Saturday, December 6, 2008

Diss. Engine. You. Us.

What's that mean? Exactly!
And that's exactly what we thought when we read the article in the 12-4-08 edition of the Sun Prairie Star regarding the District's SAGE program compliance. What does that mean?

Sound out the words "Diss. Engine You. Us" and you get: disingenuous. And that's exactly what that article presented to the community. A disingenuous monologue by District Administrator Tim Culver designed to discredit the question asked by district resident John Welke at a recent joint meeting of the school board's Education & Policy and Finance committees.
Look up "disingenuous" in your favorite dictionary and you'll find that it means:

Lacking in candor; giving a false appearance of simple frankness.
Generally, it means "insincere" and often represents a synonym of
cynical or calculating.

Check your handy thesaurus and you'll find:

Not being what one purports to be. Marked by treachery or deceit.

We all thought we were done with the constant barrage of double-speak in the form of presidential blitzkrieg ads. Not so. This article is full of double-speak.

Culver keeps asserting that Sun Prairie is in compliance. He's right...for this year (2008-09). As of the 3rd Friday count, none of the SAGE classrooms exceeded 15 kids. This year. That statement cannot be made for years 2006 and 2007, however. (For argument sake, let's even get past the SAGE program "changes" prior to 2006.

Rules are rules and the law is the law. Dr. Culver can rationalize things all he wants, but in the end, statutes and administrative code drive the system.

Ch. 118, Wis. Stats., "General School Operations":

118.43(1) Definitions. In this section:
(a) "Class size" means the number of pupils assigned to a regular classroom teacher on the 3rd Friday of September.
[That means 15.0 PER class,period.]

118.43 Achievement guarantee contracts; state aid.
(3) Contract requirements. Except as provided in pars. (am) and (ar), an achievement guarantee contract shall require the school board to do all of the following in each participating school:

(ar) Class size; additional contracts. For contracts that begin in the 2000-01 school year, reduce each class size to 15 in the following manner:
3. In the 2002-03 to 2004-05 school years, in at least grades kindergarten to 3.

s. PI 24.03, Wis. Admin. Code, "STATE AID FOR ACHIEVEMENT GUARANTEE CONTRACTS AND PARTIAL DEBT SERVICE REIMBURSEMENT"(4) The department may not pay aid to school districts under this subchapter if the school district does not comply with the requirements under this subchapter.

So, Yes, Virginia, Dr. Culver is correct that Sun Prairie is in compliance with SAGE requirements...THIS YEAR. But that is not completely truthful in previous years. Remember the old "the truth, the WHOLE truth, and nothing but the truth" thing? DPI may not have consistently enforced the provisions of the law in years past, but that does NOT mean that we were in compliance. The fact that DPI may be "looking the other way" does not give us carte blanche authority to disregard the law. Read between the lines of the DPI representative's statements in the article, and you'll see there's waffle room in what was stated.

Also read the letter from DPI. You decide what it means or does not mean.

"Higher ups" at DPI were contacted by members of the public to ask VERY SPECIFIC questions regarding the compliance issues. Here are the answers that were obtained:

"To my knowledge, there is no specific State Statue or Administrative Code that
exempts a school district from filing for a waiver when out of compliance with
SAGE requirements prior to 2006.

The district files the waiver. A waiver could be "initiated" in a myriad of ways - a teacher asking his/her principal to request one, a citizen could ask the school board to file one, a school principal could ask his superintendent to file one after consulting DPI folks, etc. The bottom line is the district files it.

if a district is not in compliance, the contract may be terminated, which means the district would not be in the program, which means funding would cease."

Perhaps what's most alarming here is Dr. Culver's venomous attempt to malign the credibility of a citizen that brought forward a valid concern. Ulterior motives? How about, the citizen (John Welke) truly embraces the value of the SAGE program (Geee...Dr. Culver forgot to mention the accolades that Welke had for SAGE and Director of Instruction, Alice Murphy). He was concerned that Sun Prairie was not in complete compliance with the law and feared that SAGE aid funds were in jeopardy.

Dr. Culver and the School Board: Why must you choose to tear down a resident instead of just doing the very simple task of following the law? If you have even ONE K-3 classroom with more that 15 kids on the 3rd Friday, then file a waiver! You may not WANT to do the extra work, but that's what the law says. It's kind of like paying taxes...none of us love paying them every year, but we do. be completely accurate here, we really should say that MOST of us pay our taxes on time.

Our apologies Mr. Welke for having been treated as you were at the Finance/ Ed& Policy meeting, and then again for how this article suggests that you have no idea what you are talking about. You were right then, and still are today. Take solace in knowing that there ARE members of this community that aren't so easily snowed by those that are masters of doublespeak.