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Muffins in Milton, mutual aid to Madison top local news

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Gazette staff
February 19, 2011

Janesville students and teachers can mark May 27 on their calendars.


That date was designated as a weather make-up day. Now, it’ll be used to make up the day lost when the district shut down its schools Friday as many teachers went to Madison to protest the governor’s budget-repair bill.


The shutdown was announced Thursday night after 151 of the district’s 822 teachers called in sick, said Steve Sperry, director of administrative and human services.


Sperry said officials monitored the call-ins, anticipating they might have to call off school. They wanted to tell parents as soon as possible so they could make arrangements.


By 8:30 p.m. Thursday, 151 teachers had called in, and substitute teachers had covered only 51 of those absences, Sperry said.


The district was on the brink of shutting down Thursday, Sperry said, when 84 substitutes took the place of about 90 teachers who called in absent.


The decision to close the schools was made with the questions of safety and the value of the instruction at the forefront, Sperry said.


Sperry said the teachers who called in on Thursday and Friday have until Friday, Feb. 25, to submit a doctor’s excuse. Those who do not will be docked a day’s pay, Sperry said.


Milton High School

You can protest in Madison.


Or you can make muffins in Milton.


On Friday morning, a tunnel of applause, muffins and signs of support greeted Milton High School teachers.


The hallway rally was the students’ purposely nonpolitical way of supporting their teachers.


“It was wonderful,” said assistant Principal Phil Pape. “Many of the staff members had a hard time controlling their emotions.”


Student leaders including seniors Tommy Stith, Jessie Brown and sophomore Elizabeth O’Leary met with Principal Jeremy Bilhorn, telling him that wanted to find a way to participate.


“They came to me earlier in the week wanting to find a way to show support for teachers that would not disrupt the learning environment,” Bilhorn told WCLO Radio.


Some of his students have been to Madison and were considering doing so again. But they also wanted to find a middle ground, Bilhorn said.


Students lined the hallway leading to the teachers’ parking lot. Students carried signs praising their teachers.


“They were clapping and cheering for them,” Pape said. “They worked very hard on this in a very short period of time.”


Brown made 150 muffins for the event.


Pape said he didn’t see any signs that were overtly political.


As far as he’s concerned, “We have some of the best kids in the world in this building.”


Whitewater

Whitewater Police Chief Jim Coan reported that a peaceful, hour-long demonstration happened Friday morning at the home of freshman Rep. Evan Wynn, R-Whitewater, and a pro-Wynn group claimed credit for quelling the assemblyman’s opponents.


About 35 Wynn supporters, mostly tea party members and supporters of the proposed concealed carry law, were in front of his home. About 15 opposed to Gov. Scott Walker’s initiative to strip bargaining rights from state unions were on the other side of the street.


Coan said the opponents identified themselves as being from the Milwaukee Area Labor Council AFL-CIO and firemen from outside of the area.


Wynn said the protesters used “bully tactics” by showing up at someone’s home and are evidence that the unions have too much power.


Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said he hears the demands of the taxpayers, not of those standing on the steps of the Capitol.


Despite objections this week to Walker’s plan, he said nothing would change him from voting in favor of it when it reaches the state Assembly.


“The teachers that have stayed on the job are true professionals and have shown their love for children despite pressure from local union leaders,” he said in statement. “The last couple of days should leave no doubt for most parents that the teachers’ union is willing to take your child’s education hostage to get everything they want.”


Edgerton

At Edgerton High School on Friday, about 13 students participated in a walkout, said Superintendent Dr. Dennis Pauli.


The walkout started at 8:30 a.m. and lasted about an hour.


Students said earlier theyhad planned the walkout to demonstrate against Gov. Walker’s proposal.


Pauli said any students walking out would be given unexcused absences and detentions.


Pauli also clarified a story that ran in Friday’s Gazette.


Of the district’s 131 teachers, 101 reported that they’d be absent from work Thursday to attend protests in Madison. The district said that not all of the teachers called in sick, and the union did not use the term “sick out” to described the teachers’ planned absence.


Evansville

The Evansville School District closed Friday.


The city has a negotiation meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning with Teamsters Local No. 695, which represents the majority of city employees, City Administrator Dan Wietecha said.


The city had offered to quickly negotiate a contract with the union.


Wietecha has talked with union representatives, he said, but will have to wait until the Tuesday meeting to see if a deal can be reached. The city council is scheduled to meet in a special meeting Tuesday night, when the council could vote on a contract.


The union’s contract expired in December.


The city reached a tentative agreement this week with the Wisconsin Professional Police Association on a three-year deal for the city’s seven full-time officers and one part-time officer. Officers approved the contract, which will be up for a vote at Tuesday’s council meeting.


The tentative agreement calls for a 1.5 percent employee contribution for retirement in 2012 and a 3 percent employee contribution in 2013, Wietecha said.


“They definitely are making some concessions on retirement contributions,” he said.


The contract calls for no wage increases this year, a 1 percent raise next year and a 1.5 percent raise in 2013, he said.


Law enforcement

The Rock County Sheriff’s Office and Janesville Police Department sent teams to help the Capitol Police Department after a request for mutual aid.


Sheriff Bob Spoden said he and 25 deputies were at the Capitol, and Chief Dave Moore said 10 officers and one lieutenant were there. They said the deputies and officers were patrolling the inside the Capitol.


Deputies and officers were paid a mix of overtime and regular on-duty wages, they said. The agencies don’t expect to be reimbursed for their help.


Law enforcement agencies often help one another without expecting reimbursement, Moore said. For example, hundreds of officers helped Janesville police in the 1990s during white supremacist rallies.


“We never received a bill for that,” Moore said.


Spoden said no law enforcement agency could staff for a protest of 30,000 people, and several agencies statewide are helping. He said the protest is the largest event he has seen in his career.


Walworth County Sheriff David Graves the state’s emergency government agency asked him to send more than 20 deputies from throughout southeast Wisconsin to help in Madison.


Graves sent six Walworth County deputies Friday to relieve officers that had monitored demonstrators since Tuesday.


Graves said he was asked to send additional deputies Saturday because demonstrators on both sides of the issue are expected to descend on the state capitol.


Forward Janesville

The Janesville business association issued an alert to its members, saying it had heard from “several” businesses that they had been approached by people asking what the business’ position is on the budget-repair bill. They said a boycott would be organized against businesses not agreeing with their position.


“You may want to prepare your employees for such a call and how you want to respond,” the alert states. “We do not know at this time who is organizing the boycott or whether there may be multiple people and/or organizations involved.”


Absent senators

The Gazette received queries from residents who wanted to know if state funds were paying for the travels of Democratic state senators who fled to Illinois to delay a vote on the bill.


An aide to Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, said Cullen paid out of his own pocket.



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