OPINION: Time to Shift Emphasis From High Test Scores and Graduation Rates to Mentally Healthy Students

In wake of Sandy Hook, our educational priorities need to shift; student mental health needs to be a priority The utter horror of Sandy Hook is mind-boggling. So is our society’s avoidance of two issues. One is violence as a staple of society and other is mental health. I’m not going to tackle the violence issue here because it is more complex and pervasive, but I will address the mental health issue because in some ways it is not as complex. Notice that I did not write mental illness. Illnesses, if recognized, can be treated. Mental health precedes mental illness and when we are not mentally healthy we often beget mental illness. So one way to lessen the potential for a Columbine or a Sandy Hook is to make mental health a priority. This is a huge challenge because so many people are unwilling and afraid to talk about mental health because it is not “their” problem and to discuss it might imply that they themselves might not be mentally healthy. “I am fine” seems to be the common refrain. That other guy may be a little screwed up, but not me. But poor mental health lies at the base of so many of our society’s ills. Take your choice: addictions, crime, illnesses, etc. At the core of all of these is a person’s inability to adequately deal with common every-day challenges. For various reasons they are ill-equipped to deal with life. The tragedy is they can be helped but only if we make this a priority. They can be given the tools and support systems needed to cope...

Melton: Scheduling Tough Non-Conference Games Prepares Team for Conference Play

Cooney varsity boys basketball coach optimistic as team faces Waukesha South on Thursday night at home For every coach and team there is a dilemma when it comes to the nature of your non-conference schedule. Do you schedule teams that you should beat, which looks impressive on your resume, or do you schedule teams that will challenge and perhaps beat you. This year Cooney boys basketball coach Kurt Melton decided on the latter, scheduling two traditionally strong teams, Milwaukee Pius XI and Milwaukee Marquette. OHS lost both games, 59-50, to Pius, and 74-57 to Marquette last week at the Hank Raymonds Classic at Pius on Friday and Saturday. When asked about the scheduling, Melton said the purpose of non-conference games, especially against strong teams, is to prepare a team for its conference schedule. “We don’t want to play teams that are going to lay down and let you do whatever, we want teams that will perhaps expose some things so we know what we need to work on.” Waukesha South here on Thursday Cooney opens Wisconsin Little Conference play on Friday, Dec. 7 against Slinger at the OHS Field House. But before that WLT contest, OHS has a chance to redeem itself with a home win Thursday night against Waukesha South in the Field House. Tip-off is set for 7:30 against the Blackshirts. So, what did Melton and assistant coach Jim O’Leary see that will help the team prepare for that conference opener? Perhaps at the top of the list is the team’s ability to handle the defensive pressure applied by both Pius and Marquette. “They’re both pretty good basketball...

OPINION: OASD, Board Deserve Credit for Balanced Budget Proposal Absent of Massive Teacher Layoffs, Increased Class Sizes, and Program Cuts

Preliminary budget proposal calls for 4.7% increase in tax levy for 2012-2013 No taxpayer wants to see tax increases, especially given today’s economic climate. So the OASD Board of Education’s initial tax levy estimate – an increase of 4.7% over last year – unveiled at the Board meeting Tuesday night, was not a figure it welcomed. But there is some good news associated with that figure: it precludes large layoffs of teachers, doesn’t force increases class sizes, and doesn’t eliminate programs because of finances. This is in stark contrast to what is happening in other school districts around the state. Why is Oconomowoc different? There are a lot of factors, but chief among them is the administration’s ability to adroitly manage all the pieces on the chess board. Led by Assistant Superintendent Mike Barry, the administration has masterfully figured out how to continually move pieces in such a way as to achieve a balanced budget, increase the once-dangerously low General Fund, and still provide a quality education for students in the district, without having to resort to the community-splitting layoffs, class size increases, and program cuts mentioned earlier. This is highly commendable and perhaps just short of magic. True, the recently announced controversial “Transformation and OHS staffing plan” could be construed as teacher layoffs and programs cuts, items the district says he needs to both balance the budget and prepare for the future, but the layoffs are more properly the result of a desire on the part of the district to change its fundamental teaching model, not because the district doesn’t have dollars to pay its teachers. And while...
OPINION: New Development in Oconomowoc Needed, But Careful Review, Informed Approvals Still Required

OPINION: New Development in Oconomowoc Needed, But Careful Review, Informed Approvals Still Required

City’s open door policy for developers and re-drafted zoning ordinance should spur needed development, but city’s character and charm need to be maintained This is nothing new. Cities nationwide are grappling with the same issue: grow and develop or try to preserve what you have, especially if what you have is desirable. At last Tuesday’s Common Council meeting the two viewpoints were evident. On one hand some people, including Mayor Jim Daley and several of the alderman, clearly feel that Oconomowoc must grow its revenue base through new development and without it, maintaining the city’s quality of life and city services is impossible. Others, led by alderman Jay Larson, are concerned that the city may be going too far in its efforts to gain a reputation as being pro-development. Larson is concerned that the projects developers bring to the city may be out of scale. He cites the re-drafted zoning ordinance that would allow a seven-story building in Oconomowoc, a prospect he and others feel may harm the city’s character and destroy its architectural charm, especially if that building is in the downtown area. Both sides present valid arguments. Oconomowoc must continue to build its tax base and the revenue that it provides. This is an absolute must. But development must be nuanced and appropriate. Having a seven-story commercial building for offices at Pabst Farms is appropriate. Having that same building in the downtown area is probably not. Oconomowoc is clearly taking the necessary steps to make it easier for developers to bring their projects to Oconomowoc. This is commendable, but we need to ensure that those projects fit...