Saturday, March 1, 2014

Know Your Candidates Part 2

We have 3 people vying for two seats on the school board.  Incumbent School Board President is running for re-election.  The open seat was vacated by two-term school board member Jill Camber-Davidson, who has certainly "done her time".

So...how does one decide?
There are some questions that should be asked:

What do we know about these folks?

How engaged in the school district and school board affairs are our 2014 candidates?

Are they well versed on all the issues?  Or just one or two in particular?

Basically....we should be asking the question: what have you done for us lately to show that you are actively engaged in the many aspects of school district affairs.

Let's take 'em alphabetically, shall we?

Carol Albright [Gobeli?]
We know that Ms. Albright is a former teacher who retired several years back.  We know her forte was Spanish at the middle and high school level.  We know she is a member of SPARC...the local liberal grassroots political movement.
 But that's about all we know.  Until recently we had not even seen her at a school board meeting.  So why the interest now?  We get that it's hard to be involved while one is a teacher and thus employee of the district.  But, since she retired in June 2010 wouldn't one think that she's had nearly 4 years to "come out" and be involved in school board affairs?  Maybe serve as a citizen representative on a board committee?  How about even a a teacher representative on one of the older committees?  Going back to 2005, we can't find any indication of involvement.
Hmmmmmmm.
And as a teacher of Spanish, does she understand the non-curriculum issues the board/district face daily?  Human Resources issues (after all, SPASD is in the top two employers in Sun Prairie)?  Where does she stand on Ashley Field?  Has she ever been to Ashley Field?  What about Buildings and Grounds issues?
In short, we have a lot of questions and not very many answers.


Jessica Moehr
Ms. Moehr currently serves on the school board's Performance and Operations Committee and previously served on the other Board Committee: Planning.  Prior to that she served on the Board's Human Resources Committee.  Especially with the new committee format, Ms. Moehr has been involved in and gained familiarity with all facets of district operations.  She also is a mother of two children currently in the district, which is another thing departing board member Jill Camber-Davidson brought to the table.  In her "day job", Ms. Moehr is a Human Resources (HR) professional; and those paying attention know that HR is an element of district operation that has come under great scrutiny in the past year.  In a nutshell, we view Ms. Moehr as being perfectly positioned to step into board seat.

Tom Weber
Board President Weber has done more for this district than any other president at least since we've been paying attention.  He is engaged in the district, has kids in the district, and spends countless hours working towards resolution of critical issues.  He also serves as a liaison to the City Council and has helped repair what had been a very fractured relationship.
We credit Mr. Weber's leadership for helping the school board (well, at least 71.4% of it) turn the corner from being a bunch of rubber stampers to being one of the most respected school boards in the state.  This board does its homework.
We've gone from being a "Whatever You Want, Dr, Culver" mentality to one that is truly data driven: Tell us what it is you desire and then SHOW us the data that supports the need.  Then bring to us a plan o how you plan to pay for it.

Know Your Candidates Part 1

We think you should know a bit about your school board candidates.
Don't you think that's a good idea?
Of course some are already "out there"...but others are hard to find.
There's no substitute for simply talking with a candidate to see where they stand on particular issues.

But in order for you to strike up a conversation in the grocery store or while in line for your favorite latte.... you need to know what they look like...right?

So here are your candidates...



Sunday, February 9, 2014

...and Speaking of Things That Make One Go, "Hmmmmm"...

Why does one suppose our crack local newsrag, The Star, would print a "press release" announcing the candidacy of Carol Albright?

http://www.hngnews.com/sun_prairie_star/news/school/article_b7856782-71a0-11e3-aca7-0019bb30f31a.html

Is it because she's a retired educator (Teacher, for the uninformed) and Editor Mertes just so happens to be the spouse of a former Sun Prairie Educator (who now works for the Dept of Public Instruction)?

Editor Mertes is known from his columns to be a very conservative, right wing supporter.  Well, except for school board.  How does SPARC mesh with that philosophy?  Apparently pretty well, or it was an exceedingly slow news day on New Years eve, as this press release was printed in the STAR.  Funny...we can't recall the STAR EVER printing candidacy related press releases.  At least for school Board.

An while we're at it....what's in a name?  She's running as Carol Albright, yet her property records are listed as Carol A. Gobeli.   We couldn't find a listing for Carol Albright in WhitePages.com, but we did find a match under Carol A. Gobeli.

Who is Carol [Gobeli] Albright?

Why is she running now?  Our sources indicate that she has not appeared at school board meetings {except perhaps to draw for ballot position].  She has not been a member of any school board committees.  How does she know about critical school board issues?  I she just the best that SPARC has to offer?  The only SPARCler who held up her hand when they asked for nominations to run?


Spring Elections a SPARCle Fest

American Idol alumna Jordin SPARCs would be excited.
Joni Mitchell would rename her album (that's what it was back then) Court and SPARC.
If Traffic got the band back together, they might sing about the Low SPARC of High-Heeled Boys.
Thousand Foot Krutch might even re-release their recent hit as "Let the SPARCs fly!"

That's right, folks, as if you didn't have enough clues, we got us a bunch a bona fide SPARClers running for city elections.

For school Board, we have former Spanish Teacher Carol [your kids probably know her better as Gobeli ] Albright.  She's vying against incumbent and current school board president Tom Weber, andJessica Moehr, who has served on the School Board's Planning Committee for 2 seats..

And for City Council, we have none other than the ALSPARC himself, Al Guyant, vying against incumbent Kent Orfan to complete the final year of Dave Carlson's District 4 seat.

We find it interesting that SPARC is running a School District Candidate's Forum on March 16th.  You don't suppose they'll feed their candidate, Carol Gobeli Albright, do you?

Isn't that just a tad too cozy?  A grassroots political action group holding a candidates forum which includes one of its own members that is being propped up?

Things that make you go, "hmmmm"


With the spring election just around the corner, the Sun Prairie Action Resource Coalition (SPARC) is hosting a public forum to help you get to know the candidates and where they stand on the issues that matter most to our students and our schools.
All three candidates are confirmed to attend the event, which will be held in the Community Room of the Sun Prairie Public Library (1350 Linnerud Drive) from 2:00 to 4:00 pm on Sunday, March 16, 2014.
We are fortunate to have three individuals stepping up to serve our community this year:
  • Carol Albright (retired SPASD educator)
  • Jessica Moehr (currently a Citizen Representative to the school board’s Performance and Operations Committee)
  • Tom Weber (incumbent; current board president)

We think Thousand Foot Krutch has it best...
indeed, let's let the SPARCs fly, baby!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Revelations

This past week discussions were held with various stakeholders regarding fields and facilities use fees (aka "Policy KG").   Ohhhh the revelations!  It was like Christmas come a week early.

What we learned throughout the evening:


  • Add the Sun Prairie Civic Theatre (SPCT) as yet another group that got SCROOgED by the district.
  • We learned that the CHUMS auditorium is an OSHA nightmare.
  • And while it's possible that he was just thinking funny thoughts at an inopportune moment, Buildings and Grounds Manager Joe Powelka was observed by several folks (including yours truly) to chuckle when it was mentioned that the auditorium is an OSHA nightmare.  That's beyond bad form.  That deserves a trip to the 'Splainin' Room.
  • We learned that, while Buildings and Grounds is aware of serious safety issues in the CHUMS auditorium, there are no standing work orders.  
  • We learned that the electrical is so bad that whole boxes have literally melted.
  • Almost 2 years ago, the SPCT had a good year and donated $7,000 to the district to help fund needed repairs at CHUMS auditorium,  Granted it happened before Joe Powelka came aboard, but no one knew about the stipulation.  And where did the $7,000 go?  We owe them $7,000 in repairs!
  • We learned that the many chairs are broken.

  • We learned that someone had to sue because of a bad fall.
  • We learned that the orchestra pit isn't used because no one knows how to fix it.
  • We learned that folks get charged for a custodian when they don't ever see one.
  • We learned about yet another fee issue.  Apparently there are numerous private music lessons before school (and while some are from people outside the district,some may be with our own staff).   And parents pay the instructor directly even though the lessons are held in the school and potentially with school instruments.  And its not on anyone's radar! Where's that money going?  Can you say profiting from public buildings boys and girls?
  • We learned that there may even be a security issue as people are in the building and no one knows about it.   Newsflash, people, you can spend boatloads on security upgrades to prevent bad people from getting in and doing harm.  But what if they're already in the building?
  • We learned that even the Sound of Sun prairie does not know what they are.  Are they summer school, extra-curricular?  Both? a hybrid?  When questioned, they did not have an answer.
  • We learned that it's no longer America, apple pie and baseball.  It's now Sun Prairie Football, America , and apple pie. In that order.  And how could we possibly charge coaches for making "a few dollars" off of camps.  They're keeping kids off the streets.


  • While we'll acknowledge that some movement has been occurring at CHUMS, it simply isn't enough or a high enough priority.

This all lands Joe Powelka, Phil Frei (Joe's supervisor), and Tim Culver (reigning Big Dog) squarely on Santa's naughty list.

Good grief, Charlie Brown...don't you guys already have enough egg on your face?  Are you competing for the eggiest face award?


Such a shame that I wouldn't know by now
Your revelations
Cut me in, I don't want to live without
Your revelations


Read more: Audioslave - Revelations Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Batting 1000

OK...it took a while longer than originally projected, but SP-EYE recently logged its 1000th post.  That's about 60 times a many posts on Dr. Culver's IspirED blog (we still think capitalizing the "ED" is a little creepy).  It's alo more than the average (and even above average) blog.  We're proud of that.

We've been on a mission  since 2005.  What triggered us was the whole, "let's build 2 high schools" fiasco.  We never said, "Never".  We just said, "NOT IN 2006!".  There may come a time when we need two high schools, but it's not now and it certainly wasn't then.

Yes, we've taken our foot off the gas pedal in 2013.  Largely, life decisions dealt that hand.  But there are those in the inner circle that know that silence does not equate to absence.  We've been there...often behind the scenes.

In a perfect world, there is no need for an SP-EYE.  But this district is far from perfect.   Districts also go as the school board goes, and for many years, we've had pitiful excuses for school boards.  We've had felons, district administration retirees, spouses of teachers, and excessively liberal leaners on our boards.  Hell we still have someone who was on the board 20 years ago.  We're hoping Santa brings that one a life for Christmas this year.

But that all changed for us about 5 years back.  Slowly but surely the electorate decided to make changes and one by on we've replaced the board members who ran more for the resume or perks than to actually make a difference.

We now have a board that is 71.4% efficient.  An that's great because all it takes is 57.1% efficiency to get things done.  This board (or at least 71.4% o it) has delved into areas past boards would never have ventured.  They are fixing things.  They are involved, engaged, and motivated.  Think of all the things they've done.  Then think back to all the fiascoes over the years and imagine what would have been if THIS board had been in charge.  It's been a long time coming, but it's here.  We CAN take our foot off the gas.  We CAN take a nap for a bit while they're driving.

And for that, we are thankful.  And you should be too.

e're not going way, John...and Caren. We're just letting a qualified board do what they do because they're doing the right things.  W always said that with the right board, SP-EYE would be more of a resource than a sharp stick in the eye.  We had to put a few eyes out along the way, but ...hey...that happens.   It is all fun and game until someone loses an eye...right?  Maybe...just maybe, you've learned a little but about how to do things right.

And hey...how about it...1005 posts!

What? Hiring MORE Administration?

This was an item of business on the December 9th school board meeting:

Reorganization of the district administrative structure including revision of Policy CCA, and addition of Assistant Superintendent for Operations and Continuous Improvement

http://schoolboard.spasd.k12.wi.us/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=9DTL97556C8B

What's weird is that the Situation Report is offered by Dr. Culver, yet this doesn't look like something he'd request.  A request for a full Chinese immersion program complete with new China Program Administrator.....yeah, we'd buy that as Culver's but this just doesn't have Culver's fingerprints on it.

But let's not toss the baby out with the bathwater.
The idea has merit.
After all, Culver currently has about 19 administrators reporting to him...and that's not working.
In fact, Culver appeared to have no clue what shenanigans Buildings and Grounds were up to.  The iPad budget last winter initiative was appalling in its lack of forethought.  Policy KG has festered into a giant boil.  Ashley Field shriveled and died on the vine.

Let's face it.  Culver may have some strengths in academia, but the rest of the district aspects are not his cup of tea.  This would create a new position to which all these folks would report,

Sun Prairie has grown substantially and when any business grows, the hierarchy must be re-evaluated.  This position is needed.

Kudos to whoeber ghostwrote the report.

One final note of caution:
The position description should include a requirement that the successful candidate be equipped with a solid brass pair. Additionally, a solid track record of dealing well with personnel issues is paramount.  Giving "attaboys" is easy; calling subordinates--even if they are administrators themselves--on the carpet is a skill that is sorely lacking in this district.  S/he needs to feel unfettered in making things happen and not be concerned about wounding egos along the way. S/he needs to avoid drinking the good old boy Kool-Aid, and have at least a dotted line connection direct to the School Board.  Rporting to Culver, who as "the Bog Dog" has essentially authrized the bad behaviors and poor performances here is not going to solve the problem.

Last, but definitely not least, the successful candidate must come from outside of the district.  Sorry, but we don't have anyone here that has not been sucessfully waterboarded with the KoolAid already.


Can U Do the Math?

Fret not John and Caren...we're still here!
It's nice to know that we're missed!
It seems that Mr. Whalen and Ms. Diedrich both have expressed concerns of late that SP-EYE no longer is interested in matters du School Board.
Au contraire!   But thanks for thinking about us.

We are very interested.  In fact, we love what this school board (at least the efforts of 71.4% of it) is doing.
That's right...we give this school board a 71.4% approval rating.
Now...can you do the math?

Sometimes we think at least one of you can do the meth.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Counterpoint ---Point

It's our blog so we get to switch things up :)


Counterpoint: 

Stan, you ignorant slut...

Or should we say, piloteric2004@yahoo.com

First...you don't even live in this district, so STFU.  Your IP address traces to somewhere in Iowa.  Yup.  I thin k that's enuff said, right there.

Second...where the hell did you come up with the Tea Party?   This is not about politics.  This was about getting adequate representation of the COMMUNITY on a major issue.  (an you say community, Stan...or i it too many syllables or you?)

Teach us a lesson?  Puleeze!  That sounds like bullyism to us.  And we've dispatched of quite a few bullies with way better creds than you.  You teach us nothing.  

Will we accept the results of this 2nd meeting.  Absolutely.  That's what we said and we walk the walk in addition to talking the talk.  All we wanted was a fair opportunity a little beyond the scope of the 500 left lurchers who happen to subscribe to that biased drivel, the STAR.  We got that and now people need to move on.

And "we" lost nothing, Eric.  The community might have lost.  But it deserves what it gets.

Be careful what you wish for though, Stan.  You may see the rebound effect on a much larger issue....like people coming to the polls and voting down a referendum for an 8th elementary school when one is needed (shortly).

Or when the District ants to spend  half million dollars on i-Pads.  The school board might just say..."Nope...not with an eighth elementary school coming and all this new transportation cost."

Or when it comes time to thinking about raise for staff.  180 people may have just pissed on any hopes of any raises.

We shall see.
We just hope your piloting skills are far beyond your logic and reasoning skills.



Point: Stan (Guest):

The Board really went to seemingly unprecedented trouble to advertise this
special meeting. This included prominent notice in The Star, a postcard mailed to everyone in the district, phone calls, e-mails, etc. There is absolutely no credible argument that the School Board failed to give the taxpayers of Sun Prairie sufficient notice of this special meeting. And surprise, surprise - the Tea Party loses again. Perhaps that should finally teach you a lesson! Will you accept the results of this second meeting or will you continue to stamp your feet and demand yet another do-over? Please. The matter is settled. You lost. Move on.
4:28 p.m., Wednesday Nov. 13

Email address: piloteric2004@yahoo.com | IP address: 67.41.247.22

Kwitcherbitchin!

So the do-over of the annual meeting occurred this past Tuesday.  So,OK, we doubled the crowd to about 275 (going by the highest vote tally, which was about 89 for, 180 against).

The results are the same.  The minimum busing distance for the middle schools and high schools will be reduced to 1.5 miles.

Is it the wisest use of $430,000? (every year forward the price goes up 3%)?  No.

If Dr. Culver had $430,000 of taxpayer dollars to spend, wuld bsing even make his top 10? No.

I it absolutely one of the top 5 most ridiculous things that has  happened in this district (money wise).  Absolutely.

So be it.

You were informed.
The issues were clear.

The school district did an outstanding job of attempting to engage the community and get folks to attend the meeting, speak their mind, and cat their votes.  Our hats are off to school district administration.

The school board did an outstanding job of saying, "Hey...we don't have enough representation here, we need to do this in a more openly communicated, transparent manner. " They did that by forcing a special Electors Meeting.  Our hats are off to President Weber et al as well.

So...one of two things happened.
Either the people in this district don't really care about their property taxes and don't care about reducing the minimum busing distances.
Or they couldn't find enough time in their busy lives to come out for 2 hours.  In other words...apathy.

So....we will fully support this decision because you all had a chance.  In fact, you had TWO chances.  And it apparently wasn't important enough for you to actually get off your ever burgeoning keesters and come out to the meeting.

Don't call us.  We're not listening anymore on this one.
And kwitcherbitchin.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Taxpayer's View of the Busing Decision

Sun Prairie Taxpayer (Guest):

Sadly, I am one of those taxpayers that did not know about the meeting and would have voted against increasing the tax levy. This situation makes me livid! I plan on showing up to the November 12thmeeting, though and am grateful that I got a postcard in the mail from the school district, though it sounds like it is too late.
The cost of bussing these kids an additional half mile averages out to $760 per child. And this is actually an understatement since Kobussun is at full capacity of their current facility. In addition to the staff and busses, they will need to add more buildings and parking lots....costs which have not been factored in.
At what point does the taxpayer take on total responsibility for the safety of all Sun Prairie kids? Honest ly, if t he city is so unsafe that teenagers cannot walk 2 miles without being abducted, what are the parents doing choosing to live in such a dangerous area? Are parents teaching their teenagers what to do to protect themselves? Or is that the taxpayers responsibility too? If there is really so much danger, why are the children allowed to walk at all? Are those students living 1.25 miles from the school considered to be less valuable than those living 2 miles away? Why do we think the predators are not going to just move closer? Parents that choose to live on the outskirts of the bussing route can pay the extra amount per month for the extra safety. My guess is that it is more of a convenience than anything. Seems pretty unfair that those wanting more free services can just reach into others wallets and take what they feel they are entitled to with only a mere fraction of the community represented.

And what about plain old physical activity? Seems like we hear ab out the need for kids to exercise. Good thing we put them all on busses so they can get home and get to the gym to make up for the walk they are not getting!
The situation reminds me of those that buy a house on the railroad tracks and then complain that there is too much noise from the trains! Parents.......you choose where to live and you choose how many children to have. Take responsibility for your own family and stop passing on parental responsibility to the taxpayers.

Here's Your Mulligan. What You Do With It Depends on YOU

The School board has called a special Elector's meeting for THIS Tuesday, November 14th at 7 PM at the Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School.

The issue on the table is busing.
On Sept 30th a small group of people voted to reduce minimum distances required to ride a bus to school for middle schools and high school.  That move will cost the district $429,000 this year...and more every year thereafter.

Do you agree with that decision...or not?
Whatever you feel, we encourage you to spend an hour of your precious time and come out and cast your vote.  You need not speak to the issue.  Just vote.

If you want our opinion, we need to just say NO to making decisions with major tax ramifications with less than 130 voters in attendance.

We are concerned that if this decision is not over-turned, then  more will follow.  Next will be to redue elementary school bus distances.  After that?  Why not bus every damn kid in the district.  It's only your tax dollars...right?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Paging Mr. C. O. Jones! You're Needed for Policy KG.

We live in a school district with many things.  But one thing we mot definitely lack is any administrators with cojones.  As Metallica would sing, "Sad, but true."  The district office is populated by eunuchs.  We thought that Joe Palooka might bring a pair with him to Buildings & Grounds, but apparently the rule is that one's cojones must be tuned over in order to obtain your district ID.  Lord knows that Tim Culver grows evermore like Tootles, constantly in search of his lost marbles.  Phil Frei is a fiscal wizard, but don't ask him to hold anyone accountable for paying their bills.  Sad but true.   One would think that collecting money due would be the prime directive for a Business Manager....wouldn't one?

Now we understand that money due to the district--and UNPAID--- for camps and such exceeds $40,000 just for the past school year alone.  And the usual suspects are all whining and moaning about how to collect it.  Or even whether to bother collecting it at all.  Just tack maintenance costs onto the tax levy.  After all...it's all for the kids, right?

Here is yet another version of 10 Things We Think We Think about field/facility rental:
Is it too much to ask?

1. 40K of unpaid bills.  How much RTI assistance would $40K buy?  $40,000 represents 5% of the purported cost of turfing Ashley field.  And that's just fees unpaid for 2012-13.  That's lot of money we're throwing away.

2. The only "groups" unhappy about being charged for facility usage is coaches holding "for profit" camps.  You don't see gaggles of blue haired old ladies screaming, "Don't charge the coaches for using the fields!" There are a lot of folks in the district without kids, and when they hear about this, they get angry, too.   But that anger comes from the opposite position.

3. Are coaches employees of the school district over the summer?  They retain their keys to buildings and use of e-mail.  They do not collect unemployment.   They have signed contracts for the next school year.   An employee of a school district cannot profit from  use of publicly owned facilities.  It's against state law.   So why are we enabling (facilitating?) it?

4. Is "negotiation" of fees owed even allowed?  If so, what are the rules governing how one can reduce the fees for facility use via negotiation?  is the same mechanism afforded to all similarly affected parties?  e understand that some coaches have quietly haggling down the fees they owe.   One would think that a Business Manager would understand how that doesn't work.

5. How can we expect ANY coach to pay their required fees if others refuse to pay?  They either all must pay or none must pay.  And the latter must not be an option.  Hell it would violate policy KG as it exists today.

6. Why aren't we simply garnishing wages of those employees who refuse to pay for field/facility use for camps?  We could attach our attorney and court fees for the collection process as well.

7.  The "No Pay, No Play" concept will simply not fly.  Next spring, the district eunuchs will relent and allow the camps to be run despite the coaches having yet another year of unpaid bills.  Hell this has happened for years.  The mantra seems to be, "We'll get 'em next year!"  This has to be the year we get all the money due and start with a clan slate.

8.  If the revenue from these camps truly gets turned over to the booster clubs, and they in turn give it back to the district in the form of equipment or uniforms, why don't we cut out the middleman?   Have the coaches running camps have registration fees sent right to the district and the money be deposited into a sinking fund for that sport  The district could then take a percentage fee off the top for field and facility maintenance.  Then the boosters wouldn't have to spend any time depositing all that money.

9.  And if the money is going to the booster clubs, why is it that the camp fees are mailed to the home address of the head coach running the camp?  Why doesn't it get sent to the address for the booster club?    We get it.  The coaches should get "something" for their time.  How about we tie it into their contracts.  Hold a camp and you get $_____ extra dollars compensation.

10.  Why are we even arguing about this?  And why does it take so long?  Would we allow the Facilities Manager to hold a concert in the PAC without paying a use fee and collect all revenues from attendees?  Would we allow the Pool Manager to earn money on the side teaching swimming lessons in the high school pool without paying a fee?  How about a group of employees to use the field house for a holiday craft fair --free of charge-- and then collect the revenue from charging vendors for booth space?  

Stop pussyfooting around and make these folks --all of them---pony up the fees that are due!  Thy were told they'd be charged...right?  Because this all came to a head in June/July 2012...long before the start of 2012-1 camps.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Annual Meeting Hijacked...$429,000 added to the Tax Levy

It’s not about the decision; it’s about the process.

On Monday September 30th, 2013, the Sun Prairie Area School District held its annual electors meeting.  In a district with over 7500 students and 30,000 or more registered voters, decisions were made by less than 150 people.  More than 10 times as many people voted for 3 school board members last April that were running unopposed.  Now, that number is not atypical.  But that’s part of the problem.  The process doesn’t work.

At this meeting, a group of residents essentially “hijacked” the annual meeting to force a reduction in busing distances at the high school and middle school levels to 1.5 miles.  The vote for the middle school change passed by about 40 votes.  The vote for the high school passed by only 7 votes.  SEVEN!  The 2013 decision added an additional $429,000 to the tax levy.  That’s a 33% increase over the proposed levy increase.   It’s also more than a $9,000 increase in the tax levy for each of those deciding 47 votes.

Before going any further, let’s just nip the “tit-for-tat” argument firmly in the bud.  The special interest group behind the busing change cited an action back in 2009 wherein a larger turnout of residents (184 voting 124-60) voted to reduce the tax levy by about $2M.  That move, however, was vindicated when the school district ended the year with almost $1M in surplus!  So ended the long-term practice of over-budgeting as a means of funding reserves.  The people behind this year’s vote were all about their own children.  Don’t kid yourselves that they were doing this for all kids.  It just aint so, Joe.  And let those without sins not be the ones casting stones.

The special interest group spoke about safety and the value of our kids’ lives.  They raised the spectre of child predators lurking along Highway 19.  Newsflash, people.  These predators generally don’t operate in heavily trafficked areas.  The kids that are at risk for predators are those walking alone on empty side streets…not major thoroughfares.

Regarding safety, it’s funny that the state, after several reviews, has not deemed the path an unusually hazardous area.  As further proof of their self-serving agenda, one gentleman asked that elementary school busing distances also be reduced.  The spokesperson indicated that the idea had some support within their ranks, but they needed to focus on their needs first.  Funny how after the vote went their way, they forgot about that guy.

Who says it ends here?  Next year, will another 150 people come to change the busing from distances down to a mile?  A half-mile?  How about, since we’re so concerned about the safety of our children, that we bus each and every single child in the district?  What would it cost to bus all 7500 kids to and fro each day?  A whole lot more than a couple of large pizzas each month.  Who’d want to live in a district with property taxes that high?
Or what happens if 200 angry senior citizens turn out next year to change the distances back to 2.0 miles?  Remember, folks, there are more electors living in the district WITHOUT K-12 age children than those with children.   

What happens when Kobussen has to purchase a whole bunch of new buses to meet the needs of this year’s decision only to have that decision subsequently rescinded?  But we’re not thinking of consequences of our decisions, are we?  What does that teach our kids?
Yes, transportation is one of the “powers” (s. 120.10, Wis. Stats.) of the annual meeting, but let’s stop being smugly disingenuous.  More than 99% of the community doesn’t even attend the meeting (or even know about it), let alone understand that a vote of such significant property tax ramifications could be made by less than 150 people.

And what happens when the district wants the taxpayers to vote—likely within the next year— to build an 8th elementary school?  Is that when we’ll hear the rebuttal of folks that did not attend the annual meeting?   Will they resoundingly vote down a new school in light of the increased taxes from busing distance changes?  Can these same parents then live with larger class sizes?  Can you say “ramifications”, boys and girls?

The problem here is not the desires of this special interest group.  Rather it’s the process.  The statutes simply afford too much power (I know, right?  Who would ever believe we could wield too much power?).  The annual electors meeting needs to be modified to assure that votes of this importance not be made by such a small percentage of the electorate.

We need a mulligan, here.   We need a mechanism to ensure that issues of this significance are communicated clearly and unequivocally to the entire community.  We need people to have all the key information associated with their decisions, including costs involved and any ramifications.  Then we need to reach out and ensure that all voters take as much interest in casting their vote as they will for the next gubernatorial election.   


Changing the process itself is going to be a task of Sisyphusian proportions.  But there is an option.  State statute allows any member of the community who collects 100 signatures to demand a special elector’s meeting for any subject within the powers of the annual meeting—like busing.  Alternatively, the school board has the power to call such a meeting themselves.   As Captain Picard would say, “Number One…make it so”.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Annual Meeting tomorrow; full court press on busing issues?

In case you did not know, the school district annual elector's meeting is tomorrow night, Monday September 30, 2013.

Place:  Sun Prairie High School, 888 Grove St

Time:   7:00 PM

Heart of the matter:  Setting the tax levy required to operate and maintain schools

Electors at the meeting will vote to approve the proposed tax levy of $47,524,921 upon all taxable property in the Sun Prairie Area School District for the purposes of operating and maintaining the district schools and for paying for debt for school projects.

That represents a 2.9% increase over the 2012-13 tax levy of $46,187,633

Key information sources
http://www.sunprairie.k12.wi.us/district/annual_mtg_13.cfm

http://www.sunprairie.k12.wi.us/businessfiles/Annual%20Meeting%202013.pdf

Whats this about busing?

For each of at least the past two years, issues have been raised about busing.  This year, we hear that a sizeable group of community members ill appear and try to leverage a majority vote to change the busing distance from 2 miles to 1.5 miles...or less.

These 11th hour attempts to take the annual meeting hostage have to end.  Don't people get it?  A hundred or so people do not represent a school district of 30,000+ residents.

Do these people understand how much money is tied into busing? Redrawing the busing lines could cause a significant jump in the tax levy.
How do we pay for that?  These people need to somehow be reminded that the majority of residents in the district do not have any children attending school..  Many are on fixed incomes.   We're wondering what the average household income is of these people that want to bus more.

Here's a proposal....why don't we just bus every kid in the district and to pay for it, we'll eliminate Physical Education from the curriculum.  If we don't want our babies to get exercise walking to school, why bother with gym class?  They probably all get doctor's notes excusing them anyway.

OK...so we jest...but people need to think through these things before engaging their mouths.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Who's paying?

Vegas is currently calculating odds


If you build it....

...we (the SPASD) won't hold you accountable for the project.

We dont need to say anymore.... this one speaks volumes all by its lonesome.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fields of Extremes

Dickens once started a book with the line, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times...".  That line struck a nerve for us after touring the athletic fields with the School Board's Planning Committee, chaired by John Welke, this week.  It was eye-opening, to say the least.  And it provided a plethora of blog fodder (Pardon the gratuitous use of the word "plethora" on the eve of the first NFL Sunday of 2013.  We wanted to beat the NFL announcers who always seem to work that word in).

It is the best of times, because we cannot agree more with board member Steve Schroeder, who remarked that the district is indeed blessed with an awesome set of athletic venues.  Of course, the taxpayers paid a pretty supertanker load of pennies for those fields.  We'd add, however, that it also appears to be the worst of times, because we are entering the 4th year of the new high school (and its fields) and they are in serious disarray.  With awesome fields comes awesome responsibility....that is to say...taking care of the fields.

What we learned

  • We don't have enough [buildings and grounds] staff.  No surprise there.
  • We file insurance claims rather than hold vendors accountable.
  • We apparently need one guy to supervise two workers at the high school.  Really?  Then maybe we have the wrong supervisor...or wrong staff.
  • We heard an awful lot of blame shifting onto the former buildings and grounds manager, Tom Brooks.  Hope our liability insurance is paid up.  Mr. Brooks might just be calling in regards to something like a defamation/slander claim.
  • There is some serious "settling" in the outfield of the glorious Summit Field.  Someone is going to get hurt chasing a fly ball.  Shouldn't those fields be warrantied against defects like that?
  • "Settling" in the fields?  looks more like isolated pits to us.  More like from underground sprinklers.  And the question to be asked is: how come there's no "settling"  occurring on the softball fields.  Wait...now we remember...that question was asked:  those fields were developed by a different contractor.   Things that make you go, "Hmmmm".  
  • Were fields developed according to specifications?  We learned that the JV baseball field was constructed with only 6" of topsoil instead of the required $12.
  • We need to replace about 40 bushes/shrubs because of snow plowed onto them or salt from the parking lot.   Hello?  Ag class?  UW Extension maybe?   Maybe work with the city to rethink the required plantings.
  • We learned from our tour guide, Dale Wiesinger [sp.?], that our sprinklers don't overlap coverage.  Really? RUFKM?
  • Oh yeah...before we forget...where was our highly compensated "construction manager"...our "buyer's agent on-site" during this? [http://sp-eye.blogspot.com/2010/05/cutting-cord.html].  We paid them $7,300 per MONTH to watch over the quality of work being done on the $84M high school project.  And that was for several years. 


The windstorm
Back in April, you'll likely recall, Sun Prairie experienced a powerful "derecho" wind event that wreaked havoc on the backstops of the varsity and JV baseball fields and tore out most of the outfield fence, including signs from advertisers that paid a hefty price for Summit Field to carry their banners.  The backstops are still seriously mangled, and the fence looks pretty cobbled together.  The signs are still missing.

Oh we had questions....why did the backstops bend like that?  Shouldn't they be warrantied against such structural anomalies ( we dont recall other schools complaining of their backstops being bent)?  Shouldn't we be working with the vendor?  Who's going to pay for the outfield fence and replacement signs?

All good questions, but the answers leave only more questions.  Apparently, it is our understanding that someone(s) added netting to the backstops and they were not engineered to handle the extra weight.  It's physics in its purest form, kiddies.  When you place something of significant wight at the top of something, the fulcrum point shifts.  Or something like that :-)  So it seems that while the logical thing to do would be to start by contacting the  vendor, it appears we might have caused our own problems.

So we make an insurance claim.  Want to bet that the insurer is asking the same questions?  Why did we do something that changed the structural integrity and then expect to be compensated when we suffer a loss?  Isn't that going to result in an increase to our premium?  Especially if it turns out that we added the netting without verifying that the structural support can handle it?


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Left to their own devices

Dear readers...

SP-EYE has seen much improvement of late...largely attributed to an engaged, functioning school board.

We even decided to give the district some alone time.  We laid up and observed.

But guess what?
The district administration simply cannot get out of its own way.
The bear sleeps and they opt to poke it.  That never ends well.
If there's a way to screw things up, it seems that they can find it.

It's sad, but it's also long overdue for new leadership in this school district.

There's still a need for SP-EYE.


Does SPASD have 50% Turnover in 3 years?

We've been hearin' t'ings.
Coerced resignation?
We've heard several reports that the district has an interesting way of removing folks....permanently.  The story goes that one is called into Human Resources (with no pretense given)>  The conversation allegedly goes down something like this:


HR:   "We're terminating you.   Or....you can resign."
Employee:  "Can I have some time to think about it?"
HR:  "No.  you need to resign right now or be terminated."

And when the unawares soon to be ex-employee agrees to resign, a sheet of notebook paper (notebook paper!!!) is whipped out and the employee is told to write down exactly what they are told.
Et voila...a resignation is created.

We happen to get a hold of one of these letters and learned of the existence of at least one more.
Sensing a pattern, we made an open records request asking to inspect all resignation and retirement letters received by the district over the past 3 years.  Of course we needed to broaden the scope to protect the identity of those folks that are very frightened of the power wielded by Culver et al.

This was the response received:

Tim Culver wrote:

To locate all records that might comply with your request will  require review of over 500 stored personnel files of ex-employees, which is estimated to take a secretary between 16 and 18 hours.    Therefore the cost to locate all such records that might exist is estimated to be between $336 and $378.  That is the actual, direct and necessary cost of locating such  records.  Please let me know if you wish to proceed with this request and incur such a fee(which will be finalized after the location effort  is complete, but will not exceed the maximum estimated).  After all  such records are located, if you wish to have copies following your inspection, there would be the customary copying fees for copies more than 10.

If you wish to modify your request and/ or make it more specific, we will be happy to recalculate the fee for locating records under different parameters.
If you wish to proceed with your original request please let me know.

Sincerely,

Tim Culver

So....one has to look through 500 employee personnel files to find resignation or retirement letters?
Retirements are usually about 25 or so a year.  That makes 75 total.
Does that mean we have 140 other people leave each year?

In a district of about 1000 employees, if they have to search through 500 employee files, doesn't that mean 500 leave over 3 years?  Doesnt that mean at least 50% turnover over 3 years?

Do we have a human resources / employee retention issue?

For a district that prides itself on its technical prowess, are you telling us that we don't have a database that can be queried for resignations?  retirements? over a specified timeframe?

And if we do...is this "charge" of $336-$378 simply a tool that Culver uses ...now... to discourage the public from seeking information?

Has the sun set on Sun Prairie?  Is transparency dead?
And is coerced resignation the way we do business?

All good questions.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

psssst....we meet at "the BARN"...OK?

Thanks to several community residents that want to do things right, we understand that Operation BBALL has relocated its base of operations to "the barn".  If you've been in Sun Prairie for any length of time, you probably know what that means.

Of course, these are all "allegations", but where there's a ton of smoke, there's usually some flames causing said smoke.

This gives us pause to ponder...

If one continually is changing its base of operations, it's likely due to one or both of two things:
(A) to avoid paying facility rental fees, or
(B) to avoid detection/scrutiny etc.

IF what's really going on here is gaining a "leg up" on the competition via unauthorized contact with players during the offseason (and where not saying it is) then how is that any different than what, say, Ryan Braun did?

For the school district, this is probably just fine because the issue has been removed from sight.  Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Is that how we operate in Sun Prairie?  Just get things out of sight?  Sweep them under the carpet or cram them in the closet with our other skeletons?

The question we have goes back to the "it's all about the kids" mentality:  how does this really help the kids?  Is this the life lesson we wish to impart our children with?  Win at any cost?  Rules don't matter unless you get caught?  Does the WIAA subscribe to that same philosophy?  Hmmm.  We wonder.

We have an old saying:  Cheaters Never Prosper.  And it's in the scriptures!


Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Facility Calendar Exposed

So this is what came out of our inquiry into the sudden opacity of the Facilities Use Calendar:

We have finally determined what happened with the ability to review contracts for the facility use calendar via the district web site.  It had nothing to do with the implementation of the new web site as we suspected.  Instead, the program managers at rSchoolToday.com made an internal decision to eliminate the option system wide.  It was their belief that the information being provided should not be accessible to the general public, that there were likely some privacy issues that needed to be respected.  So they removed the option without telling anyone and SPASD is the only district to ask about the change.  It was just coincidence that the change occurred about the same time we changed our website.
 
So ....   are we OK with a software vendor that unilaterally makes decisions for us regarding transparency?  Without even informing us?
Mybe it's time to ditch this wonderful software that Jimmy Mac found for us.

rSchoolToday.com has identified a couple of options for the contract viewing feature to be returned to our website. 

 The first is to provide custom programming for the SPASD site that allows the contract observation feature to be returned to the previous level of accessibility.  This option can be provided at an undisclosed cost per month (to be determined if we want to explore the option more).  My concern here is that we then incur additional expense for the facility use program, an expense that is continuous into the future.
 
So ....   we get it...Option 1 is to get back the original functionality we purchased for an additional--an undisclosed--monthly charge.
So if we understand this correctly, rSchoolToday kidnapped our transparency, and is ransoming its return for a monthly price.


The second option is to set up a process that allows people wanting to see the contracts to access the facility use program as a limited administrator - they can only view the contracts as they did before via the facility use calendar.  The process is a bit tedious to the user in that they would need to first use the district web site to access the calendar, then modify the url address to go to the rSchoolToday.com (or those regularly reviewing the contracts could go directly to the website and by-pass the district web site) and then use the calendar found there to review the contracts as they have in the past.  There would be a one-time effort to set the "public access administrator access".

...or anyone wishing to view the details could be logged in as a limited Administrator.
Hmmmm...might work, but does the district want to give SP-EYE (amng others) "limited" Admin privileges?  We think not.
 
The third option not provided by rSchoolToday.com is to leave the current access is as it is and require anyone wishing to review contracts to submit an open-records request.  While there would be no up-front effort with this option, there would be a continuing effort to respond to each request for information.

OK...so after complaining about all the open records request it has to deal with NOW, the district wants to add more?   And...newsflash...until Policy KG is fixed, we can guarantee that you'll see a ton of these requests!

I have copied the School Board on this e-mail for their edification.  At this time the system will stay as is unless I hear from the School Board that they want me to pursue another option.

How about a 4th option?   How's about our Technology Manager get on the horn with rSchoolToday and ask, "WTF?"   How about we "school" rSchoolToday about customer service?   How about we cancel the contract if they aren't willing to restore what we paid for?  Along with the many problems identified post-construction, we seem to be the cowardly lion school district that doesn't push for quality service to go along with all the money we've paid.   We doubt Dr. Culver et al would be so forgiving if they experienced the same problems with work on the private residences.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

This Has Proceeded Far Beyond Ridiculousness

OK....this has just gone on for too frickin' long!
With all our technology expertise...can't SOMEONE return transparency to the facilities calendar?

There is clearly a javascript error.  SOMEone has modified the code or
unchecked the "Let's be transparent" box.  This does not belong on our Communication Manager's radar screen.  It's either a specific HTML/Javascript coding problem, or someone just flicked the switch to turn out the lights.


I sent an e-mail to Sarah Heck, the manager for the web-site change along with Mike Mades, and she indicated that she was aware of the issue and would be working to resolve the issue when she gets back from vacation next week. The issue was not addressed in the effort to get the web site up and running. I will keep you posted if I hear anything...
---Joe Powelka, Buildings & Grounds
Does the district's worker's compensation insurance cover constantly tripping over one's self?

FIX THIS!!!!!

You Sunk My Battleship!!!!


Have we perhaps developed a game of battleship when it comes to athletic fields and facility use?  Reports coming in make us wonder.   There's a lot of activity going on and we're even hearing rumors of brash attempts to thwart detection.

On July 8th, District administration was alerted to facilities reservations at the high school field house under the name "Open Gym" from 6:45 am to 8:00 am on June 26, 27 and July 15, 17, 18, 22, 24, 25, 29.  All reservations were made under the name Nate Grundahl...who happens to be the asst. varsity basketball coach.  Community observers report that the only folks present at these "sessions" are members of the high school basketball program.  Reports also indicate that Coach Boos is present.  Perhaps this was all according to Hoyle, but one has to ask the question....is this a violation of WIAA rules for coach/player contact.  There are rules for how many days of contact (5) [with coaches] can occur during the summer.


By mid-week, we heard several reports that Operation Open Gym had become compromised and the location had been clandestinely moved to the Patrick Marsh gym.   Hmmmm.  Switching things up like that begs the question.....a lot of questions, actually.

While we remain hopeful that everything is being done in strict accordance with WIAA rules.....we wouldn't want to incur district-wide WIAA sanctions, would we?......some investigation i in order.  A complete and transparent accounting of these activities MUST be initiated.

One concern is that there are WIAA rules governing "Open Gyms".  One of the requirements is that these be announced publicly so ANY student can use the gym .  The only place this "Open Gym" was noticed was as a listing on the Facility Use calendar.  And that wouldn't have happened unless the District Buildings & Grounds Manager stepped in and forced the issue.   The only kids that seem to be partaking of the Open Gym opportunity are the basketball team, the reservation was made by asst varsity coach Nate Grundahl, and there have been multiple Boos sightings at both the Fieldhouse in June and at Patrick Mrsh this past week.

All those things make for a particular odor, and the odor is not a good one.
Here's what the WIAA has to say about Open Gyms:
You have several rules which affect this situation. First the open gym rule. Open gyms are school sponsored recreation for students. They cannot be organized practices by the coach or any other person. Open gyms are "pick up" situations. Coaches and schools cannot be involved in out-of-season practice for athletes. However, open gyms do not violate WIAA rules if they are conducted according to the following guidelines: 
1) The open gym is made known and available to all students in the designated population of that school that are interested in attending. Open gyms may be gender specific. It is also acceptable to include people from the community. Schools may conduct "open gyms" in any activity. It is not acceptable to include athletes from another school, public or nonpublic. 
2) There is no instruction during the open gym by a coach or anyone else. 
3) Coaches may supervise open gyms, but they may not instruct, organize drills, etc. Coaches can also recreate with students in school sponsored, open gym settings that are purely recreational in nature, i.e., there is no instruction, sport skill demonstration, organized drills or resemblance of a practice being conducted. 
4) There is no organized competition, such as established teams participating in round-robin competition, etc.
"Open Gym" is not a code word for out-of-season practice. The philosophy of the open gym is students from that school may attend, for wholesome recreation, or for pur- poses of improving their skills, but it's something they do on their own. It would be a violation of WIAA rules to mandate attendance at open gyms, or to provide incentives for athletes to attend open gyms, or to limit participation based on athletic status, or to allow athletes from other schools to come and work out or compete against the host school's athletes. (BL – Art. II and RE – Art. VI, Sect. 2) During the school year, no activity in which they are engaged during the school year should resemble in any way a school team practicing or competing out-of-season. (Handbook, p. 39, Art VI, Sect 2, Par A). With this rule, "Captains Practices" may not be held during the school year. Participants must be diversified and coaches/schools may not be involved. 
They are allowed during the summertime where limitations on athletes assembly are removed. If the players are organizing in a practice situation, then this rule comes into play. The question to be asked: Is the situation you describe an Open Gym or a spring practice designed to appear as an open gym? In a true open gym, the kids grab a ball and recreate. If they are running plays, then I would say they are practicing.

Someone (ahem...Tim Culver) needs to be investigating this.  If it is true, then we need to issue a cease and desist order, take immediate and appropriate corrective measures,  and turn ourselves in to WIAA.

Ground control to major Tim, 
your circuit's dead, there's something wrong.
Can you hear me, major Tim?

What lesson are we teaching our kids in this whole approach to rules?  Is it OK to break rules as long as we don't get caught?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

One Step Forward...TWO Steps Back

OK...so we're doing better with the district's Facilities Use calendar...

But..... now the transparency has been removed. One USED to be able to click on any reservation and view the "permit" information including who the "client" is, any charges which will be assessed and whether or not the user's insurance is up-to-date.

Geee....and coincidentally when things are starting to heat up regarding "Policy KG" (Use of District Fields/Facilities).

Now that Jimmy Mac is gone....who will we blame for this "unintended error"?

Shame, Shame, SHAME!