Saturday, February 14, 2009

Boom Boom Boom...Out Go the Lights?

Ok... time for audience participation.
Raise your hand if you heard Phil Frei on TV 2 weeks ago --or read about him in the paper--saying that economic stimulus money (which will now soon be arriving) would pay for (drum roll) lights for the athletic fields at the new high school?

Read the article
Play the video

School Security, Baseball Lighting Top Sun Prairie's Stimulus Wish List
District Could Potentially Get $2.2 Million
UPDATED: 9:29 am CST February 3, 2009

Phil Frei, the deputy district administrator and the man in charge of business operations for the district said:
"There's always those things we do, then there are those things we wish we could do but don't always have the funding for so those are the things it will help out with."
Frei said on the top of the Sun Prairie list is lighting for the new baseball and softball fields and track. 2/3/09
Surely, lights for athletic fields was not what the president had in mind with this package!

What a difference 2 weeks make
Fast forward to this week's edition of the STAR. No mention of lights here!
2-12-09 STAR article on the stimulus package and Sun Prairie
"I understand the construction part of it. We can spend that money fairly quickly on construction," Frei said. "Our primary thing would be fixing the entrances to all the elementary and middle schools. So they have secured entrances like we do at Horizon and Creekside, and like the new high school and upper middle school will have."
We agree that security is most definitely in the best interests of all the kids and is what the stimulus package is all about. We've spoken with a number of folks in the district as well to hear their ideas for the stimulus money. Two recurring themes that come up are to make some much needed changes to the SOAR (Alternative Learning Center) and to make some changes to improve safety and the learning environment at Royal Oaks elementary. It's amazing what quality input district residents could provide to the school district and the school board--if only the board majority cared to listen.

Of course, a question we have is: Why the change in approach? Why were lights on the athletic fields suddenly not on "top of our wish list"? We didn't hear this discussed publicly at a board when was it discussed? And...who gave the order to "tone down the lights on the athletic fields" statements? [ You ordered the lights out, didn't you, Colonel?! You're $#@% right I did!!!! ] Did it come from the board? Or Culver all on his own? Conspiracy theorists might suspect that this may have been an inappropriate topic for discussion at the close of one of those frequent "closed sessions" to expel a student or discuss personnel issues. [ If an issue that doesn't meet the criteria for closed sessions is discussed during a closed session, and there's no one from the public to hear it, has a violation of Open Meetings Laws occurred? ] And to think the board wonders why people are concerned about violations of open meetings laws!

SP-EYE: Sometimes we forget that school board members aren't endowed with special powers to have the right ideas on everything. All they did to sit at the big table is obtain 100 signature and manage to be elected....or selected as replacements.

Are lights needed on the new fields? Absolutely. Is the federal economic stimulus money really the right thing to be using for that purpose? We don't think so. But again, if only the school board would ask a few of its own teachers or residents, we're pretty sure that we could come up with a plan to get lights on those fields.

Factoid of the week: how many district residents knew that Royal Oaks elementary school is one of the last remaining "open" schools in the state (if not the country)? That's hard walls between any of the classrooms! Bookshelves and bulletin boards serve as natural room dividers.