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Manufacturing Day teaches students about new generation of jobs


Olivia Combs was surprised by how much she didn’t know about manufacturing.

Combs, 15, was among more than 1,200 Rock County students who toured Blackhawk Technical College’s Advanced Manufacturing Center on Thursday and Friday for Manufacturing Day, a national event designed to “inspire the next generation of manufacturers,” according to its website.

Along with tours of the center, students visited at least one or two local firms, including North American Pipe, Prent, Goex, Baker Manufacturing, Edgerton Gear and Tigre USA. More than 35 firms were involved in the event, and students from 20 schools attended.

The goal?

To reach students such as Combs who haven’t been exposed to the new generation of jobs in manufacturing fields.

Lisa Brorick, an academic learning coach at Parker High School, said students tend to gravitate toward what their parents do for a living.

“But the economy in Rock County has really changed,” she said Friday. “This is a way for us to help families and to show students all the different careers that are out there.”

Parker teachers Nicole Kan and Tami Trulock escorted another group of Parker students Friday, and they believe it’s crucial to get all freshmen—not just those interested in technical education—into manufacturing settings.

“A lot of students thought that these jobs were still all on the (assembly) line,” Trulock said.

Today’s manufacturers are looking for “knowledge workers,” said Thomas Pleuger, a machine shop instructor at Blackhawk Tech. Knowledge workers are people who are comfortable with applied and technical math, coding, computer science, and the rudiments of engineering, and those who are willing to continue to learn throughout their careers.

The day made an impression on students, Brorick said.

After a tour of Baker Manufacturing in the morning, students were unusually quiet on the bus, she said. Representatives from Baker, a foundry manufacturing company in Evansville, had talked to them about the company’s range of jobs.

“They talked to students about their HR department, about their marketing department, about how they employ everything from a four-year specialist like a metallurgist, to a CNC (computer numerical control) operator from Blackhawk Tech, to students who are getting started after high school,” Brorick said. “It really gave them a lot to think about.”

As for Combs, she said she would probably pursue a career in a medical field—she wants to be a doctor—but what she learned Friday surprised her.

The settings, the variety of jobs and what she would need to know had opened her eyes to new possibilities, she said.

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School takes action in wake of controversial video


A Craig High School teacher who showed a video with a leftist view of labor unions must now submit her lesson plans to her principal in advance.

The change was mentioned in a letter sent Friday to the parents of students in the class.

As The Gazette reported Tuesday, the video was an excerpt from an online comedy/news show called “Newsbroke,” hosted by comedian Francesca Fiorentini.

Students in the Marketing II class viewed part of an episode called “Why the Rich Love Destroying Unions.”

The teacher also will be required to teach the class “additional lessons to provide a more balanced view of the topic,” Principal Alison Bjoin wrote to the parents.

Bjoin wrote that the teacher’s use of the video violated school board policy about controversial topics in the classroom.

Letter to parents

“The problem with this particular video is that it is heavily biased toward one point of view, and it did not fairly present a whole picture,” Bjoin wrote. “The teacher should have come to discuss this with me before using it in any lesson. For this, we apologize.”

Bjoin learned about the video from The Gazette on Sept. 27 after a parent contacted the newspaper to complain about the lesson.

“We believe this was an isolated incident and are following established district disciplinary policies and procedures concerning this matter,” Bjoin wrote to the parents. “We believe that Craig High School provides a learning environment that helps students grow as young adults and to develop their own thoughts, perspectives, and opinions, so that they can contribute positively to society.”

District spokesman Patrick Gasper said Friday he is not permitted to discuss disciplinary actions.

Gasper said the teacher declined an offer from The Gazette to discuss the incident last week.

Principal review of lesson plans is not a regular practice and most often happens with new teachers, but reviewing lesson plans does fall under a principal’s role as the school’s instructional leader, Gasper said.

“We want our students to become critical thinkers—individuals that can see opposing points of view, evidence, information, and be able to come to their own conclusions,” Bjoin wrote. “A lesson on the pros and cons of unions does not automatically fall into a category of a controversial topic; however, if not presented in a way that allows a fair discussion of all points of view, then it becomes controversial.”

The Janesville School Board has scheduled a closed session for its meeting Tuesday “to consider a personnel issue regarding a district employee.”

The Gazette could not determine whether the controversial video is the closed meeting’s topic.

Obituaries and death notices for Oct. 6, 2018

Eleanora H. “Nora” Bergendal

Patricia J. Clark

Thomas H. Glass

Treyveon Jaquil-Amir Wofford

Submitted Photo 

‘Why The Rich Love Destroying Unions,’ a video by AJ+, an online news service of Al Jazeera Media Network, was shown in a Craig marketing class. The video discusses political issues and is hosted by Francesca Fiorentini, right.

Anthony Wahl 

Lake Geneva Badger’s Jordan Hodges (2) looks for an opening to cut towards during their away game against Elkhorn on Friday, Oct. 5.

Alison Bjoin