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Ozaukee Press
Facebook post lands Ozaukee school official in hot water PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mark Jaeger   
Wednesday, 21 September 2016 18:52

Board member who criticized football player, coach faces call for his removal from office

A veteran Northern Ozaukee School Board member and father of an Ozaukee High football player faces accusations of cyberbullying and a call for his ouster after he posted a Facebook comment criticizing football coaches and the abilities of a player. 

In his post, Tom Hoffmann, who has represented the Town of Saukville on the Fredonia school district’s board since 1993,  criticized a coaching decision to stop throwing to his son Garrett after he caught two touchdown passes on Ozaukee’s 35-25 loss to defending Division 6 state champion St. Mary’s Springs on Sept. 2.

Hoffmann said in his post that the coaching strategy was altered to throw to Jared Zausch, who “couldn’t catch a cold in a blizzard.”

Jared’s father John, an assistant on Jim Lippe’s coaching staff, told the School Board Monday that Hoffmann’s comments criticizing his son were mean-spirited and amounted to cyberbullying. Zausch called on school officials to immediately remove Hoffmann from the board and ban him from all Ozaukee High athletic events.

“It’s unbelievable and beyond my comprehension,” Zausch said. “What Tom said was reprehensible, shocking and an embarrassment to the School Board.”

Hoffmann was not at the meeting.

Zausch’s comments, made during the public forum period of the board meeting, caught board members by surprise. Because the issue was not on the board agenda, no action could be taken, although Zausch’s call for Hoffmann’s ouster did spark discussion about whether the board should or could remove one of its members from an elected office.

“Is there nothing we can do?” board member Scott Szczerbinski asked. “How do we go about recalling him from office?”

Board president Paul Krause said Hoffmann’s Facebook post has created “a tough, ugly situation,” adding that it may be possible for the board to adopt a resolution censuring Hoffmann for making inappropriate comments on social media.

“Clearly Tom’s comments are not what this board or this district stand for,” Krause said.

But it is not the job of the School Board, he said, to remove elected officials from office.

“Removing someone from office is, ultimately, in the hands of the electors,” Krause said. “We don’t pick board members.

He also said Hoffmann has a right to express himself.

“The reality is, in this country everyone has the First Amendment right of free speech,” Krause said.

Although not at the meeting, Hoffmann said in an interview Tuesday he was not surprised by the firestorm caused by his Facebook posting, but said his comments were made in the heat of the moment after a disheartening loss.

“I apologize for any damaging perception that comes from this, but it was frustrating to see an opportunity against Springs slip away and I needed to vent a little,” he said.

Hoffmann said he has had ongoing issues with the football coaching staff, but now realizes it was unfair to put his son and teammate in the middle of the dispute.

“I get where they are coming from … but this is the world of sports,” he said.

Hoffmann said it was “unfortunate” that the students became part of the controversy, and worried that the fallout may take attention away from more important issues.

Hoffmann said he did not expect anyone to come to his defense, but questioned the results of any action the board may take.

“What would a recall accomplish? As a parent, I will still be vocal,” Hoffmann said.

The board directed Supt. Dave Karrels to research what options the board has in reprimanding Hoffmann.

Karrels was asked to report back to the board at its October meeting.

In an interview with Ozaukee Press, Lippe said the Hoffmann incident may prove to be a valuable teaching moment for his staff and players.

“As a coach, one thing we harp on over and over with our players is how important it is to be smart when using social media,” the coach said.

“We don’t want our players trash talking back and forth with rivals. My rule of thumb is if you can’t say something to a person’s face, you probably shouldn’t be saying it on social media.”

Lippe said part of the job as coach is facing criticism, but he said it is unacceptable when that is broadened to include players.

“I have a problem with any parent, especially a School Board member, posting that kind of comment online. It is beyond belief,” he said.

As for the St. Mary’s Springs loss, Lippe said he had to make a mid-game adjustment in his game plan after the opponent began double-teaming Hoffmann’s son.

Lippe said the team has the luxury of having several potent offensive weapons, including Jared Zausch and Garrett Hoffmann.

He said he planned to talk with the team about the Facebook criticism, adding there is “zero chance” Garrett Hoffmann would face any fallout from the incident. 

Coincidentally, at this week’s meeting, the board gave first readings to a host of policy revisions prepared by the policy auditing company NEOLA.

Among those was a policy on duties and responsibilities of School Board members, explaining the risk that public comments made by individuals can be seen as the opinion of the entire board.

Such misunderstandings, the policy states, “may cause issues for the board as well as the district. Therefore, board members should, when writing or speaking on school matters on social media, to the media, legislators and other officials, make it clear that their views do not necessarily reflect the views of the board or of their colleagues on the board.”

The policy is already in place, but minor wording revisions are expected to be approved during the second reading at the next board meeting.

Virtual school dilemma fuels idea of PW-S online program PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 14 September 2016 19:09

Weber says district could offer its students a better alternative to virtual programs that result in failure for some 

Michael Weber is recommending the Port Washington-Saukville School District consider creating an online school to better educate the relatively small but increasing number of local students who are enrolling in virtual schools — some only to fail and drop out.

“For some students, virtual schools are a viable option and they do succeed,” Weber said. “But it’s not a viable option for all students.

“We need to look at our programs and the opportunities we’re offering to stop some of our students from going into virtual schools and into environments that for some of them make it very difficult to succeed.”

Weber’s proposal received initial support from the School Board Monday, but before it goes any further, it will need the formal approval of the board and significant research to determine if such a program is viable, Weber said.

“I’m not sure if such a program has ever been tried in a public school before,” he said. “I haven’t heard of one.”

An online school run by the district would provide flexibility for conventional students to take some courses online, perhaps ones that are difficult to fit in their schedules, but it would also provide a better alternative to virtual schools operated by other entities throughout the state, Weber said. 

Under Wisconsin’s open enrollment law, students can attend schools outside the districts where they reside at no cost, which means that students who live in the Port Washington-Saukville School District can enroll in virtual charter schools.

It’s one thing if they succeed in those programs, Weber said, but a concerning number of them don’t, and when they fail in the virtual school setting they return to the Port-Saukville schools woefully behind in credits and ill-prepared to meet academic expectations.

“I think the open enrollment concept has been great, but as it relates to virtual schools, it needs some significant reworking,” Weber said. “Virtual schools have no obligation or responsibility, other than intrinsic, to make sure students are successful.

“And the virtual school setting requires students to be self-motivated and responsible. It would be nice if there would be some screening system to determine if students are likely to succeed in such an environment.”

Those problems are exacerbated by the marketing done by virtual schools, Weber said. 

“The marketing implies that virtual schools are for everyone and that anyone can be successful in such a setting,” he said. “That’s not entirely accurate, at least not in our experience.”

On Monday, the board approved, as it is required to by law, the requests of five students living in the Port-Saukville School District to attend the Wisconsin Virtual Academy administered by the McFarland School District.

One of those students, Weber said, is destined to become a statistic. While living in another school district, the student enrolled in a virtual school only to be dropped from the program. In the interim, one of his parents moved into the Port Washington-Saukville School District, making the teenager a Port-Saukville student who, if he washes out of another virtual school, could technically become a Port High dropout.

“We’ve never seen him, yet he is our student and we’re ultimately responsible for him,” Weber said. 

“On the positive side, virtual schools do offer a viable alternative for some students, maybe those who simply can’t handle the anxiety and stress of being in a school building. But we have other students who are just trying to avoid going to school. They’ll go to a virtual school with no intention of studying, learning or doing the work.

“If students in virtual schools are successful, wonderful, but if they’re not, they come back to us uneducated and short on credits, and it is very difficult to get them back on track. Many times they become dropouts, and they’re not dropouts from the virtual school but dropouts from our district.”

In the online school Weber envisions, the district’s curriculum would be taught by district educators. Student progress would be closely tracked just as it is in the district’s conventional schools and additional help, which would include physical meetings with teachers, would be available.

“The whole premise is keeping in touch with the children who live in our school district,” Weber said. “We have a responsibility to educate all children living in our district. That’s what public school education is about.”

The online program would also allow students to design hybrid schedules that would give them the option of participating in conventional school programs, Weber said.

“For instance, in our district and community, music is a huge factor in the success of our students,” he said.

There’s much work to be done yet to determine if an online school is viable, and part of that analysis will focus on financial implications. Because students in the online program would be counted as district students for the purposes of state aid, unlike local students who enroll in virtual schools, it’s conceivable the program would not be a financial liability, Weber said.

In addition, because all middle and high school students are currently assigned a laptop computer, some of the infrastructure needed for an online program is already in place, he said.

“Education at its most basic level is about preparing young people to be responsible citizens of our community, and I don’t know if that’s happening with all students in virtual schools,” Weber said. “We have to figure out why our students are leaving for virtual schools and see if we can offer a better alternative for them, especially when we’re the ones who have to try and pick up the pieces when they don’t succeed.”

Grants will cover cost of bluff preserve purchase PDF Print E-mail
Written by Bill Schanen IV   
Wednesday, 31 August 2016 19:04

Latest award means local investment not needed for county nature area in Port

When a plan to purchase 102 acres for a nature preserve in the City of Port Washington with local tax dollars if needed was debated last year, proponents said that such a compelling case could be made for preserving and providing public access to the Lake Michigan bluff land that state and federal grants might cover the $2 million cost.

What skeptics said at the time was wishful thinking became reality Monday with the announcement by the Wisconsin Department of Administration that Ozaukee County will receive a $1 million Coastal Management Program grant for the purchase of the land. 

That contribution, along with a $1 million grant from Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program awarded earlier this year to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, which is working with the county and City of Port Washington on the nature preserve project, means the sizable financial contributions pledged by the city and county will not be needed to purchase the property.

Developers duke it out with plans for lakefront PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 07 September 2016 18:15

Milwaukee architect offers alternative to Ansay plan with new residential proposal

Port Washington aldermen were presented with another version of a lakefront development Tuesday, this one by architect Stephen Smith intended to give the city an alternative to the marina district plan unveiled by Ansay Development three weeks ago.

Smith, who has proposed creating 11 townhouses on the city-owned car-trailer lot on the east end of Washington Street, offered the Common Council two visions for the block north of the parking lot where Ansay has said it will move its proposed 44-unit apartment building.

One option, he said, involves constructing two buildings with a total of 42 apartments — 27 in one structure and 15 in the other. The second option would include four townhouses along Lake Street as well as a 30-unit apartment building just to the west. 

At last: Work on courthouse restoration to resume in fall PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mitch Maersch   
Wednesday, 24 August 2016 19:01

With assessment of past repairs on tower complete, crews ready to return to job

Restoration work is scheduled to resume next month on the Ozaukee County courthouse clock tower after a consultant completed its assessment of past work that could lead to litigation.

During its $300,000 repair project, Marion Restoration of Chicago found cracks where there shouldn’t be any.

That led the county’s Executive Committee to meet several times in closed session regarding the workmanship of a company that worked on the structure years ago.

The committee halted work on the repair project and hired a consultant to check out the past work.

County Administrator Tom Meaux said officials are waiting for the final report from the consultant.

“We’re going to aggressively pursue a claim of some sort if we have cause to do so,” he said.

As repair work resumes, Meaux said, steps will be taken to prevent water from getting into the brick and mortar joints, which should make for a sturdier tower.

Meaux said he hopes the project will be completed this fall. The original goal was to have the work done by last winter.

Work started after the county commissioned a study of the tower by Preserve Design Studio of Whitefish Bay, and last July approved a $300,000 transfer from the capital projects reserve fund to pay for the work.

The study showed four columns on the tower sustained significant damage from lightning strikes and the elements. Mortar on each of the column caps is decomposed, with voids so deep that the mortar could be compromised in some places, according to the report.

Marion Restoration is rebuilding the columns, repairing fractures in the stone and installing joints that allow for movement of the tower caused by strong winds. A lightning protection system will also be installed.

Built in 1901 and 1902, the Romanesque-style building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It housed the county’s circuit courts until they moved to the adjoining Administration Center after it was built in 1969.

Known as the historic courthouse, the building houses administrative offices and the county board room.

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