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A big day for Craig

JANESVILLE

The 2019 Craig High School graduating class is a big one.

It took just one glance at the throng of blue-gowned graduates awaiting their procession into Monterey Stadium to make that judgment.

The two-row line of students stretched down a sidewalk Thursday night in Monterey Park, 500 feet west from the shadow of the stadium’s Wedeward-Fagerli press box all the way to Riverside Street, which abuts the mossy-green mudflats of the former Monterey lagoon.

“It’s a big class,” said Craig student Aaron Leverson, a runner-up at this spring’s state track and field meet but the very last person in line to enter the stadium. He scanned all 447 of his classmates in front of him and waited for his sister to come to the back of the line to grab him for a quick selfie.

Craig High School Assistant Principal Shawn Kane said it was the largest graduating class Craig has seen since 1982—478 in all, though not all of them walked across the stage Thursday. The class was so large, Kane said, that the school allotted each student a six-person limit on family members they could invite to the graduation.

And for the first time Kane said he was aware of, the school issued tickets to the stadium grandstands to ensure the six-person allotment.

“People sort of had to pick and choose,” Kane said. “It’s just the hand you’re dealt when you’ve got a graduating class that big.”

One female Craig grad near the back of the line knew it. She said she drank two big lemonades at dinner, and she realized with six minutes to go before the procession that the nearest restroom was too far away.

“The next time I graduate from high school, I will not make this mistake again,” she said.

The cube

It could take the average person at least as long as it takes 448 graduates to file into Monterey Stadium before they could even hope to solve a Rubik’s Cube.

Not Craig valedictorian Ethan Thompson. He stood in line outside the stadium and torqued away at a Rubik’s Cube.

He solved the puzzle, matching all the colors on each side in about 20 seconds. His record is 11.3 seconds. After graduation, Thompson plans to head to Los Angeles as a missionary and work with the Chinese population there. He said he’s got to have a Rubik’s Cube in his hand to feel calm.

The Chinese word for the Rubik’s Cube, Thompson said, is “mó fang.”

The good wolf

While Thompson sought solace and calm in a Hungarian 3D puzzle, Craig Interim Principal Monte Phillips dipped into Cherokee lore to lay out a lesson on the internal human struggles we all face.

Phillips told of a young Cherokee boy talking to an elder. In the story, the elder tells the boy of the two existential “wolves” that live within us all: An evil wolf of selfishness, anger, bitterness and greed and a good wolf of kindness, humility, peace and compassion.

Which wolf in us shall prevail?

“The one you feed,” Phillips said.

Beauty, not Snapchat

Commencement speaker Ben Lippincott delivered his classmates a string of Romantic advice, some articulate and heartfelt words that hung in the calm, humid evening air as long-winged white pelicans spun under towering thunderheads banking up along the southern horizon.

“Our youth is fleeting, yet our youth is never gone,” Lippincott said, “but the moment, this moment … will always pass before you realize it. Focus on the here and now, and find beauty in everything you see.”

And to do that, commencement speaker Taylor Salmon said, her graduating class must endeavor to embrace each other, eye to eye and face to face—something that’s not always a given, Salmon said.

“We heard a lot this year to put the cellphone away,” Salmon said. “We must treasure memories, and those aren’t going to happen staring at a screen.”


Angela Major 

A capella choir member Maeley Heath-Lovell, center, is embraced by Naomi Arellano, left, and Emily Klein, right, after the choir's performance of 'I Lived' by OneRepublic on Thursday, June 6, 2019, at Monterey Stadium in Janesville.


Facing a fight against lymphoma, Craig graduate wields positivity

Aggressive chemotherapy began soon after cancer was discovered in March

JANESVILLE

On March 9, Tayler Passow bowled 13 games as part of the Wisconsin All Star Challenge.

She finished five pins out of fifth place, a good finish considering the competition.

It was an even better finish considering she had one lung working, 13% use of her heart and was one week from death.

On March 12, Tayler went to urgent care because she was having trouble breathing. Her mom thought she might need an inhaler for allergies or asthma. In less than 24 hours, Tayler was diagnosed with cancer—stage 4 primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma—and was undergoing treatment.

On Thursday night, Tayler walked across the stage with more than 440 other seniors as part of the Craig High School graduation ceremony. While it was a big moment for all the students, Tayler’s presence was a testimony to her toughness.

The type of cancer grows quickly. By the time doctors caught it, a tumor had half surrounded her heart, and one of her lungs wasn’t working. The tumor was putting pressure on the arteries and vessels surrounding her heart.

“The doctors said that if we had waited another week, she would have been dead,” said her mom, Tricia O’Flanagan

Because it was so far advanced, doctors recommended accelerating the treatment schedule and giving her want amounted to an adult dose of chemotherapy.

Here’s what that amounted to: Six rounds of 120 hours of chemotherapy. That’s chemotherapy five days straight every 21 days.

On Thursday morning, she was getting her blood drawn by a home nurse. In an hour she would be going to graduation practice. And in another few hours, she would be heading to the graduation ceremony at Monterey Stadium.

On Friday morning, it’s back to the Children’s Hospital at the University of Wisconsin Hospital for another five days of chemotherapy.

How does an 18-year-old get through such an ordeal?

“She says her blood type is B-positive, and so that’s going to be her motto,” O’Flanagan said.

Christal Lippincott, who taught Tayler chemistry last school year, said she always had a happy disposition.

“She’s such a joy to be around,” Lippincott said. “She’s got a good spirit and doesn’t give up.”

Her AP biology teacher, Charles Kealy, described her in almost the same way.

“She’s happy, optimistic, positive,” Kealy said.

Tayler liked school. She’d arrive in Kealy’s classroom early so she could feed Deborah, the classroom’s fish.

When she was at University Hospital, Kealy wanted to bring her a fish, but that’s not something allowed in an oncology department.

“We really missed her this spring,” Kealy said.

Tayler credits her teachers, including Kealy, Lippincott, Michelle Meier, Jennifer Hake and others, with helping her get through the tough time.

But more than that, it was her mom who got her through, Tayler said.

During those first nights in the hospital, Tayler had to sleep sitting up because she couldn’t breathe. Tayler sat up in the recliner. Her mom sat up in the bed. Then they propped two pillows between their heads, leaned against each other and finally were able to get some healing rest.

A sign in the living room of their home says, “A good mom makes your day. A great mom makes your whole life.”


Obituaries and death notices for June 7, 2019

Frieda E. Bufton

Clifford L. Buol

Deloris I. Burr

Roberta B. Fitzsimmons

Willard J. Geske

Keith E. Gibney

Arthur D. Gilmour

Larry J. Langlois Sr.

Nancy J. Olson

Jim Stewart


Angela Major 

Benjamin Lippincott gives a commencement speech Thursday, June 6, 2019, at Monterey Stadium in Janesville.


Government
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Monterey Hotel in ‘substantial compliance’ with repair orders

JANESVILLE

The Monterey Hotel is in “substantial compliance” with a list of required repairs, city officials found during an inspection last week.

Property owner Jim Grafft originally was required to repair windows, tuck point exterior brick and fix a leaky roof by May 31 as outlined in a compliance agreement signed late last year. Grafft has completed most of those tasks, and the city was willing to extend deadlines for other tasks because they were happy with the progress, Building Director Tom Clippert said.

Most of the remaining jobs must be finished by June 30, according to a document shared by Clippert.

“They’ve come a long way,” Clippert said. “There’s just a few points that need to be addressed.”

Grafft and the city in November reached a compliance agreement to fix dilapidated parts of the former hotel. The building has been vacant for about 30 years. Grafft bought it in 1996.

In that time, the building has deteriorated. Janesville issued a raze-or-repair order in September because of lingering safety concerns. Such an order forces property owners to make fixes or risk demolition.

The two sides signed the compliance agreement after several rounds of negotiations.

Clippert said last week’s inspection showed the building looks “much better.” The deadline extension gives the Grafft family some “wiggle room” to finish certain repairs.

Jobs that must be completed by June 30 include:

  • Finish tuck pointing brick on the roof side of the parapet, which is the low protective wall that encircles the top of the building. The majority of tuck pointing is complete.
  • Remove all remaining debris from the building’s interior. Like the tuck pointing, most of this already is finished.
  • Wrap windows and exterior doors on the first and second floors with historical photos. Because the lower levels of the vacant building are more prone to vandalism, the city agreed to let the Grafft family cover the windows with graphics. This reduces the likelihood of new windows being broken shortly after installation, Clippert said.
  • Fix the leaky roof.
  • The roof has been patched, but there is still leaking on the upper floors. Daylight was visible along the east wall of the first floor during the May 31 inspection.
  • Cover electrical panels in the basement.
  • Repair windows and glass on sixth floor.

Another deadline looms at the end of July. Crews must reinforce a one-story section in the building’s rear by July 31, according to the document.

The city does not have a financial role in any of the repairs, Clippert said.

Making repairs is necessary to preserve the building, but whether that helps revive the property is uncertain. The Graffts have long touted plans for apartments inside the former hotel rooms, but they’re at odds with the city over who will pay for parking.

The Gazette was unable to reach Britten Langfoss, Grafft’s daughter, for further comment Thursday. In a December interview, Langfoss and Grafft told The Gazette they still were hopeful they could eventually convert the building into apartments, although they had no immediate plans to do so.

Clippert said he wasn’t sure what the family plans after repairs are finished. But he said the two sides have had a good working relationship since monthly check-in meetings began in January.

“They’ve been open to the requirements we send. They know they need to take care of these items,” Clippert said. “Hopefully, we’ll get to a point they’re in complete compliance soon.”


Education
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Milton school officials decline to answer questions about resignation agreements

MILTON

Milton school officials said answering media questions about the resignations of the district’s top administrators could put the district in legal jeopardy.

Milton School Board President Joe Martin in a statement Thursday said there is no way to answer any of the combined 19 questions from The Gazette and The Milton Courier “without violating state law(s) with respect to closed session(s) discussions(s) and/or violating laws governing attorney client privilege.”

The Gazette and The Milton Courier on May 14 submitted questions regarding the resignation agreements of Superintendent Tim Schigur and Director of Administrative Operations Jerry Schuetz.

The agreements were released to the public May 13.

Resignation agreements with augmentation

The district’s legal team took “a considerable amount of time” to determine whether the district could legally answer the questions, Martin said in the statement.

“Unfortunately there was no way we could answer any of them without putting the district at potential risk,” Martin said in the statement.

The Gazette was unable to reach the school district’s legal counsel Shana Lewis for comment.

Schigur and Schuetz will resign June 30. Their contracts allow termination without penalty or prejudice under a mutual written agreement between the board and administrators.

Schigur will receive $148,500 in severance pay over the course of one year beginning Aug. 1. He also will receive a lump-sum payment of $148,500 for “compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees,” according to his agreement.

Schuetz will be paid two lump sums of $75,000, one for severance and another for compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees, according to his agreement.

Martin said in a May statement the district will pay less than $80,000 of the amount given to Schigur and Schuetz. The district’s insurance carrier will pay the rest.

Questions from The Gazette regarding the effect of the settlements on insurance claims and rates “would cause the district to merely speculate what may happen in the future, for which we are not comfortable offering a speculative response at this time,” according to the statement.

At the school board’s May 13 meeting, Martin said the board would likely schedule a format to publicly address questions about the agreements so everyone could get the same answers.

Martin told The Gazette the next day he was working on setting up a time when the board could answer submitted questions from the media about the agreements. The Gazette and The Milton Courier sent questions that day.

On May 15, two days after the meeting, Schuetz said the district would provide written responses to the questions by May 17. That date was postponed because Lewis was unavailable that week, Schuetz said.

The Gazette reached out to Martin, Lewis, Schuetz and other officials multiple times after May 17 to ask when The Gazette would receive answers.

The Gazette on May 14 submitted an open records request seeking copies of executive session minutes for the board’s April 8, 15 and 22 meetings where the board discussed terms of the resignation agreements.

The district responded May 28 with nearly fully redacted versions of the closed session minutes. A response letter from school board Clerk Diamond McKenna said the minutes were not subject to disclosure because of “the public’s interest in preserving attorney-client privilege.”

Still pending is a Gazette open records request seeking documents related to the resignation agreements.


Anthony Wahl 

Tayler Passow smiles outside her family’s home in Janesville on Thursday. On March 12, Tayler went to urgent care for what she thought was an asthma problem or allergic reaction. Doctors found stage 4 cancer that included a massive tumor around her heart.