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Closing the gaps: Feds name four Janesville schools that need improvement


Two Janesville schools need to close achievement and attendance gaps between black students and the rest of the student body in their schools, and two other schools need to close the same gaps between students with disabilities and their peers statewide, according to a federal report released Tuesday.

Craig High School and Marshall Middle School need “targeted support and improvement” to close the gaps for black students, the report said. Adams Elementary School and Edison Middle School need “targeted support and improvement” to improve outcomes for students with disabilities.

Other area schools identified as needing targeted support and improvement for students with disabilities were Milton Middle School, Clinton Elementary School and Whitewater Middle School.

The report is part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, commonly referred to as ESSA. The law, signed into law by former President Barack Obama in 2015, requires states to track and report test scores, graduation rates, and a variety of other factors for all students and for various student demographics, including race, income level and whether students have disabilities.

The Janesville School District now has three years to reduce the gaps at Adams, Marshall, Edison and Craig by half.

The numbers

At Craig, black students:

  • Received a score of 20.8 in the area of achievement, compared to a score of 56.1 for all students (the achievement scores given in this story are not percentages; they are derived from a formula developed for the ESSA law).
  • Were more likely to be chronically absent (absent for 10 percent of all school days). About 39 percent of black students at Craig were chronically absent compared to 22.9 percent of all students.

At Marshall, black students:

  • Received a score of 31.2 in the area of achievement, compared to a score of 59.7 for all students.
  • Were more likely to be chronically absent. About 28 percent of black students at Marshall were chronically absent compared to 13.8 percent of all students.

For students with disabilities, the federal government uses many of the same factors such as achievement and absenteeism. Instead of comparing these students with others in their schools, they are compared to other students with disabilities statewide. Schools that rank in the bottom 10 percent of the state fall into the “targeted support and improvement” category under ESSA.

The law

ESSA replaced George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. This year is the first the rankings have been released.

Under ESSA, scores are based on several years worth of data, not just one. As new data is added each year, the scores are recalculated, explained Kim Peerenboom, Janesville School District director of student services.

“It means they are really, truly looking for those patterns in schools that are not closing the gaps or making improvements,” she said.

District officials can also pull information about individual students to look for trends or issues they need to address.

For example, when they were analyzing data from Craig, they found students who had attended 12 to 25 schools in their careers, including out-of-town and out-of-state schools. Transient students often struggle to keep up with school. School officials could also drill down to more specific details, such as which hours students were absent, to help them find solutions.

“We’ve been talking a lot about longevity versus short-term fixes,” Peerenboom said.

So what are some of the concrete methods the district might use to close the achievement gaps between all students all black students at Craig and Marshall?

“There are a number of things in the school staffing plan that we can’t talk about yet because they have to go to the board,” Peerenboom said.

Though some strategies can’t be discussed yet, Peerenboom did to describe how district will use a profile of each student at Craig to identify what their strengths are, how long they have been in the district, the courses they are taking and their attendance record.

Craig also recently started a “circles of support” program the district thinks could help. All students are part of small groups overseen by a teacher. They will stay in those groups as they move through high school. The hope is that helping students make personal connections can lead to success.

Making sure the curriculum connects with students is crucial, too. For example, officials discovered a student who had trouble with absenteeism missed significantly fewer sessions of a multicultural studies class.

For students with disabilities, closing the gap will be more complicated. A student with a disability is simply defined as one who has an individual education plan. That could mean the student has a learning disability such as dyslexia or ADHD or it could mean he or she has a developmental disability such as Down syndrome. The district will have to dig deeper into the data to make individual improvements.

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Game farmer says loss of deer like losing family


Henry was like a member of the family.

Daniel Deegan bought the whitetail buck with his father and brother nine years ago. They were starting a farm to breed and sell whitetail deer.

Deegan’s father and brother later died, so Henry was a living connection to the town of Fulton man’s loved ones.

Henry would eat acorns out of his hand, Deegan said, which is what he did on Sept. 21, 2017, before Deegan left on a family trip.

Henry died that night of arrow wounds after two men broke through the double fencing of the deer pen. Deegan said he saw several arrows there, indicating Henry did not die immediately.

He thinks Henry ran around the pen being shot. He called it torture.

Later, Deegan found the gut pile where the thieves had field dressed Henry’s carcass.

Deegan was at the Rock County Courthouse on Tuesday to see a man sentenced for the crime.

He saw a teenager sentenced to two years of probation.

Darrick E.M. Riggs, now 19, of N9309 Knuteson Drive, Whitewater, pleaded guilty to felony criminal damage to property and two misdemeanors, theft and trespassing.

The pleas came as part of a plea agreement. Judge John Woods followed the agreement, sentencing Riggs to probation for the misdemeanors and withholding a finding of guilt on the felony.

The felony charge is held open, so Riggs can be found guilty and sentenced to prison if he violates his probation.

Assistant District Attorney Scott Dirks said he agreed to recommend the sentence only because Riggs had no criminal record until now.

It’s an opportunity for Riggs to prove to everyone that this was a one-time mistake, Dirks said.

Riggs’ attorney, Frank Lettenberger, offered no excuses but said Riggs had a tough upbringing, graduating high school while living on his own and even so staying out of trouble.

After he realized what he had done to the Deegan family, Riggs was devastated and determined to repay them, Lettenberger said.

Working two or three jobs and often living in his car, he has accumulated about $5,500 of the $18,909 restitution the Deegans requested, and he did not contest that amount in court, Lettenberger said.

Riggs said he frames houses and milks cows.

Riggs understands he can’t compensate the family for their emotional loss, Lettenberger said.

Lettenberger said Riggs shot the deer as a way of impressing his girlfriend’s father, an avid hunter.

Woods said Riggs showed “horrific judgment.”

Riggs told the court he didn’t understand the impact of what he was doing and intends to pay all the money he owes.

Riggs called being arrested and charged “the scariest thing I have ever been through.”

Riggs committed the crime with his stepbrother. Lettenberger said Riggs wants to take all the blame because his sibling, who cut the fence, is developmentally disabled.

Woods ruled Jan. 23 that Christopher Dostal-Riggs-Boss, 26, also of N9309 Knuteson Drive, was not competent to stand trial.

All that remains of Henry is an impressive set of antlers. Riggs disposed of the carcass after it rotted, Wood said.

For Deegan, Henry was family but also represented hope for the future of the small deer-breeding operation.

Deegan explained after the hearing that Henry was raised to breed other deer who would be sold for profit.

But now that Henry is gone, he doesn’t have another breeder, and chronic wasting disease regulations forbid him from moving new deer to the farm, he said. He hopes the ban will be lifted, perhaps after someone invents a good way to test deer for CWD.

“He took it upon himself to come onto my property and take something that meant the world to me,” Deegan told the court. “Not only that, he stopped my business in its tracks. I had that one breeder buck and that one only.”

“It broke my son’s heart,” Deegan said. “He asked me how somebody could do this, and I couldn’t explain to him how someone could go in there and shoot a deer.”

Record-breaking family migration overwhelming border agency


The number of migrant families crossing the Southwest border is again breaking records, and the crush is overwhelming border agents and straining facilities, officials said Tuesday.

More than 76,000 migrants crossed the U.S.-Mexico border last month, more than double the number from the same period last year. Most were families coming in ever-increasingly large groups—there were 70 groups of more than 100 people in the past few months, and they cross illegally in extremely rural locations with few agents and staff. There were only 13 large groups during the previous budget year, and only two the year before.

The system “is well beyond capacity and remains at the breaking point,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said at a press conference Tuesday.

The new figures reflect the difficulties President Donald Trump has faced as he tries to cut down on illegal immigration, his signature issue. But it could also help him make the case that there truly is a national emergency at the border—albeit one stemming from humanitarian crises and not necessarily border security.

The Senate is expected to vote next week and join the House in rejecting his national emergency declaration aimed at building border walls, but Trump would almost certainly veto the measure. The issue is likely to be settled in the courts.

After the deaths of two migrant children in Border Patrol custody, Customs and Border Protection stepped up medical screenings. They also announced sweeping changes including more rigorous interviews as migrants come into the system.

And McAleenan said a new processing center would be built in El Paso, Texas, that will be better suited to manage families and children and handle medical care concerns—but it’s not a permanent solution.

“While our enhanced medical efforts will assist in managing the increased flows, the fact is that these solutions are temporary and this solution is not sustainable,” he said.

While fewer people overall are being apprehended crossing the border illegally each year—about 400,000 over the last budget year compared with the high of 1.6 million in 2000, the increasing numbers are alarming, officials said.

Those apprehended used to be mostly single men from Mexico but are now mostly families from Central America—since October, more than 130,000 families have been apprehended between ports of entry. From October through September 2018, about the same number of families was apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border. Tens of thousands of children illegally cross the border alone. While single men used to try to evade capture, the families are seeking out agents.

Use of force

Customs and Border Protection also reported using firearms less and less. There were 15 instances where officers and agents used firearms during the budget year 2018, down from a high of 55 reported during the 2012 budget year, and down from 17 during 2017’s budget year and 25 the year before.

Despite high-profile instances in recent months where agents used tear gas on groups of migrants that included children, use of less-lethal force like tear gas, batons or stun guns are also down, to 898. That’s a decrease from the high in 2013 of 1,168, according to the data.

Border officials said the large family groups are creating opportunities for smugglers because attention is diverted to the groups. Border officials say they worry they’re spending too much time on migrant care and not enough on security.

During 2018’s fiscal year, border agents and officers seized more than 1.7 million pounds of narcotics, including 1.1 million pounds of marijuana, 282,570 pounds of cocaine, 6,552 pounds of heroin and 2,463 pounds of fentanyl, mostly through ports of entry, according to the border security report from budget year 2018, released Tuesday. Fentanyl seizures were up nearly 70 percent from the last budget year.

Complaints of excessive force prompted the border enforcement agency to commission an audit and investigation by the Police Executive Research Forum, a research and policy group. The 2013 audit highlighted problems that included foot-patrol agents without access to less-lethal options, and it recommended law enforcement not be allowed to use deadly force when people throw rocks—a suggestion that was rejected.

Following those reviews, major training and policy changes were made. Border Patrol agents now undergo scenario-based drills at the academy and learn how to de-escalate tense situations. They get 64 hours of on-the-job training on use of force. Agents and officers are authorized to use deadly force when there is reasonable belief in an imminent danger of serious physical injury or death to the officer or another person.

They have discretion on how to deploy less-than-lethal force: It must be both “objectively reasonable and necessary in order to carry out law enforcement duties”—and used when other “empty hand” techniques are not sufficient to control disorderly or violent subjects.

Officials say they deploy the lowest form of force necessary to take control of a situation, but instances a few months ago where tear gas was used on migrants that included children drew strong criticism.

Obituaries and death notices for March 6, 2019

James William Arthur Jr.

Jacklyn O. Baehr

Donna Ellen Craig

Mary (Roherty) Fischer

Marjorie A. Gaulke

Arthur “Art” Howe

Lorrayne Leeder

Dorothy L. Mahlum

Jeanette S. Roth

Dorothy Scharine

Bibiane Duncan Vilona

Steven K. Whitfield

Angela Major 

Elkhorn's Jordan Johnson receives high-fives from a tunnel of supporters following the team's win against East Troy on Saturday, March 2, 2019, at East Troy High School.

Evers administration officials earning higher salaries than Walker administration predecessors


Eleven of Gov. Tony Evers’ top aides are being paid at least 10 percent more than their predecessors under Gov. Scott Walker, state records show.

The Democratic governor’s secretary of financial institutions, Kathy Blumenfeld, is making 16 percent more than the official she replaced. And three other Evers aides—Administration Secretary Joel Brennan, Revenue Secretary Peter Barca and Tourism Secretary Sara Meaney—are making 14 percent more.

In all, 27 of Evers’ aides are set to make $3.5 million this year, about $213,000 more than the equivalent Walker aides were making. That’s an overall increase of 6 percent.

“The raises are excessive,” said Republican state Sen. Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst. “I think it’s a Madison-first mentality by Gov. Evers.”

“I understand that people sometimes come out of the private sector and take positions like this and they take pay reductions, but that’s part of service to your state.”

The conservative MacIver Institute posted data on its website last week about the pay for top officials. The state Department of Administration released records Monday showing how the salaries for Evers’ appointees compared with the final pay for Walker’s aides.

Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said in a statement that Evers “believes in fair compensation for the professionals who choose to serve our communities by working in local, state, and federal government.” Some got a raise and some took a pay cut to join the administration, she said.

“The end result is a diverse and talented group of leaders serving our state, and taxpayers will benefit from their expertise,” her statement said.

Blumenfeld is making just over $135,000, or 16 percent more than former Financial Institutions Secretary Jay Risch, who made about $117,000.

Brennan, the highest paid cabinet official, is making about $152,800, or 14 percent more than the $134,000 former Administration Secretary Ellen Nowak was making.

Barca, until recently a state representative from Kenosha, is making about $145,000 as revenue secretary. That’s about $17,500 more than the $127,400 that Walker’s longtime revenue secretary Richard Chandler was making.

Meany is taking home $130,000, or about $16,000 more than the $114,200 that former Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett was making.

After Brennan, the highest paid cabinet officials are Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr and Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm, who are each making about $150,000. Palm is making 13 percent more than her predecessor and Carr is making 9 percent more than his.

Republican state Sen. Rob Cowles of Green Bay said Evers’ aides have tough jobs and might be well qualified, but they haven’t been tested yet.

“They’re all unproven,” he said. “Nobody knows whether they’re hardworking yet and they’re getting a pay increase anyway? Yeah, I’m troubled by that.”

“If these people show after a period of time they can do the job, then I would understand it. But not right out of the chute,” he said.

Most of the Walker officials got 2 percent pay raises just before they left office, as the vast majority of state employees did in January. Without those final raises, the difference between the pay for the Evers and Walker appointees would have been greater.

GOP legal fees criticized

Baldauff, the Evers spokeswoman, suggested Republican lawmakers are not always careful with the public’s money, noting they are charging taxpayers $500 per hour in a legal fight over lame-duck laws that curbed Evers’ powers. Evers has hired his own attorneys at a cost of $275 an hour to taxpayers.

“Republicans are fine with using taxpayer funds to pay Speaker (Robin) Vos’ Chicago lawyers $500 per hour, but not with compensating our state workers fairly,” Baldauff said in her statement.

Not everyone is seeing big paydays in the Evers administration.

The deputy secretaries at the departments of Administration, Agriculture, Corrections, Natural Resources, Safety and Professional Services, and Tourism are making the same as their counterparts in the Walker administration.

And James Bond, the deputy secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs, is making about $2,000 a year less than his predecessor.

When Walker took over from Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle in 2011, he paid his Cabinet slightly less than Doyle had, according to a review at the time by Isthmus, a Madison weekly.

Evers’ appointees still need to be confirmed by the state Senate.


Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers arrives for his state budget at the State Capitol Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Madison, Wis. Evers’ first state budget spells out his spending priorities for the next two years. (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)