We the People

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Politics and civil commentary with community columnist John Eyster.

SUNSHINE was critical for Milton School District citizens!

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John Eyster
Wednesday, March 13, 2013

SUNSHINE was critical for Milton School District citizens!

This is SUNSHINE WEEK and I agree with the Gazette's SUNSHINE WEEK editorial.

I have been waiting impatiently for a BRIGHT SUNNY DAY to post my WE THE PEOPLE blog focusing on the American Society of News Editors’ SUNSHINE WEEK. TODAY has been that BRIGHT SUNNY DAY!

If you have not read GREG PECK's editorial for SUNSHINE WEEK, "Milton shows need for sunshine" published yesterday in the Gazette, I urge you to do so. I share my comments in this blog post. What are YOUR comments?

I have noted special articles and editorials focusing the SUNSHINE during this SUNSHINE WEEK as I have been reading newspapers and magazines as well as listening to and watching media sources. GREG PECK, Editorial Page Editor and Writer of The Janesville Gazette cited the history of SUNSHINE WEEK in his editorial, “Milton shows need for sunshine” published yesterday (3/12, P. 6A), “SUNSHINE WEEK, launched in 2005 by the American Society of News Editors, is a national initiative to promote the importance of open government and freedom of information. Participants include media, civic groups, libraries, nonprofits, schools and others interested in the public’s right to know.”

He notes in his “Opinion Matters” blog, “What’s the point of Sunshine Week” posted by Greg on Monday (3/11), “In the past year, media and citizens across Wisconsin have fought to ensure public access to meetings and records. These battles, for example, have been waged in Minocqua, in Dane County, in Milwaukee and right here in Rock County.”

ONE of the major roles of the free press in our republics is to help WE THE PEOPLE maintain that ETERNAL VIGILANCE which is the price of liberty. I agree with Greg’s focus on our MILTON SCHOOL BOARD as he developed one of the case studies as to the NEED for and BENEFITS of transparency in government.

TRULY, OUR MILTON SCHOOL BOARD had to deal with SUNSHINE as the Janesville Gazette and Milton Courier sought PUBLIC RECORDS for WE THE PEOPLE – the public! I am convinced that IF the Janesville Gazette had NOT directly threatened to sue the MILTON SCHOOL BOARD for public documents, WE THE PEOPLE of the School District of Milton would NOT have gained the VERY SIGNIFICANT INFORMATION which was in those documents.

I was SHOCKED when Milton School Board President Rob Roy told Neil Johnson, Gazette reporter, to stop investigating the “MESS” in our School District of Milton. If you want to review that situation, my WE THE PEOPLE blog post was “Why does Milton Board President want Gazette to stop investigating?”

To be honest, I would again today assert that our MILTON SCHOOL BOARD needs MORE SUNSHINE = more transparency. I posted on Monday, January 14, 2013 the assertion, “TOO MANY LOOSE ENDS in Milton School District!”

I cited the fact that our WI Supreme Court again backed a newspaper on open records case in January, 2013. If you want to review that report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, use this link, “Wisconsin Supreme Court backs newspaper in open records dispute.”

I am HAPPY to report that the Janesville Gazette has been assertive in its continuing investigation on the “MESS” created by our Milton School Board as Board President Roy stated. I honestly do NOT believe the assertion by the Board’s attorney that there was NO DOCUMENT of a proposed disciplinary agreement which was reported to have been offered by the Board to former Superintendent. Mr. Garrow refused that document. And then our Milton School Board offered him the generous remainder of the school year ON LEAVE WITH PAY and a generous severance package together exceeding $179,000. paid to Mr. Garrow.

Having reviewed my blog post on January 14, 2013, “TOO MANY LOOSE ENDS in Milton School District,” I am dismayed that the UNDER THE RADAR – SILENT CAMPAIGN for our Milton School Board which I projected in that blog post is REALITY. Day-by-day we move closer to our SPRING ELECTION DAY – TUESDAY, April 2, 2013. So far, there is SILENCE!

WHY the silence? NO COMPETITION! I realize that the 2 incumbents – Rob Roy and Betsy Lubke – were the ONLY persons to file to run for our Milton School Board.

As I reported in my blog, I talked with several former board candidates – they were not available to run in the 2013 election. I explained my assessment of my own decision not to run for Milton School Board in my “TOO MANY LOOSE ENDS in Milton School District” post.

I do NOT think that WE THE PEOPLE of the SCHOOL DISTRICT of MILTON should allow this election to take place without the candidates explaining to us their explanations of the “MESS” which was created by the Board on which they have been serving, their specific plans to resolve the “MESS” and insure WE THE PEOPLE that this kind of “MESS” will NOT happen with the new superintendent and clarify their policy stances and perspectives on other ISSUES which are going to face our MILTON SCHOOL BOARD not only for the 2013-14 school year, but in the years of their terms until APRIL 2016.

For example, what do these CANDIDATES have to tell us – the citizens and taxpayers – about THEIR POLICY POSITIONS & PERSPECTIVES as the board deals with CONTINUING SIGNIFICANT BUDGET CUTS for future years. I read carefully the Milton Courier’s article published this week, “Board Oks cuts.” This was a vote to cut $865,300. For the 2013-2014 school year.

I urge you to read the article with the VERY HELPFUL PERSPECTIVE which BOB CULLEN shared as to the cuts which have been forced on our MILTON SCHOOL DISTRICT over the past 7 years. I totaled the categories listed in the Courier article. I hope I have the correct total: $1,906,461… just think: $1.9 MILLION and NOW add the 2013-2014 cut of $865,300. – the NEW TOTAL is well over $2.7 MILLION. Thank you, Mr. Cullen! I HOPE I added correctly - did I?

Having worked as Legislative Liaison for the School District of Janesville and worked in concert on numerous issues with Milton School Board members, I would UNDERLINE the call by WESTRICK to communicate with LEGISLATORS re. increasing the PER PUPIL ALLOWANCE for K-12 school districts. Governor Walker has FROZEN that amount. There is a strong movement among REPUBLICAN MEMBERS of our legislature to set it at $150. For the 2013-14 school year. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers has called for an increase of to help offset the losses of the State Budget put in place by Gov. Walker which CUT K-12 public education.

The good news is that both our STATE SENATOR TIM CULLEN (15th District) and STATE REPRESENTATIVE ANDY JORGENSEN (43rd District) SUPPORT increased K-12 public education aid. It does NOT hurt to encourage them with a THANK YOU for their interest in and support of K-12 public education.

GREG PECK does enrich his editorial with several additional examples of the NEED FOR and BENEFITS of SUNSHINE WEEK in his editorial. I encourage you to read it.

I would add a current example with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s editorial, “Release the emails from the John Doe investigation.” LET THE SUNSHINE IN!!

I would, however, assert that I think Greg is naive about HUMAN NATURE when he talks about the future potential of SUNSHINE WEEK being able to go DARK with ALL persons in public offices responding to requests for information/documents “PROFESSIONALLY.” I honestly do NOT expect that day to dawn, Greg! What do YOU think?

KEEP THE SUNSHINE SHINING! I think we should have a SUNSHINE MONTH! What do YOU think?

Here we go…

Mr. E.

Last updated: 9:24 am Monday, April 29, 2013

John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor assigned with the online/distance education faculty of Viterbo University, LaCrosse. He continues his personal mission supporting democracy/civics education in Wisconsin K-12 schools through Project Citizen, We the People, Discovering Democracy (Milton HS). John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff or management.

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