It’s July in Wisconsin, which means corn is growing almost everywhere.
For Skelly’s Farm Market owners Scott and Laura Skelly, it’s time to get out the corn mower.
Scott Skelly has been creating corn mazes on the farm at 2713 S. Hayner Road for more than 20 years. This year’s maze will celebrate the farm being in the Janesville area for 100 years.
The first modern corn maze was created in the early 1990s in the United States, according to cornmazesamerica.com. In 2008, Corn Mazes America estimated the United States had more than 800 corn mazes.
Laura Skelly said their mazes started as a simple thought.
“Scott decided one day that, hey, we have an acre of corn, let’s have people walk through it. It was nothing super exciting. It was just a couple of squares and some dead ends here and there,” she said.
To cut the mazes, Scott Skelly added a platform to his mower for a laptop computer connected to GPS.
“We load the designs into the computer, and the GPS unit is connected to the computer. It’s kind of like playing a video game. You follow the lines while you go throughout the field,” Laura Skelly said.
Each year, the Skellys cut two mazes. The first, called the adventure maze, has a different theme each year. Skelly said it was easy to pick this year’s theme.
“This year, we are celebrating 100 years on the farm, so we have a flash forward and flash backwards maze,” Skelly said.
The other maze is called the impossible maze, an 8-acre labyrinth with random shapes that took about eight hours to mow.
“Sometimes it’s circles. Sometimes it’s multiple shapes. And this year it’s just kind of crazy shapes everywhere,” Skelly said of the impossible maze.
The Skellys completed the cuts Friday and will continue to trim the field every couple of weeks through late August.
After a final trim, signs will be posted throughout the maze before opening for Labor Day.
The maze will cost $7 per person, but children under 3 will be admitted free.
The Janesville School District and former Harrison Elementary School teacher Peggy Wileman have settled a disability rights lawsuit that arose over Wileman’s firing by the school district in 2014.
Wileman, who was fired after she had tried to file sick time with the school district because of mental illness, will receive a $160,000 settlement from the school district’s insurance carrier, EMC Insurance, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by The Gazette.
The district and Wileman reached the agreement July 2. EMC Insurance signed the agreement Friday.
It settles Wileman’s claim in a 2017 federal lawsuit that Wileman’s firing and the district’s refusal to accommodate her mental conditions of anxiety and depression were violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Under the terms of the settlement, Wileman will receive $43,500 in back pay, plus $43,501 in “compensatory damages.” Wileman’s attorney, Fox & Fox, will receive $72,999.
Wileman is required by the agreement to drop claims the district had violated the Americans With Disabilities Act for firing Wileman after she had stayed home from work because of anxiety, depression and panic attacks.
She is also never to seek employment in the district.
The agreement indicates the district “specifically denies” the claims in Wileman’s 2017 suit, and the agreement isn’t an admission of wrongdoing by the district.
The school district issued the following statement by email and declined to comment further:
“The School District of Janesville (SDJ), through its insurance company, has entered into a financial settlement agreement with Mrs. Peggy Wileman, a former district employee. Mrs. Wileman, who was employed as a teacher from 1995 to 2014, had filed a lawsuit against the district and several of its leaders. The SDJ denies any allegation of unlawful conduct, and stands by its administration and school leaders in their handling of the matter.”
Wileman’s lawsuit claimed she had taught third grade in the district for 17 years and had “positive reviews” before she was transferred in 2012 to teach first grade, a change she claims she didn’t request and was not consulted on.
Harrison Principal Jessica Grandt-Turke in 2012 told Wileman she was being placed on the district’s supervision and evaluation plan for performance problems during the school year, according to the suit.
Wileman’s attorney said Wileman suffered anxiety, depression and panic disorder and had missed work in the past because of medical conditions, but until 2012 she’d never been disciplined for performance problems.
Wileman’s suit claimed the performance allegations were based on her disabilities and earlier absences she had because of them.
Wileman took time off from September 2012 to January 2013, then again in February and March 2014 in the weeks before she was fired, according to the suit.
The first leave came after a period during which Wileman said she was denied a full-time classroom aide to help with an “unusual number” of “behaviorally challenging students” in her class, all while she remained under “near constant evaluation and scrutiny” by Grandt-Turke, according to the suit.
During the 2014 leave, Wileman provided the district a letter from a doctor that stated she’d been placed on sick leave after she had a panic attack that required hospitalization and resulted in a nervous breakdown, according to the lawsuit.
The breakdown came after Grandt-Turke spent the fall of 2013 and part of 2014 “harassing” Wileman “and making decisions based on her disabilities rather than her actual performance,” along with warnings Wileman received that she could face disciplinary action or dismissal for “continued performance issues,” according to the suit.
The school district rejected a March 2014 request from Wileman for family medical leave time, saying Wileman had filed incomplete paperwork. The district gave Wileman written notice she had two days to either file additional paperwork or return to work.
When Wileman did not return to work by the date the district required, she was fired for “job abandonment,” according to the lawsuit.
Wileman’s attorney had filed two complaints with the state’s Equal Rights Division, her attorney said, and the state found that one of the complaints showed “probable cause for discrimination,” according to a 2017 Gazette report.
Violet L. “Skip” Buckley
Cora M. Forbush
Robert G. Gutheridge
Wilmer J. Herr Jr.
Nicholas Dorwin Schommer