Category Archives: Education

Letter to the Editor

There is only one new candidate running for West Bend School District Board, Jody Geenen.  The three incumbents running as a bloc promised to be conservative, but their actions say something different. The current school board is out-of-touch and far from good stewards of tax dollars.

  • The current board wants to increase taxes with new buildings and a declining student population. The current board has tabled suggestions provided by an independent, volunteer task force who have researched and offered alternatives. Last year’s school referendum they wanted a palace in Jackson with 180+ square feet per student.  We are still paying for the rebuilding of Badger and Silverbrook.
  • The current school board took credit for a low mill rate which had nothing to do with the WBSD Board.  They count on the public being confused by mill rates.
  • The current board won’t review curriculum and are “leaving it to the experts”. The current board touts that there is parent/public input, but they make it so inconvenient for parent/public input to be heard.
  • The current board wants to eliminate the traditional 100-point grading system to prevent students from failing. The lowest possible grade would be a 40% or 50% instead of a 0 for a student who doesn’t do the work.

There is more, but all in the midst of another nation-wide search for a new superintendent.

I want someone on the school board who is honest, committed, fair minded, has common sense and will listen to ALL stakeholders, who treats my tax dollars as their own, and who supports high quality education.  Actions speak louder than words.  The ONLY vote for West Bend School District School board should be Jody Geenen.

Mary Wild

West Bend

$1.6 Billion in School Referendums on Ballot

Given that most of these are for buildings and all of the kids are at home… no. Oh, AND, we are entering a government-forced recession and we shouldn’t raise our taxes when thousands of our neighbors are losing their jobs, savings, and businesses. Oh, AND, even if both of those things weren’t true, it would still be a waste of money.

As the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has upended daily lives, bringing with it economic uncertainty, voters in 48 Wisconsin school districts — including in two of the state’s largest school systems — will decide next month on referendums totaling more than $1.6 billion.

[…]

But voters in the state’s largest district, Milwaukee, and fifth-largest, Racine, have big asks before them — permanently raising operating funds by up to $87 million and spending up to $1 billion on school projects over the next three decades, respectively.

The referendums in districts throughout the state come as thousands of people are out of work and businesses shuttered to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Whether the economic impact of the public health crisis will hamper the success of school referendums is uncertain.

 

A View of Virtual Learning

The Washington County Insider has asked students from local schools to describe their virtual learning experiences. Here’s a fascinating and detailed “day in the life” view from a student at Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School in Jackson.

Our day starts at 7:40 a.m. with a live stream of our chapel service. This is the same time our normal day began. There is a Google form we must submit before 8 a.m. to show our attendance. Our normal eight period, 43-minute class schedule has been switched to a block schedule, where we have four periods each day, lasting 86 minutes.

For my classes, each teacher has posted what we will be doing that day in Google Classroom. This post also includes a link to Zoom, which is a video-conferencing App that allows us to meet. The teacher can interact with all the students and we can interact with each other by talking or using the chat feature. In some classes, the teacher has taught the entire lesson while on Zoom, and in other classes, the teacher uses Zoom just to see our faces and see if we have any questions before we complete the assignment posted on Google Classroom.

Teachers are able to share their screen with us, so we can still go through PowerPoint presentations. Student presentations are still possible through the same process. Zoom has a feature allowing the teacher to mute or unmute everyone, and each individual can control their video and audio as well. This feature has been effective for class discussions.

At times the video and audio quality are not the clearest, and some people have frozen on the screen for a small amount of time. Finding a place to have a Zoom meeting is also a challenge for some. For me personally, I have an eighth-grade brother who is doing online school, and my mother is working from home as well. Her job involves many phone meetings so it is difficult for us to work on the same floor. To alleviate the problem, I have decided to make my room my main working area. I cleared off my desk and that is where I do the majority of my work.

Corono-Schools: Pandemic Response Varies by School District

It has been an interesting view into the preparedness, priorities, and competencies of various school districts in Wisconsin. Senator Duey Stroebel highlighted some:

As COVID-19 closes schools across Wisconsin, I wanted to highlight school districts in the 20th Senate District that are continuing to educate students using the valuable taxpayer resources that we have entrusted to them.  The 20th Senate District includes most of Ozaukee and Washington Counties as well as portions of Calumet, Fond du Lac, and Sheboygan Counties.

The Hartford J1, Holy Hill Area, Northern Ozaukee, Port Washington-Saukville, Plymouth, Random Lake, and Slinger School Districts have already started a virtual learning program for their students in reaction to the current environment.

I applaud their preparation to ensure our students have the resources they need to succeed.  I look forward to other districts joining their ranks to minimize the interruption to our children’s education.

I give a lot of credit, and cut a lot of slack, to school districts for how they are responding. There are a lot of hurdles. For example:

  • Districts can’t assume that all kids have access to a computer and decent internet access.
  • Delivering education via distance learning is vastly different than in person. The curriculum and planning were mostly built for in-person delivery and it is a monumental task to restructure them for distance learning. A few schools are doing this well. Some are just trying to do it the same way, which won’t be effective. Some are not doing anything at all.
  • For the lower grades, distance learning gets much more difficult. It relies heavily on individual support and instruction, which falls on parents – parents who have jobs.
  • If you don’t already have a technology infrastructure that is built for distance learning, you can’t build one overnight. This is easier than it once was with the availability of auto-scaling and elastic load balancing cloud platforms, but it still isn’t immediate.

There are a lot of hurdles. Some districts are jumping over them better than others.

Since they are my local school district, I have been following the West Bend School District and I have been… disappointed. Again, I cut them a lot of slack, but if we are to measure them against neighboring districts, they are coming up short. You will notice that they are noticeably absent from Stroebel’s press release.

While other districts are already up and running online, the West Bend School District is targeting sometime in the middle of next week to start – and it looks like that will involve mostly emailing worksheets:

We now anticipate distance learning beginning mid-next-week. Continue to check your email daily for updates on which day next week this programming will begin.

1. Our district provides a Chromebook to all students in grade 5-9 for use during the school year. Additionally, students in grades 10-12 have always had access to a Chromebook if they needed one. While our elementary age students have numerous electronic devices at their disposal in class, our practice has not been to send those devices home with students. We are currently evaluating the resources and feasibility of handing out devices to elementary students.

2. The distance learning for all grade levels will be provided electronically via email. If a printed copy of the materials are needed, please contact your building principal.

a. Students in grades K-4 will need to print out learning activities. Teachers will be able to support students remotely during this time.

Meanwhile, schools like Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School is already doing full distance learning with a full class schedule via Zoom. That’s probably the best I’ve seen. Slinger and Hartford are already doing distance learning, but it looks like they have not really shifted to a true distance learning methodology.

What the West Bend School Board is making sure is taken care of is paying staff. I expect that this is of particular importance with three board members up for reelection in a few weeks.

WEST BEND — With one board member quarantined after travel, the West Bend School District Board of Education met to discuss how teachers and other staff will be paid during the school closure, all while staying six feet apart from one another.

Board members met on Wednesday, March 18, to discuss employee compensation while schools are closed. They unanimously voted to pay employees their normal salary up to spring break on Monday, April 6.

If the school closure due to COVID-19 is to be extended, the board would reconvene and take

further action if the closure extends after Monday, April 13.

“We have had several employees wanting to know or are very concerned about whether they’re going to be paid during this shutdown or not,” said Superintendent Don Kirkegaard.

[…]

“Nobody spends money just to spend money. In this case, we’re spending money to take care of the people who dedicated in many times 10, 15, 20, 30 years of their life to us and we want to treat them the way we’d want to be treated as well,” said Kirkegaard.

Frankly, I’m a little torn on this. We want to ensure that the district is able to retain critical employees after this is over and that we are caring for our community. At the same time, taxpayers are also suffering and it is not unreasonable to expect our public employees to share the pain too. If they aren’t working, we shouldn’t be paying them. And we shouldn’t just make up work for them to have an excuse to pay them. I don’t see any reason to pay coaches, custodial, administrators, and good chunk of the classroom teachers and aides if they aren’t working full time. Yeah, it sucks, but it also sucks for the retail, restaurant, and other workers in town who are idle right now and have to pay that tax bill.

With the way budgeting works, the school district already has the money from the annual property tax, so there wouldn’t be an immediate tax savings. But they could save or reallocate the savings to reduce taxes in the next budget when the taxpayers will still be reeling from the economic impact of this. Or they could reallocate the money to purchase the technology and training needed to do distance learning correctly. It appears that the priority of the West Bend School Board, however, is to keep the district staff whole irrespective of what’s happening to the taxpayers.

We will have to watch the long term effects of this transition. Will distance learning stick for schools? It’s not right for everything, but if 20% of a district moves to distance learning, then we can redirect much of the spending on facilities to classroom instruction. And what does this do for appropriate teacher/student ratios? If kids are learning from home, will the taxpayers still need to provide free meals to them? If so, then can we admit that that is just normal welfare and not use our government school system as an alternate welfare delivery agency?

When all of this is over, we will all have to evaluate how our government institutions responded and render judgment. Some will deserve praise. Some will need a wholesale reform.

Cast your vote based on the record

Speaking of voting, here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

Three incumbent West Bend School Board members are up for re-election on the April 7 ballot. Joel Ongert, Nancy Justman, and Tonnie Schmidt ran as a bloc in 2017 and are running for re-election as a bloc again. In 2017, they ran on conservatism and transparency. Having failed on both counts, this year they are running on their record. It is certainly a record that deserves scrutiny.

Despite promising transparency, the West Bend School District became instantly more opaque when they took office. Individually, these three board members repeatedly refused to respond to questions from media and constituents who did not support them; documents disappeared from the district’s website; and there was a noticeable increase in the number of closed sessions.

This secrecy enveloped the decision in 2017 to split the high school administrations. West Bend has two high schools in one building, but previous boards had combined the administration to be more efficient and economical. Without any public input or discussion, and in the middle of a hiring process for a single principal, the School Board split the position into two expensive principals instead of one. Secrecy and patronage were the new guiding principles with these three.

Under the leadership of the Triad, the district abandoned using Act 10 and reversed course on the implementation of merit pay for school staff. After a year in limbo, the district is implementing a new compensation system that rewards teachers for experience and more education — irrespective of the teacher’s performance.

Who could forget the superintendent shuffle? The district will be hiring its fourth superintendent since the Triad took office three years ago. They forced one out (allegedly), had an interim for a while, and then hired Superintendent Kirkegaard. While Kirkegaard has been a capable superintendent, it did not take much foresight to understand that an administrator nearing the end of his career who spent his entire life in another state would not last long. Along with the superintendent shuffle came the huge turnover of the rest of the administrative staff. The district has cycled through six business managers, five HR directors, and countless other staff positions.

The Triad also ran last time as conservatives. They may be fiscally conservative in their private lives, but they are big-spending liberals with other people’s money. Despite steeply declining enrollment (not the district’s fault), the School Board increased spending by over $5 million, or over 6%, since 2016. That spending brought with it property tax increases. The School Board increased the property tax levy by over 9% over the same period. The spending and taxing decisions of the West Bend School Board are indistinguishable from those of legendarily liberal school boards like Madison or Milwaukee.

The increased spending and taxes were not enough for this crew. Throughout the Triad’s entire tenure, the district has been roiled with referendum debate. After a few months, the Triad pushed through a $74 million (with interest) referendum for a new Jackson Elementary School and work at the high schools. They followed the liberal school referendum playbook to the letter. They manipulated a fake community study committee, conducted a sham survey, rolled out the scare tactics, and were hazy about the details of how the money would be spent.

After the voters rejected the referendum, they are right back at planning the next referendum. Despite the fact that a private task force of local business and facilities leaders (of which I was a member) dug into the data for months and showed a way to restructure facilities with enormous improvements without increasing taxes, the Triad appears determined to ignore those findings and proceed with a rehashed version of the previous referendum – a new Jackson Elementary School and maybe some other fluff thrown in to lure voters from outside of Jackson.

Sadly for the kids of the West Bend School District, the spending, taxing, administrative turmoil, lack of performance incentives for teachers, secrecy, and poor management have only perpetuated a steadily declining performance. None of this has improved educational outcomes or better prepared our kids to enter the world.

If you want higher taxes, more spending, declining performance, and an endless succession of referendums, vote for the Triad. As for me, I will only be voting for one person for the West Bend School Board, Jody Geenen.

Geenen is a solidly conservative mother who had three children go through the West Bend School District. She is committed to doing the hard work of improving transparency, communicating with the public, evaluating the curriculum, being a frugal steward of taxpayer money, and providing a “high-quality, content-rich, truth-and-factbased education for all students.”

There are four candidates for three School Board seats, so two of the three members of the Triad will be re-elected. It does not matter which ones. But it does matter that the voters elect Jody Geenen to be the only conservative on a school board that lurched to the left with the election of the Triad.

Cast your vote based on the record

Isn’t it nice to read about something that isn’t related to Coronovirus? My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a little taste:

Sadly for the kids of the West Bend School District, the spending, taxing, administrative turmoil, lack of performance incentives for teachers, secrecy, and poor management have only perpetuated a steadily declining performance. None of this has improved educational outcomes or better prepared our kids to enter the world.

If you want higher taxes, more spending, declining performance, and an endless succession of referendums, vote for the Triad. As for me, I will only be voting for one person for the West Bend School Board, Jody Geenen.

Geenen is a solidly conservative mother who had three children go through the West Bend School District. She is committed to doing the hard work of improving transparency, communicating with the public, evaluating the curriculum, being a frugal steward of taxpayer money, and providing a “high-quality, content-rich, truth-and-fact based education for all students.”

There are four candidates for three School Board seats, so two of the three members of the Triad will be re-elected. It does not matter which ones. But it does matter that the voters elect Jody Geenen to be the only conservative on a school board that lurched to the left with the election of the Triad.

Preserving small ‘l’ liberal education

Here is my full column for the Washington County Daily News.

When one enters higher education to pursue a traditional four-year bachelor’s degree, there are two main objectives. The first objective is to learn a lot about a particular subject like math, history, business, or any of hundreds of other major areas of study. The second objective, and the one that differentiates a liberal (classical liberal – not political liberal) education from a vocational education, is to gain a broader knowledge of the world.

The heart of a liberal education is that second objective. It is why students are required to take classes that do not have anything to do with their major. It is also why students spend more money and spend longer in school to earn a bachelor’s degree. For many people, going to university is their first time outside of the bubble in which they grew up. It is their first time away from their family, church, neighborhood, childhood friends, and cultural roots. A good university education offers a wide range of information and multiple viewpoints to give students a broader perspective of the world around them. A good university education also equips students with the critical thinking skills necessary to navigate a big, diverse, exciting world.

Unfortunately, most universities have abandoned a small “l” liberal education in favor of a big “L” Liberal education. Instead of offering a broad perspective from diverse perspectives, they offer a narrow perspective from a hyper-orthodox view. Whether the subject is related to global warming, abortion, unions, gun rights, health care policy, or any other important issue, there is only one perspective tolerated on most university campuses – the Liberal viewpoint.

The reason is simple. The vast majority of university faculty members are extremely liberal. For example, consider the political donations of faculty members. The best way to tell what is important to someone is to see where they spend their money. According to Opensecrets.org, 97% of all political donations given by employees of the University of Wisconsin system in the 2020 election cycle so far have gone to Democrats. Only 3% have gone to Republicans.

Lest you think that such lopsided political affiliation is an artifact of the Trump era, the percentage was 98% for Democrats in 2014 and 95% in 2012. To put that in perspective, a student takes about 40 college courses with 40 professors to earn a bachelor’s degree. There is a very good chance that a student attending a University of Wisconsin school might complete their degree without ever having anything but a politically liberal professor. In some majors, it is a virtual certainty that a student will never hear anything but a liberal perspective.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important for universities to invite non-liberal speakers to their campuses. For some students, it will be the only way they will hear a conservative, libertarian, or even a centrist speak without leaving campus.

Sadly, too many universities have tolerated, or even encouraged, the rise of the cry bully on campus. These sniveling tyrants wrap themselves in their own righteousness to bully other people into silence. If challenged for their intolerance, they cry “victim” and demand a safe space. These are the petty bullies who have been protesting and shouting down conservative speakers on university campuses to the point that some universities have stopped inviting conservatives to speak at all for fear of violence.

The University of Wisconsin Regents deserve credit for pushing ahead with a policy to punish cry bullies who would intimidate others into silence and preserve universities as a place for diverse thoughts to be heard and debated. In October, the Regents voted for a policy that would require that a student be suspended if they twice “materially and substantially disrupted the free expression of others.” Upon the third violation, the student would be expelled.

The policy is needed to ensure that universities can be a place of free expression and diversity of thought. The policy does not prohibit any student from offering a different perspective or even protesting a speaker they dislike. It simply discourages students from disrupting other people from speaking and sharing their views. That is what free expression is all about. Universities used to know that and the UW Regents are reinstilling that principle of small “l” liberal education.

Preserving small ‘l’ liberal education

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Go pick up a copy, but here’s a part:

Unfortunately, most universities have abandoned a small “l” liberal education in favor of a big “L” Liberal education. Instead of offering a broad perspective from diverse perspectives, they offer a narrow perspective from a hyper-orthodox view. Whether the subject is related to global warming, abortion, unions, gun rights, health care policy, or any other important issue, there is only one perspective tolerated on most university campuses – the Liberal viewpoint.

The reason is simple. The vast majority of university faculty members are extremely liberal. For example, consider the political donations of faculty members. The best way to tell what is important to someone is to see where they spend their money. According to Opensecrets.org, 97% of all political donations given by employees of the University of Wisconsin system in the 2020 election cycle so far have gone to Democrats. Only 3% have gone to Republicans.

Lest you think that such lopsided political affiliation is an artifact of the Trump era, the percentage was 98% for Democrats in 2014 and 95% in 2012. To put that in perspective, a student takes about 40 college courses with 40 professors to earn a bachelor’s degree. There is a very good chance that a student attending a University of Wisconsin school might complete their degree without ever having anything but a politically liberal professor. In some majors, it is a virtual certainty that a student will never hear anything but a liberal perspective.

 

Act 10 Enabled Teacher Mobility

This is exactly one of the impacts that Act 10 was intended to have.

Though he said it was a difficult decision, he left Lodi for better pay — about $2,000 more in salary, plus better benefits — and he wanted to try working at a bigger school. Teacher salaries in Lodi “had taken a hit” after the Legislature passed Act 10 and weren’t going to get better any time soon, given budget constraints.

Irrespective of whether or not Act 10 hit Lodi’s budget (that has become a reflexive statement even though Wisconsin spends more than ever on government schools), the fact that it is so easy for this teacher to move to another district is also because of Act 10. By enabling a more mobile teacher labor force, Act 10 forces districts to compete for the best teachers. This is not a bad thing. It is a good thing. And you’ll notice, it isn’t always about money.

But a year later, he returned to Lodi for some of the same reasons he left: Monona Grove’s size — it has more than twice the enrollment that Lodi has — meant that he didn’t know most of the students even by the end of the year, and there were larger socio-economic disparities between them. He said he also had some differences in teaching philosophy from his colleagues there.

Letter to the Editor

Yet another transparency issue with the school district!  As the only new candidate running for School Board, I am frustrated with the district’s deceit in pretending to seek public input regarding new curriculum. For example, the district sent a memo to certain parents/guardians and taxpayers (not me) inviting them to review the new 9th grade biology curriculum.  A friend received the email and was frustrated with the inconvenient times offered ~ 6:45am-8:00am and 2:30pm-4:00pm, when most parents are traveling to work or working. There were no evening or weekend sessions.  I emailed the Curriculum and Instruction Department to request an evening viewing. While they were willing to hold a private viewing, they refused to open it up to the public except to let me invite guests. So I brought four.

Laura Jackson presented the curriculum and was aware the public was not invited to the evening session. Yet, she praised herself at the February 24th School Board Meeting for inviting public  input. She said she offered convenient times to parents who were dropping students off at school or picking them up and that there was an evening session. Really? There were zero (0) people, other than a teacher, who attended the two early sessions, and the five of us who attended the evening session from which she provided our written feedback to the board. Were inconvenient viewing sessions offered because there was something to hide from the public? Were they just pretending to be accommodating to avoid any negative reaction to the curriculum?

If you’re tired of the lack of transparency and you believe children’s education should be a partnership between parents and teachers, then vote for me on or before April 7 for school board.

Jody Geenen – Candidate for West Bend School Board

Letter To the Editor

Dear Editor,

I am writing to share my personal experience with the West Bend school district putting out a new book and curriculum for 9th grade Biology. First, there was an open viewing of the book and curriculum to anyone who pays taxes but the only means of notification to the public was an email to limited audience. I was told that this was open to the public but later found out that whoever was in charge of putting out the invitation refused to let people know there was an evening viewing. What are they trying to hide?  Second, the book filled with non-science and pseudo-science topics such as climate change, population control and evolution.  Instead of teaching the Science of Biology it is a total indoctrination of agenda-driven propaganda. I do not want my taxes paying for this type of brain-washing This situation reminds me of the way the Community Hospital relocation to where it is now was accomplished. Then only after the outcry by many people from this community did an open and faux meeting occur. The move proponents pretended to care what we thought, only to do what they wanted in the end anyway. We need change in our school district so kids learn what they should and not a political agenda.  If you want change in our district vote for Jody Geenen for the School Board on April 7.

Jean Weymier

West Bend

Letter to the Editor from Jody Geenen

From West Bend School Board candidate Jody Geenen.

More school board transparency issues regarding the referendum for November replacing the one that was voted down last April! The board is so determined to pass it that they are purposely muddying the very understandable Policy 615, Disclosure of Financial and Total Costs of All Referendums. They don’t want the public to understand the significant interest cost and total costs. For example, the last referendum was $47-million; but, with interest, it would have actually cost $74-million on top of the $32-million owed on the last two referendums that passed, for a grand total of $106-million. Just before the election, they sent the public a mailing that violated Policy 615 by only mentioning the $47-million.

This time around, the board decided to change Policy 615 by insisting on forcing the mill rate into it to confuse voters. At the Chamber Public Forum on March 4, the 3-incumbents running for school board hoodwinked the public by giving themselves credit for the decreased mill rate. The school district cannot take credit for the decreased mill rate anymore than they can take credit for a booming economy.  The mill rate is the amount of dollars charged per $1000 of assessed property value, so we realize a decrease in mill rate because property values went up. The only way the school board could take credit for reducing the mill rate is if they had a less than maximum revenue budget. However, they have had a tax-to-the- max revenue budget of 2.5% for the last 3-years. By the way, there are about 45 school districts with lower mill rates than West Bend.

If you want honest, independent, and true oversight of our school district — with ALL stakeholder interests properly considered and balanced, then vote for me for school board on or before April 7.

Black Folks In Madison Object to Hiring of Hispanic Superintendent

Are we becoming a society where we will only be satisfied with people who are the same as us? This kind of enforced segregation is not good for anyone. What does it teach our kids?

A letter signed by 13 black community leaders in Madison expresses concerns about the Madison Metropolitan School District’s hiring of Matthew Gutiérrez to be its next superintendent.

The concerns include how much larger and more diverse MMSD is than Gutiérrez’s current Seguin Independent School District in Texas, student performance scores in Seguin and a “flawed, incomplete” process that “lacked substantive input from the Black Community.”

“We are dissatisfied with the process and how the input of the Black Community was minimized, if considered at all,” the letter reads. “Given the differences between Madison and Seguin, we expected a greater and broader background of experience, skills and abilities that would move the Madison District further in cultural competency, social justice, and academic outcomes for black students.

“Dr. Gutiérrez is woefully lacking in all of these categories.”

Put it in another light… would it be acceptable for a bunch of white folks to send a letter saying, “We are dissatisfied with the process and how the input of the White Community was minimized, if considered at all”? Hard to imagine.

I don’t know if Gutierrez is the right person or not. I presume that he is liberal enough for the folks on the Madison School Board. But it is clear that the folks who signed this letter would not be satisfied with anyone who is not of the same race.

Students Sue Principal Over Gun Shirts

It’s a shame that they have to go to court over this. Sadly, it’s necessary. Do you see how infringement of the 2nd Amendment leads to infringement of the 1st?

A pair of sophomores at Kettle Moraine High School sued their principal in federal court a day after she told them they had to cover the T-shirts they wore to school because the shirts depicted guns.

Their lawsuit, filed in federal court last week, contends the First Amendment protects their right to show support for the Second Amendment and asks a judge to order the school not to prevent them from wearing the shirts.

A week earlier, a middle-schooler sued his assistant principal in Neenah over the same issues, but a different gun-themed shirt.

Both cases come a few months after Markesan High School settled a similar case that made national headlines in 2018. After a judge granted the students a preliminary injunction, the principal agreed not to restrict Matthew Schoenecker from wearing shirts with guns or weapons if they don’t advocate or imply violent or illegal use of guns.

[…]

WI Carry Inc., a gun-rights advocacy group, supported all four plaintiffs. President Nik Clark said he was surprised Kettle Moraine and the Neenah middle school didn’t take notice of the outcome from Markesan.

“There is so much demonization of guns by public schools (these prohibitions as just one example) but also public schools SANCTIONED multiple walkouts the past couple years to call for gun control, but a kid can’t wear a shirt showing his gun pride?” Clark said in an email.

Baltimore Schools Defend Trump/Nazi Teaching

Uh huh… “out of context.” Suuuure. Or, the teacher sent exactly the message he/she intended to.

The photo of the slide shows a picture of Trump with the words “wants to round up a group of people to build a giant wall.” Below that picture is another one depicting a Nazi symbol that captioned “been there” and another showing a communist hammer and sickle with the words “done that.”

On the side of the slide are the words “oh, THAT is why it sounds so familiar!”

Szeliga also shared a quote from Baltimore County Public Schools regarding the matter.

In the statement, the district said the slide had been used as part of an AP history lesson in which topics “being discussed included World Wars and the attempts by some leaders to limit, or prevent migration, into certain countries.”

“In isolation and out of context with the lesson, the image could be misunderstood. In our Advanced Placement (AP) classes, which are college level courses, we expect and encourage analysis and discussion around historical and current events even if they are considered controversial,” the district continued.

“This lesson was not intended to make a political statement. If a student has concerns when discussing a controversial issue, schools have the tools to address the concern and support the student,” the district also said in the statement.

West Bend School District Plans to Reduce Staff

This is a responsible response in light of the decline in enrollment.

The current projected reductions are based on enrollment projections for next year and course registration trends for the current year. Adjustments will be made if course registrations shift in a substantial manner from their current levels. Based on current data, the following reductions are recommended:

● Elementary – Reduce 6 classroom teaching positions
● Silverbrook – Reduce 1 classroom teaching position
● High School – Reduce 6 classroom teaching positions

The administration first uses attrition to achieve these reductions. Teachers who retire, resign, or are on a non-renewing 1 year contract are the first level of staff used for accomplishing reductions. The administration is already aware of seven positions that can be reduced through this type of normal attrition. Employees have until March 13th to declare their intent to retire so additional attrition this year is very possible.

Let’s hope that enough people retire or quit so that nobody needs to be let go.

Evers calls a special session to waste money we don’t have

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s part of it:

Finally, it is not just that Governor Evers wants to spend money we do not yet have. It is that he wants to pour it into the bottomless pit of government schools for no benefit. The governor lists 14 spending items directed at government schools from general state aid to grants. Nowhere does he even pretend that the additional spending will improve educational outcomes for the kids. Even Evers appears to know that more spending will not result in better education.

In fact, Wisconsin spends more on government education than at any time in its history, and yet, test scores and student performance continue their steady decline. It is a travesty that liberals like Governor Evers continue to spread the lie that more money leads to a better education because it distracts from advancing policies that will actually improve education for our children. Governor Evers’ spending plan is a boon for government workers, special interest groups, and school construction companies, but it once again leaves our kids behind.

West Bend School Superintendent Appointed to Job in South Dakota

As expected. From the Washington County Insider.

February 11, 2020 – West Bend, WI – Outgoing West Bend School District Superintendent Don Kirkegaard on Monday night secured an interim superintendent’s position in the Meade School District in his home state of South Dakota.

[…]

Kirkegaard is to take over in the Meade School District on July 1, 2020.  Kirkegaard’s last day in West Bend School District will be June 30, 2020.

Kirkegaard was paid $175,000 in the West Bend School District. The district also covered his moving expenses up to $15,000.

Meade School Board is not going to pay moving expenses for Kirkegaard to return home.

According to board officials it has not been determined whether Kirkegaard would be considered for a full-time position as Superintendent in the Meade School District. According to state law in South Dakota, an interim position can only run for one year.

[…]

It was February 3, 2020 when WashingtonCountyInsider.com broke the story about West Bend School Superintendent Don Kirkegaard looking to return to his former school district and expressing interest in the interim superintendent position in the Meade School District.

“I’m not ready to be done done yet …. the departure truly is a personal decision,” he said.

UW Jacks up Tuition Amidst Massive Cost Overruns

Remember this waste the next time someone complains about UW being “underfunded.”

The governing body of the University of Wisconsin System approved tuition increases for some students, as well as tens of millions of dollars worth of construction cost overruns, at its meeting on Friday.

The UW Board of Regents accepted budget increases for two UW-Madison construction projects: a $25.7 million bump for a dairy plant and research center project at Babcock Hall and an extra $7 million for a new meat science lab.

Regent Bob Atwell said killing the Babcock project would be worse than increasing its budget, but he still expressed some reservations.

“(The Babcock) project was launched and approved in 2012, and it won’t be completed for eight or nine years after it was initiated, and the total cost will be over 100 percent more than the initial approval,” he said.

In 2012, the project’s estimated cost was about $32 million. Now, it’s over $72 million.

Thank goodness the Republicans froze tuition, eh?

Regents also agreed to raise tuition for some out-of-state University of Wisconsin undergraduates, starting in the fall.

Out-of-state students at UW-Milwaukee, UW-Whitewater and UW-Platteville will pay between less than 1 percent and almost 3 percent more.

Tuition for in-state students has been frozen since 2013.

For the record, it’s $72 million for a building to educate about 150 kids.

When the Babcock Hall project is completed, students will learn in a state-of-the-art facility. The average enrollment in UW-Madison’s food-science department is 101 undergraduates and between 35 and 40 graduate students, said Rankin, chairman of the department,

West Bend School District needs a new superintendent

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News last week.

West Bend School District Superintendent Don Kirkegaard has resigned after less than two years in the job and plans to return to his newly built house in South Dakota. Although he has not shared any career plans, one might posit that the vacancy for superintendent in his old school district may have factored into his decision. The folks in the West Bend School District thank him for his short time in our community and wish him the best. The School Board now must look for the district’s fifth superintendent in four years.

köpa viagra, this page, potensmedel cialis, visit

The search for a new superintendent comes during a time of turmoil in the school district. After Superintendent Ted Nietzke resigned in 2016, the School Board hired a strong replacement, Erik Olsen. 2016 is also when the School Board began its turn to the left when Tiffany Larson was elected. 2017 completed the turn with the election of Joel Ongert, Nancy Justman, and Tonnie Schmidt. With a solid majority, Superintendent Olson was quickly paid a handsome severance to leave. Interim Superintendent Laura Jackson served well until Kirkegaard was hired by the board in 2018 after an expensive search.

Through these years, the school district has burned through four or five HR directors and business managers, ended innovation like the charter school, abandoned merit pay for teachers, stunted community and stakeholder communication, roiled the electorate with a poorly thought-out referendum that failed, and generally regressed from the gains made a few years ago. The results have been distressing as student performance has been stagnant and much of the community is disengaged and disinterested.

Meanwhile, the school district is facing some serious challenges. Due to a general demographic shift, enrollment is declining in the district and is projected to continue to decline for the foreseeable future. A district that once had 7,000 students will likely have less than 5,000 within this decade. This will mean substantially less money and the need to downsize personnel and facilities. The district is also facing competitive pressure with the expansion of school choice and the maturity of online and home-school learning options. These are structural pressures that are not unique to the West Bend School District. They are systemic and unavoidable.

Taking all of this into account, the next superintendent of the West Bend School District needs to be a strong, transformational, visionary change agent. It is exponentially more difficult to properly manage an organization through a contraction than through an expansion. The leader must be a phenomenal communicator who can motivate employees and build support with all of the stakeholders in the district. The West Bend School District does not need a caretaker or a toady. The district needs a strong leader to guide it through a transformation to improve educational outcomes, infuse modern innovations, and reconnect with the community while also consolidating and economizing personnel and facilities. The folks in the West Bend School District deserve a better, if smaller, school district that reflects the values of the community it serves.

To find a superintendent that matches all of those criteria will not be easy, especially given the recent turnover in the position. To do so, the West Bend School Board should follow the lead of the University of Wisconsin System and consider candidates who do not come from the government-education industrial complex. A school district superintendent must have a vision for education, but must also have skills in budgeting, contract negotiation, public relations, personnel management, finance, facilities management, organizational behavior, recruitment, marketing, legal, and more. These are skills that most seasoned, successful business executives have acquired and are not unique to people who have spent their career in education.

Finally, we must remember that this process will be conducted in the midst of an election where three incumbent school board members are on the ballot who have overseen the dysfunction of the district for the previous three years. As a sign of the disengagement of the community from the district, only one challenger stepped up, but she is a true conservative who is eager to set the district back on a path to success. Jody Geenen had three kids graduate from the district and has been an active, involved, conservative member of the community.

Electing Jody Geenen to the School Board will not only put a vocal taxpayer steward on the board, it will signal to the superintendent candidates that the citizens of the West Bend School District are ready to accept progress and change. Furthermore, Geenen would be in a position to invite the public into the process of choosing a new superintendent with a transparency that has been so sorely lacking from the West Bend School Board.

The West Bend School District needs strong leadership that can lead it through the next decade. The voters can begin by electing Jody Geenen to the School Board. Then the School Board will need to recruit and select a transformational leader as the next superintendent.