialist agitator and Democratic Party official, started using this as a political wedge for the election within hours. And the commenters have done us the courtesy of pointing out the candidates who they believe will advocate their pro-union views:

candidates

 

As I said at the beginning, it is difficult to tell how much of a controversy this all really is. It could range anywhere from a tyrannical administration foisting a flawed assessment system on teachers and acting egregiously to quash their opposition to a completely fictional crisis manufactured by the union and a few activists to agitate the electorate before a school board election. I’m leaning to the latter part of that spectrum of possibilities.

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1809, 09 January 2016

4 Comments

  1. Kelli Schultz

    I can’t speak to the situation with Mrs. Lohr but can certainly share my objection to the Galileo platform and its impact on students. These final exams are 15 percent of the final semester grade. In some cases (I’m sitting here right now with an example in my hand) half of the material on the exam was never covered in the class. The tests are flawed, don’t reflect the curriculum of many teachers, nor do they offer the oportunity for teachers to use results to meet student needs. Additionally, they certainly don’t save money. Galileo cost 80k to purchase and the district is assessed a per student fee every time which amounts to about 56k. Not included is the cost of their trainers flying here and all associated meetings. Also the (estimated) 100k salary of the WB administrator that monitors the platform and other testing data. That is not saving money and is significant fiscal waste. We are an INITIATIVE obsessed district. Most of which offer no benefit to students or teachers. Data for data’s sake isn’t useful. The teachers voicing concerns should be heard and many of them share the same conservative values as most of this county. Supporting teachers and students is not a political matter.

    Tiffany Larson is a Republica and fiscal conservative.To paint her as part of a liberal conspiracy is unfair. I support her because I support smart use of district funds, believe there has been wasteful spending, and would like the WB school district to recover the excellence it once enjoyed.

  2. Dan

    Kelli, this really isn’t a District or state issue.
    The problem is Common Core, Obama’s education dept. and it’s reliance on testing. This started before with the Bush administration with No Child Left Behind.
    I am a teacher am familiar with Galileo along with several other tests. The school district I am in just started using Galileo, so I don’t know how well it will work. If it wasn’t Galileo, then they would complain about other standardized tests that judge the teacher.
    But the bigger is all the testing. Teachers, because they are graded by the test and the results, now teach to the standardized tests and the Districts support this because they are also graded on test results.
    As long as Common Core is around and grading of schools based on almost solely on standardized tests, these problems will continue.

  3. Mark Maley

    Years ago a customer named 3 actions that happened regarding a company I represent and how they all were part of a master plan .

    My response was ” If you knew us better , you would understand that we are not even close to that organized ”
    So it probably is with these events .amd with union efforts to control district actions under Act 10

    I get that the Benders group has 2 candidates up but Randy M is a layup given the non combative nature of the current board , so putting up 2 candidates for that one position cuts the vote in half for the one realistically remaining position .

    The actual facts will come out .

    Kelli ,
    My opposition to Mrs Larson’s candidacy has nothing to do with her budgetary judgment.
    Her self serving attempt to get her husband the Basketball job omitted basic facts about his behavior in
    The firing of the former coach .

    Omitting those facts goes to her judgement .

    No one with all the facts would have supported his candidacy .Absent those , his plight appeared appealing .
    But since facts matter , my support will go elsewhere .

  4. Owen

    I’m with you there, Mark. I rarely assume conspiracy where incompetence is a perfectly rational explanation. But do I think that Lohr is capable of precipitating a “crisis” in order to advance her agenda? Absolutely.

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