Sunday, September 20, 2015

School Planning Pace is Too Slow

The Sun Prairie school district initiated a Space Planning project late last fall.  Formal meetings began in February 2015 and then ended abruptly on June 2nd 2015.  Granted there were a few balls being juggled what with the need to get a solid school district administrator in place (Check!) and then the district hired an architectural firm to help "really look at what we have".  Then we had 3.5 months of no news whatsoever.  This week, however a "first" meeting (WTHWT?  a "reboot"?) was held of the School Space Planning committee.  The whole public was invited to join.  Postcards went out to every resident.  And we got 100-110 people.  Anyone want to guess how much that number will be whittled down by the time the next meeting comes?

Now the call is for a lengthy process culminating in June with a target to go to referendum In November 2016.  The date is a good one because it coincides with the Presidential election which is sure to bring the healthiest number of voters out.

But...a lengthy process?  As Sweet Brown said, "Ain't Nobody Got Time for That!".
Look, we totally get it.  We need to keep the community informed and get buy-in.  We need to explore all options.  But no one said that "explore" requires lengthy discussion.  If one puts all options on the table, they might incude such approaches as:

  • increasing class target sizes by 1-3 kids/classroom (teachers and parents should love that)
  • running split schedules (some kids go say 7-1 and others 1-7) (aint nobody got time for that)
  • purchase or rent portable classrooms (the District of Choice uses portables?
  • move 5th graders into the middle schools or 7th grade up to CHUMs (maybe...but that means TWO boundary changes...excusing us for using the B" word)
  • Add on to existing schools. (that violates the long-term policy of school sizes, doesn't help much, and costs much the same as building new)
And there are many other options, but none comes without as much "Con" as "Pro" and they all merely kick the can down the road.  We're waiting time.  The otions have all been tallied.  It's time the School Board (Ms. Hansen are you available?) it down in a special session and just vote each one out.   Let's face the reality. folks.  We WILL need to build more classrooms.  Might as well get used to that idea.  If we weren't planning on building new schools, why on earth are we about to hire a construction FIRM (not a construction MANAGER...been there, done that...didn't end well).
LOOK AT THE DATA people.  We had 5 of 7 elementary schools over capacity last year, we're already at 6 of 7 this year because again we got at least 50 more new kids than projected.  WE NEED ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SPACE NOW!  So let's just agree on that an move forward.  And based on projection, even if we started now, we project to have at least 1/2 of a full elementary school of new kids before the school could even open!

Just do the math.  7 elementary schools and 3545 kids this year. That's 507 kids per school! Do we really ant to have more than 500 per school?  If we want to be like LA, New York, or Chicago...maybe.  And that's now.   If we build just ONE new school in 4 years there will be an average of 460 kids in each of 8 elementary schools.  And that assumes we add kids at exactly the UW projection rate (and they do NOT factor in new home construction!).  We've been above the curve nearly every year.  So wouldn't it be better to just go ahead and build 2 elementary We're quite certain building 2 elementary school at once is cheaper than one and then another in 4-5 years.

Another high's time.
Yep, the time is finally starting to come.  And we were staunch opponents of the two high school option back in 2006-07.  We put it off for 10 years so far, but at the rate this community is growing, we WILL need another high school in 5 to 8 years.  Why not build it now?  We have the land.

What's it all going to cost?
The cost for an elementary school is likely around $20M including staff (another principal, office staff, more teachers, support staff).
Can we get on for less?  Yes. absolutely, but it would have to be less frilly than Creekside or Horizon.
In fact, the 2015 Annual Construction Report indicate that the MEDIAN elementary school cost in this region is $16M.  A median high school would cost about $55M.  Let's say $60M with staff.c

That means with 2 elementary schools and a high school, the tab would run $100M.
Don't you think we need to get real about this figure and start letting it sink in?

We do not have the time or energy to fiddly fart around on this.  We know what we want to do.  Yes, some will be opposed (these things are never 100% yes).  So let's work from here to get people on board for a 3-school $100M project.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

2 Out of 3 is Not Good Enough

Warning:  This material may not be suitable for over SPARCly people, or those that prefer to shrink away from matters that...well...matter.  It may be spun as bullyism, but we'll take that risk.  Because the needs of the many DO outweigh the needs of the few, or in this case, the one.

In April, we ---the collective we, the people---elected 3 brand spanking new school board members (out of 7).  Scary.  Scarier is that only 1 of the 3 had any real experience working on committees of the school board.  It's so scary that it's time to do a 6-month review of performances to date.
Now Meatloaf used to sing, "2 outta 3 ain't baaaaad".  Maybe 2 out of 3 isn't bad, but is 2 out of 3 good enough?  The 7 members of our school board are expected to work diligently and rapidly come up to speed on ALL aspects of running a school district, from financial matters, to management and operations, to hiring and deciding when t's time to let go, and to dealing with a city that has rapidly developed from its farm community roots into a multi-cultural mega-suburb of a very large capitol city.

So we elected 3 new members:

  • Marilyn Peebles Ruffin, who has several children in the upper grades, and who is a substitute teacher in the district. 
  • Marta Hansen - who has 2 young kids and whose spouse is a teacher in the district.  She is owner of a piano/music/art shop in Sun Prairie that does at least some business with the district.
  • Dave Hoekstra - has two adult children and is an engineer and Sunday school teacher.

So....right out of the chute we had some issues to deal with.  Ms. Ruffin had a conflict of interest in being on a school board and being employed by the district.  So the substitute teaching had to stop. It would also be a conflict of interest for Ms. Hansen to actively do business with the district as a board member.  At the very least, she would have to recuse herself from any votes regarding those teacher compensation.   Was that even something they thought about when they ran for office.  Neither of these two had served on any board committees, which, while not a pre-requisite, would have prepared them for the extent of time commitment required to serve on a school board.  While we're not trying to favor Mr. Hoekstra, at least he had that experience.

Being a school board member DOES require an exceptional amount of time.  To do it well, that is.  First, one needs to develop a rapid understanding and appreciation for all that goes on behind the scenes.  Being a school board member does NOT mean just sitting at a board table for 2 hours twice a month and sprinkling in a few "aye"s  once in awhile.

In addition to regular board meetings, there are board committee meetings.  At least two standing committees plus the uber-critical School Space Planning Committee meeting.  And then there are other meetings that pop up:  expulsion hearings, selecting a new district administrator, and even community-school meetings resulting from unexpected and tragic events such as the death of a former student.

Caution:  Here's where we need to start getting down (and some may say dirty).  Mr. Hoekstra and Ms. Ruffin are regular attendees at ALL these important sessions.  Ms. Hansen?  Not so much.  We get it.  She has young kids, a business, and a keen interest in music and the arts...including body art.   But she ran for and was elected to the school board.  It's long past time to get priorities in order.  We--the people-- are compensating Ms. Hansen $5,000 per year.   Newsflash...that is not for just attending (let's not even discuss preparing for) TWO board meetings a month.

In August, the school district and city held a joint meeting on gang activity in the city.  (Yes, Virginia, there ARE active youth gangs in Sun Prairie.  So sorry to upset your apple cart with that news).  All school board members were present---except for Marta Hansen.  She apparently had a very important Pop Song Singalong to attend that night.

When the School Space Planning Committee began last year, where was Ms. Hansen?  Why she  was playing the piano at Buck & Honeys.  And that happened several other times.  In fact, we haven't observed Ms. Hansen at ANY of the School Space Planning meetings!  Geee whiz, it's only the single most important happening in the district as we face OVER crowding in 6 of 7 elementary schools.  She also wasn't seen at the Meet and Greet for the new school district administrator, Dr. Brad Saron.  Way to make your prime employee feel welcome!

When we have seen Ms. Hansen at school BOARD meetings, she appears rather BORED...playing on her district-issued  iPad.  Could she be checking one of her not 1, not 2, but THREE Facebook pages? maybe time for an Open Records request of her browsing history and match it up to school board meetings!

While we appreciate the many passions, interests and commitments Ms. Hansen has in her life, all in all, we suggest that it's time for her to take stock in her life and decide whether she has enough room to commit to the school board.  If she wishes to remain on the board she needs to commit more time than she has to this point.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Editor at Bat. The Count is 2 Strikes and No Balls

I guess we thought the Sun Prairie STAR was the SPASD School Board’s newspaper of choice.  Oh wait…it is!

So why is the managing editor continuously swiping at the school board or select members?
More to the point, why is it that no one at the STAR helm seems to be doing any Fact Checking?  Hey, I found an e-mail that says, “blah blah, blah”.  Didn’t we all learn that not everything you find in emails, the Internet, or (ahem) local newsrags…is true?

We guess not.  Someone needs to set the record straight.  Since we don't have any credible journalistic presence in this town, SP-EYE will have to wade in.  Jeez…if only our local editor had just picked up the phone and called School Board president Tom Weber, perhaps there’d be much less egg on that ruddy complexion.

So… in a recent editorial, our gallant Editor threw the entire School Board under the bus, taking them to task for supporting a rally sponsored by a grass roots group called the Wisconsin Public Education Network.  For a guy so worked up about the rally, his staff had written about it in advance,

The regional pep rally gives the everyday people who care about our schools an opportunity to unite and let lawmakers know we stand together in support of the schools that are the hearts of our communities.

Is this yet another instance of the yin and yang that swirls around the editor and those closest to him?

The Single Partial Truth
SP-EYE's Fact Check arm indicates that the only partially true statement made in his editorial was the Editor’s assertion that a June 4 email correspondence indicated that the rally was "supported by the Sun Prairie Area School Board".  While that is a factual statement, the e-mail was incorrect.  It should have been stated as "School Board Members support this effort", in a more generic manner.  An e-mail sent on June 7th did not specifically state any specific support or sponsorship.  No official promotional materials for the event mentioned the Sun Prairie Area School District or School Board - in any capacity, much less sponsors or supporters.  They only said it was Wisconsin Public Education Network (WPEN) event.

We find that the Editor is correct in that if the Board officially was going to support the rally, it should have taken official action on this, as has been done previously.  No Board action was taken because the Board as a whole did not officially support the action.  Our Editor needs to remember that School Board members are still entitled to have an express their personal opinions on these and other subjects.  That is, of course, unless we missed that memo that the relevant section of the Constitutional Amendment has been trampled or repealed like other things of late.

So let’s look at how far off base Our Editor is.  He might want to start thinking about dosing his gluteous maximus in a pool PDQ.

Our editor writes, "Previous practice by the Board has been to discourage political activity by staffers and board members."  
Really?  Since when?  Got a policy to cite? 

o  The position of a board member is indeed political by the very nature that it is an elected position.
o  The board does not discourage district staffers' political activity - that in fact would be a first amendment violation (freedom of speech).  The Board DOES actually prohibit is political activity to be done on school grounds when students are present for any student involved activity.  (Same rules apply for signing nomination papers for example).  The policy hinges on the students though.
o  By statute (120.12, 120.13, and 120.44) the School Board has broad power to do "all things reasonable for the cause of education."

Our Editor writes, "...using taxpayer funded email to post its position and does this now mean staffers are free to use taxpayer subsidized resources to promote whatever agenda they see fit, even it goes against the interests of those same taxpayers?"

o    Did our Editor even review the District’s specific email policy?   Arguably, any district account holder is free to use their account in the execution of their position in the district.  This would include board members in their role as advocates for the best interest of the district and its students.
o    In a free and democratic society it is difficult to find any issue on which all taxpayers agree.  Staffers use district resources at times, in their job capacity, for things that are not supported by all taxpayers - take for instance teaching of evolution – We are certain this idea is not supported by all taxpayers, however, it's a concept that is taught using district resources. So is birth control.  And so are many other subjects.
o    And why is Our Editor suddenly interested in district e-mails?  We wonder why he hasn’t looked into the less than subtle internal e-mail campaign to discredit Erik Olson and then push the Board to hire Dr. Davis for superintendent? 

Our Editor writes, "We suspect that if the Board had planned to discuss this openly that one or more members of the public would have objected to any position being taken."

Really?  Did you really just write that?  Forgive us, but the only logical response to such a BSC statement is “No Shit, Sherlock!”

Hell, one community member appears at nearly every board meeting and objects to anything and everything related to the budget.  So what?  Remember we had ONE objection to the Maureen Mengelt Memorial and it had to be subsequently relocated?
Good grief!  WE SUSPECT that if the Board supported a motion for peace, prosperity, and happiness to each and every human being that SOMEONE would be opposed.  Well, probably a lot, with all those ISIS and Al Quaeda mofos out there!
o     Did Our Editor stop and think that there was no board meeting between the time they learned of the rally and when the rally happened.  President Weber first learned of the rally on June 1 so the only meeting scheduled was June 4th and putting it on that agenda was impractical.
o     The Board's position on this specific subject (the State budget) is not new.  The Board has now passed two separate resolutions regarding the State budget and in particular public school funding on two separate occasions.  These resolutions were then signed by Board Members and sent to legislators and the Governor.  There was not a single public comment either time those resolutions were taken up by the Board - the last one this past Monday evening, just after the rally ended.  These resolutions were noticed as part of our agenda and the language of the resolution attached to BoardDocs prior to the meeting.
o     Given that, it is doubtful that anyone would have spoken out against support of the rally (other than one Board Member who did not support the resolution).
o     This Board, and the previous Board, have been quite clear and have never wavered on our position with regard to the State budget and our funding concerns for public education.

And finally, Our Editor writes, "Without that objection, the rally appeared to be a taxpayer funded excuse to bash those in this state who are trying to reform public education..."
Taxpayer funded, Mr. Editor? 
Taxpayer funded?
 That’s about as likely as…

The rally was in NO way funded by tax dollars - or at least funded through the Sun Prairie Area School District.

SP-EYE learned that WPEN filed for a facility use permit and were granted one through the District's regular facility use process.  They were treated as a Type 4 user and are being charged $124 for the use of the field/chairs/stage/etc. If they had needed to use the gym because of weather, they would have been charged an additional $228.  They were treated just like any other Group 4 user.

Policy KG specifically states: "b. The Board encourages the use of school facilities to provide forums for the discussion of issues, including controversial issues, provided that such forums do not disrupt or interfere with the instructional programs of the schools. Authorization for use of school facilities shall not be considered as an endorsement of or approval of the activity, group, or organization, nor for the purpose it represents."

And how does Our Editor even know this?   It is our understanding from those present that the STAR was not in attendance. 

We personally find it interesting that the Star, while they promoted the event by running WPEN's press release, didn't cover the event at all in the paper - even though it was in their home town.  There were several news agencies at the event, or provided coverage, including:, Capital Times, WISCNews (Baraboo, Beaver Dam, Portage), Chippewa Herald, LaCrosse Tribune, Daily Union (Ft. Atkinson), Channel 3000, WISC-TV, NBC15, and others.  The event was also picked up nationally.

Shame on you Editor!  It’s hell getting old, but you might want to at least ATTEMPT to do some fact checking before tossing out one of your cringeworthy editorials.

Monday, May 25, 2015

STAR's "Fool's Gold" is a Fool' Errand

Guess subscriptions must be down again for the Sun Prairie STAR, because recently the STAR's managing editor. wrote an OpEd piece casting aspersions on the Sun Prairie School Board's actions...and more directly at President Tom Weber.

Chalk one more up on the list of whiners in the "Bryan Davis for Superintendent" fiasco.  Or is it that outgoing SuperNintendo Tim Culver is trying to sow as many seeds of malcontent as he can during his final weeks (can't we just put him on paid administrative leave and avoid this nonsense?).  We wonder what the good doctor's correspondence records would show.

The coconut (emphasis on "nut") telegraph tells us that our local editor-in-cheek has either filed or is planning to file a massive open records request.  When you cast a net that large, be careful what you are fishing for!  You might find that some of your buddies are far more worthy of an investigative journalism article than the school board or its President. 

Our money is on Mr. Weber and the board landing squarely on their feet.  They did what the community wanted...went through a process.  The process ended poorly.  Then they went out and found a perfect fit for our district.  Instead of crying foul, why don't you thank them?  What?  You wanted ANOTHER lengthy, time consuming process that would drag into summer when most residents are gone?   Your thought process is misfiring!  They found a perfect fit, and the board was unanimous.  Note as well that when it came to RE-considering Bryan Davis, only John Whalen was a fan (and you understand that his vote has no value...right?).  They averted a potential train wreck and turned it into a huge success story. 

In fact, even new board member Marilyn Ruffin voted against considering Mr. Davis.   You don't think THAT caused some interesting dinner conversation in the Ruffin household after Jerry Ruffin pleaded with the board, on behalf of Sun Prairie African American Parent Network (AAPN), to hire Mr. Davis? (Hi, honey,I'm home...and hey...I didn't vote to hire Davis.  Sorry!).

And we hope, Mr. Managing Editor, that if you do get those Open Records, that you'll spend as much time exposing the multitude of district staff who we are willing to bet will be discovered to have spent much staff time involved in some grass roots lobbying for Bryan Davis...all on the taxpayers' dime.  If anyone should be worried, it's those folks.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

9 1/2 Hours - When They Get Behind Closed Doors

9 1/2 Hours: The true story behind the Superintendent hire

It begins on March 24th.    This is immediately following current Columbus Superintendent Bryan Davis' candidate forum.  Internal candidate Erik Olson's forum was held the previous evening.

Two and one-half hours of discussion ensued, followed by a very specific motion by Steve Schoeder/John Whalen:  extend offers (note the plural)  to: 
--- Bryan Davis the Superintendent position and 
--- Erik Olson a Deputy Superintendent position (for strategic planning and organizational alignment) and 
to direct President Tom Weber to discuss with the candidates.

The vote was unanimous.

Then two weeks passed with no notification.  Of course, in there was spring break for Sun Prairie, as well as the Spring Elections when 3 shool board seats were up with 4 candidates including one incumbent.

On April 7th, the board met again for 2 hours and 22 minutes.  
Two critical motions were made:
The first was to offer the superintendent position to Bryan Davis.  That motion failed having only support from John Whalen.
The second motion was to offer the superintendent position to Erik Olson.   
That motion passed 6-1, with John Whalen in opposition (God love John Whalen for his fierce loyalty to the Culver regime!  It's cute; really it is).

The question is...what happened between the decision to make a tandem offer (David/ Superintendent, Olson/Deputy Superintendent and this decision?  And what about Bryan Davis declaring for all the many (???) STAR readers that no offer was ever made to him. If one digs a little, one will learn that in the world of Public Instruction, what the rest of us would call "negotiations towards making a formal contract offer" is viewed a "an offer".

We have no need to trash Dr. Davis' reputation or bona fides, but clearly the room turned dramatically against him (except for Johnny Whalen!).  Did he demand an outrageous salary?  Or were other demands simply not to the board's liking?  Or did something else come out during the background check (which--newsflash-- is a prerequisite before a contract is offered)? Perhaps we never need to know, but the vote on April 7 made it clear that Davis was no longer a viable option.

April offer is rejected.
We now now that on April 15th an offer was extended to internal candidate, who subsequently declined for personal reasons.  We don't blame him.  The behavior of district "professionals" in this who process would turn most away. If it were up to us, the district office would be raining pink slips in the not too distant future.
Two weeks later....the drama further unfolds
We now have a new school board...3 new members in fact.  At the school board meeting on Monday May 27, more district staff come out to speak the praises of Bryan Davis and for the board to hire him.  There are rumors (which, if true, can be confirmed via Open Records) that Dr. Davis was heavily lobbying for himself with key district staffers (more on that to come!).  Several community leaders also spoke, including Jerry Ruffin, whose wife Marilyn is a newly elected board member.

The April 27 closed session brought two more very key motions during a 95 minute session.
The critical motion, passing unanimously, was--interestingly enough-- what is termed a "motion n the negative.  Normally motions are made in the positive...i.e., worded in favor of something.  This motion made it clear for those that hadn't figured it out yet, that the board would NOT consider any of the candidates from the failed search.  Instead, they would go in a different direction.

The second motion direct board president Weber to bring in Dr. Bradford Saron in for an interview.  So clearly, that name materialized on the board's rada, and in a relatively short meeting, they abandoned all candidates from the initial search and went after Dr. Saron.

April 28th...success!
Just a hair over 3 hours spent interviewing Dr. Saron, the board unanimously directed president Weber to negotiate a contract with Dr Saron.

So there you have it, peeps.  These are the facts.   There was no formal contract ever offered to Dr. Bryan Davis.  In fact, the board was clearly opposed to offering one to him.  So disinclined were they that they actually made a motion in the negative to make crystal clear that the search had ended and none of the 18 applicants would be considered any further. 

We wish Dr. Davis luck in his quest to be somewhere other than Columbus.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Superintendent Saga: Whiners' ignorance makes them comfortably dumb

Boo frickin hoo!
The school board...your ELECTED leaders did what you elected them to do: they chose a superintendent.

You didn't like who they picked?
You didn't like how they did it?

Option 3: Review and Reconsider from the Previous Candidate Pool
The Board considered our options and ultimately voted unanimously not to reconsider candidates from the initial pool. Please understand, because this is a hiring process and confidentiality rules apply, we cannot necessarily share details of the conversations that took place.  However, all of the Board members agreed that this was not a viable option.
Now why would the board vote UNANIMOUSLY not to consider Dr. Davis?
He came off so well during the public forum.  Except that to some there was an uneasy feeling that one definitely should not assess this book by its cover.

It would seem that the board had some pretty compelling information that you, the whining minority did not have.  Information that indicated that Dr. Davis was definitely not what Sun Prairie is looking for.
NEWSFLASH!  You're not supposed to have closed door session information!  Hence the term "closed door".  

Now, some of you seem to believe that you are privy to conversations that went on in that room.  There's this thing called "context" though.  Maybe someone is talking outside of class. But...if you just take a single piece of information it can suggest a whole lot more than when viewed with the surrounding information.  That's called the Fox New game plan, and we're really surprised that the Sparclers adopted that as their plan.

The rumor is that Dr, Davis was offered a contract contingent upon him retaining Erik Olson.  And that the vote was unanimous.  Not sure how it works in SPARCle-Land, but in our world, a "contract" means a firm offer with a salary, and clear contract terms signed by at least the board president.   And if he were offered a contract, don't you think he'd be here?

Unless you are one of the 7 board members or Dr. Davis, YOU DO NOT KNOW THE FULL STORY.
Perhaps the rumored "vote" was simply to open up discussions with Dr. Davis.  Certainly, if his salary demands were $500K per year, the decision would be a no-brainer...right?
Claims that Board President Tom Weber is lying to the public just sound so uninformed and juvenile.  Time to call the frickin' WHHAAAAAmbulance.

We suspect the unanimous vote was designed to see whether even the framework of  contract could be agreed upon.  Maybe the board learned that Dr. Davis wanted to work only Monday Wednesdays and Friday with no evenings or weekends.
Again...we don't know...and neither do you.  So be like Elsa and Let it Go.

The Chippewa Falls School District has an enrollment of over 5100.  That's about 3.5 times the size of Columbus, much more in line with Sun Prairie.  If one takes the time to read his curriculum vitae, Dr. Saron also seems to mesh very well with the structure, framework, and vision that the school board has worked so hard to build over the last few years (yet another thing---AHEM!--- that Culver should have done without cattle prodding).

Wouldn't you WANT the board to hire a superintendent that fits the vision, mission, and structure that we've built?

In the end, the list of candidates was whittled to 2.  The school board voted UNANIMOUSLY to extend an offer to Erik Olson.  For whatever reasons--it's NOYFB--he opted to decline the offer.  You do not HAVE to go to your number two.  It's like Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf.  Don't you think San Diego would love to forget they ever took Leaf?  There's Peyton Manning or nobody else on that list.  Manning declined.  Give kudos to the school board who listened to you very carefully.  You wanted a quality superintendent to be hired quickly and you did not want an interim" superintendent.

They did just about getting past yourselves and give them a round of applause.

So...enough of this crap.  It is done.  We hired a damn fine superintendent.

Readers Write: THIS is Lack of Accountability 101

Sometimes we can just leave it in the hands of our readers who know way more than we do...
This is precisely why Tim Culver had to go.  In fact, if we had our way, we'd send him packing early.  Good luck Oak Creek-Franklin!

You just can't make this shit up, people, truth IS stranger than fiction.  Enjoy this...we certainly did.

Dear SP-EYE,
Perhaps you noticed the district's $40K renovated varsity soccer field is not looking so good?  

Outside grass included to emphasize the piss poor field quality
Why yes...yes we did notice (after you pointed it out)!

Credible sources close to this issue have revealed that:
  • The lead grounds worker has not turned on the water so that the field can be irrigated.  I'm sure that is a difficult task, you know, opening the valve and all!  Not sure this would really matter because the irrigation heads put more water on the track than the grass...but I'm sure that has been resolved with the installation of the proper heads (sarcasm intended).  BTW has the district installed the irrigation booster pump that they budgeted for a few years back to ensure proper water pressure to irrigate efficiently?  We think NOT!
Q: How many SPASD  groundsworkers does it take to open a single valve?
A:  Apparently more than we have on staff.
  • The PE programs at the high school use that field exclusively over the other outdoor fields in the athletic complex.  And why not, with a newly renovated field why would anyone want to use the lesser quality JV soccer field that has not been renovated (that's another story) or the practice fields behind the varsity soccer field?  They are not as nice and they are another 50 feet farther from the PE door to the school! 
Good lord, you really want to make our kids exercise? [SP-EYE snarkiness intended]
  •  After $20K in drill&fill treatment to the JV baseball field why cant PE classes use that outfield?  After all, former AD Jimmy Mac, in his attempt to get that field renovated, argued that the field was really a PE field and should be renovated so that it could drain better, hence the drill&fill.  On a related matter, if all our fields are PE fields, why isn't Ashley Field used for PE programs at PPA or CHUMS? We wouldn't want to get Coach BK Football mad because someone was using "his" field for something other than the 5 football games he has in the fall now would we?  
Ouch!  Was that a direct blow to the knees of everything that is football in Sun Prairie?  Wasn't us!!!!

  • The track team practices on the field and was doing so even before the athletic fields were "released" for spring sports.
  • Whatever happened to rotating the use of fields?  Why would we want to do that because it would make too much sense.  
  • A recent request to increase Buildings & Grounds staff to better deal with this and many other related issues got absolutely no support from outbound District Administrator Timmy Culver and his management team.  
Caren Diedrich is infamous for declaring, "I don't want to see one damn hole in one damn roof!".   We wonder how she feel about blowing $40K on a field and then outright murdering it?

SP-EYE, it looks like you need to get back to exposing the districts ineptness.  Sadly, we seem to be slipping back into our old ways. 

You've been slippin' into darknessPretty soon you gonna pay---War
This one falls squarely on the shoulders of Doctor Timmy and his travelling management team.  We get it.  Education is a priority.  But at the end of the day, taking care of the buildings and grounds is a priority too.  We're quite certain that Erik Olson and Jeff Butler made things abundantly clear and prepared quality and verifiable documentation.  But yet, their proposal got no love at the budget planning table.  You can only hang Tim Culver for this.  Add it to his Pandora's legacy box.  A 1-to-1 computer plan is an awesome goal/vision, but couldn't we go 1.5 or 1.75-to-1 and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars spent on fields?

There's a committee in place now working on a plan for school space that could involve 1,2, or even 3 new schools and a likely $80-$100 MILLION dollar referendum.  THIS is how we want to show the community we take care of our stuff?

The Reader writes right.
Fix it people!!!!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Desperation Sun Prairie: What Part of 'Failed Search' Don't You Get?

The superintendent/ school district administrator position was offered to one of the finalists, who was not Dr. David from Columbus.
The offer was declined.  And we totally get that.
So why are we hearing MORE rumors (confidence is high; we repeat, confidence is high) that Dr. Davis has been reaching out via e-mail to both school board members, district staff, and even community residents?

Newsflash:  All this is easily discoverable via an open records request.  The difference between rumpr and fact is what you can prove.  We may just do that to offer proof, to show you rumor-mongers what an actual fact looks like.

So, it appears that SOMEONE is at DesperationCon 1.

We have so very many questions about what transpired during lat March/early April...and so should you.

Question #1: if an offer was made to Dr. Davis, as has been rumored, why was he not hired and instead an offer made to "the other guy"?

Question #2: Once the other guy turned it down, why didn't the board go back to Dr. Davis?

Deductive reasoning would tell us that there was something....or some things...that soured the board on the Columbus Superintendent.  

  • Did he demand some unfathomable know like the $175-200K club?
  • Was he requesting "absolute power" like Elliot in E.T. the Extraterrestrial?
  • Or was there some other as yet unrevealed  BSC requirement/condition that piqued the board?
  • Or after not 1, not 2, but at least 3 failed attempts at getting another job, is Columbus eager to help him on his way?  (How happy would your boss be if you were in the public eye applying for many positions?)

Question #3:  Why is this guy peppering the board, district staff, and ostensibly key community members with his resume and continued interest?  Doesn't that sound a bit like, "nobody wants me; think I'll go eat worms?"

Is Dr. Davis doing the Desperation Samba?
Don't know where i'm goin'I don't like where i've beenThere may be no exitBut hell i'm going in
---Jimmy Buffett, "Desperation Samba"
The bottom line here is this thing smells funny and noone should be eating it.  Someone needs to get through to Dr. Davis and respectfully suggest that he be more like Elsa and just "Let it Go".

Saturday, April 18, 2015

SPASD: Of Bullyism, Rumormongering, and Juvenile Threats

The SP-EYE signal was spotted and acknowledged.
We warned you.
SP-EYE went into semi-retirement because things were in good hands.
The district was moving forward after years of being stuck in neutral under the inattentive "command" of SuperNintendo Culver.
And then, after Culver did the TubeSteak Boogie, a process was enacted to replace him.

And now a bunch of rumor-mongering bullies of the adult kind has to go and stomp their feet and whine.

Just our cup o' tea!  W love to deal with backstabbing MFs who respond only to rumors!

Yep...we heard the bitching.  We heard the brazen group that chose to speak at the school board meeting of April 13, 2015.
You know what we heard?  A bunch of passive aggressive bullies.
Employees of the district and those more cowardly ones, that could somehow coerce someone else to speak up, talked about the "internal candidate" finalist for school district administrator position.
Really?...did you people listen to yourselves?
Yours was a brazen act of bullyism that, had it been directed to your children, you would be hellbent for leather.
Were you so clever to plan that if you were vocal enough you might get the "internal candidate" to withdraw from contention?
In any case, somehow (no facts are available people) the process ended in a failed search, So now the NEW school board, with 3 new members will be starting at square one.   July 1 comes fast folks, too fast to complete a new search.  So how is THAT good for "the children"?

Oh, but we could go on for hours; instead lets focus on some of the more interesting ruors that have been propped up to be fact:

RUMOR:  The process was complete before it started.  The board had their person all along.
Really?  You think those people went through the exhausting process they did if that were the case?
You haven't been taking your meds, have you?
Let's remember that the board consists of 7 members.  If there were 4 votes to do such a thing, don't you thing they just would have gone ahead and skipped the search and done that?  Not even a board from, say, 9 years ago would have done that.
So, your theory is they went through all the time, wasted all the search and review committees' time, only to keep pushing their candidate to the top.   Seriously, you should write for Hollywood, that story is better than the plot of most films in the last 6 months.

RUMOR:  The internal candidate is not licensed.
Maybe it's true, maybe it isn't.  But what IS true is that a school board can request an emergency license for someone close to finishing their requirements for up to a year...and it can be extended!
And what do you suppose would have happened over the past school year if Dr. Culver had been hit by a bus?  The "Assistant" superintendent would have stepped in...right?  And that would have been fine.
You may want to check some facts---there's a novel thought!---and see if (A) this is even true, and (B) if it is, is it just a single class that's needed?
We find it very hard to believe that the application would have even been considered if having the necessary licensure was an issue.

Statement:  How can you hire someone that has no superintendent experience?.
Newsflash people, the good Dr. Culver had never been a "superintendent" before we hired him here.
His prior position was ASSISTANT Superintendent/Direct of Instruction.... the position held by Alice Murphy for years, and now by Stephanie Leonard-Witte
 Geee... who was on that school board that hired Dr. Culver???  Shame on them!

How exactly does one get to be a superintendent without ever having been one?  It's a finite pool, people!  If it's never refreshed, then eventually it dries up.  Have none of you hired someone fresh out of school or who has the qualifications but not the absolute experience? Someone that fit like a glove otherwise?  Really?  If that's the case, this community is, indeed, doomed.

Oh...and her's another newsflash.  The "other" external candidate comes from a district about 20% of the size of Sun Prairie.  Yep... that whole district of students could fit comfortably in the high school here.   How qualified does that make HIM to run Sun Prairie? And given his field of study and aspirations (just look where he applied), do you really think he'd stay in Sun Prairie long enough to even be able to define "making a difference" let alone actually make one?  There were quite a few support staff, teachers, and a majority of community members that saw SPASD as nothing but a very temporary lily pad for that frog.  Oh that's right...they don't count.

False statements/conclusions about the candidate pool.
It seems some people are spouting non-truths that the pool consisted only on in-state candidates, and it was unacceptably small.
First, the statement that there were no out-of-state candidates is flat out wrong.
Second, if you find 18 applicant "embarrassing" then perhaps you should catch up on news instead of gossiping with disgruntled school district staff.  Perhaps you would have heard about our Governor, Act 10, and his proposed school cuts in the 2015-2017 budget!
Think that MIGHT have something to do with it.
Also, you whiny-ass types tend to speak without any real information,  We actually received MORE applicants than other districts.

Flat out myth regarding the screening process
Some are accusing the board (and then passing it on as factual) that the board ignored the input of the selection committee?!!!
Really?  We're not hearing anybody who actually served on that committee saying such things.
And where we these concerns when May Ellen Havel-Lang and Caren Diedrich just tossed aside the work of the last Boundary Change committee?  Huh?
You want to know what's egregious?  It's that you frickin' people pushing this flat out fiction are completely disrespecting the many people who took part in this process.

"Word on the street" is so very sadly out of touch with reality.

RUMOR: support staff, professional teaching staff, most district staff, and a majority of the community believe that Mr.Davis was the ONLY qualified candidate.
Wow!  Sounds like you held your own mini-referendum.  Got any data to support that?  
We thought as much.
Sure, we've heard some grumbling.  But the grumbling we've been hearing is coming from a very small subset of DO workers that are scared to death that "Culver time" is over and they will be held accountable to earn those fat salaries that have been bestowed upon them.  Oh...and these folks know who they are.  
During "Culver time", if people didn't like the job they were responsible for, they were allowed to do whatever they preferred to do.   Things didn't get done.  We had the Athletics Direct/athletic fees fiasco.  SOSP has ruled the roost.  Our buildings & grounds group was a shambles.  Gee...who hired the guy that has re-built that group for success.  Oh yeah...that's right...our "internal candidate".We've had piss poor data presented to the public.  There are o MANY other examples, wbut we drink to forget those.

So we're in he minority for wanting to see that chapter closed?  
Yep, we can live with that.  There's a lot of dead wood that needs to green up or face the chopping block in our eyes.

RUMOR: Mr.Davis was told by the board president that " he was our man" but he needed to find a spot on his staff for Mr.Olson.
Oh puh...LEEZ!  That sounds like one of two things: a disgruntled finalist who's pitching a hissy fit because he didn't get the job, or something one would seed to shake the confidence of Mr. Olsen.
We call that bullyism, people.  Its wrong, and it's way more shameful than anything this school board has done.
And if Mr. Davis shared those concerns with someone from the public, then we can tell you that he is DEFINITELY not a guy we want to hire.  We might want someone that can keep things in confidence...just sayin'.
And if someone on the board shared this from what would have had to have been a closed session, that board member (are you listening Caren Diedrich?) should face censure.

It even goes so far that some people are saying that the board was going to create a new position for Erik Olson.  Newsflash, people, he already IS the number two person in the district (and we don't recall any alarm about that).  Does anyone really think there's a position between #1 and #2?  #1A?   #1.5?

FACT:  People are expressing concerns to the school board based on second (and third or fourth hand) information.
Good grief, people!!!!   You need more schooling than our kids.  Its called the telephone game. You know...if you want to get a message out, there are 3 ways to do it:  TELephone, TELL the Communications Manager, and TELL Caren Diedrich.

No matter who you tell, the message blurs along the way.

THREAT of a recall election (if Mr. Olson is hired)
The general public is already clueless about what it takes to be a school board member, but you really failed civics if you think this is more than an empty, childish threat.

Newsflash, geniuses.  State statute requires a petition containing signatures equal to 25% of the votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election for EACH recalled candidate.  And you need to do it in 60 days.  That number would be roughly 6650 signatures.  And THAT is just to hold an election!  
Oh, you people make us laugh!

Brash Statement: The only qualification the internal candidate is that he's a drinking buddy of the board president.
Now you are making serious accusations of both an elected official and a top school official.   You better have some facts to back that up or a damn good lawyer.
This is so juvenile, uncalled for, inappropriate, we're not even going to waste words on it.

We can say one thing though.  If a school board leader has a strong enough working relationship with a district administrator that they might have a drink together to unwind after a meeting, can you find any room for the possibility of seeing that as a good thing?  There are lot of contentious issues we are facing, and it just might be a good thing for the board to have a solid relationship with the superintendent.

But to dare suggest that going out for a drink or two is the only qualification of the "internal candidate" is unintelligent, ill-informed, and just plain asinine.
OK...we spared a few syllables..

Shame on all you fucking people who are engaging in a massive --- in what doesn't even qualify as thinly veiled---- attack on Mr. Olson and his family.  He's done nothing but work his butt off and effected positive change for the past 2 years.  

You know what?  Good luck to you all.   You sow shit and you will reap nothing but shit.  oh yeah....and notice to school board members.....

Someone is talking outside the close sessions (Caren Diedrich)!

You might wanna get the pruning shears and nip that bud.   

Monday, December 22, 2014

Dr. Tim is Doin' the TubeSteak Boogie

This was worth re-opening the SP-EYE blog.
7 or more years ago, we felt that Dr. Culver had exceeded his usefulness to the district....that he just couldn't take us to the next level. And so Sun Prairie sputtered.  Of course it didn't help having a School Board that fawned over the good doctor and kowtowed to his every whim.

But that all changed.
One by one, board members were replaced at election time until we had 5 members that actually put away the rubber stamps,  opened their eyes, did their homework, and held Dr Culver--and his staff-- accountable.

As the saying goes, if you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.  And do Dr. C is boogieing out of Sun Prairie after this school year.  Seems like maybe the kitchen got a little overheated???

What we find interesting, though, is that his note indicates that he is "retiring" from Sun Prairie.  Really?  We don't recall seeing any such notification.   And why does one retire only to (obviously) seek another position in a smaller district?  Isn't that what you'd call "double dipping"??? But you know what....that's Oak Creek's issue to deal with now.  And perhaps the good doctor will be more successful in a smaller district.
"Dr. Culver writes, "It is with mixed emotions I share with you that I will retire from the Sun Prairie Area School District at the end of this school year.  I have tremendously enjoyed the challenge of being a leader...."
If he indeed is retiring, then he must have saved his annual 16,000,000 pennies well, because the Wisconsin retirement system doesn't pay very well with only 17 years in.  20 years is another milestone and a much better pension.   Perhaps he's simply going to milk the Creek for 3 years???

Did you know, by the way, that the average tenure of a "superintendent" in Wisconsin is 4 to 7 years?  They simply outlive their ability to continue effecting change in a district.

In any event, here's to the School Board for running the kitchen like Gordon Ramsey.