Tag Archives: West Bend School District

School Districts Fail to Use Act 10 to Control Budgets

The Wisconsin Department of Administration has done the public a massive service by releasing a detailed description of every Wisconsin School District’s health insurance plans. You can find it here.

The first thing that jumps out is that the health insurance plans that Wisconsin’s school districts give to their employees are still very generous. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. We want our teachers to have good health insurance, but many private employers offer good health insurance and their costs are lower.

The average yearly premium for a family plan in Wisconsin’s school districts is $20,062.44. That compares to an average yearly premium of $18,764 in the U.S. For some rough math… if 50% of the 108,820 Wisconsin public school employees have a family plan and paid the national average, it would save taxpayers over $70 million per year – and district employees would still be receiving good health insurance.

The second thing that jumps out is that school districts are not taking advantage of Act 10 to control costs. Act 10 decoupled benefits decisions from union negotiations and left them at the discretion of the governing body. In this case, the local school boards have the power to determine the health insurance plans offered and the amount that employees pay for their share.

Across all 422 Wisconsin School Districts, Employees still only pay an average of 11.7% of the cost of their health insurance premiums for a family plan and 11.5% for a single plan. This is far below the average for private or government employees. According to the BLS, private sector employees pay an average of 33% of their health insurance premiums. State and local government employees pay an average of 29%! So here in Wisconsin, public school employees are paying less than half what other state and local employees pay for health insurance despite local school boards having complete power to being their employees into the national mainstream.

Clearly, there is still plenty of money to waste in our schools.

A Closer Look at the West Bend School District

Of course, since I live in the West Bend School District and they are preparing to ask the tax payers for tens of millions of dollars in a referendum despite declining enrollment, I have to take a look at my own district.

In the West Bend School District, the annual premium for a family plan is well above the state average coming in at $21,864. That does not include the fact that the school district provides an on-site clinic that provides services at no cost to the employees and without any co pays.

While receiving a more expensive health insurance plan, West Bend School District employees pay far less than other districts. Employees pay 8.2% of the premium for a family plan and 13.3% for a single plan. Furthermore, employees can earn a premium differential. The report doesn’t say how employees qualify for the differential, but a premium differential is generally a discount for things like not smoking, participating in wellness activities, etc. If an employee qualifies for the entire differential, their percentage for a family plan drops to 2.7% of the total premium, or $49 per month.

Just to recap, for a family plan, the average American state or local government employee pays 29% of the premium, the average Wisconsin school district employee pays 11.7%, and an employee of the West Bend School District pays 8.2%.

If the West Bend School District merely adopted a health insurance plan that was near the national average and asked employees to pay for 29%, it would save taxpayers $8,393 – PER FAMILY POLICY PER YEAR.

I ask the taxpayers of West Bend to remember these numbers when the district comes around again claiming poverty and asking for more money. The West Bend School Board, despite their claims of conservative leadership, are failing to manage benefits costs even to national or state norms.

West Bend School Superintendent’s New Contract

The last super made $155k. It looks like the district is paying a premium.

June 19, 2018 – West Bend, WI – On May 29 the West Bend School District announced it hired Don Kirkegaard as the new Superintendent.

Kirkegaard is scheduled to start in the district July 9.  His contract is public record and posted below. Highlights include an annual salary of $175,000, moving expenses up to $15,000 and the “District shall annually contribute 6% of the Superintendent’s salary ($10,500) to a 403 (b) retirement account.

West Bend School District Releases Referendum “Survey”

The West Bend School District has sent out the survey asking about the appetite for a referendum. As explained when it was announced, this is the survey created by the propaganda group School Perceptions. You can see the whole survey here: school-referendum-survey-2018. As expected, it is more of a propaganda piece than a survey. Given that the survey is designed to elicit a specific, pro-referendum, response and I have almost no faith in the accurate tabulation of the results, I hesitate to even go through it. Still, as a dutiful citizen, everyone who received one should answer it. Here are a few key facts to consider when responding:

  1. No, there’s no free money. The survey says that “in 2019, the District will pay off a portion of the referendum debt from past building projects, and by 2028 the District will make the final payment on all existing referendum debt.” That’s misleading and is intended to give the impression that there is free money to be had.In truth, the district is already carrying the debt from previous referenda to the tune of over $60 million. As with any debt, the district is slowly whittling down the principal, but the interest if front-loaded in the payment structure. What happens next year is that the payments go down a bit as part of the schedule, but the debt is still being paid off. The Survey positions that as “this drop in loan payments gives the community an opportunity to borrow up to $35 million in facility upgrades with no tax increase over the current level.”Let’s put this in terms of personal finance… this is like when a person has a $10k credit card limit. After paying on it for a while, it frees up $1k of credit limit and the minimum payment has dropped. The person says, “I can borrow another $1,000 and my minimum payment will only increase back to what it already was.” That’s exactly how people run their lives without ever getting out of debt.Essentially, what the District is saying in the Survey is, “we have increased your tax burden through previous referenda and we can borrow and spend another $35 million just by keeping your taxes as high as they are now.” They are assuming that the current baseline tax burden, which is already inflated by previous referenda, is the new normal.It doesn’t have to be. The alternative is to pay off the previous referenda as planned and enjoy a tax DECREASE.
  2. The numbers cited are not the total debt. The West Bend School Board actually did a great thing a couple of years ago. They passed a policy that said that when talking about proposed debt, they needed to be honest about the total amount. The needed to include the project interest that is part of any debt. They ignored that policy in this Survey. Whether talking about $40 million or $80 million, remember that’s borrowed money with interest for years.For example, the $22.8 million referendum that the voters passed back in 2012 was actually a $31.975 million debt paid back over 15 years. We’re still paying on that. So if the voters pass a $80 million referendum, the total payback would likely be between $100 million and $115 million – depending on the interest rate and payback period. At 4% over 15 years, it’s $106.5 million.
  3. The Survey starts with a falsehood. In the introduction, the Survey says, “the Board of Education created a Citizens Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC) last summer. The CFAC, consisting of 28 parents, business leaders, and community members, has studied the educational and facility needs at each location and developed the options explored in the survey.”That’s just not true. Not only was CFAC a sham that was run with a predetermined outcome, but some of the information presented in the Survey was never discussed by CFAC. For example, the Survey discusses the “need” to remodel the cafeteria for $2.2 million. The cafeteria was not covered in the CFAC information packet and I’m told it was not part of any discussion.You will also note that in the CFAC schedule (page 8), the “Committee Presentation of Recommendation to School Board” is scheduled for Late May/ Early June. Well, it’s June 1st and the survey that is supposed to be based on those recommendations is already issued.So what the District is doing is trying to pretend that all of the “needs” cited in the Survey were identified and vetted by a group of concerned community members. It gives the impression that this was a “bottom up” assessment that included community input. Not so. They are using CFAC as cover to give a false impression to the community. It is a dishonest tactic. Frankly, I would be very angry if I had donated my time to CFAC and was used in this way.
  4. Remember that enrollment is declining.  Enrollment has been declining for a few years (see page 83). Specifically in Jackson Elementary, it served a peak of 536 kids in 2009. This year it has 370 kids and is the smallest elementary school in the district by enrollment. Part of the decline was due to a restructuring of the middle schools, but it has declined every year since then too.  The overall district enrollment projections from the February board meeting are below. You will notice that the district is projecting a steady decline in enrollment over the next several years. This has very little to do with the quality of the district. It is a demographic trend of a lower birthrate combined with increasing educational choice. This begs two questions. First, why would we invest in a massive school building expansion for a district that will serve almost 900 fewer kids in 2023 than it did in 2014? Second, as enrollment declines, so does State Aid. That means that more and more of the tax burden will be shifted to local taxpayers unless the district actually reduces spending and taxes to match their enrollment. Why isn’t the district actually reducing spending and taxes if they are serving fewer kids?

wb-enrollment

 

Credit where credit is due… the Survey does provide an option of “I would not support any referendum.” I encourage everyone to check that box.

West Bend Hires New Superintendent

Welcome to West Bend!

The West Bend Joint School District #1 School Board voted unanimously to choose Donald A. Kirkegaard as the next superintendent for the school district. Kirkegaard has accepted the position and begins his tenure on July 9, 2018.

[…]

Kirkegaard is currently serving as secretary of education for the state of South Dakota. He left a superintendent position in 2017 after being appointed as secretary of education by the governor of South Dakota. Kirkegaard’s experience includes nearly 23 years as superintendent of both the Meade School District and Britton-Hecla School District in South Dakota. He was also a principal in the Britton-Hecla School District for six years.

“West Bend is an outstanding school district in a community I will be able to call home,” said Kirkegaard, “This position is a really good fit for me, as the skill set the school board is looking for is what I can bring to the district. I appreciate the governor of South Dakota allowing me the opportunity to serve as secretary of education, and look forward to bringing my background and experience to the West Bend School District.”

While leading the Meade School District, Kirkegaard oversaw the implementation of all-day kindergarten, one-to-one technology for all students grades 4-12, expanded credit offerings, the building of a new elementary school, and new partnerships with businesses to improve the CTE programming.

Kirkegaard earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from South Dakota State University, a master’s degree in school administration from Northern State University, and an educational specialist degree in school district administration from the University of South Dakota.

He was named South Dakota Superintendent of the Year in 2009. In addition, Kirkegaard was a member of the South Dakota State Board of Education from 2007-2017, serving as president of the board from 2011-2017. He was an executive board member of the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement from 1992-2006, and a member of the South Dakota Governor’s Educational Task Force in 2003.

West Bend School Board Announces 3 Finalists for Superintendent

From the email.

Donald A. Kirkegaard — Prior to being appointed by the governor of South Dakota as secretary of education for the state in 2017, Kirkegaard was superintendent of the Meade School District and Britton-Hecla School District for nearly 23 years. He was also a principal in the Britton-Hecla School District for six years. Kirkegaard earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from South Dakota State University, a master’s degree in school administration from Northern State University, and an educational specialist degree in school district administration from the University of South Dakota.

Christopher D. Peterson — Christopher Peterson has 23 years of experience in public education, including nine as superintendent of Howards Grove School District. His experience includes serving as principal in the Manitowoc Public School District, Kimberly Area School District, and the School District of Wausaukee, and teaching in the Little Chute Area School District. Peterson earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, a master’s degree in educational administration from Marian University, superintendent certification from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and is working on a doctorate at Marian University.

Thomas J. Hoh, Ph.D. — Thomas Hoh has 20 years of experience in public education and currently serves as the executive director of secondary education for the Green Bay Area Public School District. Prior to joining the Green Bay Area Public School District, Hoh was a principal in the Ripon Area School District and also worked in the Kaukauna Area School District and Neenah Joint School District. Hoh earned his bachelor’s degree in education and master’s degree in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He earned a doctorate in education leadership from Marian University.

Special Meeting to Spend Money Tonight

I’m not sure why the West Bend School Board has to do all of these things with special meetings and not as a part of their regular order, but here it is:

May 7, 2018 – West Bend, WI – The West Bend School Board will hold a special meeting at 5:15 p.m. tonight, to approve spending $35,000 on a community-wide survey regarding Jackson Elementary School and the West Bend High Schools.

The Washington County Insider has a lot of background information and financial information.

I’ll remind the gentle reader that this is part of a predictable liberal playbook to con the taxpayers into passing a referendum. The school board is about to spend, and has already spent, tens of thousands of dollars hiring sham companies whose sole purpose is to get school referenda passed. In this case, the district doesn’t even have a superintendent. This is all on the school board.

West Bend School Board Follows Liberal Playbook

From the Washington County Insider:

May 1, 2018 – West Bend, WI – Six members of the West Bend School Board, (Tiffany Larson was not in attendance), spent nearly two hours discussing a proposed survey to test the waters on a possible $80 million referendum. The referendums would focus on Jackson Elementary and the West Bend High Schools.

The survey would be created by Slinger-based School Perceptions. Bill Foster, the president of the company, was in attendance.

You can follow the link to watch the videos. Here’s where we are:

Last year, the School Board started down the path to a building referendum. They engaged an architectural firm that specialized in running a sham process to build support for the referendum. As I wrote back in August, they are following this proven roadmap to referendum:

  1. Form a committee loaded with people predisposed to support more spending
  2. The committee will conduct a needs analysis that has a very wide definition of “need”
  3. Conduct a propaganda campaign through the committee (so that it appears to be coming from the community) that bemoans all of the facility “needs” (expect to hear about sewage backups in Jackson Elementary again)
  4. The committee will determine that existing district resources are inadequate to meet the facilities “needs”
  5. Conduct a community survey with slanted questions, e.g. “Would you support a referendum to prevent the children having to learn while standing in a foot of sewage?”
  6. The committee recommends that the board go to referendum based on the survey results
  7. The School Board puts the referendum(s) on the ballot

They have completed steps 1 through 4. During the CFAC process, they even admitted that it was a sham designed to build support for a predetermined conclusion. You can find that video here.

Now they are working on step number 5. They have engaged School Perceptions, which is the go-to group for creating biased propaganda to build support for school referendums. Mark Belling wrote a column cataloging School Perceptions’ fraudulent business practices last week. Belling concluded:

Foster’s a hustler. He’s come up with a way to get hired by dozens of school districts who want to get referendums passed. Even my attempts to expose him aid his business by publicizing to other districts how he aids them in their referendum con jobs. What is not defensible is that school boards and superintendents are using public money to mislead their residents and pretending to conduct honey surveys.

Yes. That’s the same Foster who attended the West Bend School Board meeting last night.

Where are the alleged conservatives on the West Bend School Board? As far as I can tell, they are just walking down the exact same path to more spending and debt as any liberal school board would. They are using the same techniques. They are using the same propaganda. They are using the same companies. They are spending our tax dollars to advance this propaganda. And they are about to ask the taxpayers for tens of millions of dollars to dump into buildings in a district with flat-to-declining enrollment.

As far as I can tell, the Milwaukee School Board might as well be running the schools in West Bend. We would be getting the same result. But at least the liberals on the Milwaukee School Board are honest about their liberal intentions.

Couple Thoughts on Local Election Results in West Bend

Now that I’m back in town and have had a few minutes to look at the election results, I have a few thoughts on the local races. Here are the Washington County Results.

First, turnout in Washington County was impressive for an April election. Some races on the ballot pulled in 42% turnout and the county average was about almost 37%. Not bad.

Second, congratulations to Chris Zwygart and Kurt Rebholz who won convincing victories for seats on the West Bend School Board with 38.45% turnout. And thank you to Monte Schmiege for his service to the community. As I said in my column, I think that the four candidates are pretty conservative and would find agreement on probably 90%+ of issues. I have a high degree of confidence that they will be solid stewards of the school district. It is curious how different the results were with the same four candidates in the primary election. Clearly, a lot of work happened between the primary and the general election.

Third, I am flabbergasted that the City of West Bend voters voted FOR a tax increase to fund spending increases for transportation. Granted, it was for the cheapest option and it only won by 110 votes, but that’s shocking in this community. They also voted to encourage the county to share sales tax revenues with local communities. That makes more sense.

I’m going to admit that I didn’t really have any time to figure out the the aldermanic or county supervisor races. I did find it curious that the two incumbents for the Kewaskum School Board won reelection. That district just passed a big school referendum, so it appears that the voters up there are still pretty satisfied with that.

Overall, the Blue Wave we saw at the state level clearly had an impact locally too. Given the results, I would expect every local unit of government that wants more money to get a referendum on the November ballot to capitalize on the wave.

Only 14% Turnout for Walkout in West Bend

Good for the kids in West Bend. Despite being encouraged by the district administration, assured that there would not be any consequences  if they walk out, and the administration pushing the protest all the way down to the 5th grade, the vast majority of the kids stayed put. Kudos to a student body that has more sense than some of the folks teaching them.

 

peaceful

West Bend School District Facilitates Protest

This is stupid.

West Bend School District has released the following statement:

“Administrators and teachers at West Bend Joint School District #1, West Bend East High School, West Bend West High School, and Badger Middle School are aware of the potential peaceful school walkout on March 14 at 10:00 a.m. by students to show their concerns about school safety.

“The West Bend School District will not penalize students who choose to assemble peacefully for 17 minutes on March 14. After talking with students and staff, the school principals have developed plans to maintain the safety of the participating and non-participating students and to minimize interference with educational programming.

“Those students who wish to participate in the walkout will be monitored and supervised by school staff to ensure that any walkout is safe and orderly. The West Bend Police Department will also help to ensure the safety of students to assemble in predesignated areas.

“Students who choose to participate will be expected to return to class in a timely manner and resume the school day. Students who fail to return to class will be considered truant in violation of school rules. For students who choose not to participate, school administrators and teachers are planning for classroom instruction to continue.”

School is for school. The kids are there to get an education. Of the 168 hours in a week, the kids spend less than 40 in the classroom. They can protest on their own time.

The real problem is that now the school district has inserted itself into being an arbiter of political issues. Would they do this for a Black Lives Matter protest? Anti-abortion protest? Pro-2nd Amendment protest? Pro-illegal immigration protest? $15 minimum wage protest? Which ones does the school staff supervise and which ones do they prohibit?

What they should have done is reiterate to the kids the importance of education and enforced their normal policies for tardiness or unexcused absences. If the kids want to protest, then so be it. Who ever said that protesting is free of consequences?

West Bend’s Upcoming Referendum

Despite declining enrollment, the West Bend School District is running full speed with a referendum. This email from the Director of Facilities to the CFAC members went out this morning:

From: Dave Ross <daveross@wbsd-schools.org>
Date: February 23, 2018 at 9:53:33 AM CST
To: XXXXX
Subject:Update to CFAC members

Last Tuesday night, the Board of Education met for a work session to discuss the work that you have been doing and to make some decisions about what needs to be done going forward in order to keep things moving forward. Video of the meeting can be viewed at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buHIkNf-4Ow&feature=youtu.be

The meeting had three parts to it: the first was an update to the board by Bray on the work they have done to date, the second portion was dedicated to looking at the districts debt picture which was presented by Robert W. Baird and the third part was an overview of the methodology for the community survey which was presented by School Perceptions.

Here is a very brief synopsis of each part:

Matt Wolfert from Bray Architects reviewed the drawings with the board including the renovation option for Jackson. The board asked a lot of questions but seemed quite pleased with the progress that has been made to date.

Brian Brewer from R.W. Baird reviewed the debt picture of the district. The district does have some existing debt but has structured that debt wisely. In addition, the district has been putting money into the Jackson Trust. The long and short of things is that the district could do as much as an approximately $40 million referendum and not raise property taxes because of the structure of the existing debt and the Jackson Trust.

Finally, Bill Foster of School Perceptions presented on how his company would go about performing a community survey. He also advised the board to listen to the results of what the survey told them. Failing to do so often leads to an erosion of trust in the board from the community.

This was a really short overview so I would encourage you, (especially if you’ve got a spare 2 or 3 hours) to watch the video.

The last thing I wanted to do is share a little more information. During our committee meetings many of you asked for articles and/or research on the effects that a facility has on education. I thought that this article:

http://sites.psu.edu/ceepa/2015/06/07/the-importance-of-school-facilities-in-improving-student-outcomes/

provided a fairly good overview but more importantly gives many references/sources for further investigation.

As always, if you have any questions, please let me know and I’ll do my best to get you an answer.

Have a great weekend.

Dave Ross

Director of Facilities and Operations

 

 

Based on the email, it looks like they are going to try to pull the “let’s spend $40 million (plus millions more in interest), but we won’t increase taxes.” Of course, that commits more of the operating budget to debt service, thus reducing funds for teachers, supplies, etc. It also completely misses the opportunity to decrease taxes as those older debts are paid off.

Such a move of spinning off debt for decades in order to keep the yearly expenses lower also increases the likelihood of tax increases in the future. It tightens the part of the budget that can be used for actual operations, and remember that enrollment in the district is expected to decline. As enrollment declines, so will funding. But the debt service must be paid. The end result is that there will be less and less money for the actual operating funds that can be used for paying staff and supporting the daily operations of the district.

Putting another $40 million on the district credit card in an era of declining enrollment is reckless fiscal management of the district. It will be interesting to hear from the school board members and school board candidates as this discussion evolves.

West Bend School District Projects Declining Enrollment

Good to know.

The district is expected to have about 6,509 students during the 2018-19 academic year and by 2023-2024 that number is expected to decline near 6,160.

“This all could change with the economy,” Van Spankeren said. The trend is normal and being seen at most other districts he said.

This academic year there are 6,729 students in the district, according to how districts are supposed to count them. The actual head count is 6,909, but students who don’t attend a full day of school, like 4K students, count as less than one.

Of course, projections could always change. I remember a few short years ago when the district was asking for a huge pile of money in a referendum that they were projecting increasing enrollment. But this projection is worth keeping in mind as the district prepares to ask for millions of dollars in a referendum to build a new Jackson Elementary that will be much, much larger than the one that’s already there.

West Bend School Superintendent’s Resignation Agreement

The Washington County Insider has the resignation agreement for the former school superintendent. Go read the whole thing. As a reminder, The former West Bend School Superintendent Erik Olson resigned in December after being on a leave of absence for several months. It was widely circulated, if never officially confirmed, that he had a major medical issue but eventually recovered.

The backdrop is that Olson was hired in the summer of 2016 with a three-year contract. At the time, the school board had a majority of conservatives and moderates who hired him. In April of 2017, a liberal majority swept into power on the school board and they clearly wanted a superintendent who more closely aligned with their vision for the school district.

Olson resigned in December saying in his resignation letter that, “during my leave I have come to realize that a majority of board members and I have differing visions for the school district’s direction.”

So… what’s in the resignation agreement and what does it tell us?

Basically, the agreement pays out Olson for the remainder of his contract. He will receive the amount of his full salary until June 30, 2019 – about $238k. He’ll also get $10k for moving expenses and about $10k for unused vacation time. The school district will also pay for his benefits until June 30, 2019, or until he gets a new job. So the total actual amount is uncertain because of the variability of the cost of benefits, but it’s safe to say that the taxpayers of the West Bend School District are on the hook for something north of $300,000 to buy out Olson’s contract.

The key clause in the agreement is the “Nondisparagement” clause. It states:

The Parties agree that they will not make any statements concerning Employee’s employment with or separation of employment from the Board and District except as provided for in the statement mutually agreed to by the Parties and which is attached hereto as Exhibit A.

It’s a gag order for Olson and an excuse for the Board members to not discuss the reasons behind the resignation.

Here’s what I think happened… the liberal majority of the board didn’t want Olson around anymore because he was hired by their conservative predecessors. He hadn’t done anything wrong, so they couldn’t fire him. When Olson was sick, he truly did realize that this board would be terrible to work for, so he wanted out too. They got together and basically agreed that Olson would go away quietly and not criticize the board in exchange for paying out his contract.

Who wins? The School Board and Olson. They get to pick their own Superintendent and he gets to receive essentially his full compensation for the next year and a half as he finds a new job.

Who loses? The citizens of the West Bend School District who will have to carry the expense of two superintendents until the middle of 2019. Also the citizens and students who have to contend with the disruption of trying to recruit a new Superintendent in the middle of the year as the district is also going to be changing its teacher compensation plan, asking for more money in a referendum, etc. I fear that West Bend will struggle to attract a qualified Superintendent after the way we treated the previous two.

Another Member of Administration Resigns

In the West Bend School District

Jan. 17, 2018 – West Bend, WI – Hired in August 2017, Russell Holbrook the assistant superintendent for HR and operations, has now announced his resignation.

According to a memo from Laura Jackson, superintendent of teaching and learning in the West Bend School District, “Russell Holbrook announced his resignation which will go to the School Board on Monday, January 22, 2018. More information about the transition in leadership will be shared following the School Board meeting.”

The memo continued, “We appreciate the effort Russ Holbrook gave as he served in the role of Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Operations.”

Calls have been place to the district for more information about the reason behind the resignation.

Holbrook was hired after Chief Operating Officer Valley Elliehausen and Director of Accountability and Assessment Kurt Becker resigned in June 2017.  Elliehausen had been with the district since 1997.

Holbrook was also spearheading the new teacher compensation plan that they were working on for next school year.

West Bend CFAC Plans Massive New School

The West Bend School District’s Citizens Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC) met again last night as they build their sales pitch for a referendum. You may recall that this entire process was exposed as a sham several weeks ago. In any case, last night they moved ahead with a plan to build a new Jackson Elementary that would be 44% larger than the current one to educate 24% fewer kids. Crazy math, eh? You can watch the video of some of the recording at this link, but here are the raw numbers:

The current Jackson Elementary is 59,176 square feet. In the 2008-2009 school year, 528 kids were enrolled. In the 2014-2015 school year, the district reorganized with the rebuilding of the middle schools and pulled the 5th grade out of Jackson. That left 416 kids in that year. Since then, enrollment has declined every year with only 370 kids in the school for the 2017-2018 school year. So… in the current school year, there are 158 fewer kids in the school than in 2008. The enrollment projections for the school do not predict any massive increase in enrollment anytime in the foreseeable future.

The current plan being discussed by CFAC would use a target enrollment of 400 kids and build a 85,000 square foot school for them. I know that kids are getting bigger nowadays, but sheesh! That means that in 2008, the school provided an average of 112.1 square feet per kid. In the current school year, there are 159.9 square feet per kid. The new school, if built, would provide a whopping 212.5 square feet per kid.

As a point of comparison, here are the standards in the CFAC packet and some data from our current schools.

20180111_075726

As you can see, the “Industry standard” for elementary schools is 134 square feet per child. The current Jackson Elementary provides much more than that. The proposed new school would have more space per kid than any school in the district – by far.

This what you get when you have the architecture firm that will most likely get to build the new school also doing the proposals.

 

Revisiting The Resignation of Four Teachers in West Bend

I wasn’t planning on doing this story. Falsehoods are being spread in the aftermath of the Superintendent’s resignation, however, and it needs to be told.

Right before the end of the last school year in late May, four English teachers at the West Bend High Schools resigned. Obviously, this was abrupt and caused consternation for many folks since it was happening right before finals. Since it was an HR issue and there are employment laws in effect, the district administration and school board were unable to share the real reasons for the resignation. The Superintendent’s statement said, in part:

While we understand that the timing of these resignations is not ideal, the District accepted them due to the specific circumstances leading up to the resignations. Please know that while we wish to be as transparent as possible, due to confidentiality laws and out of respect for the privacy of the educators involved, we are unable to provide further details about the specifics of their resignations.

OK, fine. We were all left to wonder, but given the fact that the resignations couldn’t wait for the end of the school year, citizens were left to speculate the worst. On social media and elsewhere, leftists who already hated this superintendent, speculated wildly that the teachers were forced out because they opposed the administration, or that their opposition to the curriculum was being punished, or that they were being “silenced,” or whatever. Given that it was an HR issue, the district administration and school board could not comment.

At the time, I asked around and filed a few open records requests to get to the bottom of the issue. I did not end up writing the story because it was an HR issue, it was over, and I thought that the Superintendent, with the support, I assumed, of the School Board, made the right call. There was no need to further embarrass the teachers involved. If anything, these teachers were treated too kindly by being allowed to resign instead of being outright fired, but I suspect that the district wanted to avoid a protracted legal case.

Now that the Superintendent that the union hated has been forced out, the union president is publicly insinuating that one of the reasons is that the Superintendent mishandled this issue. She told the Milwaukee paper:

That conflict prompted an exodus of administrators, he said, and it erupted in May with the sudden resignation of four of the six English teachers at West Bend East and West High Schools just a week before summer vacation.

Olson’s handling of those resignations appeared to exacerbate the friction in the district.

“There was a general consensus that that was not handled well,” said West Bend Educators Association President Tanya Lohr.

“General consensus,” eh? She has said similar things in social media. She fails to offer any evidence or details to support her “consensus,” so allow me to shed some light on what happened.

So… why were the four teachers forced to resign? Was it because they were champions of education and the administration wanted to purge them? Was this an example of the Superintendent mishandling the issue?

Nope. They were forced to resign because they repeatedly displayed a wanton contempt for their students, parents, administrators, and fellow educators – often in racist and sexually-charged language. They did so when chatting with each other on the district’s Google platforms and in other forums, thus making their conversations a public record. They did so repeatedly, for a long time, and continued to do so after being warned to cease their behavior. After filing my open record request back in June, I have about 1,000 pages of these exchanges that reveal a lengthy portrait of people who should not have been teaching kids. Here are some examples of how these four teachers discussed their students, parents, and peers. I do have the source documents for these quotes. They are public records. But I’ll leave them off this post in order to not circulate the teachers’ names any more than necessary.

It discussing some petty crime in the parking lot:

“It’s all the fucking ghetto asses moving up her from Milwaukee to sell their drugs to the idiot kids that live in this town.”

In a discussion over a sexually-explicit book that one of the teachers had their kids read:

“Fuck it, there are other things parents can complain about. It would just make them look stupid.”

“I hope you’re right! I can’t even blame it on the curriculum!”

I think we can tell how this teacher feels about Republicans:

“Just being in the same room with you feels too republican”

In promoting dating techniques to students:

“I told them I knew people who internet dated and it worked for them, but high schools promoting it felt weird. It reminded me of how they did a bachelor/bachelorette auction at Brown Deer. That was especially weird because most of the kids were black and it was juuuuust a bit too similar to a slave auction.”

Talking about parent teacher conferences:

“I don’t want any [parents to show up]. The more that [don’t] show up the more valuable this conference becomes!”

After telling kids that she would be available to help them with a test:

“I have 19 kids in here right not! Ugh!”

“Test corrections. I told them they could come in from 7:30-9:00. Big mistake!”

Displaying concern about helping kids:

“When I’m done grading these shit papers! I really am choking on garbage!

“I seriously don’t remember shit about the planning meeting. Was I high?”

Incidentally, the pages are full of references to late night drinking, smoking pot, being hungover, etc.

Here’s how one of them spent their day:

“Now what are you going to do all day?”

“Shop on Amazon?”

“I walked into that one…:) I actually use FB for messages with people because I don’t want to use our email server”

Again about parent teacher conferences:

“Ha… stay away, parents!”

“I hope they forgot to tell the public”

“A few of the kids already mentioned it. Fuckers.”

Here’s an exchange between a couple of men about their fellow educators:

“I just don’t understand why we create out own drama”

“Because we are working in a department full of women”

Again with the conferences:

“I like being in the library.” “Shoot the shit inbetween moron parents.”


It goes on, and on, and on. What is evident is that the four teachers who resigned had little respect for parents, students, or their peers. Their banter is the kind of stuff that you might expect to hear from 25-year-olds in the bar after a few too many drinks, but they were doing it while in school, every day, for months on end, around kids, and on the taxpayers’ dime.

As I said earlier, the administration and the school board acted appropriately in this case to cut out the cancer. If the teachers union really wants publicly insinuate that the former Superintendent mishandled this and that this was a cause for his resignation, then let’s litigate the case with the actual facts. They are public documents, after all.


Update @ 1733. Senator Duey Stroebel offered this comment on the story.

It’s now clear former Superintendent Olson handled these inappropriate emails correctly.

No student, parent or community member should be mocked with explicit language – especially since those using bullying tactics are teachers.

Earlier this week, the West Bend Educator’s Association suggested this clear violation of public trust was not handled correctly.

Union teachers need to answer if bullying is ok and how they would have handled the situation.

Yesterday, the Washington County Insider posted a second politically charged survey offered to students.

Political agendas must stay out of the classroom.

Children must always come first.

It is unfortunate the many past achievements made by former board members, administrators and teachers are being shadowed by the lapse of judgement of some teachers.

West Bend Students Given “Privilege Test”

Meanwhile in the West Bend Schools, this is happening (reported by the Washington County Insider)

The “Privilege Test” was marked “optional” however the parent said the “kids get scored on participation and that goes on their report card.” Plus he noted, “What’s a child to do when the teacher hands it to you during class… if you’re a good kid you’re doing what you’re told.”

[…]

Some of the questions are:

I have never tried to hide my sexuality.

I have never been called a derogatory term for a homosexual.

I never doubted my parents’ acceptance of my sexuality.

I have never been told that I “sound white”

I am always comfortable demonstrating PDA with people I like.

Nobody has tried to “save me” from my religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, this is the kind of transparency we have come to expect from the district:

Principal Dave Uelmen indicated he had no comment and directed all questions to Nancy Kunkler with the West Bend School District. West Bend police confirmed receiving a call from a parent and said this was a school district issue. School board members refused to comment on the situation; most said they had no idea this occurred. I have asked the district for a copy of the survey and they said I had to put in an Open Records Request to see it.
“No comment.” Jump through hoops. Close ranks. This is the normal response now.
To the issue itself, follow the link and read some of the questions on the survey. It’s not a great picture, but as you can see, the district is willing to give it to kids but not share it readily with the public. It is difficult to see how such personal questions of students is appropriate in the classroom – particularly without parental notification and consent.
UPDATE: Here’s a better picture of the survey from the Washington County Insider:
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West Bend Schools Superintendent Resigns

As expected, the West Bend School Board met this evening to accept the resignation of Superintendent Erik Olson before the end of his contract. Here is his resignation letter.

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His comment about the new school board having a different vision is spot on. The board that hired him was decidedly more rational and results-oriented than the current board. The new majority on the current board has proven to be leftist, opaque, and unprofessional. It was clear from the beginning that they did not like Superintendent Olson and were working to force him out. They succeeded and can now fill the position with someone more in line with their leftist agenda. This comes at a time when the district is implementing a new compensation plan for teachers and will be asking the voters for a more money via referendum.

I wish Superintendent Olson and his family the best. He moved his family to West Bend and invested in the community for a job where I’m sure he planned to make a positive impact. Unfortunately, he has become another victim of this dysfunctional district.

On another note, there is an election in April for two board seats. One of them is open. The other is currently held by one of the two remaining conservatives on the board, Monte Schmiege, who has not declared whether he will seek reelection. The district needs some sensible conservatives to run for the open seat and for Schmiege to run for reelection.

Resignation in West Bend School District

The West Bend School Board has a meeting tomorrow evening and this is on the agenda:

3. Reconvene into open session for possible action on administrator resignation.

Of course, there has been a lot of speculation about the Superintendent, who has been on leave since August. Is it him or one of the other administrators? The District sure has had a hard time holding onto staff this year.

West Bend School District’s CFAC Exposed as Sham

I attended the latest meeting of the Citizens Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC) for the West Bend School District last night. They accidentally dropped a bombshell.

First, a little background. The CFAC was created by the School Board. It’s specifically charged with:

…identifying and confirming needs and exploring potential solutions to our district’s facility needs at Jackson Elementary School and East/West High Schools

I will remind the gentle reader that when this was created back in August, I wrote extensively about how this was a sham process designed to lead to a referendum. Bray Architects was hired by the district to run this process and they have a sales model of selling new schools to gullible taxpayers using faux “advisory” committees that always seem to end up at the same conclusion. My interpretation has been vehemently denied.

At the meeting last night, they all but admitted that the CFAC is not about assessing needs and evaluating options – as stated in the committee’s charge. No, the decision to build a new Jackson School has already been decided and the committee’s job is to help Bray and the School Board find the best way to sell it to the taxpayer.

Fortunately, you don’t have to take my word for it. The Washington County Insider was there and has it on video. Here is the relevant video. Skip ahead to about 4:45 and listen to that exchange.

Here’s the exchange in print:

Bray facilitator: “The decision to build a new Jackson school was made in the prior efforts that was reviewed at the last committee meeting.”

Committee member: “Why do we need to go through all of this?”

Bray Facilitator: “Because we need to help the community understand why a new Jackson is being considered.”

There you have it.

The committee members are not actually determining needs and evaluating potential solutions as their charter states. The solution has been determined and they are just trying to identify the hot button “needs” that will sell it. The committee members are being used as a community focus group to help the School Board and Bray figure out the best way to sell a new school – funded with a referendum – to the citizens.

One final related, but side, note. The School District has been a woeful job of keeping the community informed. In this case, the CFAC website is hasn’t even bothered to post the agenda or minutes from the last two meetings. They don’t even have the dates and times of the meetings posted even though it is a public meeting. This is consistent with visibility to other meetings. Since earlier this year, they are doing a very poor job of posting agenda, minutes, videos, etc. like they had been doing previously. Transparency at the West Bend School District has taken a big step backward.