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Editorials
Common sense on common education standards PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 21 January 2015 18:49

As a presidential aspirant, Scott Walker should rein in fellow Republicans in the Legislature who persist in carrying out a vendetta against Common Core

Some members of the Legislature seem to think education is a product like a round of cheddar cheese that needs to be stamped “made in Wisconsin” in the name of state pride.

    The Senate majority leader, Scott Fitzgerald, is one of them. He talks of Republicans wanting to put “the Wisconsin label” on Common Core.


     There is a reason the education standards he is referring to bear the label “Common Core”: They deal with fundamentals of education that are common to every state. The rules of English grammar are the same in Maine and California. The rules of mathematics are the same in Florida and Washington. And they are the same in Wisconsin and all of the states.


    In 2010, with no fuss, Wisconsin became one of the 45 states that have adopted Common Core standards. There was no fuss because it made so much sense. All American children need to have basic literacy and mathematical skills. To assess the education they’re getting in these core skills in public schools, common standards are needed.


    The standards were created by state school superintendents and governors, not the federal government, but when the U.S. Education Department urged states to use Common Core standards to demonstrate their suitability for federal education grants, the conspiracy theorists pounced.

    Common Core became, in the rhetoric embraced by politicians who preach distrust of government, a sinister attempt by the federal government to take over local education.

    The Wisconsin Legislature was such fertile ground for Common Core-contempt last year that a bill written to replace the standards with benchmarks cooked up by a committee of political appointees was introduced.


     There was ample irony in the fact that some of the Wisconsin legislators pushing the bill as a means to improve public school education had earlier voted for the largest cuts in the nation in state revenue for public schools.

    Wisconsin was saved from the injurious effects of this bill when it died after some 100 school superintendents and school board members descended en masse on a state Senate committee hearing to make the case that abandoning the carefully crafted standards of Common Core in favor educational goals set by political appointees was no way to improve state schools.

    As proof that Common Core phobia doesn’t die easily, a new version of the bill is now in the works. On the other hand, there is some good news in the fact that Gov. Scott Walker is showing little interest in participating in the effort to scuttle the standards.


    Perhaps this is a sign that the political appeal of Common Core-bashing is fading, even among conservatives. Walker wants to run for president; one of his most formidable likely opponents for the Republican nomination is Jeb Bush. Bush supports Common Core, and has put the tea party wing of the Republican Party on notice that he won’t “run for cover when I think this (Common Core) is the right thing to do for this country.”


    Bush sees the common standards as the antidote to “the hodgepodge of dumbed-down state standards that have created group mediocrity in our schools.”


     Nothing that forthright is likely to come from Walker, who in the past has shown support for critics of the common standards, but the governor who pushed the agenda that led the nation in cutting public school funding could now do something positive for public schools by using his influence to rein in those in his party in the Legislature who would cripple Common Core.


    Common Core is in many ways a work in progress, and it is understandable that some teachers who have to prepare their students to do well on tests based on its standards (required this year in Wisconsin) and some parents who don’t approve of the pressure this puts on their children are irritated by its demands.


    But that’s not reason enough to replace Common Core with Cheesehead Core.


 
The bright side of the brew pub brouhaha PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 14 January 2015 18:59

The prospect of the City of Port selling public land for a brew pub or similar commercial use has energized the citizenry in support of smarter lakefront planning

Something remarkable is going on in the great brew pub brouhaha.

    No, it’s not that the members of the Port Washington Common Council have reconsidered and are backing away from their proposal to sell public lakefront land as a site for a brew pub or similar commercial use.

    But what is happening might be the next best thing. The prospect of the public losing land at the north edge of the downtown marina, with its lake views and proximity to the water, has engaged the people of Port Washington with an intensity not seen for years in this community.

    With their responses to the city’s misguided brew-pub move, citizens are making it clear that they understand that the presence of a Great Lake reaching into the very heart of their city makes Port Washington exceptional. They know that any community can have a brew pub, but that very few communities have the natural gifts with which Port Washington is blessed. They are saying: Don’t squander those gifts.

    They are saying it with hundreds of signatures on petitions, with letters to the editor, in coffee-shop, grocery-store and street-corner conversations and in communications to city officials.

    They are saying it from diverse points of view. Some think the land, currently a parking lot, should be kept open as public space with lake views intact. Some think it should continue to be used as a parking lot with aesthetic improvements. Others want the space made into a park to enhance the public’s enjoyment of the marina area.

    Another group supports private development near the lakefront but views the notion of selling public waterfront land for something as mundane as a brew pub or a retail store as setting the bar for city progress at a ridiculously low level.

    These diverse elements are united in a shared perception that what the city government is trying to do with the lakefront land amounts to development by whim, not a plan.

    All of the ideas that have come out of the robust public reaction to the brew-pub proposal are likely to be aired at an important public meeting to be held by the Greater Port Washington Kiwanis Club at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, at the Niederkorn Library. Everyone who cares about the natural assets that make Port Washington exceptional should try to be there.

    The Kiwanis Club has offered to create a park on the parking lot site, and that idea will be further developed at the meeting, including exploring the availability of volunteers to work on a park project in the spirit of the amazingly successful Possibility Playground volunteer project in Upper Lake Park. But attendees will be encouraged to discuss other options for the land as well.

    Meanwhile, the city’s process of seeking offers from developers to buy the land is moving ahead with no sign from officials that they are hearing the rising chorus of concern from the public.

    That is unfortunate, because something remarkable is going on in Port Washington, and city officials should not only listen to it, they should be part of it. Ideas that could enable the city to make more of its lakefront treasures to benefit everyone are in the air. But these opportunities will be lost, likely forever, if the land is taken for a brew pub, restaurant or store. Just as the public’s lakefront land will be lost forever if it’s sold.


 
Celebrities among us PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 07 January 2015 18:54

A fight in a Port Washington bar on Dec. 25. Women shoving each other, throwing punches. Men grappling. Some blood flowing. A report of a knife.

    As Christmas stories go, this one was pretty sordid. Still, it was instructive. There are things to be learned from the aftermath of the bar fight that left a former TV actor charged with stabbing a Port Washington man.

    One lesson is that, contrary to popular belief, celebrity is not fleeting. In some cases, it apparently just goes on and on as though it’s ageless. It has been 22 years since Dustin Diamond, the man facing felony and misdemeanor charges in the scuffle, played a character in a TV sitcom. Yet when word got out that he was in trouble with the law, media folk flocked to Port Washington.

    Predominant in this group were representatives of the news operations of TV stations, whose behavior offered another lesson, a reminder that in their line of work what passes for news is often barely distinguishable from entertainment.

    Which explains why people with video cameras and microphones staked out not only the tavern that was the scene of the crime and the jail and courts where Diamond was incarcerated and appeared before a judge, but also stores and gas stations where Port Washington residents were going about their business of buying things and putting fuel in their cars.

    One TV reporter’s idea of covering the story was to give a woman pumping gas in downtown Port an opportunity to appear on the nightly news by answering his question—does she think Dustin Diamond needs to carry a concealed weapon to be safe in Port Washington?

    That was about as silly as the antics of Screech, the character in the 1989-1993-era TV teen comedy “Saved by the Bell” who was played by the current defendant in the bar stabbing. No surprise there. Like the sitcom, the question was meant to produce entertainment.

    By fortunate happenstance, a story in the same issue of this newspaper that reported on the celebrity bar fight and its media attention also gave readers a look at celebrity of a more appealing nature.

    That was the story of Audra Daniloff, a Port High senior whose heartwarming surprise was seen by millions of people who clicked on a YouTube video posted by her father.

    Audra was first introduced to Ozaukee Press readers early last year as the member of the high school varsity dance team who struggled through a performance but was so exhausted afterward that she ended up in Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, diagnosed with a deadly disease that attacked tissues and organs.

    After treatment for months with chemotherapy and other therapies, Audra recovered to the point where she is back on the dance team. As a special Christmas present for the daughter he says would not be with him were it not for the doctors at Children’s Hospital and her fighting spirit, Audra’s father bought her tickets to a New York concert by her favorite band and airplane tickets to travel there with him. It was the way the gifts were presented that delighted 2.4 million YouTube viewers.

    Her father, Marc Danilof, asked his hometown police chief, Saukville’s Jeff Goetz, if a police officer could present the airline and concert tickets as part of a good-natured hoax. The chief agreed, and one day Audra was pulled over while driving in Saukville by a young cop named Brandin Depies and issued two tickets—not traffic tickets, but concert and airplane tickets. When the surprise was revealed, Audra and Officer Depies were all smiles, as, one supposes, were the people all over the world who saw the video.

    Besides offering a glimpse of one family’s happy moment, this little vignette says something about police and their relationship with their communities at a time when those relationships are at breaking points in some places.

     No one would say the challenges faced by Saukville’s police officers are anything like those faced by their brethren in New York City, but the big-city and small-town departments have one thing in common—they can’t function effectively without public support and public respect. Chief Goetz earned tons of both for his officers by granting a grateful father’s simple request.

    Two celebrity tales. One is a nice story.


 
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