All content, of both the original and this blog, is written from my point of view and is my opinion. I believe it to be accurate at the time it is written. ~ Kyle Prast, Brookfield resident since 1986

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Did you attend Elmbrook's Annual meeting?

Last night was the Elmbrook School District's Annual Meeting. I was unable to attend.

I contacted someone who did go and they reported that attendance was light, maybe 40 or so in the audience, with some stragglers as the evening progressed.

Paraphrasing the attendee's take on the evening...
  • The meeting proceeded along Agenda lines without a hitch.
  • Based on questions asked, the crowd seemed equally divided between "pro-program supporters and fiscal conservatives".
  • Treasurer Glen Allgaier did "a masterful job of presenting the budget and answering questions".
  • Most questions were "soft" but some "really went after the Board and Administration" on "total compensation of faculty members".
  • Some attendees agreed we need to control spending, yet advocated "non-core pet programs", didn't want to see class sizes increase, etc.
When all was said and done, the motion to approve the total tax levy of $78,535,670 dollars was passed nearly unanimously. Yes, even in this economy with state and federal budget deficits looming, virtually no one said Nay to just over $78.5 MILLION DOLLARS for 6165 students. The new tax levy is up $889,965 from last year's figure.

In other years, we might just sigh and think oh, it's just Elmbrook business as usual. But considering we are heading into the November elections, I would have hoped residents might make the connection that smaller, more limited government isn't just for the Federal and State level, but that our School District needs to rethink the folly of building their empire at taxpayer expense too.

No one likes to contemplate closing a school or schools, but how can Elmbrook justify EXPANDING programs and non-resident student enrollment just to keep feeding the dragon that is an over-built school district?

Contact the board.

Links: Practically Speaking, Betterbrookfield, RandyMelchert, Jay Weber, Vicki McKenna, The Right View Wisconsin, CNS News, Mark Levin, Breitbart BigGovernment, The Heritage Foundation

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Weigh in on Elmbrook's budget, 4K & school closings this week & next - Clarification

Clarification: Additional thoughts are noted in *blue with asterisks* .

In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, the Elmbrook School District did some serious rearranging and closing of schools and proposed numerous building referendums.

Several smaller elementary schools were closed, such as Linfield Elementary, our area's neighborhood school. Swanson School was remodeled and expanded in 1996. Elmbrook also proposed and succeeded in razing Brookfield Elementary and Dixon Elementary to make way for 2 much larger elementary schools at the same sites. (Had the Swanson Swap of 2004 gone through, we would have built the largest elementary school of all! We also overdid it on our 2 newly renovated and expanded high schools; we built 'em bigger and better, but we didn't really need the capacity.)

The school boards, at the time, abandoned the concept of the neighborhood school model in favor of the mega elementary school. Those opposed to building bigger schools cited declining enrollment as one reason for not going ahead with enlarging our school capacity. But the community eventually gave in and approved the building referendums without thinking ahead.

So now we have a 4 very large elementary schools: Burleigh, Swanson, Brookfield El. and Dixon, in addition to 2 smaller ones: Tonawanda and Hillside.

Today we are faced with the problem that was forecast so long ago: TOO MUCH SPACE for TOO FEW STUDENTS. Translation: Too much expensive excess capacity.

We have to bridge the millions of dollars budget gap, but what do we do about it?

The special Enrollment Management Study Team's (EMAT) recommendation was that we add 4-K, add more non-resident students, and close 1 elementary school. I say no to the first two suggestions and yes to the last. *I also think we should close the Central Office building. Possibly the offices could be incorporated into one of the larger grade schools, thus in effect making that school's capacity smaller? That in essence would close 2 elementary schools.*

The following is from an email being circulated in the Elmbrook district by Jerry Theder, a member of the EMAT and also member of the Referendum Committee. Since he brings up many of the same points I would have *regarding excess building capacity* and has done such an excellent job presenting them, I am referring you to his letter *on that subject*:

"Subject: Elmbrook School District Spending

The Elmbrook Board of Education is deliberating a number of alternatives to correct a $50 million deficit over the next five years. The administration and board formed a number of committees to help solve this problem and those committees are making their recommendations to reduce expenses.

One committee, of which I was a part, the Enrollment Management Study Team (EMST) has recommended that one elementary school be closed, more non-resident students be added and a 4K program be started. I did not agree with these recommendations and do not support them for these reasons:

  • The EMST did not study the issue of how much elementary school capacity is required for resident students.
  • The addition of more non-resident students increases costs.
  • The addition of a 4K program increases costs.

None of these committees have attacked the critical problems, and consequently the forecasts-to-date, while worthwhile, do not affect the deficit in a substantial way.

The two most important issues that are driving the district into deficit spending are:
a) inflated employee compensation
b) huge excess capacity

Inflated employee compensation in the district is largely the result of ineffective negotiations over a long period, along with a legal environment that makes it difficult, but not impossible, for the board to maintain total compensation at levels that are comparable to similar non-governmental occupations.

Excess District capacity is an issue that the board appears unwilling to address. For the record, in year 2010-2011 enrollment will be 6165. In addition there will be 800+ Non-resident students.

Teaching those 800+ non-residents means the district employs 33 more full time teachers, plus substitute teachers, aides, principals, assistant principals and other various administrative personnel. That equates to more than $4.2 million annually, or $21 million (of the $50 million deficit in five years) of spending that could be eliminated. It also means that there are more school buildings in the district than are required. These excess buildings are like big money-pits. They require money for curriculum and program additions, utilities, maintenance, regular wear and tear replacement, capital asset maintenance and replacement and on and on.

How many excess buildings are tax payers financing? A simple analysis, based on the number of students results in four (4). These include three (3) elementary schools and one (1) administrative building on Hope Street. The district is keeping open four (4) more buildings than are required to educate the resident students of this district.

Get involved before it's too late. Listening Sessions to get your input are scheduled for:
Tuesday, September 21 at 6pm: Burleigh Elementary & 8pm: Brookfield Elementary
Wednesday, September 22 at 6pm: Hillside Elementary & 8pm: Dixon Elementary
Thursday, September 23 at 6pm: Swanson Elementary & Tonawanda Elementary

Other opportunities to get your opinion to the board include: a regular board meeting on September 14, at 6:00 PM and the Annual meeting on September 27 at 6:00 PM.

The board and administration need to hear from you that deficit spending and accompanying unnecessary taxes will not be tolerated.

Come, join me in this campaign for fiscal common-sense
J. J. Theder

I would also add that Elmbrook still includes a small section of New Berlin students in our district. This was a carryover from when Lindfield was closer to these students than their own Orchard Lane School on South Sunnyslope. Lindfield has been closed for over 20 years now, so why are we still paying to educate these students?

Go to the listening sessions and board meetings at the Central Office if you can. Contact the board members about this. Come to the Annual Meeting at 6pm on September 27th.

*Mr. Theder goes farther than I would in that he favors closing 3 elementary schools plus the offices. I do think now is the time to really look at the whole picture. It is a shame that we didn't look at moving the 6th graders back down to the elementary schools and shifting the 9th grade down to the middle school before we embarked on the $62 million high school referendum. But we didn't.*

Past post: Referendum history from Bob Borch
Posts regarding 4-K

Links: Practically Speaking, Betterbrookfield, RandyMelchert, Jay Weber, Vicki McKenna, The Right View Wisconsin, CNS News, Mark Levin, Breitbart BigGovernment, The Heritage Foundation

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

My primary ballot picks

It is time to decide! Wisconsin's Primary Election is Tuesday, September 14th. In Wisconsin, that means one party voting--no crossing over. I voted Republican.

Here are my picks in the order they appeared on my ballot: (I am voting for all running unopposed but will not mention them below.)

Governor: Scott Walker
Scott walker has run a very positive campaign, I think. His ads were upbeat and almost had an Andy of Mayberry quality to them. His latest ad, holding Neumann's feet to the fire for his vote for a pork laden transportation bill while in Congress was more pointed however.
Walker rally made political hay, ad gained national attention

Should Mark Neumann prevail, I will hold my nose and vote for him in November, but I do not like how he has run his campaign. His latest ad about career politicians going negative is absurd considering he was the first to go negative and only recently reinvented himself as the kinder, gentler Mark Neumann. Now he seems to be back in negative mode. In addition, I have a problem with a candidate who chides government spending but owns a business that benefits from government subsidies on green technology. Hopefully I will not have to hold my nose in November. Mark Neumann opposes Vermont-style concealed carry!

Lieutenant Governor: Rebecca Kleefisch I also think Dave Ross would be a good choice, but it does not seem he has campaigned much down here--at least nothing has come to my mailbox.
Lt. Gov. candidate Rebecca Kleefisch on Fox & Friends
More concerned what Brett Davis DID than what Lt. Gov. does

State Treasurer: I have not settled on a candidate. It is not an office I have followed, so I will leave it blank. (I do not vote for people I do not know anything about.) FYI, Randy Melchert picked Scott Feldt.

United States Senate: Ron Johnson If you remember, I urged people to call up Ron to encourage him to run for Senate back in April. In one early conversation with him, I think he joked I was his first fan. He has done well in his campaign and will do well for us in Washington.
Ron Johnson, Feingold virtually tied in poll" November can't come fast enough!
Ron Johnson enters US Senate race
Ron Johnson would be my ideal candidate

David Westlake should run for a state office if he is interested in serving. He is a good conservative voice and would be a good representative at the state level.

Representative to the Assembly District 14: Dale Kooyenga Dale Kooyenga is a solid conservative and will serve us well in Madison. He has run a very energetic, organized campaign from what I can see and is spot on on the issues that matter to me.
Wisconsin 14th Assembly Forum tonight in Tosa with Kooyenga, Coon, Maurer...

Waukesha County Sheriff: Daniel Trawicki I voted for Dan. He is endorsed by many legislators that I admire, such as Leah Vukmir. I was wary of his opponent, Tom Alioto, who was off of work for over a year due to a "hostile environment". How would he manage a larger department? I stuck with Trawicki.

Check fellow Conservative blogger Randy Melchert for more races (including Congressional races in other districts) and his insights: Randy's September 14th Wisconsin Republican Primary Voter Guide
His blog stated he would have State Senate and Assembly picks in the near future.

More past posts: Wisconsin's primary is 3 weeks away, who are you voting for?
To Do List: Email Aldermen & Mayor re: Brookfield train station, Walker rally in 3rd Ward

Brookfield District 7 residents, remember you now vote at St. Luke's Church on Greenfield and Davidson.

Links: Practically Speaking, Betterbrookfield, RandyMelchert, Jay Weber, Vicki McKenna, The Right View Wisconsin, CNS News, Mark Levin, Breitbart BigGovernment, The Heritage Foundation

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Who ate my dill?

One day this summer, I noticed my dill was stripped clean in my vegetable garden, which disappointed me, to say the least. Upon further inspection, I found the culprit. It was a plump Black Swallowtail caterpillar! Somehow my disgust quickly dissipated into delight.

I quickly looked over my other carrot family plants like cilantro, parsley and Queen Anne's Lace, hoping to find more. Black Swallowtails feed on plants from the Parsley/Carrot family. In fact, some people call them parsley-worms. I didn't see any more caterpillars that day but decided to make a point of watching my little friend's progress from then on.

Since he had eaten all my dill, I moved him over to some Queen Anne's Lace. Two days later he had undergone a change; he had attached himself to a stem. The next day he started making the chrysalis, which became more colorful as time went on.

Fully expecting him to overwinter in my garden, I marked the spot where he was so as not to disturb it when cleaning out my flowerbeds in the fall. We then went on vacation for 2 weeks.

First thing I did when I got home though was to check on my guest. He was gone! I missed the show.

From my first encounter to the chrysalis stage took about 10 days. How long it took him to transform and fly the coop, I don't know. What I do know is, next year, I am planting more dill!

Although I did find a few more caterpillars in my garden, I never did find their chrysalises. I hope they have moved on to start the whole life-cycle all over again as well.

If you have never witnessed the unusual transformation of caterpillars into butterflies, you have missed one of God's most amazing little shows on earth. The intracacy of each stage and how different each is from the other is truly a mystery--a mystery I never tire of witnessing.

Want to learn more? Black Swallowtail caterpillar Fieldguide Black Swallowtail (Photo of adult is from here)
Life Cycle of a Black Swallowtail Butterfly - includes info on how to set up a butterfly watching enclosure.

Links: Practically Speaking, Betterbrookfield, RandyMelchert, Jay Weber, Vicki McKenna, The Right View Wisconsin, CNS News, Mark Levin, Breitbart BigGovernment, The Heritage Foundation

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Wisconsin 14th Assembly Forum tonight in Tosa with Kooyenga, Coon, Maurer...

Just a reminder that if you are still undecided about Wisconsin's 14th Assembly District race, there is a Candidate Forum at the Wauwatosa Public Library (76th Street and North Ave.) at 7pm tonight.

All 6 candidates are to be there: Dale Kooyenga, David Coon, Chris Maurer, Dennis Kaun, Michael Olen, and Ryan Shulander.

I admit I have been torn as to who to vote for in this race; I vascilated between David Coon, Chris Maurer, and Dale Kooyenga. It isn't often one has so many choices!

But I have decided on Dale Kooyenga. Rarely have I ever seen a candidate campaign as energetically and effectively as Kooyenga has, which hopefully will translate into how hard he will work for us in Madison!

It isn't just his energy though, it is his platform and endorsements that resonate with me. He has signed the American's for Tax Reform Pledge not to raise taxes and is endorsed by Pro-Life Wisconsin, Wisconsin Right to Life, and Wisconsin Family Action. Individual endorsements include Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto, Wauwatosa Mayor Jill Didier, and Elm Grove Village President Susan Freedy as well as past President Neil Palmer, to name a few.

So if you haven't decided, tonight would be a good opportunity to get to know the candidates.

NOTE FOR BROOKFIELD DISTRICT 7 RESIDENTS: Remember Heritage Christian School is NO LONGER our polling place! You must go to St. Lukes on Greenfield and Davidson Road to vote.

See all the candidates running for Wisconsin office with contact information at Wisconsin Vote

Links: Practically Speaking, Betterbrookfield, RandyMelchert, Jay Weber, Vicki McKenna, The Right View Wisconsin, CNS News, Mark Levin, Breitbart BigGovernment, The Heritage Foundation

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

More concerned what Brett Davis DID than what Lt. Gov. does

We have less than 2 weeks to go until Wisconsin's Primary Election and the campaign ads are in full swing. The Brett Davis ad I have been hearing is really something, proving that in this election cycle, saying you are a CONSERVATIVE is a must for the Republican side of the ballot. (The TV version is much the same but shorter.)

Representative Davis' ad features a glowing litany of what he did in the legislature, with a decidedly conservative, tax cutting spin. It claims he wants to transform the office of Lt. Governor into a taxpayer watchdog for the state. Great.

Trouble is, his complete voting record doesn't match his ad's promises. See what you think.

The Davis ad: In a lighthearted way, the Davis ad begins with a male voice asking a series of questions: For thousands of years, mankind has looked to answer the great questions of the day: Can we predict the end of time? When will Brett Farve retire? and What on earth does the Wisconsin Lt. Governor do?

Then a woman's voice comes on and seriously tells us the facts: Conservative Republican Brett Davis has a plan to end the days of Wisconsin's do-nothing Lt. Governor. Brett Davis will transform the job into the leading taxpayer watchdog in the state, with the chief mission of cutting wasteful spending in Madison. Brett Davis, a small businessman and legislator, who has voted 126 times to cut taxes by a total of $5 billion dollars. No one else running for Lt. Governor can say the same. Brett Davis has a 100% voting record with National Federation of Independent Businesses, is the only candidate with an A rated voting record from the NRA, and is endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life. It ends with the usual vote Brett Davis on Sept. 14th....

Sounds good, doesn't it? Especially if you aren't familiar with Brett Davis' voting record in Wisconsin's Assembly!

When I look at a prospective candidate, I am far more concerned with what that person did in the past than the promises they make for the future. In fact, I will quote Mr. Davis' latest campaign email called "Home Strech" (Brett, you might want to make that stretch): "But talk is cheap--actions speak louder than words."

First of all, since he is the only candidate that has been a legislator in Madison; obviously he is the only candidate with a legislature voting record!

And while in Madison, HE VOTED FOR THE FINAL DOYLE 2007-2008 BUDGET. Although Davis says the promise of a $4 Million dollar Soy Bean Crusher for his district (pork) to sweeten the pot on wasn't the reason, he was the "lone Republican" vote among the Democrats on an earlier compromise budget proposal just the same.

Davis' ad says he wants to "transform the job of Lt. Governor into the leading taxpayer watchdog in the state". In his email he promises, "I'm going to make the job meaningful by giving the office a purpose -- stopping wasteful spending."

Some Watchdog--seems more like a fox in charge of hen-house? Because by Brett Davis' vote in 2007, Davis approved of the $200 million dollar raid from the Patient's Compensation Fund and approved the inmates driver's license ID policy that he is now raging war against. And let's not forget his sponsorship of AB 15, a 2005 Ethanol Mandate Bill. Hardly the work of a true Conservative.

As for the endorsements, Ginny Marshman, a leader in Republican politics in Waukesha County, said this about Davis' pro life stance: "Brett Davis has a 75% pro-life record in the 2005-2006 session, voting against the Wisconsin Right to Life positions three times. His stance against the pro-life movement, including voting for Planned Parenthood's #1 agenda item in chemical abortion aka 'emergency contraception'." (Davis' voting record in 2007-2008 was 100%.)

Notice there is no Tax Hero status mentioned from Wisconsin Club for Growth as there is for real conservatives such as Leah Vukmir or Jim Ott or Glenn Grothman, to name a few.

Yup. You can dress 'em up and even call them Conservative in the ads, but their voting record remains. I can only hope voters this time around will do a little research before they cast their vote on Sept. 14th.

My vote is going for a genuine Conservative, Rebecca Kleefisch, for Lt. Governor. She is Pro-Life, Pro 2nd Amendment, and says NO to high speed rail, for example. If I were not voting for her, I would choose David Ross, Mayor of Superior.

Certainty we can do better than Brett Davis, a Madison middle of the roader for Lt. Governor.

More reading: Brett Davis doesn't want you to know THE TRUTH
Brett Davis is a grade-A hypocrite
We don't need another RINO in Madison zoo
My anti-ethanol [and Brett Davis soybean] rant

Past Posts: Wisconsin's primary is 3 weeks away - who are you voting for?
Lt. Gov. candidate Rebecca Kleefisch on Fox & Friends

Links: Practically Speaking, Betterbrookfield, RandyMelchert, Jay Weber, Vicki McKenna, The Right View Wisconsin, CNS News, Mark Levin, Breitbart BigGovernment, The Heritage Foundation

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What is BIG, Yellow & Black, and Scary? (to some)

This being the first day of school in our area, you might have answered that question by saying the school bus! But my riddle refers to the Yellow and Black Argiope spider, more correctly known as the Black & Yellow Argiope, an orb weaver.

I discovered this beauty last week. I was about to pull the dried day lily stems from the sides of my driveway when I came across this splendid spider. Wow! Pretty impressive. What kind is this? I wondered. The stems can wait; I hated to disturb it.

Getting out my trusty Audubon Field Guide to Insects and Spiders, I found my mystery spider was a female Black & Yellow Argiope. They are fairly common, although I had never seen one before. The guide said the males were small, 1/4" to 3/8"; the females are much larger, 3/4" to 1 1/8", so mine was a biggie.

I thought it would be fun to keep an eye on what she was up to so I would check on her daily. The next day I say she had caught a grasshopper and wrapped it up for future use. She also dined on a yellow-jacket a few days later.

While trying to get some closeups of Mrs. Spider, I found she quick as a wink could switch sides of her web. At first I thought I was seeing things, but she managed to slip through her web to sit on the opposite side faster than my eye could see. I remembered from studying spiders during my homeschool days that spiders did not get hung up on their sticky webs, as she so adeptly demonstrated.

I also remembered spiders had several different spinnerets, so to speak, on their web spinning orifice. The food storage web is a different type web material than the web itself, for example. The heavier zig-zag web was made by the male, according to my Audubon guide: "Male builds web in outlying part of female's web, making a white zig-zag band vertically across the middle."

Some people might look at a spider as just an object of horror. (Obviously I don't suffer from arachnophobia.) I look at the spider and its intricacies and marvel at its design and the Designer who created it. Just look at their spinneret organ and think about that happening by accident.

Sadly, my Mrs. Spider was nowhere to be found yesterday, nor have I been able to locate Mr. I will check on them again today. I did notice a new web nearby with a new Yellow and Black, this one a tan variation. For more information, check out what the Bug Guide has to say. They have many great photos of the color variations.

Now if you are brave enough, take a look at the Black & Yellow in action. Relax, they are not aggressive and rarely bite.

Links: Practically Speaking, Betterbrookfield, RandyMelchert, Jay Weber, Vicki McKenna, The Right View Wisconsin, CNS News, Mark Levin, Breitbart BigGovernment, The Heritage Foundation

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