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Copyright (c) 2009 Ginny Maziarka. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

School Board Members Sets the Record STRAIGHT

'nuff said.


Serious inaccuracies by Mark Peterson (June 17) and others regarding my June 13 School Board vote not to recognize the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) as a student group compel me to set the record straight. The acoustics in Badger Middle School’s cafeteria were a challenge for that meeting, but newspaper and TV reporters correctly relayed what I said.

This issue existed for several years and predates my board service, which just began in April. I was out of town and could not vote when the issue was first considered on May 9, resulting in a 3-3 tie, status quo and the GSA not recognized. Three days later, the GSA filed a lawsuit.

I have numerous reasons why I opposed recognition of the GSA.

1. It’s unnecessary. In a May 13 email to the board and three administrators, Shana Schloemer (signed it as “unofficial Co-advisor of GSA”) stated, “We would not need a GSA at all if there weren’t people who discriminated against or harassed people whose sexual attraction or identity is different than ‘mainstream’.” Our district already has anti-harassment and anti-bullying policies in place. The administration is doing its best to enforce them.

2. The GSA isn’t as tolerant as it claims. I received numerous emails from people who identified themselves as GSA members or supporters. Many of these emails were disrespectful and harassing, calling me terrible names/labels. Because I hadn’t voted on May 9 or responded to any of these emails, these people didn’t know how I would’ve voted, yet they pre-judged me based on something other than facts – the very essence of prejudice. Names, labels and personal opinions appear throughout Ms. Schloemer’s e-mail, although she’s supposed to be setting a good example for GSA students.

3. Many activities advocated by the GSA do/would constitute a distraction from what our District’s true goal should be – to provide the very best possible education, given what our community can afford/support, for all our students to most effectively compete in the 21st century global economy.

The GSA wants to organize and/or participate in 16 days of in-school activities annually. If all 33 student groups do that, 528 days are needed, almost triple our 180 school days.

For “Day of Silence,” the GSA wants students to duct tape their mouths during school. Exercising vigorously in gym, playing a brass or woodwind instrument or giving a comprehensive response to a complex math, English, social studies or science question, etc., with duct tape over your mouth is difficult if not dangerous. Education is supposed to be interactive, but the more duct-taped-mouth students don’t participate, the larger the burden on other students.

4. Such distractions hurt education and are a disservice to our students because U.S. education as a whole is losing ground. We’re ranked in the 20s globally in math and science; we used to be No. 1. Other countries’ students attend more school days per year (Japan 243, South Korea 220, U.S. 180) with longer school days (e.g., South Korea – 8 hours; ours – 6.5-7 hours).

5. Money is available for the lawsuit. I found $655,000 of administrative reductions (i.e., no teacher cuts). Since this wasn’t in the preliminary budget the prior Board passed, much of it’s still available.

I’m skeptical of those supporting tax-to-max budgets, tax-increase referenda, etc., yet say we have no money for the lawsuit. Many parents contacted me threatening to pull their kids out of our district if we keep letting distractions diminish quality education, potentially losing us hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in revenue. Few factor this into the decision’s total cost.

It’s unfortunate that instead of advancing public understanding and dialogue on this key issue with a well-reasoned, rigorous argument, Mr. Mark Peterson resorts to name-calling (e.g., “zealots,” “vanity,” comparing me to a cartoon character, etc.) and serious departures from the facts. Let’s hope he doesn’t do that in class, where students pay good money for instruction and deserve better.

(Bart Williams of West Bend was elected to the School Board April 5.)

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