Friday, August 27, 2010

Gateway to offer free English language classes

Do you know someone who wants to improve their English skills? A non-English speaker who wants to learn English?

Gateway Technical College will offer free English Language Learners  courses beginning Sept. 8 at Gateway facilities as well as community-based locations throughout the three-county Gateway District.

The course is free  for Wisconsin residents (others: $53 per credit hour), but participants will need to pay for a book costing less than $40. The book will cover a year’s worth of studies. Whether you know a little English or speak no English at all, courses are designed to meet the needs of all levels of proficiency.

Classes will be held at the Elkhorn, Kenosha and Racine campuses as well as the Burlington Center, in addition to the non-Gateway facilities sites. Sign up for classes has already begun. For more information:
  • Burlington  (262) 767-5200
  • Elkhorn  (262) 741-8200
  • Kenosha  (262) 564-2200
  • Racine  (262) 619-6200

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Update: Walden parents, Unified work through issues surrounding school

Update: We're told Walden's meeting with Racine Unified's administrators went well. Many of the problems listed below have been addressed, or at least answered. Here's the minutes of the meeting, as provided by the Walden PTA:

August 24, 2010, 10:30 am

RUSD Offices
In Attendance:

RUSD Staff: Dr. Shaw, Frank Jarosz, David Hazen, Bob Holzem

Walden III PTSA: Patrick Flynn, Lisa Scott Ptacek, and Jane Finkenbine,

Maintenance Update/Progress to Date:

Frank Jarosz provided a detailed list of work orders that have been completed in addition to those we had listed. Overall a tremendous amount of progress has been made on the facility.


Security System
  • Cameras have been installed at the entrances and in the hallways, not in classrooms.
  • Access card readers at the doors – can control entry by employee, date, and time.
  • Entry for visitors will be through the front door; monitored by camera
  • Monitor is at Cathy’s desk
  • Security film is recorded and kept for a determined length of time (2 weeks?), then taped over.
  • West wing stairs reinforced and will receive tread cap; should be completed before school opens.
  • Nearly all steps have been repaired. The basement stairs across from gym are still in progress; the stairs leading down from south door have not been addressed.
Window Shades
  • Quite a few needed replacement
Minimal electrical work was completed

Windows in the West Wing
  • Spent $3,500.00 in repairs
  • Storm windows are equipped with screens purchased for West Wing at $100/each – a great price!
  • Tom Kohl has one installed now; others to follow

  • Halls completed
  • Patching – Frank saw some peeling paint on inspection last week and entered new work orders. Girl’s bathroom upstairs still needed work
  • List of PTSA Concerns
Sink hole at the back door is still troublesome. Frank will take another look.
PA System
  • Our current system does not reach all rooms or the hallways. Dr. Shaw considers this a safety issue and asked that this be remedied. Dave Hazen will have Tim in the Electronics department look into it.
Locker Rooms
  • They are located under the gym and Bob stated that they are in very bad shape. This needs to be investigated further.
Painting the Classrooms


Frank Jarosz and David Hazen will work on creating a district policy that will allow us to get this done.


RUSD consultant advises that no volunteers be allowed to paint due to lead paint regulations

PTSA asked that we continue to seek a solution, and offered several ideas:

· Use volunteer crews headed by an EPA certified painter

· Provide training for all volunteer painters

· Have a certified EPA painter do all the preliminary work so that volunteers do not come in contact with any chipped paint or handle any preparation

· Have volunteers do the taping and the clean up before and after painting; hire an EPA certified painter to do the painting

· PTSA could pay for the cost of paint, training, and EPA painter.


We must set sound parameters that can be referred to and replicable in other circumstances

· Any plan must be approved by the RUSD advisor

· Painting must be supervised by an EPA certified painter

· Any group must be willing to meet stringent guidelines set by you

Status of the Art Room with Asbestos
  • Leadership Racine will continue to work on raising funds; RUSD will provide assistance when fund raising is completed.
  • We now have two classrooms available for Computer labs in addition to the Asbestos room.
  • Bob will talk directly with Leadership Racine regarding how we should move forward.
  • New computers for student use are at the school and waiting to be installed.
Solar Panel Proceeds
David Hazen will look into this.

The understanding that funds saved by the panels would be segregated for Walden use must be verified. It comes in the form of a credit on the electric bill, not as cash on hand.

PTSA explained that the fundraising campaign and the grant stipulated that the cost savings on utilities would be awarded back to Walden for Green School initiatives.

Walden’s Future
Dave Hazen reviewed the referendum plan.

Walden would be in Phase II of the reinvesting process. The school would be replaced, maybe on the same site (either on adjoining park or the south parking lot). Ground breaking could begin as early as spring of 2012, but more likely that will be delayed. Much effort would need to be done in regards to the design of the school and grant writing. The estimated cost to rebuild Walden is $35,000,000.

The long-term plan is to replace Walden, and therefore doing expensive structural repairs to the building is not a wise financial investment.

Phase I focuses on elementary schools because they are less expensive to build. In addition, it will free up Olympia Brown to serve as a middle school.

Phase II will address Walden and Park, two schools that are expensive to operate, and the goal is to have smaller high schools with a maximum enrollment of 1800 students.

RUSD is working with Gateway to build a Middle College which will alleviate overcrowding in the high schools.

Furniture replacement
Bob Holzem indicated there is nothing of any use available at Caddy Vista. RUSD does have some shelving units they recently removed form RUSD central offices and they will make available to us. We need to coordinate this through Frank and get the units to the classrooms that requested shelving units

3rd Floor of the West Wing
This section of the school is inhabitable for public use (school attic)

Dr Shaw invited us to join him on a tour of Walden on the 1st day of school. We will take a look at the locker rooms at that time.
Bob will outline the criteria in which we can bring this back to life, which will include a class on bike safety. Possible solutions include having a Phy Ed teacher take it over and do it in the spring, or starting a bike club.

Lisa and Patrick discussed ideas of creating new trips sponsored by the PTSA that could include family participation.

Original Post: A group of Walden parents met with Racine Unified officials Tuesday morning to raise a number of issues about their children's school.

Patrick Flynn, Lisa Scott Ptacek, Jane Finkinbine and other Walden parents were scheduled to meet with Unified Superintendent James Shaw and other administrators.

Issues the parents planned to raise included:

1. PAINTING OF CLASSROOMS: Are there any circumstances where parents, students & staff can volunteer to paint rooms. If not why? Is lead paint still a concern, if yes, why is it not being addressed?
2. WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF WALDEN'S FACILITY? Where is Walden's place in the referendum time-line?
3. STATUS OF THE ASBESTOS ROOM? Is RUSD doing anything to clean this up? How can we help?
Where is the money that was generated from the solar panels?
The Walden III Students and Families raised a tremendous amount of money to purchase and install these panels. To continue driving our Green Initiatives, It was our original understanding that the proceeds generated (Or cost savings) from these panels would be used at the sole discretion of the Green School Committee. To the best of our knowledge, the Green school has not received ANY of these funds and we speculate that RUSD has decided to use them for other purposes. Can you help us understand how that money has been handled up to now and how it will be managed in the future? We would like to report back to the students and Walden III Families on how this is being managed.
5. DILAPIDATED FURNITURE IN CLASSROOMS: It is our understanding that Caddy Vista may house furniture that could replace much of Walden's distressed furniture chairs, etc. How can we obtain that furniture to replace that in need at Walden III?
6. 3rd Floor of THE OLDER BUILDING AT WALDEN III: Is this section habitable for student activity? Could we use it for a computer lab or other resources?
7. SINK HOLE AT REAR EXIT: This has been filled but is continuing to sink and seems to be a hazard. Is there anything RUSD can do to correct this?
8. BONG BIKE TRIP: This has been canceled due to safety concerns. Do you know what those safety concerns are? This has been a long standing Walden III tradition and has overwhelming support from Parents, Teachers and Students. We have absolutely no shortage of chaperones for this event and the former teacher who coordinated this event has also offered to help lead this. Is there anything we can do to keep this tradition alive?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Chad Chapin to Serve as Interim Principal at Wadewitz Elementary

Chad Chapin will serve as the interim principal at Wadewitz Elementary for the 2010-11 school year replacing Ursula Hamilton-Perry who recently left the Racine Unified School District. RUSD plans to have a permanent replacement for the 2011-12 school year.

Chapin brings to this interim position a wealth of experience in the District. He began as a substitute teacher in 1998 and over the years has also served as a special education teacher at Jerstad-Agerholm Middle School, first grade teacher at Gifford Elementary and associate principal at Red Apple and Goodland Elementary Schools. Most recently, he served as special education supervisor for the District.

Superintendent Dr. Jim Shaw is enthusiastic about Chapin’s new role. “Wadewitz Elementary School staff members are doing the right things to close achievement gaps,” said Shaw. “I am pleased that Chad Chapin has agreed to serve as the Interim Principal for this school year. He has a history of successful leadership and problem solving in special education and I’m confident these leadership skills will support the great work begun by the Wadewitz staff.”

Chapin has a bachelor’s degree in communication and philosophy and elementary education certification from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. He also has a master’s degree in educational leadership from Cardinal Stritch University.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

SC Johnson helping to giveaway thousands of backpacks to local students

Fisk Johnson
SC Johnson, led by CEO Fisk Johnson, is stepping up again to help the community.

The JT is reporting tonight that SCJ has vowed that no child who attends the city's Back-to-School Stay-in-School Festival on Monday will leave without a backpack full of school supplies. In previous years as many as 500 students attended the festival, but left without a backpack.

This is the second time this summer SCJ, and specifically Fisk, has made a sizable contribution to the community. Earlier this year the company agreed to pay for any changes needed to maintain the Laurel Clark Memorial Fountain as a splash pad for kids. Renovations to the fountain may cost more than $250,000.

SCJ is working with the city and Project New Life on the Back-to-School Stay-in-School Festival, which is Monday from 2-5pm at Festival Hall.

Read the JT's story here on the backpack giveaway here.

Racine Unified posts gains on ACT tests

Racine Unified high school students' ACT scores increased this year, according to data released Wednesday by the district. 

Four of the district's five schools posted increases on the standardized test taken by students planning to attend college. The REAL School led the way with a 3-point increase in its students' scores. Horlick posted a 0.5 point increase in average scores, while Walden posted a 0.4 point increase and Park a 0.2 point increase. Case's scores fell 0.3 points, on average. 

The REAL School, Walden and Horlick all test above the national average for ACT scores, and Walden and REAL School each test above the state average. 

The average Unified ACT score for the 2010 graduation class was 20.8, up from 20.5 in 2009. 

“We are extremely pleased with the improvements we see almost across the board at our high schools,” said RUSD Superintendent Jim Shaw in a prepared statement. “However, one year is not a trend. We must continue our efforts. We have the capacity to continue to improve and we must in order to ensure our students are prepared for college or a career.”

The ACT is a curriculum-based measure of college readiness. Components of the test include tests of academic achievement in English, math, reading and science.

Over the past few years, the Racine Unified school instructional staff has taken a proactive approach to help prepare students for the ACT test. Students have the opportunity to participate in the District’s Online Pre-ACT Prep Program and several students have participated in the District’s ACT Summer School Prep Class. District staff is also working to encourage students to take more advanced and challenging coursework to better prepare them for college and/or career.

“What we’re especially encouraged to see is that based on our North Star District Scorecard, we met our improvement goals for white, black and Hispanic students,” said Shaw. “We know we have a significant achievement gap to address and we’ve got to make more progress, but we’re headed in the right direction.”

Racine Unified will raise the bar on the District Scorecard again next year. “Now that we’ve met the 2010 goals, we’ll set the bar higher for 2011. The ultimate goal is the North Star. We owe it to our students to challenge and motivate them to reach higher and exceed their own expectations.”

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Racine Unified summit to address achievement gap

In an effort to address the achievement gap in Racine, the Racine Unified School District will hold an event called the Empowerment for Students Summit on Thursday, Aug. 12 from 6-7:15 p.m. in the Park High School auditorium. 

Local families and community members will have the opportunity to learn about creating culturally relevant schools, the academic achievement of African American students and why it has become a civil rights matter. Thursday's session will be led by Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education and Professor of Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  

The event is being coordinated by RUSD administration, Board members and the NAACP. It is the first in a series of events that will encourage community involvement and support of the District's efforts to close achievement gaps.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Racine Christian School registration ends Aug. 20

Racine Christian School registration ends on Aug. 20, with classes starting Tuesday, Sept. 7.

New families are reminded that Kindergarten meets Monday - Friday from 9:10-12:20. After lunch and recess, the school offers an afternoon Kindergarten Enrichment Program from 1:05 - 4:00 p.m., from one - five days/week.

Racine Christian School provides Christian education to families from more than 40 different Christian churches. The school encompasses K - 8th grade. Parents may call Principal Dave VanSwol at 262/634-0961 for an application or to arrange a tour. Forms are available on the website at Racine Christian School is located at 912 Virginia St.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Racine's Mitchell Middle School among top schools in Kohls Cares $500,000 contest

Racine's Mitchell Middle School is a month away from winning $500,000.

Mitchell is competing with schools across the country in the "Kohls Cares" contest on Facebook. Kohls is giving away a half-million dollars to the Top 20 vote-getting schools. Mitchell is now in 15th place with about a 500-vote margin over the 21st-placed school.

You can see the leaderboard here.

It goes without saying that a $500,000 corporate award would be a major help to Mitchell. The school was built in 1937 as a WPA project. It's last renovation was in 1974.

The Kohls Cares contest is a real opportunity for Racine to support its aging school system. No other Racine schools are near the Top 20 and likely won't have enough time to rally support. It'd be smarter if all of the city's schools could get behind Mitchell and vote to bring a free $500,000 into Racine Unified.

Kim Wendt, a science teacher at Mitchell, is organizing the Kohls Cares push. She was the lead teacher behind last spring's successful effort to win $50,000 from Pepsi to renovate Mitchell's science classrooms.

Here's how you vote in the Kohls Cares contest:

1. The contest is being run through Facebook, so you need a Facebook account. If you don't have an account, it's easy to create one and vote.

2. Once you're signed into Facebook, go to this address to vote:

You can also simply search for "Kohls Cares" and then "Mitchell Middle."

3. All Facebook users are entitled to 20 votes, but can only use five of those votes on any one school. On Mitchell's voting page, click "Cast a Vote" five times.

4. Post a status message encouraging all of your friends to vote. The competition will get heated as the deadline for the $500,000 approaches. The more people you can get the vote, the better.

That's all there is to it. It takes no more than 10 minutes and can make a big impact. The leading school has about 10,000 votes at the moment. We should easily be able to find 2,000 Racine Facebookers to vote five times to support our city's public schools. They certainly could use the help.

As an aside, my wife got to thinking morning about the growing need for a full-time coordinator to help Racine organizations and schools run for these types of grants. Corporations are increasingly turning to contests to award money. With intense competition it takes a well-coordinated effort to rise to the top of the pack. Wendt is proving, again, that Racine is capable of competing nationally for these dollars. Maybe the city, school district, RCEDC, RAMAC, Leadership Racine, YPR, etc. could look at how to bring in money for our nonprofits by rallying the community.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Racine Lutheran High registering students

Racine Lutheran High School is registering students for the fall semester, which begins Aug. 17.

Racine Lutheran has scholarships and tuition grants available to incoming students. Families should contact the school to apply. Students coming from supporting Lutheran churches are eligible for tuition discounts, and students from other area Christian Schools may take advantage of Christian Education Commitment grants. 

Parents may call Principal Randy Baganz or Bonnie Christensen at 637-6538 for a tour and planning session.