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Survey says: Janesville tracks school climate, mental health


Risky behaviors are down in Janesville schools, but the way students feel about themselves and their school environments has gotten worse.

That information plus hundreds of other data points regarding drugs, alcohol, sexual behavior, sexual identity, screen time and physical activity all are part of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey that’s given statewide.

Janesville school officials and other professionals acknowledge that while such survey data can be useful, it should be treated as a single piece of information and not the complete picture.

The latest results are from a survey given to high school students in 2017.

Janesville’s results match the statewide results. Use of tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs are down, but depression is up, according to the Department of Public Instruction’s final report.

Students locally and statewide also report more screen time, less sleep and poorer health, according to the report.


The results are broken down by grade, gender and, in some cases, how peers or parents felt about specific behaviors.

Because these are only highlights, the percentages don’t add up to 100.

  • Tobacco use in the past 30 days: Cigarettes: 91 percent not at all; 2 percent every day. Vaping/e-cigarettes: 78 percent not at all, 4 percent every day. Chewing tobacco: 96 percent not at all, 1 percent every day.
  • Alcohol use in the past 30 days: 81 percent none at all, 11 percent one or two days, 1 percent everyday.
  • Using prescription drugs without a doctor’s permission in the past 30 days: 93 percent not at all, 3 percent one or two days, 1 percent every day.
  • Binge drinking in the past 30 days: 89 percent not at all, 4 percent one day.
  • Marijuana use in the past 30 days: 84 percent not at all; 5 percent one or two times, 4 percent three to nine times, 3.11 percent 40 or more times.

The results also show that students whose parents considered such activities wrong were less likely to be involved in such behavior.

Students were up to 2.5 times more likely to engage in risky behavior if they’d been through a traumatic situation in the past year.

Other results showed that about:

  • 28 percent reported spending five or more hours a day playing video games or on screen time.
  • 24 percent seriously contemplated suicide.
  • 5 percent said they go hungry because there is not enough food in their homes “always” or “most of the time.”
  • 64 percent said they felt accepted at school “always” or “most of the time.”

Survey value

Kim Peerenboom, head of pupil services for the Janesville School District, said the survey is useful but is only one tool in the toolbox.

Students are surveyed every two years, so the information is being collected from different groups of students, she said.

Mark Schroeder-Strong, UW-Whitewater associate professor of educational foundations, agrees and warned against trying to establish trend lines based on data from different groups spread across years.

Still, he said, such surveys probably “paint a pretty fair picture” of the group of students who took the survey.

“You will probably have more under-reporting based on the overall structure of the survey,” he said.

Studies have shown that if predominate culture says a behavior is bad or if your peers and parents think its bad, people will be more likely to under report.

Even in anonymous surveys, people want to “align their sense of self and their behavior to what is approved,” Schroeder-Strong noted.

Like Peerenboom, Schroeder-Strong thought the data was good for what it was: one set of information but not the whole story.

The district is working to improve the “climate” in schools and recently started using the Gallup Hope Poll, a 24-question survey that measures engagement in school, hope, career aspirations and the career and financial literacy of students.

It was first given last school year.

Those results show the majority of students have hope for the future and see themselves accomplishing something. That’s different from the youth survey results, in which students reported more anxiety.

Using the poll every year will help the district track progress—or lack thereof—from changes made to improve the school environment, Peerenboom said.

Anthony Wahl 

Kayle Goodman works on a portrait during the 2018 Art Infusion event in downtown Janesville on Saturday, September 8. The event will continue today, Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

top story
'They trust me:' Community mail carrier expands 'Helping the Homeless' event


People like to talk to Tom Hathaway.

And sometimes they choose to confide to him their deepest struggles.

When Hathaway, of Janesville, started delivering mail in 2000, he said he was shocked by how many people he saw living in their cars.

He recalled meeting one woman who said her longtime boyfriend left her and her son, leaving her nowhere to stay. Fortunately, Hathaway said he had become more embedded in community resources for homelessness, so he connected the woman with House of Mercy.

“People don’t realize in Janesville the issues there are,” he said. “I was shocked.”

Hathaway, known as “The Awesome Mailman,” has for years been collecting money and goods for the homeless.

Saturday was his fifth annual “Helping the Homeless” event but the first of its kind held outside of his backyard.

The Saturday event was held in the Blackhawk Building on the Rock County Fairgrounds.

Hathaway’s nickname was written across the back of his shirt, made special for the event.

It’s the first year event volunteers have made shirts, he said.

The bands that played are Pivot, The Time Travelers and Dem Horny Funkers, which is a band Hathaway’s daughter is a part of, he said. None of the bands charged for performing, and they also performed in Hathaway’s backyard last year.

Anthony Wahl 

Volunteer Brin Smith, left, shares a laugh with Tom Hathaway during the “Helping the Homeless” fundraiser inside the Blackhawk Building at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds. This is the fifth year the fundraiser has been organized by Hathaway, and the first time it was held not at him home.

Hathaway has a lot of neighbors. He considers everyone on his mail route—he said he makes about 500 deliveries—a neighbor. He has been on this route for the past 10 years.

Saturday’s event raised money for various local nonprofits including GIFTSMens Shelter, HealthNet of Rock County, Project 16:49, ECHO, House of Mercy and the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin.

On the way into the Blackhawk Center, the humane society had a table outside with an adoptable dog that garnered a lot of attendee interest.

When Becky Masotti walked by the table, she said she chose to put the money she had in the humane society’s bucket.

“It was either that or the dog’s coming home with me,” she said.

Masotti said she found a sign that said “Chews Kindness” in the recycling. So she took it home, washed it and set it outside the Blackhawk Building, coincidentally right next to the dog’s area.

Masotti, who grew up in Milton and now lives in Janesville, was a volunteer Saturday.

She knew Hathaway from when they both worked at The Stagecoach on old Highway 26 in the 1980s, she said.

Masotti said she connected with the mission of Project 16:49 and looks to help out however she can.

“There’s no reason for kids not to have a home,” she said. “I do believe that everybody is entitled to food, shelter, love—especially kids, honestly.”

It will take some time before Hathaway can tally how much money they raised this year. In the years prior, he said they had raised about $26,000 in total.

But Hathaway also pointed to the donations he receives all year long. Neighbors drop off goods for the homeless on his patio and others will hand him money knowing he is connected with local groups, he said.

Masotti guessed half of Janesville knows who “The Awesome Mailman” is.

“They trust me,” Hathaway said.

Anthony Wahl 

Mindy Frasier helps her daughter Layla participate in the silent auction as the oldest daughter Lilyana watches from behind during the “Helping the Homeless” fundraiser inside the Blackhawk Building at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds on Saturday afternoon.

'Broken' economics for preschool workers, child care sector


A dire child care workforce crisis amid a booming U.S. economy is compelling many industry players to turn to business tactics more closely resembling Wall Street than “Sesame Street”—including noncompete clauses for child care workers and client families, college tuition incentives for the workers and non-refundable wait list fees for desperate parents seeking day care slots.

Underlying the phenomenon is a shrinking pool of child care workers with employers still offering low pay while demand for high-quality child care programs skyrockets, particularly in expensive urban areas such as Seattle, with a rise in children needing care and a decline in providers.

Child care workers in the U.S. make less than parking lot attendants and dogwalkers, said Marcy Whitebook, co-director of the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment.

“If you can’t get workers to do the job, then it’s hard to expand the supply. And when the economy is good, that’s when you need to expand the supply,” Whitebook said. “The economics of early childhood in the United States are quite broken.”

In Seattle, the fastest growing U.S. big city, the population and household incomes have skyrocketed because of the technology boom—creating a child care hole with costs reaching about $2,000 monthly per child.

The advocacy group Child Care Aware reports that in 2017, there were 132,000 more children up to age 6 in Washington state who could use formal child care arrangements, compared to the number of available child care slots. Nationally, Whitebook said two-thirds of all children in that age range have parents who are both working.

Some child care centers are so popular in Seattle, New York and San Francisco that parents pay to get on waiting lists while still trying to conceive.

That meant Rachel Lipsky and her husband were already at a disadvantage when they started looking for child care while she was pregnant in 2012.

She thinks the system is troubled but doesn’t blame the workers, saying “they work two times harder than I do. Who am I to quibble?”

Lipsky, a 38-year-old government agency project manager, paid the waitlist fees before her child was out of the womb, didn’t get her daughter into her first choice care centers but eventually secured a spot for the girl and another child born later. She said the road to finding care for her children, now 5 and 3, was daunting, emotional, time-consuming and pricey.

Licensed providers caring for children from infancy through 5 years old say they have tried for years to professionalize what is largely a decentralized array of small businesses. But the industry as a whole has always stumbled with high labor turnover as the jobs offer low pay and high stress. Experts say care for young children is expensive because it requires intensive labor, but families can only afford to pay so much.

Aubrey Zoli, 38, said she loves working with 4- and 5-year-olds at the popular Wallingford Child Care Center in Seattle but struggles with the $16.90 hourly pay, especially with a bachelor’s degree.

“I love the job, but I can’t afford to live it. A lot of our teachers have second incomes from second projects because it’s impossible to live on these wages in Seattle,” said Zoli, who also does work as a musician and event planner.

Her boss, Jenny Cimbalnik, concedes that the nonprofit Wallingford center can’t afford higher wages because it already puts 80 to 90 percent of revenue into staffing costs.

The median annual pay for child care workers—including those in formal facilities and home-based centers, as well as private nannies—increased by 13 percent between 2014 and 2017, to $22,290, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the same period, the pool of U.S. child care workers dropped to 562,420 workers, down 21,000 people, or 3.5 percent of the workforce.

Laws regulate how many children child care centers can take, and busy centers say it’s not unusual for parents to try to bribe center officials with money or gifts for child care slots or offers to pay extra tuition. Some parents sob while pleading for the slots—a practice child care centers call “cold-crying.”

Experts say public policy and demographics have exacerbated demand. Dual-income households headed by millennials are more often concentrated in urban centers. Parents also increasingly favor high-quality early education programs with trained teachers and academic philosophies instead of the mere babysitting functionalities of yesterday’s “nursery” day care systems.

The shift comes as a growing body of brain development research shows children who attend good preschools are better off as adults, with higher incomes and healthier lifestyles. That has contributed to political momentum for government-subsidized pre-kindergarten programs, which has also affected child care centers.

Business operations suffered at the Wallingford center when the city launched a pre-K program in 2014, Cimbalnik said. Toddlers who cost less to care for left for free preschool, creating an imbalanced demand among higher-cost infants. Wallingford was also stretched financially when the city’s $15 hourly minimum wage law took effect in 2015.

Amid the challenges, Bright Horizons Children’s Centers, one of the country’s largest publicly traded, for-profit child care businesses, recently announced a new college tuition incentive program for its employees.

CEO Stephen Kramer said the company’s turnover rate is well below the 50 percent industry average, but he wanted to boost the numbers of career-minded early education professionals.

Some child care centers now use noncompete-like and “hold harmless” policies to combat family “poaching” of child care workers to become their personal nannies and to address other outside work arrangements by child care workers.

Bright Horizons’ noncompete-like policy forbids families and workers from using each other for private babysitting opportunities because the company cannot manage the work outside of its facilities, Kramer said.

“If something goes wrong, it becomes an uncomfortable situation,” he said.

Cimbalnik said the Wallingford center loses several teachers every year to more lucrative nanny offers but allows outside babysitting because it gives workers extra income and builds tighter relationships with family clients. The company requires workers and families to sign “hold harmless” agreements to avoid liability.

Getting on a waitlist at a Bright Horizons location in Seattle costs $100 while Wallingford charges $75. Many parents report spending hundreds of dollars to get their names on as many waitlists as possible, realizing they may not get slots for their children at most locations.

Wallingford also has a separate waiting list for its free monthly tours.

The wait? Nine months.

Obituaries and death list for Sept. 9, 2018

Lois A. Coppersmith

Antoinette H. Goldsmith

Thomas A. Lesniak

John S. Maier

Jessie Newman

Sally Reisem

Stephen “Steve” Schroeder

Jeanette and George Taylor

Sharon K. Whitford

Anthony Wahl 

UW-Whitewater’s Alex Peete makes it though the front line while rushing with the ball during their opening home game against Concordia Moorhead on Saturday, Sept. 8.

Anthony Wahl 

Linda Schumacher thought she was going to die when a car struck her in April while crossing an intersection. She lived to tell about the experience but used a wheelchair, walker and cane to recover. Some people treated her like she was invisible. ‘Making someone feel invisible is not the answer,’ she said.