Conservatives Wish To Politicize Mequon-Thiensville School District With Needless School Board Recall

If you have not been following the news from the Mequon-Thiensville School District you have missed one of the more troubling events facing those who are elected to serve on a school board. Four members of the board are facing recall elections in November. 

And all the for sake of undermining faith in our local institutions.

Wendy Francour, Erik Hollander, Akram Khan, and Chris Schultz are now facing an attempt to hijack a local school board by a group of people in the community who are just as willing to spread misinformation as they would cheese on a pizza. What has occurred over the recent weeks with this recall is another example of the lowest common denominator seeking to undermine facts and logic.

Why this matter finds concern on this Madison blog is that this recall effort epitomizes the larger threat to our democracy that has played out around the nation. Not only does the usual quackery emerge about mask mandates, vaccine shots, and a disdain for dealing with racism through the curriculum but more importantly the willful sowing of seeds to undermine our institutions. In this case, a duly elected school board is falsely branded, and the skills of the board members derided, so the faith in the electorate is undermined.

The post here is about the Mequon-Thiensville School District but the fact is this modus operandi is taking place around the nation. Hence, the larger threat to democracy.

Without actual problems so to reasonably force a recall the angry ones have stirred the larger community into believing that something untoward and outlandish has taken place by the board. It has not, of course.

But if enough false charges can be lodged from the continually resentment-filled (echoes of 2016 presidential election) then chaos can ensure, a recall can emerge, and who knows that can happen! That is the game plan of these conservatives.

So from that perspective, this recall is one that has eyes on it from all over. After all, a partisan-inspired hijacking of this type should never be allowed.

The attempt by those to take over the board by the use of politically based rhetoric runs counter to the data-driven requirements that board members need to operate under so to make sure a school is as effective in education as possible.

It should be noted that the Mequon-Thiensville School District now scores an 89.5% out of 100% rating. That is not some ranking that the board created for its own purposes, but rather the result of data collected and analyzed from the Wisconsin Department of Education.

The Mequon-Thiensville School District Significantly Exceeds Expectations on the 2018-19 School Report Cards issued in November 2019 by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

It might seem easy to think this school board matter is happening ‘over there’ and does not need to register across the state. But the fact is this tactic used by those who harbor resentments against different aspects of our larger pluralistic society are using every means they can to upend our working institutions.

All eyes need to be on this recall effort, and work to see that it fails.

And so it goes.

Lawsuits To Force Wisconsin Schools To Abide By CDC COVID Guidelines

When it comes to pursuing a much-needed goal, be it statewide or nationally, I firmly believe in using every arrow in the quiver to achieve success. When it comes to stopping the spread of COVID-19 I double down on that strategy.

Today I was alerted to another avenue to safeguard Wisconsin’s schoolchildren and stem the spread of the virus that has impacted the lives of too many families and undermined our economy with closed businesses and scores of unemployed workers.

The Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC has decided they can best secure the health of state students and the larger communities in a legal move that is not just gutsy. But justified in every sense of the word. The PAC will sue every school board in Wisconsin that doesn’t follow CDC guidelines to protect the spread of Covid in schools.

This is no timid, let’s start small and see how it goes strategy.

On Wednesday, the first lawsuit was filed in Wisconsin’s Eastern District against the Waukesha School District alleging children who’ve been wearing masks have contracted COVID-19 because their classmates are going to school unmasked while having symptoms. The Waukesha School Board voted May 12 to end many of their COVID-19 mitigation policies including universal masking.

The PAC stated that this was the first case to be filed as “we met the plaintiffs in Waukesha first”.

Taking the case straight into the lion’s den is of value. The Waukesha School District is nothing but shameless with all sorts of COVID-related policies. Their disdain for the free lunch program for students is one that caught my ire this summer.

Kirk Bangstad, founder of the Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC stated his reasoning for this series of lawsuits.

“Our goal all along was to bring a class action lawsuit against all school districts in Wisconsin that weren’t protecting kids, teachers, and communities, but we had to start somewhere…”

The surge in the Delta variant, the lackadaisical nature of too many people not being vaccinated, especially in rural counties, and the absurd politicization of the virus by right-wing media demands that someone stand up for the children. You know, the ones who rely on adults to make sound decisions.

Thankfully, Bangstad is one of the good guys who appreciates science, facts, and reason. CP will be following the legal progress of these cases, knowing they are of importance to our society.

And so it goes.



COVID Aid Used For School Sports Programs, Whitewater Academics Second Place To Turf Fields

While a strong advocate of government funding and the muscle that comes with programming meant to make a difference in the nation, I am also lamenting once again the lack of needed requirements on spending such money.

The lead paragraph in the Associated Press story woke me up Wednesday morning almost as fast as a cup of French Roast.

One Wisconsin school district built a new football field. In Iowa, a high school weight room is getting a renovation. Another in Kentucky is replacing two outdoor tracks — all of this funded by the billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief Congress sent to schools this year.

No one needs to be reminded of the concern felt around the country when schools needed to close to stem the spread of COVID-19. Scores of national stories were reported about the shortcomings of virtual learning, the slower pace of learning, and the loss for some students of basically a year in their education.

When the federal government stepped in with a large package of funds to address the pandemic and specifically schools which were severely impacted most people were pleased with the efforts.

When school officials in Whitewater, Wisconsin, learned they would be getting $2 million in pandemic relief this year, they decided to use most of it to cover their current budget, freeing up $1.6 million in local funding to build new synthetic turf fields for football, baseball and softball.

Athletics officials in the district of 1,800 students said the project was sorely needed to replace fields prone to heavy flooding. They touted the federal money as a chance to solve the problem without asking local taxpayers for funding.

“If we don’t do it now with this money, I’m not sure when we would ever do something like this,” athletic director Justin Crandall told the school board in May. “I don’t see us being a district that would go to a referendum for turf fields.”

Two school board members objected, with one raising concerns that just $400,000 was being used to address student learning loss — the minimum to meet a requirement that at least 20% goes toward that purpose.

The board approved the plan over those objections, and the new football field had its grand opening in September. District Superintendent Caroline Pate-Hefty declined to answer questions about the project.

Call me old-fashioned but athletic programs in schools should come in far behind the core reason we build classrooms and hire teachers. The academic mission should be front and center. Following what took place in schools nationwide in 2020 there should not be any district that fails to understand the first order of business is to get every child to the level they need to be at so as to advance further with learning.

Regardless of the state or school district, we should not need to read that coaches or athletic directors are number-crunching to see how federal funds in a pandemic can be used. Prioritizing sports programs over the academic needs of the students is a larger problem than just turfs over textbooks.

This is an example as to why there are always problems with large government programs, and it should bother all of us. As a liberal, I fully appreciate the power of government to act for the needs of the moment. Such robust legislative actions, as the COVID funding bills, do have a real meaningful impact. Many people needed and received a variety of assistance.

But it is also clear that large funded programs often are marred by problems due to too few restrictions, and when that happens it makes for a lack of confidence among the populace for future moments when needs arise. That is why it is essential for those of us who align with an active and robust central government to then demand the implementation of programs be as reflective of the original goal as can be attained.

In Congress, lawmakers from both parties say it’s wrong to use the money on sports. Democrats say it’s not what it was meant for, while Republicans say it’s a sign it wasn’t needed.

And so it goes.

Anti-Vaxxer Vexations

I am truly tired of hearing the ‘woes’ and “hardships’ of those in the nation who complain about being subjected to vaccine and mask mandates. I have had my fill of hearing the ‘put upon’ who disdain science throwing public fits at restaurants and school board meetings.

While I much enjoy making election prognostications as balloting nears, I could never have predicted the complete breakdown in common-sense and reasoning as we have witnessed this year regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

I am not alone in being frustrated by the anti-vaxxers who have cheated the nation out of truly enjoying this summer, undermining the economy, and continuing the stress and fatigue of emergency room doctors and nurses.

This morning WGN radio news reported how deeply held the angst is over those who simply deny facts, and work to further the pandemic.

A new survey, commissioned by CoinStar, finds one in eight Americans plan on skipping holiday shopping for family and friends who do not share the same COVID-19 opinions as them.

These types of polls are not new.

A survey of 1,000 Americans – conducted by OnePoll on Sept. 2 – examined why people have ended friendships in the last year and a half. Results show 16 percent of respondents have axed three pals from their lives since the pandemic began in March 2020.

It does not take this blogger to state the obvious. There is just no reasoning with those blinded to the wisdom of the vaccine. There is no convincing anyone who has made their decision based on partisanship–and I have no way to wrap my mind around making a medical decision based on party politics. There is no way to move one towards reasoning when they are wedded to an odd and outlandish set of conspiracy theories.

Many of us over the past months of sunshine and warm breezes have expanded our activities from what took place in 2020. We visited others who were vaccinated, had cookouts, and relished seeing loved ones and friends not seen in person for over a year.

But in the same breath for many of us, this home included, we did not sit in a restaurant, attend movies, or congregate in anything that remotely resembled a crowd. For all those who follow medical professionals we have not spent much money in the local economy. That too, is something business owners can thank the anti-vaxxers for continuing.

Every reader to this little place on the internet highway fully knows the simple truth. The chaos, sickness, death, and economic cramping could have been avoided if all Americans eligible for the vaccine had simply acted with regard for their families and communities. Rather than allowing for logic and professionals to guide their actions the anti-vaxxers decided despicable politicians and angry talk show hosts on FAUX News should steer them.

Why follow scientists when there are so many lies and conspiracies to swallow?

I line up with all those others in the nation who are angry with the irresponsible ones who reject the fact that no one can dispute.

The vaccines are the best tool to fight the virus.

And so it goes.

Waushara County Meeting Epitomizes COVID Problem In Nation

We read daily news reports, hear radio broadcasts, and watch television anchors all alerting us as to how COVID spreads. But we also are asked continually to play a constructive role in stemming the progress of the virus so that it can not further mutate. The fear being, of course, a mutation that could not be held in check by the current vaccines. One would think such sound medical advice would register and people would act accordingly.

Right?

This week above the fold in the weekly Waushara Argus there was a most unfortunate photo of just how far removed many in this state are from accepting both science and personal responsibility.

As the news photo caption reads “Dozens of Waushara County residents” “pack county board room“. This is unsettling due to the fact the conservative and Republican-voting county has only 38.4% of its population fully vaccinated.

In the 2020 presidential election, Waushara County voted 66% for Donald Trump. True to form for many such counties all over the nation there is also a staggering disregard for not only the vaccines which are proven to be effective, but also a lack of trying to mitigate the spread of the deadly virus with changes to behavior.

I am not sure how to explain the actions of people in my home county where I grew up. I was most disheartened to see the front page of this week’s Argus with a packed meeting. Only one person in the far back is wearing a mask.

What in the heck is wrong with people? Where does any religious aspect come into play where we need to be our brother’s keeper? What message does this send to children about taking safety measures when adults act so outside the box of personal responsibility?

When I see such optics it alerts me to other larger facets to be considered in relation to the county. There are more than medical concerns when pondering this matter. 

What new business would want to establish themselves in a county with a population that is not able to understand the necessity of being vaccinated against COVID or have any more regard for the larger community? What does it say about a region where facts and common-sense are not being used by people for their own well-being? Is that a place where any serious business operation would want to set up shop?

I fully know my home county is not alone in this regard. Chuckleheads make up too large a portion of the nation. But one wishes to see more intelligence and common sense from the place one comes from.

This was truly a sad spectacle for Waushara County.

And so it goes.

How COVID Is Viewed In Editorial Cartoons

If one from another galaxy were to land in the United States and wanted to get a quick and well-rounded understanding of the pressing issues of the day there would be one fast way to get the task completed. Thumb through the nation’s newspapers and look at the editorial cartoons. With pithy drawings and pointed words there is no way to miss the tone and flavor of what our nation (sadly) is dealing with. Such cartoons often provide a better frank assessment of an issue than a long well-written column.

The case can be made with the current batch of editorial cartoons regarding the COVID pandemic.

Another View Of Pandemic: Did It Open New Doors Of Discovery?

Today I had a most interesting conversation with a young man who jogs by our home most afternoons. He often stops to chat after his 4-mile run, and since in the late afternoon I often find time to read a chapter of two he asks about the topic of the day. We have had some great chats.

This afternoon he recommend “The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America”.

But what really struck me today was his views about how many perceive the pandemic to have made our lives seem smaller and more contained, when in reality they might have actually become broader. Since people had more time to be at home and find alternate ways to spend leisure hours they might have started mastering a new language, expanded cooking skills, or even started a wood-working project.

He mentioned that some data shows people believe, in light of their new-found interests and skills, the pandemic has made them a better person.

I mentioned that over the past year some college courses were available for online learning, and museums had put guided tours online for virtual tours. I had read that with computer card games one might play and meet a friend on the other side of the world.

Tonight his conversation has me thinking about what I had done to mitigate the impact of having life up-ended from the virus. I sought out new authors…..ones I had not read before though they may have published their work, as in some cases, decades ago. I did not venture for new skills or ways to make the ultimate stir-fry. But I did find ways to spend a lot of time.

Though I had heard of the following authors over the years, I had never stopped to pick up one of their works. All of them fit into my interests and comfort zone and now are counted on my shelves as strong recommendations for others seeking something new. I have deeply waded into the authors below who have created a series of books.

I am most pleased to have opened each treasure.

Pine Cone Diner In DeForest Closes With Political Lie, Owner Took Nearly Half-Million In Fed $$

While living in Madison over the past decades I have known two of my favorite restaurants to close. In both cases there was a high degree of resolve to meet and greet long-time customers and share memories. There were efforts made to go out of business with class.

When Wong’s Chinese Garden closed on Atwood Avenue Gah Yuen Wong and his wife, Lan gave out hugs and poured cups of tea as conversations flowed. Over the years I would often joke that his wife needed a pay raise, and Wong often reached into his pockets and told me he had no money.  Lan leaned on the counter and smiled as she has heard our vaudeville routine many times.

La Rocca’s on Williamson Street was a joy as entering was akin to going into someone’s home.  Over the years the owner, Vito, told us of his family who had come from Sicily and why his food was homemade. In my view, it was awesomely authentic. His last day was like a favorite family leaving the neighborhood. Smiles, hugs, and of course Caternia had tears in her eyes.

Such memories are part of the food experience as it is important for such places to end with grace.

That was not the case, however, in DeForest when the Pine Cone Restaurant closed with a sign on the door that was rude and totally a political lie.

The owner of the establishment, John McKay, just like every other restaurant owner in the state faced the same hardships during the ongoing pandemic. Like most business owners he also benefited from the at-times bi-partisan efforts to pump money into the economy and help ensure workers were kept afloat.

As such McKay and the Pine Cone got two Paycheck Protection Program loans, one in 2020 and one this year, totaling $464,040, according to PPP data. The data show the restaurant had 32 employees during the applicable loan period.

So it was the height of having no grace when McKay placed a sign on the door of the diner with a most outrageous lie.

The sign reads like a political stunt from AM-talk radio.

“Due to the decisions of your state government (Evers) and your federal government (Biden), The Pine Cone has been forced to close its doors after 40 years. Thanks for all your support” 

The truth came out when the media started to make inquiries into the matter.

McKay said Thursday the real reason he closed the truck stop restaurant at 6162 Highway 51, was because his lease was up.

It’s just strictly the lease. Our lease was up after 40 years. … Got old and got tired.”

It is disturbing when facts are so easily tossed aside so to feed the narrative that conservatives wish to foment. It is also rather unsightly, when knowing many business people across the country were thankful for the assistance from the federal and state governments, to learn that a local one took the money and was not grateful.

The Wongs and Vito’s family came to this country and for decades ran successful restaurants. When they closed the door on their places for the last time it was surely with mixed feelings.

But it was done with class.

And so it goes.