Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Long overdue letter I am attempting to get published

 Letter to the Editor,

I do some of my best thinking when I'm in my garden pulling weeds. I'm sure a lot of you can relate. My thoughts today were about truth. That led me to write this long overdue letter since the school board election. Though I did not win a seat,  I received almost 4.300 votes, which is tremendous! I thank each of you for the trust relayed in those votes.

I am also writing this letter because I believe truth to be vitally important. During the course of campaigning there was much mudslinging as well as malicious and slanderous gossip thrown in my direction, most of it by people who have never spoken to me. I've always expressed my open door policy yet heard from none of those who supposedly shared erroneous information about me.

Regarding Paul DeChant, former science teacher at West Bend West: While my son attended East HS we saw firsthand there were many old, outdated ideas presented in science texts relating to evolution there were being taught as “evidence” for evolution. This brought us, as parents, to do a textbook review. For that review we brought in a highly respected biologist who taught at a prestigious medical school in the Midwest. During his presentation, a WBSD administrator slept while others treated him very rudely and subsequently ignored him. Surprised? I wasn't, but we must try and do our best for the sake of our posterity and good education. Following that issue, the curriculum coordinator for the WBSD told me that Paul Dechant wanted to bring a comparative religions class into the high schools. I told her I would work against it. DeChant told me he believed the monotheistic God was invented by tribal people after centuries of being animistic and polytheistic. I did not believe his approach to be appropriate for K-12 education and that it would confuse students. It was not brought up again. Pants on fire lie #1 is that I wanted to bring religion into the schools; in reality it was Paul Dechant whoattempted to do so.
The second lie that was told to a group at Cedar Ridge by one of my opponents who now sits on the WBSB. He also told the audience that I wanted religion taught in science class. When I confronted him about it and asked him to stay after the meeting so we could talk about it he agreed, but then quickly left. He and I never talked about his claim, and I will never understand why folks are afraid of discussing the truth before making unsubstantiated claims.

The third lie is one from Charlie Hillman. He wrote that in my fair booth I tell people fossils were placed around the world by the devil to fool people. Well, to my knowledge Charlie has never been to my booth, and if he ever did visit he certainly was never told such a ridiculous story.
I have collected some pretty neat fossils from all over the world, and display them with honor telling folks the best explanation for them is the watery judgment of the Biblical Flood in the Days of Noah. In fact, Jesus Himself talked of Noah and the Flood. Was he lying? Didn't He understand what He was saying? I think not. He was testifying to a historical event. We still see the evidences of that flood in the rapidly deposited sedimentary layers worldwide and the remains of plants and animals and even some humans in the form of fossils. Please check out my privately funded What's the Evidence blog and come visit us this summer at State Fair, Dane Co, Waukehsa Co and Sheboygan Co. Our booth has volunteers that include engineers, healthcare professionals, a biology researcher, teachers (both current and former), as well as many business professionals and leaders. We all love science, which is testable, repeatable, observable and measurable. Science is not the study of origins; that would be philosophy. Now if that bothers Charlie, too bad.

My true position: I believe parents are best left to teach origins and religion to their children. Unfortunately, religion is taught in schools. It is called Humanism, and it is taught at the expense of all of us.

I was willing to be a watchdog in the WBSD and bear the burden of advocating for real excellence in education, however, I will not be there. It is important now for every parent and community member to bear their own burden and be their own watchdog, holding elected officials accountable for the expensive education that we all know is failing many. Please do not be afraid. This is way too important. 


Mary Weigand

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I Want Science To Be Taught In Science Class

(Letter to the Editor submitted to Washington County Insider, published 3/25/2018

It has come to my attention there is a rumor that I do not believe in science and am against teaching science in our schools. Since I have been approached by no one, let me set the record straight. I am a registered nurse, currently working in a hospital. I use math and scientific principles every time I work. I love science and the scientific method. I passed my nursing science classes with flying colors (chemistry, microbiology, anatomy and physiology). So, I wonder, why these false accusations? They are coming from people who do not want a real conservative on the school board. Let me explain what I believe should be taught in science class in our local schools.

I believe science should be taught in our schools. No, that is not a mistake in redundancy. Let me say it again. I believe, and want, science to be taught in science class. I also believe that terms like evolution need to be defined. Taking a scientifically valid phenomena like natural selection and mutations developing modern dog breeds and coyotes from wolves is not evidence for molecules to man evolution. It just shows dogs come from dogs. Theories about origins have no place in K-12 education unless all theories are equally critiqued. Anything less is indoctrination. So, I choose to simply keep it out of schools and leave that training for parents.

Let me explain further by this example: Science is building a rocket and flying to the moon. Studying moon rocks and its geology is science. However, the realm of science is left when one begins to talk about the origin of the moon or how long it has been around. Origin theories add nothing to working science. Now I would also like to share my heart about standards and curriculum.

Standards spell out expectations; curriculum is the meat and potatoes. What the teacher does in the classroom is the flavoring and serving by their engagement ability, presentation, room decor, etc. By state law and West Bend School Board policy, the school board approves standards and curriculum.
 
Education is quickly changing, and not entirely for the better. What was once largely locally decided has become quasi-mandates from outside groups at both state and federal levels. Local boards still have the authority to impact curriculum, but it is becoming more and more difficult. When I was considering running for school board I heard from highly respected local people that I needed to talk about curriculum. I have talked to so many parents that tell me they are frustrated with what their kids are learning in school. Some have even told of their frustration over their child struggling with learning the “new math” (Common Core) and how they cannot help them because they don't understand it themselves. And while the proposed Wisconsin social studies standards include the Constitution and Bill of Rights, it wrongly emphasizes our rights come from the US Supreme Court and United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Our local board can alter the standards for our district and change that around. In doing so, I believe we will truly become a destination school district.
 
I understand these issues and will work hard to make positive changes in curriculum.

Mary

Monday, March 19, 2018

Bill of Rights For Students: Blueprint For Improving Public Schools

From improve-education.org:

Given the many counterproductive ideas that sweep through education,
given all the endless, murky debates conducted in our media,
it is helpful for the American people to focus on what, at a minimum,
young people are entitled to in our schools:

1) THE RIGHT TO LEARN TO READ. All progress in education depends on literacy. It is imperative that children learn the alphabet and the sounds early, and that they are reading in the first grade. Children have a right to be reading age-appropriate books by the second or third grade.

2) THE RIGHT TO MASTER BASIC ARITHMETIC. Again, as fads have undermined effective teaching for many decades, millions of children never learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. These are such basic skills--easy enough to teach, easy to test. If administrators can’t ensure that all children can do these essential things, find other administrators.

3) THE RIGHT TO WRITE, IN BOTH SENSES. One essential goal in the first years of schooling is to be able to write a small essay or a letter to grandmother, signed with a real signature. Cursive handwriting, according to many experts, is an indispensable assist in learning to read, write, and spell. 

4) THE RIGHT TO KNOW CORRECT SPELLING. Very quickly children need to know that there is a right and wrong way to spell words, just as there are right and wrong ways to compose and punctuate sentences. Correctness and precision are birthrights that children are entitled to. Fuzziness and guessing are detrimental.

5) THE RIGHT TO GEOGRAPHY. Children have a right to know the names of their city, state, and neighboring states. During the first eight years of school, one reasonable project is to learn the names of the 50 states. A parallel project is to learn the names of the 25 countries most often mentioned in the news. Without basic geography, children cannot understand history, literature, environmental science, current events, etc. Geography was once called the Queen of the Sciences--it’s that important. 

6) THE RIGHT TO LITERATURE. Children need to experience the rich legacy of their own language--nursery rhymes, poetry, fairy tales, scenes from Shakespeare, popular songs, limericks, novels, anything that shows children what the cleverest people have done with English through the centuries. (Ideally, children study a second language, which will sharpen their skills in English, and make them more appreciative of language in general.)

7) THE RIGHT TO HISTORY. Children need a sense of history and time. They understand when people talk about Colonial Times, the Middle Ages, Greco-Roman Civilization, the Judeo-Christian tradition, and Ancient History. They should learn first abut their own culture, and then the world. When a teacher says, “Vasco da Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope looking for China,” children should be able to go to a map and explain what that sentence means. 

8) THE RIGHT TO SCIENCE. Children need to know how the world works. What, for example, is snow? What is a moon? Kids should start learning General Science in the first grade. This leads by easy steps to biology, chemistry, physics, math, etc. Studying the physical reality around us is an obvious introduction to scientific thinking, cause and effect, and a systematic approach to solving problems.  

9) THE RIGHT TO MEMORIZATION. Children have a right to know things in a permanent, and intimate way, as they know the memories of their own life. Children learn facts, names, and dates, because all of these together make history and all other subjects more meaningful and three-dimensional. Students should be encouraged to learn knowledge now so they won’t have to look it up later. 

10) THE RIGHT TO REAL CRITICAL THINKING. First, children learn the facts of history, science, etc, and then they learn to sift and analyze those facts. Additionally, they study Aesop’s fables, famous quotes, and maxims. Things we sometimes call clich├ęs are, in fact, the collected wisdom of the human race. Why is it true to say we can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink? Creative thinking, independent thinking--these are possible only when children have knowledge and are free to reach new answers about it. 
 
-----------------------

THIS BILL OF RIGHTS states the need for a knowledge-based education. For most of human history, and in good schools everywhere today, this sort of education is the goal and the essence of what real educators are trying to do. 

UNFORTUNATELY, SINCE THE TIME OF JOHN DEWEY, many schools have been obsessed with social engineering, and indifferent to what might be called intellectual engineering. This mistake in emphasis needs to be corrected. The goal of education is not indoctrination but to take each child as far as each child can go. 

GENUINE EDUCATION is the cement that holds the people in a society together, and connects past, present and future.

ONLY WHEN CHILDREN acquire knowledge and master essential skills can we speak of education that will make children college- and career-ready.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Walkouts Have No Place in Our Schools: Leave the Values Training to Parents

Last week I heard a current school board member casually mention the upcoming "walkout" at a school board meeting. I had no idea what it was about; I never would have imagined the school district would accommodate students disrupting the school day by literally walking out of class.

I looked into it and discussed it with my husband, a former conservative school board member. His first comment to me was, "I want my money back for those 17 minutes of lost clss time."

I also talked to  local business owner who told me that if his employees walked out from the job at his workplace they would not be walking back in.

I'd like to share some of my thoughts and questions with regard to this "walkout" the current school administration is accommodating during the school day paid for with our hard-earned tax dollars as I simply do not believe anything useful will be accomplished by this "walkout."

First of all, the school's mission is education. What is the education brought forth by a protest/walkout during the school day? It seems to me that kids will be learning that if they don't like something, then their reaction should be one of protest and throwing a fit - not one of critical thinking and problem solving for solutions to issues in society. These schoolchildren will soon be adults. I wish the adults working for the school district, who are paid very well, would do their jobs and lead the students in real problem-solving activities.

I would like to ask the protesting students and supportive administration some questions, such as:

Do you understand that you are being used by people who have a political agenda?

Have you been taught the reasons why our Founding Fathers included the right to bear arms in the Constituton was not only for self-defense, but also for protection against oppression?

Are you aware that there are already laws against killing people? And that in Wisconsin there are gun-free zones around schools, yet people still break laws?

Are you aware of the cost taxpayers bear to pay for your education, and that it is offensive to many that their hard-earned money is being ill used in this manner?

Do you have any concern for the disruption of learning for those students who do not wish to be involved in this protest during the course of a school day?

Would the administration accommodate a "walkout" in protest of the daily killing of 5,000 preborn babies by abortion?

Have you taken the time to analyze the characteristics of mass shooters?

There are more questions....

I will say it over and over again -

Schools should not be places for creating little community organizers.

Schools should be places where teachers teach the curriculum approved by the school board.

Leave the values training to the parents.

Mary


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

With declining enrollment, do taxpayers need a new Jackson school?

All of us who joined Citizen Facilities Advisory Committee (CFAC) for the West Bend School District have taken a lot of personal time to be a part of the committee. When I joined the committee I did so with an open mind. I wanted to hear about the facility needs at Jackson Elementary School and the West Bend East and West High Schools. I toured both facilities with the group and came away not at all alarmed at the condition of either site.

I wish to be clear in this write-up so I will focus on only one site - Jackson.

I found the school to be solid, yet a bit neglected. For example, I felt the bathrooms needed updating and new fixtures. I found the classrooms to be neat, well-lit and great learning spaces. 

Contrary to comments I've heard, Jackson is not sinking, no sewers are backing up and the water issue has been addressed by closer scrutiny to maintenance. Dave Ross, facilities manager for the district, confirmed this and told me that if he found any real safety issues at Jackson he would be the first to raise the alarm if there were safety concerns. Per Mr. Ross, “It's not falling down.”

The CFAC committee was not unanimous in its recommendation to build a new two-story Jackson school. The Committee was divided, though the majority (which includes staff from the district office) would like a new two-story Jackson Elementary School. 

Several of us wanted a Jackson remodel proposal. I hope a proposal is in the works because I believe the community needs an honest look at this option, especially within a budget of money already saved - almost $5 million in Fund 46 and Fund 10 thanks to previous board direction and thinking outside the box.

In light of declining enrollment which is evidenced with Jackson school going from over 500 to currently 370 students after the move of 5th graders to Silverbrook, and projected enrollment decline district wide, the data does not indicate there is a need for a larger facility. In fact, statewide projections indicate a trend of lower enrollment in schools for various reasons.

My concern also includes stretching our debt out for several more decades for a new building, burdening our local residents with more debt (both principle and interest), and the need to begin routine maintenance on buildings that are not yet paid for.

Other concerns about building a new facility in Jackson are as follows:

1. COST: Currently, (according to information given to CFAC members) we have referendum debt of almost $39 million with an average interest rate of 2%. This debt is scheduled to be paid in full in 10 years.

Per an email from Mr. Ross, The long and short of things is that the district could do as much as an approximately $40 million referendum and not raise property taxes because of the structure of the existing debt and the Jackson Trust. “

This is a incredible amount of money to add to our current debt, and the idea that it will “not raise property taxes” is very, very misleading. This debt will carry on for decades instead of only one decade. The longer a debt is extended, the more it costs. We are giving debt to our children. I cannot go along with that.

2. SITE LOCATION: The new site is 6.4.acres vs 5.7 acres at the current site. The conceptual drawing done by Bray Architects for Jackson includes a large water retention pond, and there is a gas line running under the property with a gas utility station adjacent to the property: both are safety concerns for me

3. TRAFFIC: Traffic flow will be more congested south of Hwy 60 because there will be only one way to go north back to Hwy 60.

4. SIZE: The current Jackson school is 58,922 sq ft. The first size proposed to CFAC was 85,000 sq ft. which was reduced to 75,000 sq ft. With declining enrollment we do not need a larger building. It makes me wonder if this is about wants vs needs.

5. ENROLLMENT: The student population at Jackson has decreased by almost 150 students in recent years. We do not need a larger building for fewer students. At present, Jackson has a higher square foot area per student than the other elementary schools in the district, and with a proposed 75,000 sq ft for a new Jackson school, it will have much more square footage per student than any other elementary school in the district and much higher than the “industry standards” presented to CFAC.

    We currently have several million dollars saved for Jackson. I would like to see a proposal to remodel Jackson that includes a new gymnasium so the lunch room can be separated from the gym, addresses outside play areas as well as safety and security, updates working parts and parking. 

    We can look into tearing down the 100-year-old portion so we can forever rest the idea that “Jackson is the oldest school in the district”. One Jackson resident suggested using it as a historical building/site; this could be vetted further. We need functional, not fancy.

    The community should not be misled by statements that lead them to believe our property taxes won't go up if we pass a referendum. When money is borrowed it always must be repaid, and with interest.

    I would like to work within our budget. We can do this!!

    And, we can continue to save for future building and maintenance needs as we are currently doing. This is the fiscally responsible way to govern.

    Tuesday, February 27, 2018

    Keeping Our Schools Safe a Priority

    I was encouraged at tonight's Board work session to hear Dave Ross, facilities manager for the WBSD confirm that the district is moving forward with a threat/hazard assessment for our schools. They are working with the local police department, and the Board will be appraised of the results of the assessment and potential action plans. 

    I look forward to being a part of these discussions and am very encouraged to see local government working on this. 

    Mary

    Thursday, February 22, 2018

    Thank you for supporting me with your votes


    I want to thank all of the West Bend School District residents who came out to vote on Tuesday. I truly appreciate your confidence in me by casting the highest number of ballots for me this week as I strive for a seat on the WB school board to represent conservative values.

    I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead as we approach the General Election on April 3.

    Mary