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Random Thoughts on RUSD Issues

With elections only days away, what matters to you as you vote for school board officials? Here are a few of my issues.

Unfortunately, I cannot make it to the Racine Unified District meetings because of my husband’s work schedule. As soon as that changes, so will my attendance. So I have to admit that throughout the years, and currently, I am not as aware or educated as I should be on the issues facing RUSD and the controversies that have arisen.

However, I am not left without opinion on certain issues. And some of those have been touched upon recently as the elections draw near.

I would like to just make some points in light of what I have read in past weeks:

The Doctor Police

Educators have a right to see a physician when they deem necessary. Candidate Brian Dey thinks that raising healthcare deductibles is beneficial because it stops employees from using healthcare services for issues he views as unnecessary. I don’t think one person or even a group of people have any right to tell a person who has earned their healthcare coverage when they should or shouldn’t visit a doctor. Perhaps usage will go down. But how do we know they might be choosing financial stability while sacrificing their health? The sooner an illness is caught and treated, the better it is for everyone. Statements like this and his support of vouchers (which I have ) would make it difficult for me to vote for Mr. Dey.

11 Year Old Grown Ups; Its Creepy

There are a couple things, however, of which I do agree with Brian Dey. The first being moving sixth grade back into elementary schools and moving ninth grade into middle school. I have felt this way since I was in high school. We live in a society where we force our children to grow up much too fast. This puts them into inappropriate situations and gives them stresses for which they are not prepared.

At The REAL School, they recently had a Winter Formal. Most of the attendees were the middle school students. However, it was open to the whole school and there were some high school students in attendance. Many of the young girls (as young as 11 years old) were wearing high heels, strapless dresses and faces full of makeup. Again, ELEVEN years old. While I was told that the dance was handled well by adult chaperones and was really quite an innocent event, I still feel very uncomfortable with situations such as this.

Not only do I feel young children should not be dressing and acting like grownups, I also do not feel that an 11-year-old should be attending social events like dances with 15, 16, 17 year olds. The maturity gap is far too wide and the social dangers are far too complicated. I was told by one person that a child had to be taken out of the school because as a sixth grader, she had a 16 year old boyfriend. As a mother of girls, that makes my stomach churn.

Even if safety precautions are put into place, I do not feel the opportunity should even be there. Let’s stop trying to turn our children into miniature adults, allow them to be kids and stop acting as though they are our friends instead of our kids.

I am not sure if these have anything to do with Dey’s position on the matter – these are simply my reasons for wanting to push the grades back.

Project Runway: Classroom Edition

Uniforms. I will preach about this until SOMEONE hears me. I cannot tell you how strongly I believe that simple, basic uniforms would improve our district tenfold. There will be less distraction, less competition, less inappropriate situations and more focus where it should be – on school work.

The idea that kids need a certain outfit to express their individuality is a bunch of crap. If you are teaching your child that it’s all in the clothing, then you are going to have much bigger issues to deal with. You express yourself with your thoughts, with your voice, with your actions. There is no way a pair of khakis and a polo are going to stunt your child’s creative growth – and if it does, chances are it had no shot to begin with.

When I was in school I would spend many nights trying to figure out what I was going to wear the following day that wouldn’t leave me in the outcast pile. I only had a couple pairs of jeans. I had to make sure I alternated so I never wore them 2 days in a row; believe me, it was noticed. We couldn’t afford the brand names that many kids seemed all too giddy to point out. Because I didn’t have an upside down triangle on my pocket, I felt inferior as silly as that sounds. Going to school was like going to a pageant – and you were most certainly being judged. Uniforms will level the playing field and take away that insecurity and competition.

The way many kids dress today makes me gasp and I am no prude. I saw a fifth grader with jeans so tight you could read the year on the penny in her back pocket. Her eyeliner was thicker than a member of a heavy metal band. I felt sad for her. Boys wear pants that hang off their butts showing us nothing but their underwear. I see young girls with shorts that say “Hottie” on the backside and tops that say “Call me.”

Kids need to be comfortable, they need to be able to run around at recess, they need to focus on why they are at school. A child worrying about what to wear each day should never, ever be an issue. Period. I want uniforms in our schools!!

I recently emailed the candidates (the ones who are publicly reachable) asking them about their feelings on these issues. That was well over a week ago. I have yet to hear a peep. It seems to me that with an election so near, these candidates would make themselves highly visible and available. I have no interest in voting for someone who will ignore their constituents. But like I said, it has only been a little over a week and I am sure they are busy. Hopefully I will hear back before April 3.

Brian Dey March 23, 2012 at 02:06 AM
cont... These are all sound ideas that address parental concerns of why they leave the district. As far as uniforms Heather, the issue came up before me twice so I actually have recorded votes and notes in minutes to verify that I stood in favor of Gilmore's uniform request and stood in favor of McKinley's request. Both passed. I also asked Supt. Tom Hicks to explore districtwide uniforms. As we know, he left in disgrace after a financial scandal that I exposed. As far as the REAL School, they are very careful of interaction with middle and high school students. It is a close knit community of staff, parents and children and has the highest graduation rate in the state, the highest test scores in the state and 100% enter vocational or college studies upon graduation.
GearHead March 23, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Correct on K-6, 7-9, 10-12. Correct on uniforms. Wrong on Dey. Every existing board member is openly partisan, six of which signed recall petitions against the very governor that gave them the tools to break free from the union stranglehold and regain control of their own destiny. Dey will move them in that direction. Until then, the district will continue to free fall. Wake up, Lyle.
Brian Dey March 23, 2012 at 02:21 AM
Lyle- It wasn't because of political ambition that I left. You would have to know Racine history to understand, but 2005 to 2008 were very tumultuous years. We had two huge scandals, we had completely rewritten all of our policies, we fired are Supt., fired our CFO, had 596 of 640 elementary teachers threaten to quit over the Supt. policies, went through 2 contract negotiations with all 6 bargaining units, had 3 referendums of which one I was instrumental in its passage. I simply didn't have the time or energy and perform my day job. I ran for the County Board instead of going for a second term and because the Village President asked me to conduct a study to see if it was feasible for our community to have its own district and was commissioned as Chairman by an appointed community board. It would have been a conflict of interest for me to help my community and to serve on the school board. All the time as chair, I was adamant about this could only be done if both RUSD and my community mutually benefitted. I went on to serve my community in otherfacets as well, and am running again because of some serious missteps by the current school board.
Brian Dey March 23, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Elizabeth- Uniforms at Gilmore were essential in preventing kids from Horlick going into Gilmore and blending in with students. It was for safety reasons as Horlick gang members were recruiting middle school kids for gang activity. The same could be said of every school, and while it may not prevent it entirely, according to the principal, it was very successful as a deterent. I'm not as much concerned about stigmas, as I am about safety when it comes to uniforms.
Heather Asiyanbi (Editor) March 23, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Uniforms - Agreed. Daughter attended McKinley and we were HAPPY about the uniform only to get colored disappointed when it wasn't enforced and we found out there wasn't recourse to get it enforced. We talked to teachers who said behavior improved and the mean girl atmosphere came down a quite a bit. We still support uniforms even though we're nearly past having to worry about kids in school. Higher deductibles - we were victim - yes, I said it - to a high deductible plan that did us no favors. I have no answers to the insurance thing because it's complex, but I think the ability to shop around should be part a mandatory part of the teachers' contract if it is not already for the absolute best coverage at the lowest price out of paychecks. Combined grades in school - I went to combined MS/HS and we had our functions separately even as we mixed in the halls. There were no issues of bullying or inappropriate behavior, and I know of only one instance of a MS girl with a HS boy relationship. As a parent, I would not allow my MS child to attend a dance if the HS students were there. Heck, we won't even let our HS sophomore go to prom because she isn't 16 and a junior! But anyway - the mixed school doesn't bother me, but I agree about social functions like dances. Certain activities could be okay, though.
Heather Rayne Geyer March 23, 2012 at 03:27 AM
I never said the deductibles were the worst thing ever. Either not reading correctly or reading into what isn't there. I was commenting on something Brian Dey said here on Patch about the higher ded. being good so employees stop abusing their benefits. I took issue with THAT. I pay deductibles too. It sucks. But they shouldnt be used as a punishment or a way to corral people into a medical consensus of what one person thinks is appropriate. Does that make sense?? I am so tired. As for thinking taller...I do. You have no idea how much I wish I could turn off my mind. But I am not going to get into A. Things I do not have all the info about and B. Things which have been overly discussed on Patch already. CLEARLY grades, safety and finances is important. But I don't have answers for everything. I am not running for office, I do not work in the system. I am giving some opinions as a mom. Period. And just because these may not be the most important issues - they are still valid.
James R Hoffa March 23, 2012 at 03:54 AM
@Lyle - Your assessment of Dey couldn't have been further off the mark my friend. He's the best shot we've got at salvaging RUSD, not further destroying it. Mr. Dey has Hoffa's full support and backing in this election!
Lyle Ruble March 23, 2012 at 04:03 AM
@JRH...I worry about Dey being so intractable. I think he has all the qualifications and is a goof choice, but his vehemence against unions and negotiation is what is concerning.
James R Hoffa March 23, 2012 at 04:09 AM
I applaud Mr. Dey's candid, open, honest, and thoughtful responses to all the questions asked of him and in how he's handled the criticisms leveled against him with the utmost of class and complete disclosure. He obviously cares more about engaging in open discourse with the constituency than any of the other candidates, and especially the completely unresponsive incumbents, as he's now proven time and again here on Patch. This alone says a great deal about Mr. Dey's commitment, intentions, and character, all of which are of the absolutely highest degree. Mr. Dey truly represents a 'breath of fresh air' for the troubled RUSD and represents our best chance at salvaging a once great school district and making it great once again. The incumbents have essentially turned this election into union vs. children. Dey stands with our children and we should stand with Dey! Send the incumbents the message that our children come first by voting them out and voting Dey in! Dey stands with our children and Hoffa stands with Dey!
James R Hoffa March 23, 2012 at 04:12 AM
@Lyle - And the union issue benefits the children how exactly?
Brian Dey March 23, 2012 at 12:46 PM
HRG- The higher deductible plan was chosen over a lower deductible plan with higher premiums by the unions. They were given a choice and that is the one they chose. As someone that hopes to be part of managing a budget of over $270 million, that was good news because usage goes down which generates savings which can go to offset budget deficits. Ask anyone who administers health plans, and you will find out that if you have no deductible like the unions were accustome to, you go in for every little bump, bruise, sniffle or headache. Things that most people will use over the counter treatments. Urgent care is very expensive and someone has to pay for it. The more the district pays for things like that, the less that reaches our classrooms. That is just fiscal reality, and as a board member, the number one function is to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollars. You may not agree, but that is the way it is structured. We have had board members that feel the way you do, and that is what created budget crisis after budget crisis. In RUSD, until Act 10, $.85 of every dollar went to salary and benefits. That leaves $.15 for everything else like building repairs, maintenance, textbooks, computers, desks, lighting etc... Everyone on the left wants to raise taxes to lower that ratio, but money just isn't there for higher taxes. 11% unemployment, foreclosures, businesses going under. That is where the money comes from and noone worries about those people. I do.
Heather Rayne Geyer March 23, 2012 at 12:56 PM
I don't think ppl are going in for sniffles and bruises. Come on. I really need a heart test but because our deductible is so high, I may not get it because the costs of these tests are more than normal ppl can ever afford. I am not arguing whether or no they agrees to this plan. I am just no liking the thought process that the ppl need to be parented by their employers or that it is being assumed they are babies who run to the dr for stupid crap. It is very possible important issues may now be left untreated.
Heather Rayne Geyer March 23, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Sorry for errors...I hate typing on the phone
Brian Dey March 23, 2012 at 01:48 PM
HRG- The thought process in this decision was the unions, not the employer. I know you say you are not arguing that point, but if they would have taken the other option, they could have had a more managable deductible. Either way, it had to change from the existing plan because in order to sustain what they had, you would have had to increase taxes on people who already pay high healthcare costs of their own, have seen no raises or pay cuts or lost their job, either losing their home, lost their home, etc... What about those people? Do you believe they should pay more while they are truly suffering? Did you know that Racine has the highest unemployment in the state? Did you know that we have the second highest foreclosure rate in the state? Did you know that second only to Milwaukee, we have the highest poverty rate in Wisconsin with 52% of the city's population at or below poverty? Are they supposed to foot the bill so that the union can enjoy free healthcare? Did you know that teachers, and all the employee groups can still have free healthcare if the go to a specified clinic? You are asking a lot out of a population that simply doesn't have it to give. And that is why you are seeing this great divide with so much anger on both sides. On the one hand, you have those that have had to give back something they felt they were entitled to, an on the other, those that have already gave back and now are asked by some to do even more through higher taxes.
Heather Rayne Geyer March 23, 2012 at 01:57 PM
You are clearly misunderstanding what I am saying. I can't keep going back and forth. I really don't know what is so hard to understand. I am not talking about whether or not they should pay more!!!! I am talking about statements you have made which make you sound like you are the judge of who and what deserves medical attention. Period. I never said they shouldn't pay more. Why is that not getting through??
Sandy March 23, 2012 at 02:07 PM
Uniforms - agreed. my kids went to Gilmore and even though my daughter hated wearing the "ugly" clothes she did say it was better than seeing those girls who didn't have the money to buy the trendy clothes feeling shunned because they couldn't afford them. There is a program in this school that provides used clothing for those who cannot afford it. Buying the khakis and polos is not that expensive and I see them at the Goodwill as well so that really should help those who are on a tight budget. Class Restructuring - agreed. Unfortunately, things are not the same now as when we adults graduated! Kids need to be comfortable moving on and kids in 6th grade just are not ready for the tragedy currently knows as middle school. Kids are naturally going through many physical and hormonal changes at this time and that adds to the stress. Just because kids want to grow up fast doesn't mean they NEED to. Most kids look up to and mimic the older ones but don't think about if it's appropriate at their age. Another big factor: kids+reality shows, poor music & movie role models=poor judgement, skanky outfits, disrespect, bullying & bad attitudes. kids+parents who condone these shows, singers & actor/actresses=worse problems. not everyone does this so why should their kids have to be exposed too early to this kind of thing just because it's the grade they are in?
GearHead March 23, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Actually, HRG, you are digging yourself a bigger hole. With statments like "Educators have a right to see a physician when they deem necessary," it's pretty clear your understanding of "rights" is suspect. "...even a group of people have any right to tell a person who has earned their healthcare coverage when they should or shouldn’t visit a doctor..." Dey never implied that, only pointing out economic reality there is no free lunch. Lower deductables means either the teacher has to pay more per month, or the taxpayer has to. It is that simple. I hate every part of health care. My rates are high (with very good health) my deductables are out-of-sight, and I need to be damn near dead before i go see anyone. That is at my own peril but is also my choice. But it is a free choice? You fear others telling you where you can and can't go? Then you should be on the front lines protesting ObamaCare. It is the most expensive "free" program on earth, and will bankrupt us all. Including you. Say goodby to choice, and get ready to stand in really long lines for pitiful service.
Brian Dey March 23, 2012 at 02:29 PM
HRG- I'm not sure you understand the answers, but if this clears this up, I never said I was the judge. I said that the ditrict saved money because usage went down with the high deductibles. The fact is, and I refer to talking to someone who administers benefit plans, i.e. Human Resources, they will tell you that when there is no deductible, people will go to the doctor for everything including sniffles, minor cuts, etc... If there is a deductible, they don't go in for the little things because they have to pay for it. Let's try this and see if it makes any more sense. If you get a scratch on your car, and you have no deductible, you will probably get the scratch fixed because you don't have to pay anything. That same scratch, if you had a deductible of say $200, you would probably just let go because you have to come up with the deductible. If you are in a major accident, you don't mind paying the deductible. Not sure if you are quite getting it. But the availability is still there regardless, and the individual can make the decision of there own best interest. I'm not ever saying I'm the judge nor did I ever. I hope this clears up any confusion, because in the simple example, the employer is never the judge of anything.
Heather Rayne Geyer March 23, 2012 at 02:31 PM
How am I digging a bigger hole? That doesn't make sense. In the comments section on a Patch article Brian was making comments about teachers running to the Dr every time they sniffled and that is was abusive to the system and now they won't be able to...in a haha gotcha sorta way. It was very condescending. I take issue with his (and yours and whomever else shares those views) such divisive ways of communicating. So hostile and arrogant in my opinion. Pitting one group against the other. That is how it comes off and I think school board needs to be open to suggestion and opinions of others. Its the attitude that bothers me. Good for you that you don't need to see a dr very often. I hope you are very grateful for that. We are not all so lucky.
Sandy March 23, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Poor Test Scores-There are several reasons for these: 1. Curriculum not suited for student's learning style 2. Teachers teaching style not matched with child's learning style 3. Teachers who are not supportive and encouraging of our children (I had a teacher tell my child he didn't know why she was there since she was just going to fail his class) RUSD thinks every student should fit into the same box. That won't equal stellar grades. Have classes for learning style and kids that react well to the teacher's teaching style and you will see results. Some teachers (not all) just don't care. It takes a lot to dismiss a teacher, sometimes I wonder if it's too much. That is one area that I have a problem with the union - it protects some who are a detriment to the district and our kids. Classrooms with kids more in control than teachers is having a negative affect on all.Taking care of the first 2 problems should eliminate a good number of the problem children. For the rest - harsher punishments and bring back making kids redo a grade if they aren't truly passing. Passing kids just to give the problem to someone else is not helping anyone. This is not everything but it's a good start and RUSD and those wanting to be elected - here is your "honey do" list! P.S. Poor parenting and those who do not care about academics for themselves or their children is also a problem the schools face but one that only the parents can solve.
Heather Rayne Geyer March 23, 2012 at 02:54 PM
My daughter's teacher had to take on 5 new special needs students because she had less seniority and other teachers didnt want them. So, a teacher with less experience has to have a huge class with a high percentage of special needs students. And she already had a couple in her class who just didn't happen to be diagnosed yet. Yes, I do think there are issues with contracts and union that need to be adjusted and changed. Some of the policies are really messed up!!! I just don't think it is being done the right way.
Sandy March 23, 2012 at 02:57 PM
I agree Heather - that is one area I had forgotten about but is VERY important. There are some special needs kids that do not belong in the regular classroom since it is not meeting THEIR needs. This isn't about the teachers not wanting them, it is about what is best for the student. I think an uproar from parents is going to be the only thing that changes this since it doesn't seem the district listens to teachers.
Brian Dey March 23, 2012 at 03:13 PM
HRG- How is pointing out a true fact a gotcha moment? From your prespective, anything I ever say is divisive unless it agrees with your thinking. Don't know what to do about that. We don't live in a fantasy world where money just falls off trees. We all have choices to make regarding what we can afford and what we cannot, and it is not up to government agencies to make those choices. But we do have priorities. My priority is not wrapped around a union handout to get votes and the incumbents clearly do enjoy payback for their support. My priority was, is and has been for the children, and when I see union leaders using our kids in both the Student Bill of Rights and the letter to the MTEA, as well as the "sick out" and all the other nonsense, I have no qualms in saying that the union leaders are not in it for the children. I have a record in this community that I proudly stand on. They could give a damn about the teachers. They proved that in their negotiations to rush a bad deal for teachers, they proved that in their lack of support for Act 10 and would rather collect their union dues than save the 128 jobs, as well as try to deny MTEA and MPS the ability to keep 800 teachers in the classroom. It is all about the dues and who cares if their fellow teachers get in the way of their power. I am running to protect the teachers and children. If that sounds condescending or divisive, I don't care.
Brian Dey March 23, 2012 at 03:21 PM
We've tried negotiating with them and this is what you get through collective bargaining. The fact is, it had to be done this way as the union leadership refused to change anything unless it was to the senior employees advantage. Again, that is reality.
Brian Dey March 23, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Sandy- You hit on one extremely important point which is social promotion. It only makes sense, and take reading level for example, that if a child is not reading at grade level and you advance him/her, they will continue to do poorly and that would reflect in test scores. That has to change immediately if we want to see improvement. This children often get passed along and if they never get caught up, can lead to them dropping out. Also, you touched on another point. The WKCE test is not necessarily a measure of childrens success as it is a measure of whether we are teaching them the right curriculum. You would not believe how many educators don't understand what the test is for.
mau March 23, 2012 at 07:36 PM
You are so wrong. The candidates being supported by the REA and Racine Labor Press are just as partisan if not more, than Mr. Dey. To top it off they don't even show up at board meetings to vote on critical issues facing the RUSD. He would be one voice to counteract the rest of the radical left leaning board.
mau March 23, 2012 at 07:47 PM
I am going to stick to the medical coverage issue. What deductible or co-pay do they have to pay at their own private medical facility? http://www.journaltimes.com/news/local/article_147994ae-0ad5-11df-bf73-001cc4c03286.html How many have that in addition to what I consider a premium insurance plan, even with a high deductible. You need to see the whole package of benefits, not just look a the deductible amount. Read the Benefit Plan Summaries and you will see it pretty much averages out. They may pay more upfront but you have to look at the out-of-pocket amounts they pay. Their co-pays are negligible. My insurance pays 80% if I go out-of-network and 90% if I stay in. My doctor negotiates rates with the insurance company and every January my co-pay goes up. Benefit Plan Summaries http://www.racine.k12.wi.us/?do=dept.content&pageID=893 Again, there first choice of medical treatment is their own medical facility.
Brian Dey March 23, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Lyle- You should hear the incumbents. Just because they may agree with your progressive leanings doesn't make it any less partisan.
Tim Scott March 24, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Ann Laing - got caught telling the truth - OOPS! Got to cover it up! CHOICE - it's only good for aborting babies - but not for education! The problem is RUSD, and it needs to be done away with. It stands as jobs program for graduates in "education", which is indoctrination today. ANN - remember the parents you blast for making an "uneducated choice" were trained by RUSD! http://www.flickr.com/photos/unisexcar/
Tuco March 24, 2012 at 11:56 PM
I got a postcard today: Racine wants accountability . What a joke. The 3 board members seeking re-election have had the opportunity. 49 out of 50. Now they can be accountable. Let's tell them "you're fired!"

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