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Learning, longevity rewarded in new Janesville schools' salary schedule


The Janesville School Board and teachers union agree: The school district’s new salary schedule will help attract and retain good teachers.

The school board Tuesday unanimously approved a new salary structure for teachers, social workers, school psychologists and counselors, effective for the 2018-19 school year.

Dave Groth, president of the Janesville Education Association, the union that represents teachers, said his members believe the new structure is predictable and rewards professional development—something teachers wanted.

Groth also described it as “fair” and “competitive.”

That’s exactly what the district was looking for.

The district officials who designed the system wanted a salary structure that would emphasize teacher growth and professional development, help the district attract and retain teachers, and be economically sustainable over time, according to a memo from Scott Garner, assistant superintendent of administrative and human services.

Here’s how the system will work:

It has eight levels with several steps within each level. Each step represents a year of teaching.

To advance to the next level, teachers must complete a certain amount of professional training or earn graduate credits. Both graduate credits and the professional training must be pre-approved, and the training must align with the district’s five-year promises.

The promises are five-year goals in areas such as “student and school success” and “culture and climate.”

Gone are the days when teachers could sign up for whatever professional development courses they wanted or pursue master’s degrees in subjects not necessarily related to their jobs, Superintendent Steve Pophal said in an interview before the meeting.

In addition, teachers must remain on a level for a certain number of years before moving up.

For example, level one has four steps, each one representing a year of teaching. If a teacher’s contract is renewed after each year, he or she is entitled to a $1,200 raise.

Teachers are required to stay at level one for at least two years, with certain exceptions.

To move to level two, teachers would have to tally 90 approved hours of professional development. Those hours could include district professional training or credits from approved graduate courses.

If level-one teachers have not completed 90 hours of professional development after four years at level one, they no longer get raises. Instead, each year they would receive $500 stipends.

In moving from level one to level two, educators receive an additional $3,600 on top of their base salaries.

That is the largest raise educators can receive when moving between levels. After that, advancing from one level to another results in a raise of $2,400.

If teachers advance through a level without receiving the needed professional development, their salaries will be frozen.

Teachers are required to earn an average of 45 hours of professional development a year. In an interview, Pophal said he thought it was important for the public to know that those 45 hours are over and above their teaching duties. Teachers are not paid for professional development days.

In addition, the cost of professional development comes out of the teachers’ pockets. For example, six credits of graduate school work equal 90 hours of professional development. At UW-Whitewater, six credits of graduate work cost about $3,000.

However, Pophal hopes to change that by offering professional development for teachers in June and August.

A third piece of the salary structure allows teachers to earn additional money through collective merit pay. If teachers work in schools that meet their “building goals,” they will get $100 added to their base salaries.

A building goal could be something such as “improve all math scores by 5 percent.”

If the district reaches one of its goals, all teachers are eligible for another $100 on top of their base salaries. An example of a district goal is “90 percent of students will graduate with a dual-credit course”—which is a course that gives students both college and high school credit.

The new salary schedule will start new teachers at a salary of $42,000.

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Organizers announce route of downtown Janesville bike race


In years past, downtown Janesville’s Court and Milwaukee streets were known as “the circuit,” a driving route where car cruisers liked to show off their hot rides.

On June 26, a stretch of Milwaukee and Court streets and a couple of downtown cross streets will be cleared of traffic for a high-speed race—but it’ll be one on two wheels.

Organizers announced Tuesday that they’ve set the course for the Janesville Town Square Gran Prix, which is the city’s leg of the Tour of America’s Dairyland, a major criterium (closed-circuit) bicycle race that has 11 other legs statewide.

The race will run in a nearly 1-mile circuit traveling west down Court Street and east up Milwaukee Street, encircling the heart of the Main Street business and entertainment corridor and three blocks of downtown on the west side of the Rock River. That’s according to a route map provided by a local organizer working through host Midwest Cycling Series.

That means some streets will be blocked to traffic all day Tuesday, June 26, particularly along the straightaways on Milwaukee and Court streets and at cross streets inside the route. The area will be open to foot traffic.

Local organizer Paul Murphy, president of the Janesville Velo Club, said 11 sets of races are set to run throughout the day, drawing hundreds of bicyclists from 40 states and 15 countries. Organizers also expect 3,000 to 4,000 spectators to pack in for the Gran Prix.

Murphy said the Gran Prix will interrupt normal business downtown the day of the races, but organizers believe the influx of people and the attention paid to downtown Janesville will be a net positive.

It’s the kind of event downtown needs as it is groomed to be more pedestrian- and bike-friendly, Murphy said.

“This is more of an ‘exposure’ than a ‘heads in beds’ (tourism) event,” Murphy said. “With ARISE (Janesville’s riverfront revitalization plan), these are the type of events that downtown Janesville would like to see. The timing was right.”

Organizers opted out of holding a race at one location on the Dairyland tour, Milwaukee’s Schlitz Park, because the urban area was too busy for a bike race, Murphy said.

Murphy said he and other stakeholders have been working with city officials since 2016 to land a leg of the Dairyland tour. In recent months, he and the race’s head organizers and promoters laid out the course, considering several possible routes through downtown.

City staff approved the race and its route in January, he said.

The chosen route features a few downhill runs along Court and Milwaukee streets that will boost racers’ speeds to 30 to 35 miles an hour, Murphy said. Tight left and right turns are planned at West Court, Jackson, Dodge and West Milwaukee streets on the west side of the river.

“We call it NASCAR on two wheels,” he said.

It’s the only course on the Dairyland tour that sends racers zipping across two different bridges over the same river.

Murphy said it’s also the first bicycle race of its type in downtown Janesville. Blain’s Farm & Fleet and the Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau are sponsoring it, and Murphy said the hope is to bring a Dairyland race stop here every year.

“It’s perpetual. Once it’s here, we have the right of first refusal every November,” he said.

Murphy said organizers are now signing up racers for 11 different events from about 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 26.

On race morning, motorists and business operators will see organizers setting up gates and concrete barriers to block off streets within the race route, he said. Those streets will be closed to traffic from about 7:30 a.m. until after the races end at about 9 p.m.

For example, the block of South Main Street between Milwaukee and Court streets will be closed to traffic, but pedestrians will be able to move through intersections during races and throughout the day with help from crossing guards.

Much of the activity will be consolidated around the North Main Street and Parker Drive intersections on Milwaukee Street, where the finish line, podium and stage will be located.

Murphy said organizers have already worked with police and fire liaisons on public safety logistics, and the race promoter provides its own race-day medical team to handle bicycling injuries or other problems. Park-and-ride locations are being set up, too, to try to keep spectators and racing teams from clogging up streets with parked cars.

He said in the past, organizers at other legs of the Dairyland tour have worked with affected businesses to address concerns about customer access on race day.

One example: At a past race, a person used a golf cart to ferry customers and items back and forth from a tuxedo shop hemmed in by the race.

Murphy said organizers will hold an informational meeting March 13 to address concerns about the race and planned street closures. He and others are circulating information packets to downtown businesses so people aren’t caught off-guard June 26.

He said the hope is that the dozen or so downtown restaurants and other businesses will brainstorm promotions and events to turn race day into a benefit.

“It’s an interruption to people and businesses. We do want to reduce the impact and help them (businesses), and we’re trying to encourage businesses to make an event out of it,” Murphy said. “How you prepare yourself is up to you. We’re saying Janesville needs to create the circus. Because we’re bringing the clowns.”

Anthony Wahl 

A two-man crew with the Public Works Department fills a pothole near the intersection of Reuther Way and Beloit Avenue on Tuesday, Feb. 27. With rising temperatures and the impending spring season comes road work. "As the snow the ice begin to melt, the roads are starting to show some of those potholes," said City Manager Mark Freitag at Monday's Janesville City Council meeting. Residents can call 755-3110 or go to the city's website to report potholes, and they'll typically be fixed within 72 hours, Freitag said. Freitag called the system a "great, responsive" way to get city potholes addressed.

Scott Walker moves to stabilize Obamacare as AG Brad Schimel seeks to strike it down


Gov. Scott Walker signed a $200 million bill Tuesday to stabilize Obamacare markets in Wisconsin even as state Attorney General Brad Schimel sued seeking to block the entire law.

The GOP governor—a longtime critic of the Affordable Care Act—has emphasized in recent weeks that he wants to hold down prices for insurance purchased through the law and make sure it’s affordable for state residents.

“Our Health Care Stability Plan is our solution to Washington’s failure; we want to provide health care stability and lower premiums for Wisconsin,” Walker said in a statement.

But Schimel, also a Republican, received Walker’s sign-off to move this week in a different direction, leading a group of 20 states who are suing to block Obamacare entirely. Though Republicans in Congress failed to repeal the law last year, Schimel argues that they made enough changes that the law is no longer constitutional.

“I bring this challenge to Obamacare because, as Wisconsin’s attorney general, I swore to uphold the rule of law and protect our state from overreaching and harmful actions from the federal government,” Schimel said in a statement.

The actions of the two top GOP leaders in the state Capitol underline the choice for their party on the ACA: do they keep trying to get rid of the law or accept and improve it since Congress didn’t replace it?

Schimel spokesman Johnny Koremenos confirmed Tuesday that the governor had signed off on the legal challenge—a necessary step before the attorney general can sue on the state’s behalf.

Jon Peacock, research director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, said the lawsuit could undercut Walker’s efforts to hold down prices in Obamacare markets and spook insurers who were already considering leaving it.

He said if Schimel succeeds, Republicans would have to come up with a plan to cover tens of thousands of Wisconsinites.

“The lawsuit is one more action designed to destabilize and sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Those actions have already been driving up the costs of marketplace premiums,” Peacock said.

Schimel is filing the Obamacare lawsuit in federal court in Texas and leading the case along with Ken Paxton, the Republican attorney general of that state.

In a 2012 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate in Obamacare by saying Congress had the authority to impose a tax on consumers who don’t purchase health insurance. Last year, Congress and President Donald Trump eliminated the tax.

Schimel’s lawsuit argues that because the tax has been dropped, the individual mandate to buy health insurance and, with it, the entire law are no longer constitutional.

Meanwhile, Walker on Tuesday signed his stabilization legislation, Senate Bill 770 as he toured hospitals in Tomah and Green Bay.

Walker has repeatedly rejected federal money available under Obamacare to expand Medicaid health programs for the poor. But the legislation will accept federal money to help hold down rising costs within the Obamacare individual insurance exchanges for those who make too much to qualify for federal subsidies.

State Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning said the state would be better off if Walker had taken the full federal funding and expanded Medicaid.

“Anyone who values health care will be voting for Democratic representation this year,” Laning said.

The proposal passed the Assembly and Senate last week with bipartisan support.

This so-called reinsurance program is similar to one in Minnesota that is estimated to have lowered premiums by 20 percent this year compared with what they would have been otherwise. Oregon and Alaska also have established reinsurance funds, and federal reinsurance was also present in the ACA for its first three years.

The Wisconsin reinsurance plan would be funded by an estimated $150 million from the federal government and a $50 million state contribution, though those estimated amounts could rise higher, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Gazette at a Glance for Feb. 28, 2018

Local • 3A, 6a, 7A

Jury deadlocked in cold case

A Rock County trial for Kelly L. Baxter, accused of sexually assaulting a 78-year-old Janesville woman nearly 18 years ago, ended in a mistrial late Tuesday night. At 8 p.m., the jury of nine women and three men told Judge James Daley they were deadlocked. Daley set a new trial for May 8-9 with a final pretrial May 3.

State • 2A

Prisons bill gains support

Support is building in the state Senate for a juvenile justice overhaul plan that would close Wisconsin’s troubled Lincoln Hills juvenile prison by 2021 and create a new hybrid system to house juveniles in state- and county-run facilities.

Resigning Haas gives warning

Embattled Wisconsin Elections Commission administrator Michael Haas said Tuesday that he will step down and not pursue legal options to challenge the state Senate’s rejection of his confirmation last month. He also warned that Wisconsin risks falling “dangerously behind” in preparing for the fall election in the face of risks and threats to the country’s election systems.