To the Editor:
In 1798, Thomas Jefferson and other early leaders agreed upon the national plan that led to statehood for Wisconsin.
Over time, the Northwest Ordinance became the blueprint for all states as our nation grew. It required that one square mile in each township of 36 square miles be set aside for public education. Before local or state governance was determined, there was a guarantee that each child would receive an education.
The founding fathers knew that a well-educated child becomes the best protector of a free society. We can rehash old arguments about lobster dinners and lawsuits over phone calls to previous employers, but we cannot lose sight of the responsibility we carry to provide the best education for the children in our district.
So once again, Mr. Richard Moore uses Mr. Gregg Walker, his employer, to interview on a topic and then Mr. Walker, as publisher, writes the opinion page piece that follows.
Try as I might, I cannot find the line that separates news on page one and editorials on page eight. The paper is correct, the judge did not grant a motion to dismiss their lawsuit. However, the final decision has yet to be delivered. Judge Stenz will review the materials submitted and then reach a decision on whether it is an open record or not. In his editorial, Mr. Walker implies that the board is divided on this issue; the fact is that the board voted unanimously to support Dr. Kleinhans in his decision last fall. That is not to suggest that the board has been silent or blind in its oversight of the district. Nor do we, as a board, agree on all issues. We gather facts, discuss options, and then work with the families, students, staff, and administration to meet the educational needs of the district.
Mr. Walker invited a few members of the board to meet with him earlier this spring. They asked that concerns and issues be submitted in writing. We invited Mr. Walker to come to a meeting. He has yet to do either. Mr. Walker talks about families that have come forward to him, in the manner that Sen. Joe McCarthy talked about hidden spies back in the 1950s. Any editorial technique seems to be in season. There can be issues affecting individual students that need to be addressed, but shadow-boxing against a paper with a political agenda is a losing fight for all concerned.
A school district is called to a higher standard than hearsay and untraceable comments. We ask for complaints to be in writing because we demand that of our staff and our students. Board policy and the student code of conduct are based on due process; both sides of an argument are exposed and examined.
If one side is not satisfied, the decision can be appealed. In most cases, these discussions are in the open; however, federal and state laws provide some protection of privacy to staff and many protections for students. In short, the accused and accuser sit across from each other, though the whole town may not always see all the details. As a community, we elect officials to represent our values in these cases. We stand for election every three years and rarely are lawsuits – such as The Lakeland Times’ – necessary tools to keep the process in line. In the case mentioned earlier, we wait for the final decision.
There is much more work to be done at the high school, but there is also progress being made. New programs have already increased attendance and graduation rates. We have begun a process to acknowledge the professional growth of our staff. We are looking for new partnerships to help each student start in a successful career path. We are working with the elementary schools in our area to enhance student achievement.
Finally, we invite people to come forward with concerns. The board policy demands protection for all parties in a dispute. It is only through a transparent process that we can reach resolution.
LUHS Board of Education
Editor’s note: In an effort to move toward full disclosure and to allow easy access to the official record, we refer readers to The Lakeland Times’ response to this letter in our editorial on page 9 of the Friday, June 14, print edition and on our editorial page here, as well as the court briefs published in full on pages 27-33 of the June 14 print edition and online by clicking here.