Category Archives: Education

UW Campuses to Open In Fall

Excellent. Frankly, things like Mono, Meningitis, and STDs worry me more on a college campus than the Rona.

The UW System announced Sunday that all campuses would have some degree of in-person instruction this fall.

Leaders on each campus will make their own decisions on what exactly the fall semester will look like. But the system administration has released guidelines for how to reopen in the safest way possible.

“We know the on-campus experience is what our students want,” UW System President Ray Cross said in a statement. “At the same time, we must all recognize that our universities will be different this fall than what we’re used to and there will be campus-based decisions on how to best address particular issues. But students will be back on campus this fall.”

Only UW System President Finalist Withdraws

Back to square one.

“After deep reflection as to where I am called to lead a university system through these challenging times, it is clear to me and my family that it is in Alaska,” Johnsen said in a statement. “I appreciate the strong support from the search committee at Wisconsin, and for all those who supported my candidacy, but it’s clear they have important process issues to work out.”

Woke West Bend Graduates Push for Social Justice Agenda in District

This is apparently the educational outcome of the West Bend School District.

1. Make a statement regarding WBSD’s stance on current events regarding police brutality, systemic racism, and social justice.

2. Enhance and increase funding for counseling, youth programming, rehabilitative programs to replace outdated disciplinary action. Counselors or workers in these positions need to be required to complete anti-racism training.

3. Remove police liaisons from schools.

4. Establish new department or committee within Pupil Services devoted to Diversity, Inclusion, and Equitable Education.

5. Require anti-racism training and professional development for faculty: administrators, educators, aides, etc.
a. This should come from professional educators of color, with emphasis on Black educators.

6. Have a DAI representative at School Board Meetings as an accountability measure and to ensure decisions made are genuinely for the benefit and working towards “Excellence for All.”

7. Restructure social studies curriculums and mandate lessons on privilege, oppression, and systemic racism. Decolonize education by establishing ethnic studies requirements and incorporating Black
History into curriculums.

8. Establish a committee and funding for hiring and retaining Black educators.
a. Black counselors are also necessary in schools.

9. Inviting external Black educators to advise WBSD faculty in a professional development or mandatory training capacity.

10. Set community guidelines on what qualifies as hate speech and educate students on why it is considered hate speech.

UW System President Candidate Has History of Measured Cuts

Perhaps there is hope. UW needs someone who has experience with something like this given the oncoming budget crisis.

Last week, the UW System Administration office announced Johnsen as the only finalist to replace outgoing UW System President Ray Cross. The decision was met with some skepticism by faculty and staff members who felt they weren’t included in the selection process.

Others expressed worry over Johnsen’s recent role in cutting dozens of academic programs at the University of Alaska due to budget constraints, a fix that’s already been proposed by Cross as the UW System stares down financial challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, the University of Alaska Board of Regents approved eliminating about 40 programs, including theater and sociology at the University of Alaska Anchorage and chemistry and earth science at University of Alaska Fairbanks.

During Tuesday morning’s call with stakeholders, Kathleen Dolan, a UW-Milwaukee political science professor, asked Johnsen how faculty and students would say he supported liberal arts education at the University of Alaska System given the cuts.

Johnsen suggested the outcome could have been worse. Last July, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed cutting the budget of the university system by 41 percent before that number was negotiated down to 20 percent over three years, Johnsen said.

Each of the system’s seven campuses then completed their own program reviews led by chancellors and provosts with students and faculty included in the process. They examined things like quality, access, cost and market demand before proposing programs to be eliminated. Several rounds of reviews were completed before any decisions were made, Johnsen said.

UW System Asks for Approval to Take On Massive Debt

Yes to the start date. No to everything else.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — University of Wisconsin President Ray Cross asked Gov. Tony Evers and legislative leaders Wednesday to call a special session of the Legislature to allow for UW to borrow money through a line of credit and possibly start classes earlier to help deal with “unprecedented financial and planning challenges” due to the coronavirus pandemic.

[…]

Cross noted that campuses have already furloughed and laid off employees and reduced costs. In order to have more flexibility, Cross asked for three general law changes:

— Grant a one-time exemption to allow for the school year to start earlier than Sept. 1, the earliest date allowed under state law. Cross noted that given the expectation of a spike in COVID-19 cases in the fall, many colleges want to start classes earlier and use an expedited scheduled to complete the fall semester by Thanksgiving.

— Give the university the ability to take out a line of credit to allow it to borrow money to get through the budget crisis posed by the pandemic. Cross noted that other universities are taking this step. Any debt created would be the responsibility of the university to pay back, not the state, Cross said.

— Relieve UW of many reporting requirements to free up resources, a move Cross said would “enhance the ability of our universities to be open in the broadest way possible this fall.”

Several universities are already doing an earlier start date. This allows them to complete the semester earlier and prevents an outbreak if everyone goes home for Thanksgiving and then returns to campus. This puts a burden on the businesses, including farms, who rely on summer labor, but is a sensible concession.

On the debt, Covid hit everyone hard and many people and businesses had to take huge hits to their incomes and value. By taking on debt, UW wants to avoid pain and shift it to the taxpayers or students in the form of guaranteed debt. There is so much fat in UW that they have a long way to go before the legislature should consider allowing them to outsource their pain to people who are already experiencing their own pain.

On the reporting, removing safeguards are a way to invite corruption and mismanagement. Perhaps they can streamline the reporting requirements, but they should not be abandoned for the sake of expediency.

West Bend School District Slams Through New Superintendent

They announced finalists on Tuesday and the selection was made on Thursday. So much for public input, getting to know the community, listening sessions, or any of the other things that usually happen. It looks like the disregard for the public isn’t just coming from Madison.

WEST BEND — The West Bend Joint School District #1 School Board has announced that a contract for superintendent of the district has been offered to Jennifer Wimmer.

According to a press release from the district, the board chose Wimmer due to her broad and established instructional leadership experience, in-depth expertise in instructional strategies, strength in collaboration and focus on increasing student learning. Once a contract has been approved, her start date will be July 1.

[…]

Wimmer has been the superintendent of the Maple Dale-Indian Hill School District in Fox Point for six years. She has also worked in the School District of Waukesha in various roles including assistant superintendent of student services, director of instruction, and executive director of elementary education. She has also been an elem entary school principal and a middle school associate principal. She began her career as a special education teacher. Wimmer earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She earned a master’s degree in educational leadership and a superintendent licensure from Cardinal Stritch University and will receive her doctorate in educational leadership from Cardinal Stritch University this year.

Never heard of the Maple Dale-Indian Hill School District before? That’s because it’s a tiny K-8 district with two buildings and about 400 total students. It’s about 6% the size of the West Bend School District.

Other than that, we don’t know much about Wimmer. We don’t have any impression of her personality, goals, communication skills, priorities, financial acumen, or anything else. The public has not been given any information other than a skeletal resume and a press release. She has been given no opportunity to connect with the community or vice versa. I hope she’s successful, but she is entering the district being set up to fail.

One thing we do know is that the Wimmer shepherded the passage of an operational and capital referendum in her district last year. She’s not sticking around to deal with the community when they get their tax increases this year. But perhaps the board liked the fact that she was able to convince the taxpayers to raise their own taxes.

West Bend School Board Selects Superintendent Finalists

Meh.

Dominick Madison — Madison is currently the superintendent of Brillion Public Schools in Brillion, Wis. where he has served for 15 years.

[…]

Jennifer Wimmer – Wimmer has been the superintendent of the Maple Dale-Indian Hill School District in Fox Point for six years.

The West Bend School District has about 6,500 students trending down to 5,000 in a few years. Brillion has a school district of about 880 kids – less than the size of one of West Bend’s High Schools. Maple Dale-Indian Hill is a district without 420 kids – roughly the size of a single elementary school in West Bend.

It appears that the West Bend is no longer to attract super supers. This is a pretty mediocre candidate list for what has become a pretty mediocre school district. Leadership matters. Let’s hope I’m wrong and one of these folks is an unfinished diamond.

Vote for Jody Geenen for transparent School Board

Here’s a Letter to the Editor I received.

I believe the West Bend School Board needs a shake-up.  I believe the right person to do so is Jody Geenen.

A recent article in the West Bend Current, the high schools’ online newspaper, made me sure of this (westbendcurrent.com/2020/03/31).  All candidates running for the School Board were interviewed, but the three incumbents (Justman, Ongert and Schmidt) reminded me once again how often they are misleading with facts, less than transparent, and far from conservative.

Mr. Ongert misleads when he states that the District has “far more AP classes and CTE classes than any other district around us.”  All one has to do is combine the number of students at our two high schools, and West Bend ends up as one of the largest high schools in the whole state.  No wonder our high schools offer more AP and CTE classes– or any other classes for that matter– than schools like Germantown, Slinger or Cedarburg!  How does the number of classes make our district any better?

Ms. Justman is less than transparent when she says the board is “working proactively” on building needs such as roofing repairs.  Roofing is always included in the District budget, and there is a schedule of repairs each summer.  She also says that “attractive and high-functioning schools” will make West Bend “the chosen destination for families to live,” and she is concerned about our community thriving and higher property values.  One would think she works for the Economic Development office of the city rather than serving on the School Board.  What about improving the education of our students?

Ms. Schmidt mentions learning but usually in the context of her own educational experiences.  Her plans for improving the District do not focus on curriculum or test scores.  She wants United Way to step in with their Inspire program (but doesn’t explain how that would improve student achievement), and she borrows a successful concept from Riveredge Nature Center.  Schmidt wants to establish a charter nature school like Riveredge in the District!  Perhaps more disturbing is her attack on former Superintendent Erik Olson.

Since being elected in 2017, the three incumbents have had plenty of time “to move our district forward,” as Ongert states in the Current piece.  Instead, test scores have fallen below neighboring districts, and the Wisconsin State Report Card scores show both East and West High Schools at the bottom of all conference schools.  The school board at great expense pursued a $74 million (including interest) referendum that was too much for this community on top of existing debt of $32 million from previous referendums.  They’ve allowed left-leaning curriculum and lesson plans to persist in the classrooms, even when a national spotlight was shined on the District.

Justman, Ongert, and Schmidt are out of touch with this community.  It’s time to vote for Jody Geenen to add a voice of reason to the School Board.  Jody will respectfully represent your tax dollars, and she’ll welcome input when working to improve student academics.  Because that’s what schools are all about:  learning, not shiny new buildings.  Cast only one vote for School Board; the right choice is Jody Geenen on April 7.

John & Carol Heger

West Bend School Board Member Misrepresents Task Force Findings

In a letter to the editor today in the Washington County Daily News, West Bend School Board Member Paul Fischer said a couple of things that need some discussion. First, he said this:

Regarding our ongoing facilities discussions, various letters to the editor claim the School Board has turned a deaf ear toward the private task force’s recommendations. This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. The School Board agrees with many of their observations and continues to evaluate their suggestions.

Some of you might remember that I was a member of the Private Task Force that spent months evaluating the district’s elementary and high school facilities. I can’t get into the minds of the board members. What I can tell you is that they seemed receptive when we presented the findings to them at a board meeting. I presented the findings for a few groups after we presented to the board and several board members attended those presentations of their own accord. The Task Force offered to come back in committee format to do deeper dives on specific findings and provide all of the backend discovery and data. To my knowledge, the board has not taken up any task force members on that offer. So while the board members may be considering the Task Force’s findings in their deliberations, they have not dug any deeper into the details of those findings. Perhaps that is why Mr. Fischer made this incorrect statement:

Claims have also been made that the task force recommendations included guidance that our facilities issues can be addressed without raising taxes. To be clear, the report NEVER made that statement.

This is not true. The written task force presentation laid out a financial model for how to accomplish the facilities goals without increasing spending or taxes. Furthermore, it was verbally communicated during the school board presentation. It was also verbally presented several times at other presentations that board members attended. I happen to know that because I was the one presenting. Finally, I actually wrote it in the column I did at the time about the findings. I wrote:

Third, once the district has a valid long-range facilities plan and an adequate funding to execute that plan, the School Board must do the work to execute without increasing spending or raising taxes. The Task Force found that there is sufficient money in the current budget to pay for extensive upgrades to the district’s facilities without increasing spending or raising taxes.

I said virtually the same thing in a second column:

The best part is that by taking advantage of the operational efficiencies of a streamlined district infrastructure and making a few other easily identified operational efficiencies, the task force found that the district could do upgrade at the high school, modernize the entire elementary school footprint, and increase the ongoing maintenance budget to adequate levels without spending or taxing a dollar more than they already are.

As a member of the Task Force who participated in the discovery, discussion, and development of the presentations; and as someone who actually presented the findings multiple times; I can say with absolute certainty that the Task Force did find that the West Bend School District could address its facilities needs without raising taxes or spending. Perhaps Fischer wants to dance around how the written report is phrased, but this finding was presented to the Board and communicated multiple times in multiple formats. Again, perhaps if the School Board had taken up the opportunity to dig deeper into the discovery documentation, this fact would have been more clear. But then again, I thought it was already clear. Clearly it is just something that they don’t want to confront.

The complaints from some in the community that the West Bend School Board ignored the Task Force’s findings are well founded. While the board members might be taking the findings into consideration in their heads, they have given no outward indication that that’s the case.

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