Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Other Side of the Fence - Climate Change Hitting Sun Prairie?

Has anyone else noticed that over the past year or so, our school board is slowly showing signs of reality? There has been a subtle shift, starting with the spring 2010 election. We've gone from a 7-0 board of rubber stampers, who simply smile for the camera, speak in superlatives, and bow to each and every desire of Dr. Culver and his Administration.

Over time, however, we've seen more and more split votes. Recently, we've seen a spate of 4-3 votes coming down on the side that the majority of the community supports. Is this the new norm? Unfortunately, when the vote is 4-3, SOMEONE needs to be the swing vote. That individual rides the fence until forced to commit to one side or the other. Our fence sitter is none other than Terry Shimek. The swing vote holder becomes the most powerful individual on a split board. One side or another may try to sway them outside of the public eye. Anyone wonder how many calls on Shimek's cellphone have come from Whalen or McCourt recently?

Shimek represents the swing vote because he has had such a fascination for waffles over the past year. Listen to him during board discussion and he leans one direction, only to inevitably vote the opposite. He could play Harvey Dent in the next Batman film. Shimek claims to be a fiscal conservative and for the most part poses logical questions in response to budget initiatives. What we need to figure out is how to keep him on that track.

Case in Point: The Human Resources Specialist position
Shimek waffled quite a bit during the lengthy discussion phase(s) of this issue. When pressed, he voted in favor of staying a vote. Ultimately, however, when John Welke made the motion heard round the district, Shimek was all in.

This past week, however, we learned that the district believed that even though they have decided not to fill the Human Resources position, they still get to keep--and spend-- the $75,000 earmarked for the position ion the 2011-12 budget. Excuse us! But what part of "NO NEW MONEY" did Culver, Frei, and McCourt not understand?

Motion & Voting

Hire up to 1.0 FTE, 260 days per year, Human Relations and Recruitment Specialist as soon as practical using the approved job description. This position would be a "project position" expiring at the end of FY 2012-13 unless specifically reauthorized by the School Board after January 1, 2013. This position would be in the Administrative Support Staff group with a salary not to exceed $55,016 ($26.45 per hour) per school year with funding coming only from grants and/or existing or reallocated administrative or administrative support staff FTE.
Motion by John M Welke, second by Terry Shimek.
Final Resolution: Motion Carried 3-2
Yea: David Stackhouse, John M Welke, Terry Shimek
Nay: Caren Diedrich, John Whalen

Now it sounds as if McCourt and Culver have been plotting to re-consider the position again. Do these people EVER lose graciously? The community heard discussion, and the district made it abundantly clear that they are not willing to sacrifice anything to have this position that is as the top of their want list. Could it be that even THEY don't think that one position is going to solve the cultural disparity in this district? And if they decide they don't want the position, they still want to spend the $75,000!!!! Terry Shimek seemed to be waffling again, as his comments seemed to be moving to support either re-considering the position or allowing the district to spend the $75,000 elsewhere. That's not being fiscally responsible. We've seen over $1M in surplus in each of the past 2 years despite "tight" economic times. No bloodflow has been staunched by belts being overly tightened.

The Rubber Stamp Gang
The "old guard", who've never heard a Culver recommendation they didn't love, consists of Caren Diedrich, John Whalen, and Jim McCourt. These folks so live in fear of being labeled "micro-managers", that they leave everything up to Culver. If he says the district needs it, they're conductors on his train. They seem to believe that if they do not vote "YES" in support of every district desire, that quality of education in Sun Prairie will shrivel raisin.

The Voices of Reason
Then we have the "new blood", consisting of Jill Camber Davidson, John Welke, and now Tom Weber. These people LISTEN to the community, carefully WEIGHT the benefits of any district request against the costs of such a move, without compromising the quality of education provided.

The Man in the Middle
That leaves Mr. Shimek. It's gotta be painful straddling the fence like that. Where will he come down?