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The comprehensive answer to good schools PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 17:46

PW-S school leaders deserve credit for a well-rounded curriculum, but  maintaining it will take vigilance and an understanding that what makes it strong is the sum of its parts

When asked last week to list his top three educational priorities, a candidate for the Port Washington-Saukville School Board said math, science and engineering.
  
 He was hamstrung by the question, which deserves the opportunity for a more thorough answer.

    Math, science and engineering are a good start. Add to that list communications, social studies, foreign language, business, the arts and physical education.

    The Port Washington-Saukville School District has successfully maintained a comprehensive curriculum that produces well-rounded graduates prepared to contribute to society in any number of ways.

    That has been the priority of the School Board and administrators, and it should continue to be despite the financial and legislative challenges school officials will continue to face.

    It’s a goal that is challenging to achieve and even more difficult to maintain, as evidenced by school districts that have cut programs. For these school systems, there may be no going back to the days when students
had music, foreign language and technology-education classes to choose from, at least not in this day and age of public school funding in Wisconsin.

    Other districts are rethinking decisions to pare their offerings. Grafton High School, for instance, was in the process of phasing out German — half its foreign language curriculum, which also includes Spanish — when Supt. Mel Lightner was hired. He was correct when he told the School Board recently that an institution the size and caliber of Grafton High School should offer at least two foreign languages.

    In the Port Washington-Saukville School District, there have been changes. Antiquated and unpopular classes have been dropped. Contemporary offerings have been added, but a well-rounded curriculum has been
maintained. In fact, it has flourished.

    Music instruction, an area of education that seems most susceptible to budget cuts, has produced middle and high school bands and choirs that have won acclaim throughout the country and inspired careers in the field. Earlier this month, Port High’s vocal jazz ensemble Limited Edition qualified again for the premiere a cappella competition in the nation, a contest it won in 2010.

    The benefits of a well-rounded curriculum throughout the grade levels is most evident at the high school. Port High has long been considered a comprehensive high school, one that prepares its students for four-year colleges as well as vocational schools, apprenticeships and jobs.

    On one end of that spectrum, the school offers a battery of advanced-placement classes that challenge students with college-level work, allow them to earn college credits and put them on a level playing field with graduates of college-preparatory schools.

    On the other end is one of the school’s success stories — its technology education program. Once called shop classes, the tech-ed offerings now range from engineering to computer-aided design. A district that had the foresight and opportunity to join the Project Lead the Way program and has worked with area business leaders to bolster interest and instruction in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math has now added
biomedical engineering to its high school course book.

    The result is a new generation of future engineers and skilled tradespeople prepared to pursue their interests in college and join the workforce.

    A measure of the program’s success is that leaders of local manufacturing companies, faced with the reality that an entire generation of skilled tradespeople is nearing retirement age, are looking to Port High for future employees and making what they consider a wise investment in the form of time and money in the school’s technology-eduction department.

    Port Washington-Saukville School District leaders are in the enviable position of having a school system that meets the diverse needs and nurtures the varied interests of students. They deserve credit for that, but they’ve set the bar high. It will take determination and vigilance to maintain this balance in the face of inevitable challenges, and an understanding that the greatest strength of the Port Washington-Saukville School
District is not a single area of emphasis but rather the sum of its parts.

 
Making history to save history PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 19 February 2014 18:01

The Port Washington Historical Society is embarking on one of the biggest fundraising efforts ever seen in the community in a cause worthy of generous support

For an organization devoted to history, the Port Washington Historical Society is surprisingly young. It wasn’t until Port Washington was 156 years old that it was founded. It was a small group then, in 1991, and even today has only about 225 members, most of them Port Washington area residents or folks who have roots here but now live in other parts of the country. The society has no executive director or paid staff. It is a purely volunteer organization, grass-roots in every way.

    These humble characteristics make the Historical Society’s impact on the community all the more remarkable. In its comparatively short life as a non-profit organization, the society reclaimed from neglect the city’s most important historical icon, the 1860 Light Station on St. Mary’s Hill, and restored the historic Barnum Blake building, turning a storefront eyesore into a jewel of the downtown.     

    That impact is about to grow by an astonishing quantum leap. In a few days, the Historical Society will launch what is perhaps the biggest fundraising campaign ever seen in Port Washington.

    The goal is to raise $1.3 million to create a museum that will fascinate and educate the public with its innovative and imaginative presentation of the stories, images and objects that define the area’s history.

    The genesis of the museum was in the society’s persistence in advocating for the preservation of the old Businessmen’s Club building on Franklin Street. Joined to an abandoned former bank building, the structure was left in a ruinous state by would-be developers, so unsightly that the Common Council was at one point on the verge of ordering it demolished. Historical Society members steadfastly maintained that the building’s provenance made it worth saving.

    A Port Washington native living on the East Coast took note of the society’s dedication to this cause. When he and his wife decided to make a significant financial contribution to benefit the city, they gave the contribution—$1 million—to the Historical Society with the proviso that it be spent to buy the Businessmen’s Club building and establish a museum in it that would contribute to “the social and economic vibrancy of the downtown community.”

    The gift was as challenging as it was generous. Meeting the donors’ expectations would be a steep hill to climb, but the society took on the challenge. It now owns the building and has started on its transformation into a museum.    

    The institution that will result from this effort will be so distinct from museums that are merely repositories of artifacts that the society coined a word to name it. It will be the Port Exploreum—meaning a museum that explores the stories that are the fabric of this community’s history with diverse media and cutting-edge technology.

    While the museum is audacious in its challenges and conception, it is in keeping with the Historical Society’s ability to overachieve in preserving and celebrating that which is most meaningful in the community’s past. This has been demonstrated by the perfect restoration of the Light Station, once a beacon for ships, now a beacon for visitors who appreciate maritime heritage, and the Blake building, an historical artifact itself, now open to the public as the society’s Resource Center housing community archives and family histories.    

    To be successful, the drive to raise the $1.3 million (in addition to the $1 million gift) to complete the museum will need some sizable contributions, including those from corporations and foundations. But the society is also counting on—and deserves—the support of the people of the Port Washington area, contributions of any amount from families that want to be part of this bold initiative to elevate the appreciation of the community’s history to a new level.

    Another way to support the effort is to join the society. Among the privileges of membership is the satisfaction of being part of an organization that started small but is doing amazingly big things for Port Washington.


 
An unwarranted breakwater crackdown PDF Print E-mail
News
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 17:50

The Port Washington police chief has taken it on himself to shut down a facility its owner says should be open to the public

In an overreach of police authority rarely seen in Port Washington, Police Chief Kevin Hingiss is treating people innocently enjoying the public breakwater as lawbreakers to be prosecuted.

    The police chief, by ordering his officers to issue trespassing citations to breakwater walkers, is effectively closing a public facility that has long been a popular means of access to Lake Michigan.

    Hingiss offers a public-safety rationale for the crackdown, but the treatment of three visitors cited recently for walking on the breakwater looks more like harsh enforcement than an effort to keep the public safe.

    In January, a photographer from West Allis who posts images of Lake Michigan captured from the Port Washington breakwater on his website, was issued a citation for “trespassing” on the breakwater. On Feb. 2, two visitors from Illinois who were fishing from the breakwater were ordered off the structure by police, then given trespassing tickets.

    These were not slaps on the wrist, and they certainly were not the warnings or friendly advice that would be expected from police officers concerned about citizens using a facility that might put them at risk. They were municipal citations carrying whopping fines of $218.50 each.

    The visitors given this cold welcome to Port Washington would be well advised to contest the citations. Construing their presence on the breakwater as trespassing is a long legal stretch. The breakwater’s owner, the federal government, insists it is open to the public. The agency in charge of the breakwater, the Army Corps of Engineers, posted signs last fall warning that the breakwater is unsafe for walking. But a Corps spokesman told Ozaukee Press last week: “Our goal is not to have people get tickets, be thrown in jail or fined.” He added, “I’m not a lawyer; I’m an engineer, but I don’t think it’s illegal to go out there. I don’t really believe that’s our intent in Port Washington, to keep people off it.”

    Hingiss, nevertheless, averred that anyone caught on the breakwater will be ticketed for trespassing.


    What the police chief has taken upon himself to do—closing the breakwater—is what most people concerned about the deterioration of the facility have been trying to avoid.

    The hapless visitors now facing expensive trespassing fines were only three of the many people who, judging from the well-worn paths on the breakwater, have been walking out on it this winter. As the weather warms their numbers will increase rapidly and soon there will be scores of sightseers, fishermen, photographers and other lake lovers taking the stroll to the lighthouse.     

    Are they all to be treated as lawbreakers, ticketed and fined? The possibility is as impractical as it is harmful to the city’s image as a friendly lakeside community.

    The deteriorating condition of the breakwater has spurred an extraordinary effort to push for rebuilding the structure, including a trip by Mayor Tom Mlada to Washington, D.C., to solicit federal help and the formation of a citizens committee to raise local funds for the project. This response is a measure of the breakwater’s value as a community asset used by large numbers of residents and visitors.

    Another telling indication of community’s regard for the breakwater as a recreational facility was the installation last summer of liferings and ladders on the pier, paid for by contributions raised by the Waterfront Safety Advisory Committee. It goes without saying that these safety devices serve no purpose if people are not allowed on the breakwater.

    Well intentioned though it may be, the police chief’s heavy-handed attempt to enforce safety is an over-reaction. The breakwater has been in need of maintenance for a long time, during which it has been walked upon by a great number of people without incident related to the condition of the structure.     

    The laudable effort to get action on rebuilding the breakwater should go on with the hope that it will bear fruit sooner rather than later. In the meantime, use of the breakwater by people properly informed of its deteriorated state should be permitted in keeping with the Corps of Engineers’ stated intention to maintain public access to the structure.


 
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