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Letters to the Editor: Feb. 27, 2014

Transparency needed on Somerset School Board

To the Editor:

I recently requested the January and February Board Packets in order to be more informed and better understand discussion and actions taken at the Somerset Board of Education meetings. This initial response I received was “The packet is only for board members.” I requested the information again, referencing Wisconsin Public Record Law Statute 19.31-19.39 and Somerset School Board Policy KGB- Access to Public Records. After Superintendent Randy Rosburg sought guidance on what was sharable by law, I received all the information requested.

According to its mission statement, Somerset School District aims to be “a leader in progressive education and community collaboration.” The district strategic plan also has an action step to “provide two-way transparent communication to the Somerset community.” In spite of its mission and goals, the district does the bare minimum to comply with Wisconsin Public Record Law posting only the regular board meeting agendas and minutes on the district website and requiring citizens to make a formal public records request to be informed. Many other school districts across the state, including local districts such as New Richmond and Hudson, have taken a more open proactive approach, posting additional information such as committee meeting agendas, minutes and board packets on their websites.

It was only through reading the January Board Packet that I became aware of the specifics of the board’s plan for phasing in new graduation requirements. Over the next four years SHS graduation requirements will drop from 28 credits (current) to 22 credits (class of 2018 and beyond). This is lower than any other school in the the Middle Border Conference (Amery-28, Baldwin-Woodville-27, Durand-24, Ellsworth-27, New Richmond-23, Osceola-25.5, Prescott-24). This information has not been communicated to parents or any other stakeholder groups.

This illustrates why I am running for Somerset Board of Education in this spring election. Citizens have a right to know how their government is spending their tax dollars and exercising the powers granted by the people. If elected, I would advocate for adding committee meeting notices, agendas, minutes, and board packets to the district website. In addition, I would ask the board to consider streaming regular board meetings online and archiving the video on the district website. Finally, on decisions as foundational as graduation requirements, I would ensure that information is transparently communicated to the community with opportunities to provide feedback before action is taken. If you would like to see improvements in communication and transparency from the Somerset Board of Education, on April 1 vote for Nancy Dressel. To learn more search Nancy Dressel for Somerset School Board on Facebook.

Nancy Dressel

Town of Star Prairie

Excessive plowing?

To the Editor:

Yep, we’ve had a lot of snow and roads get plowed right away – then again – then again – and again. On my commute I notice that the shoulders are plowed and eight feet past the shoulder is plowed, yet here comes a giant light green county truck scraping mostly dirt. Now, the intersection approaches need the piles of snow moved back but for the most part it just looks like busy work. What does it cost to run one of those things per hour? $100? $200? My taxes are what?

James Kurk

Town of Emerald

Obama has accomplished much

To the Editor:

It’s been five years since the passage of Obama’s stimulus bill, but according to Republicans it’s been a dismal failure. Don’t believe it. We’ve had increases in the GDP of between 2 percent and 3 percent per year. We’ve added 1.6 million jobs per year and we’ve had more than 44 months of uninterrupted job growth. Keep in mind that this president inherited an economy that was plunging into free-fall. Our conservative friends don’t want this kind of economic good news to get out because that would mean they’ve failed in their primary goal, which was to make Obama a one-term president. When they failed in that, the next goal was to make sure he wouldn’t get any meaningful legislation passed, no matter how much it hurt the country. They’ve done a fairly good job of that.

Even though the Republicans have done a masterful job of demonizing this president with their base, the neo-confederates, the so-called Christian right and the Tea Party, most of the country now recognizes what he has accomplished.

He passed health care reform, though not everybody is happy with it, it’s a step in the right direction. No longer can your insurance company drop you when you get sick or have a pre-existing (like being a woman) no longer will you lose coverage because you’ve reached a lifetime max.

When Obama was elected we were shedding 800,000 jobs a month, and unemployment was headed toward 10 percent; it’s 6.6 percent now.

He ended the Iraq war and we’re winding down the Afghan war.

He had a hand in getting rid of Bin Laden and Gaddafi.

He turned around America’s auto industry.

He improved America’s image with the rest the world

He kicked the banks out of the student loan program and expanded Pell grant spending.

He passed credit card reform, improved our food safety program, achieved a new START treaty with Russia. The list goes on, but think how much more could have been accomplished had the Republicans decided to work for the people instead against the president.

George Richard

New Richmond

We import dummies

To the Editor:

This week there was a story on BBC News that talked about the industries that have been started in foreign countries to get those kids entered into our colleges, which limits the number of American students that can attend. So if your son or daughter is rejected by say the University of Minnesota or UW-Madison, it’s probably because they have imported foreign students to take their place.

The report stated that more than 90 percent of the foreign exchange students have fewer qualifications than our local people and as a result the families of those foreign students are willing to pay as much as $3,000 for a winning composition that the student didn’t write. Worse yet, nearly all the documentation is created not from facts, but made up information that gets the student in the door.

Universities have for years been seeing thousands of foreign students come here just to find they need all kinds of special consideration and tutoring to get through, not to mention coercion toward professors to give out passing grades.

So far the biggest abuser of education agents is coming from the Chinese. A student by the name of Zhu who is a student at Shanghai University has used these education agencies to get complicated forms written to meet U.S. standards for acceptance. But these agents are in nearly every country that sends out students for U.S. colleges.

This year there will be over 157,000 Chinese students enrolled in our colleges, up 22 percent from last year. In China the local schools have a test called the gaokao test and if you don’t pass it then you can always apply to foreign colleges. Any university here will be glad to take their money.

One of the major problems these foreign students have is a good grasp of English. The colleges have re-tested those students after they get here to see if they could pass the test, and of course most don’t. So they are sent to English classes to learn to speak English.

When I was enrolled in college many years ago to take some additional classes, I was told by the student counselor that if I didn’t get the grade I wanted I could protest the decision to get a better grade. Now, if that teacher didn’t have tenure yet, they would probably give in.

Here’s the problem, I learned this years ago when I was a GI and some people speak fluent English, but only understand the words in their own language. For example, I was asked what I did as a soldier and what I understood it to mean was, a job description on being in the military. What they really wanted to know was at what level I was at, meaning my rank.

So the next time you’re at the Dells and some young college student from Amsterdam asks you “how you keep your feet dry,” you may want to keep them inside the boat.

Robert Pike

Town of Stanton

Doar Walk will be a treasure

To the Editor:

“The City Beautiful” was a winter wonderland the last week! City Administrator Mike Darrow called a meeting about the John Doar Civil Rights Walk with a landscape architect named Brady and an architect named James. James graduated from Parsons College of Design in New York City and then went to architect school, graduating from Berkeley.

It’s a coincidence, because I spent a week with John Doar two years ago in Bodega Bay, Calif. He was celebrating his 50th class reunion graduating from Berkeley Law School. James, the architect, knew of Bodega Bay, Berkeley and Parsons College in New York, and he loves outdoor art, statuary paintings, benches, etc.

I asked him how he liked box car tagging and the great graffiti and art on rail cars, buildings, etc. He loves the art!

And then I showed him photos of John Doar marching with James Meredith in Ole Miss in 1962, and both their autographs on it, and John’s cuff link of his impeachment inquiry committee, where he had 125 attorneys under him including Hillary C. and local Tommy B. The cuff link photo was signed by John Doar and then John receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Well I’m proud of John Doar, and James was certainly impressed with my art work.

Back to “the City Beautiful”: I’m on the Bike and Trail Committee (chaired by Jim Heebink) and we are working on bike, walking path and rustic roads trails, but this John Doar Civil Rights Walk is certainly a pleasure for me to work with, especially after John accepted with his humbleness. With our Heritage Center and all the rustic trails locally, the millpond, widespread, Mary Park and rivers, this certainly is “the City Beautiful.”

Also, “the City Beautiful” should remove the snow in front of businesses on the east-west streets at least two days after the snowfall.

Bill Driscoll

New Richmond

God bless the postal workers

To the Editor:

When much of the snow, wind and ice had subsided last Friday morning, I looked out my window and thought I must have been transported to Siberia during the night (at least that’s how I envision Siberia to be).

In spite of the fact that most all traffic having been abruptly halted, I was dumbfounded to see my faithful mailman, Jerry, trudging through the gigantic drifts to deliver my mail — he and his co-workers on my route still live out that tried and true motto of the U.S. Postal Service: “The mail must go through!”

This service is especially valuable and appreciated by me because I’m a technology hold out. I rely on these loyal people for most of my communications.

I say a “heartfelt thanks” to Jerry and all the other carriers on my route (their names I do not know).

How about all of you reading this column to likewise reach out with a hearty “thanks” to these unsung heroes. As Tiny Tim would say, “God bless you, one and all.” I also say “God bless the USA.”

Gloria Linder

New Richmond

Clear ice, snow for postal workers

To the Editor:

Mother Nature’s most recent blast left plenty of snow and ice for us to battle.

That means slippery surfaces, which can be dangerous and costly for homeowners, as well as for their visitors — including their letter carrier. By clearing a path when the snow arrives, accidents can be prevented.

We need our customers’ help. Letter carriers have hurt their knees or backs, or even suffered broken bones from falls on slippery surfaces.

Letter carriers are instructed to use good judgement when attempting to deliver to addresses where ice and snow are not cleared. They are not allowed to dismount to make curb deliveries when the approach to the mailbox is hazardous because of snow or ice.

No one wants to inconvenience a customer, but we have to take every possible step to ensure the safety of our employees.

Some tips:

— Customers are asked to clear enough snow from curbside boxes — at least six feet on both sides of the mailbox — so the carrier may approach and leave without backing up his or her vehicle.

— Walkways need to be cleared so as to allow enough traction to avoid slips, trips and falls.

— Steps — especially painted wood — must be kept clear of ice and snow and in good repair.

— Overhangs must be clear and free of snow and ice to avoid injury.

The best cure for an injury is to not have it occur in the first place. Please help your letter carrier provide you with the best possible service — safely.

Thank you very much for your cooperation.

Susan McInnis, Postmaster

New Richmond