Let’s set something straight about the referendum

Referendums are notoriously hard to pass in the Elmbrook district. In fact, Matt Gibson was hired in in 1995 because he had “a history of successful building referendums” according to the MJS article. At that point the board had failed FOUR times to get what they wanted passed.

Should the Vote YES group panic because they might not get their way again? No. They need to remember they are a minority – a group of individuals that vote Democrat in a rather conservative community. There’s a really good chance they don’t have their finger on the pulse of the voters again.

Besides, they can always send their children to private schools like many in the community have threatened if this doesn’t pass. Just like uncontested school board member Dave Marcello does.

I think that would be a mistake. Because for all the green panels around the windows at East, Elmbrook high schools are great. My three have been really happy there. They liked that they were swimming in a big pond that gave unique opportunities. One christened the tiles in a science room with an AP chemistry project. (He and his project-mate signed it from what I hear.) Another traveled the country debating. The youngest wouldn’t dream of being anywhere else. She’s picking up a second foreign language next year and is on the dance team again.

Test scores are extremely high. Trouble is very low. Teachers and students are both engaged in the community. There’s ample opportunity for a student to head to a specialty like music or drama. Heck, you can even play a sport if you want. The district has let maintenance slip in anticipation of the referendum passing, but that can be reversed if they choose. (They also need to tighten up a couple of hiring practices, but that’s another post.)

Why, then, has our paid administration spent so many years telling us what’s wrong with our high schools? All of the experiences my children have had have been affected only minimally by the crowding of students. And, as we’ve pointed out time and time again, the crowding is due to the 10% non-resident enrollment population.

Put this into perspective as you plan your vote next Tuesday. Don’t let propaganda designed to play on fear (your property value will go down, science test scores will go down, educators will leave) influence your vote. You have a few days to ask questions if you still don’t know for sure.


  1. Not only did he travel the county, he even traveled the COUNTRY debating 🙂

  2. oops. Spell check doesn’t read my mind very well. I’ll have to fix that…

  3. Kelly Frank says:

    There are differnces of opinions here. Your children are in school currently, or just got done with the Elmbrook school district. Are the schools ok for the students that are actually in the buildings today? I can understand that the argument would be yes, with some minor qualifications. However, my children are too young to be in school right now, so I have to look for the future. How will these buildings be in 15 years? Probably significantly deteriorated from the condition that they are in now.

    My children – if no referendums pass in the next 10 years or so – WILL be in schools that are not even up to the level of the buildings that your children are in now. This is an argument that some Yes voters I know make.

    This district has taken care of its own for many many years. You, and those before you, enjoyed a district that was growing, or remained somewhat stable – so there was interest and enthusiasm with pouring money into the district. As enrollment declines, and as more of the Brookfield population becomes older with no children in the district, will this district take care of my children the way that previous groups took care of theirs?

    I don’t necessarily need a best in the country technologically advanced high school (like the one that I was fortunate enough to attend in a neighboring state), but I would hope that this community can pull together an provide some of the opportunities, and technological advancements that will be required in classrooms of the future.

    My husband and I moved into this district based on the longstanding reputation of this district and the hope for a stellar education for our kids. We have the time and patience to wait and hope that these things will be achieved.

    I hope that we will be a part of the future of the Brookfield and Elm Grove communities and allow the future students of this district the same educational opportunities that students have now. Not just for the ones entering high schools in the next year or two, but the ones that may not be there for 15-20 years. To do that, there will need to be significant changes to the buildings, technologies, and teaching methods to provide an education that evolves with our culture, society, and educational demands that change with each generation.

    I don’t know how I will vote on this one yet. While I want improvements in the schools, I don’t want to sell my children’s future short on a band-aid fix (as some have referred to this proposal). So, I’ll think hard about this over the weekend and hope that I will be satisfied with my decision come Tuesday.

  4. Kelly, two of my children benefited from a district that was maintaining the facilities. My youngest hasn’t been so fortunate.

    I believe the district will have good facilities for your children in 15-20 years if they set to mind a regular method of maintenance and follow that. The amount of money being requested this time is greatly in excess of what is needed to provide a good education comparable to the years of service already given.

    I’m not saying never – I am saying not this plan.

  5. BrkfldDad says:

    Kelly – well said. Personally, I blame the citizens of Brookfield for the shape of the high schools. You are correct, the generations of the past took care of their own. Unfortunately, the most recent generation(s) of residents have taken a laissez faire approach to politics, governmental and school board, and we are paying the price. People are too lazy or just plain don’t care(perhaps it’s the per capita demographics of Brookfield.) As a result you end up with the perverted city government system we have, and you end up with a do nothing school administration. The board has done a woeful job in holding this administration’s feet to the fire on future planning and present maintenance of our facilities. The bloated spending of taxpayers’ money is a farce, and the excuse that funds are too limited for basic upkeep, etc… is comical. And we (most of us) are to blame. We’ve elected these boards, they’ve chosen these superintendent(s), we now pay the price. I think the candidacy of Dave Marcello is a great example. Here’s a private school citizen, with no ‘skin in the game’ with regards to the public schools (except his taxes and real estate practice) who is running uncontested for a school board seat. Apathy at it’s best, and we’ll all pay the price.

  6. I guess I should mention that I would have gladly run against Marcello, but I didn’t want to run against Patrick Murphy. I sure would like to know what happened to cause Murphy to drop out at the last minute. It was nearly impossible to gather the signatures necessary in the few days the district allowed once Murphy’s announcement was made.

    I’ve known Dave Marcello for years. He’s using this position as a stepping-stone to run for State Senate again once Ted Kanavas makes his next move. He has no real interest in the Elmbrook School district.

  7. BrkfldDad says:

    I would have written you in! Unfortunately voted absentee all ready and didn’t cast a vote in that race as my silent protest…

  8. “As enrollment declines, and as more of the Brookfield population becomes older with no children in the district, will this district take care of my children the way that previous groups took care of theirs?”

    I am afraid I simply don’t follow the logic behind your question. Of course this district will continue to take care of your children and those in the future. Just because many of our residents no longer have kids in our schools does not mean they get to pull their tax money out. They are dutifully paying for your children and will continue to do so until they sell their home and someone else moves in to take over. Since our taxes have certainly not gone down (but instead continue to steadily rise) I am at a loss as to how you could question whether our community is “pouring money” into this district.

    Yes, there are updates to the facilities that can and should be made. However, take a look at Kyle Prast’s blog this morning and you will see that – despite arguing about the physical condition and appearance of our high schools – this district (and the community that funds it) continues to provide “opportunities, and technological advancements that will be required in classrooms of the future.”


    By all means, however, do keep a close eye on the SDOE and our Board of Education. It is how they choose to allocate money from our operational budget (now and in the future) that will have a much greater impact on the quality of your child’s education.

  9. The vast majority of Brookfield residents already don’t have a kid in our schools and we’ve still managed to have some of the best.

  10. The “yes” people continue to avoid the real issues that the school maintenance has been neglected by the board…not the citizenry who are paying plenty in school taxes either locally or through the State. As as been stated, the facilities are not what make for quality education. The leaders of the past were often educated in simple country schools. Our problem is with the school board not coming up with a reasonable proposal, and they’ve had enough money to do maintenance. They just elected not to do it thinking they’d jam through one of their proposals because the schools need maintenance. Sadly, the same crew will be on the board next time around! Kyle provides truthful information that the “yes” people don’t want to acknowledge. For once I also agree with Shawn. LOL!

  11. It’s the Abraham Lincoln, one-room school houses, “desk don’t teach kids, teachers teach kids” argument.

    I tend to agree–but environment has been proven to be a major factor in our learning. So I guess i’m 50/50.

  12. It seems clear to me that there has been a constructive change in the Elmbrook electorate this year over last. From what I am able to observe in my discussions with people, many of whom were “no” voters for one reason or another last year , a strong number of people formerly opposed will this year be voting “yes” to the high school referendum. Sadly, what has not changed is that we continue to have two bloggers in our community who are a constant source of negative, hyper-critical, sarcastic venom filled with personal attacks against good people. Their writing is always suggestive of paranoid conspiracies. Neither seems able to go two weeks without making accusations of sinister and dishonest motives in decisionmaking. Both show a near complete disrespect for community institutions, councils, boards, committees, public officials and leaders, and both show a pattern of demeaning those in the community who dare suggest that Brookfield and Elm Grove would both be better, more considerate, less self-centered, less rude, less divided were they to just leave, taking their negativity somewhere else! These two have a readership who, like them, see conspiracy around every corner, in every fact, figure or idea from the city or the schools, who seems to appreciate nothing of peoples’ hard work and dedication, and whose answers to community questions are better and with more merit than anyone else’s. Are these two bloggers what we want the future of our community to be like? Are their followers, many of them in turn also demeaning and relentless in tearing down our community, the kind of people we want determining the future of our school system and our communities? I certainly hope that more capable thinkers, people better able to discern truth and facts from deception, misinformation and personal agendas, will take to heart how our society grows ever more coarse by letting such animus, hatred and the constant souring of community spirit prevail. The referendum is well thought out, it is thorough, its costs are entirely reasonable and well within our ability to afford. “No” is not a solution — it is no solution at all. We will never again purchase this much renewal for this little cost. If we delay this again by believing the distortions that are being perpetrated by rabid opponents over the past two weeks, we will have failed as a community. Let us stop supporting the day-by-day work, and that’s precisely what it is, of those who seek to create both permanent doubt and dark cynicism, like ink spreading inexorably through a pool of once cool, clear water. The time has come to make a statement, as a community, of positive hope, caring, humility and selflessness for the good of the future. Voting “yes” on Tuesday, April 1st is, I believe, vital for the future prosperity and community spirit of our hometown. Let us send a wake-up call to ourselves as a collective group, against those who work overtime every week to derail one thing after another, the latest being the very positive high school referendum, and who seem opposed to most anything that has happened in Brookfield since roughly 1960, except their own moving to town. Remember, 40 percent of the voters said “no” to building Brookfield East in that referendum! Remember, 40 percent of the voters said “no” to building the new Dixon and Brookfield Elementary Schools. These are not the people to follow if you want a prosperous future for our community. No improvements and no growth mean higher taxes and stagnation. Look around you at the communities where that is just what has happened.

  13. “Walter,” that’s not what I’m hearing. I guess we’ll find out about 10pm on April 1.

    Hey, has anyone ever told you that you sound a lot like Andy Smith, the PR guy from Elmbrook schools?

  14. Walter (and I doubt that you’ll even be around to read this), as someone who has experienced “a near complete disrespect” *from* community institutions, councils, boards, committees, public officials and leaders, I appreciate the candor in which these two individuals write. If we didn’t hear two sides of the story, who would keep our elected officials honest?

    We had an extremely negative experience with Brookfield’s elected officials a number of years ago, and Cindy, even though she was not our representative, was one of the only elected officials who stood up for us – I don’t see that as a person filled with venom, but someone with a genuine interest in improving the community. Not many people are interested in standing up for what they believe in, so hats off to these two bloggers for trying to educate the community.

    We’re long gone from Brookfield because of this experience. Our community seems to have a good handle on taxes and development, but if there comes a time when they’re not, I hope we have people that will stand up like this.

  15. Walter I didn’t catch your last name. Why don’t you “stand up” and let us know the hand behind the puppet?

    Everyone I have talked to is a no will continue to be. I know plenty who have already voted absentee. Someone close to me says, “I don’t want to pay the money, I just don’t see the need for it.”

    Every action creates a reaction. As Kathi stated, after years of being pushed around by our elected officials (and their non-elected boondoggling cronies) it’s refreshing to see constituents calling the shots.

    Of the people, by the people, and for the people.


    Of the apathetic, by the cronies, for the pocketbook.

  16. I’m voting yes. BCHS is dismal and it’s time to get on with the remodeling. Even if everything had been maintained to everyone’s satisfaction, it would still be time to refurbish and update. If I have to pay for a gym or two to get it done, I’ll suck it up. At some level, this involves keeping up with the Joneses, and the Joneses have nice gyms.

    Walter, take a deep breath.

    There is not a lot of “animus, hatred and the constant souring of community spirit” out there. Nor is the school board building an empire. Them and us is really just us, and we disagree about how to handle things. Wednesday morning, life will go on.

  17. Kathryn, if I had a million dollars i’d hire you to be my spokesperson.

  18. Kathryn, thanks. Just curious – did you vote yes last time?

  19. Dave Frank says:

    Shawn, in fairness plenty of people post here anonymously. We don’t call them out. I am not sure why “Walter” gets different treatment. Maybe you and Cindy know who he is, I don’t.

    Anyway, I wish there was less discussion about the money and more about whether this is a good solution. I am willing to pay more for a good idea. I am not willing to spend less on a bad idea just because it is cheaper.

    Some people seem to feel that there is a magic number we can’t exceed. I haven’t figured out what that number is yet. What I really want is good ideas.

  20. What if it really is a good idea and we just don’t know about it? Except for discovering the green window panels at east are expected to be replaced, I don’t know much about the details of the costs.

    I have been able to figure out much of what the HSST recommended and how the school board changed it. It really frustrates me that the district tried to sell (and for the most part has successfully sold) the referendum as the HSST plan. But as I said earlier, the HSST made a suggestion, the administration had it priced with only very general numbers, and then the school board added to it.

    If it’s good, why would the administration hide the details?

    I suspect there’s stuff in there that they know would not go over well if the details were out. We had about 5 times the information with the last attempt. Why is everything so quiet this time?

    PS – People do post here anonymously. The ones that are nasty and anonymous usually do get called out. This one is Andy Smith from the district, so it makes it a little more fun.

  21. Dave Frank says:

    Oh, I am not saying this is a good idea. I really haven’t decided if it is. I have said I like the idea of one school and don’t feel that idea was given much consideration.

    I had a feeling I was missing the joke about Walter. Carry on….

  22. I’m flattered Shawn, but I’m full of “allusions.” We’d be excoriated in the press.

  23. Hey Walter, 6pm on friday the district updates gym costing. Nothing to see here.. move along…..

  24. I didn’t get a press release. (tee hee)

    “On Friday, CG Schmidt said the $21 million figure ($20,983,755) for athletics and physical education includes that department’s share of the total building’s new mechanicals and other costs, such as insurance and fees for the architect, construction manager and owner’s representative ($2,816,730).”

    So 2.8 million ASSOCIATED with the expense of the other gym/athletic expenditures doesn’t count? It’s still a gym/athletic expense. If those costs weren’t so expensive, the $2.8 million wouldn’t be so high. (And good grief how much are we paying these contractors?)

    The district is sounding pretty desperate. But since the MJS supports the expense, they’ll bend over backwards after hours to share the district’s latest spin.

  25. I usually call out people say that they must “take a stand” but hide behind anonymity.

    I think it’s a fair call-out.

    And Kathyrn, I don’t wanna turn this thread into a love fest. However I’m continually impressed by your ability to synthesize information, crystallize information and help compromise.

    I could (and do) learn a lot from your approach.

  26. Cindy, why do you have to persist in personally attacking Dave Marcello and his children? It is very unbecoming and takes away from your fairly conservative message.

  27. Matt, can you give examples where I have attacked?

    I did call attention to his prior convictions, and I think it’s fair the public know those two issues. Aside from saying the kids have always been in private schools, I’ve never talked about the kids.

    Why do you think the things you do shouldn’t reflect on you as you run for public office? Bankruptcies, battery, arson, I think the public deserves to know.

  28. The public indeed has the right to know about the character and everything else that will affect how they represent the public. Cindy provides valuable information to the public that the news media ignores and we are grateful to her inspite of the detractors. I’m not related to Matt and think he is just covering for someone he supports! JMHO.

  29. Gato, I’m frightened that we agree more and more!

  30. Attacking a political candidate for where their children happen to go to school is unethical. You have done that repeatedly against Marcello. Not sure what you are talking about regarding bankruptcy, battery and arson? Bankruptcy isn’t against the law. A bankruptcy in my past was revealed and I still came in first place for school board. The person who used it against me, Linda Richter, came in a very distant fourth place with a handful of write-in votes. I’ve never been involved with battery or arson. Have you? Why don’t you stick to the issues of the political races rather than the personal attacks?

  31. Mr. Thomas,
    “Attacking” and “discussing” are two entirely different actions. Mr. Marcello is running for School Board, therefore bringing the educational choices he has made for his children into the discussion is (in my opinion) a fair topic. As a voter, I would prefer a candidate who has (or has had) personal experience with our educational system as well as a vested interest in maintaining or improving the quality of programs our district provides.

  32. Matt, I feel it is very relevant that a school board candidate has student aged children that are not in the schools he wishes to manage. People can choose based on a list of factual information, just like they did when they voted for you.

    Marcello was charged with battery and found guilty on 1/31/2003. He was charged with negligent handling of burning material and found guilty on 11/10/2003. The charges were not “dropped” as he claims. In one case, a finding of guilty was dismissed after certain court conditions were met. He was still declared guilty.

    These two pieces of history are pertinent when choosing a school board member. These are facts. You only claim the facts are attacks because this candidate is one you support.

    I don’t do the Republican party or my neighbors any favors if I support an inferior candidate in order to hold the party line. We have an obligation as Republicans to bring forward good candidates that can earn and maintain the public’s trust.

    Marcello has not earned my trust.

  33. You could hardly call these things and attack. Look up the definition of what an attack is, Matt.

    It’s fair game, and she isn’t blowing anything out of proportion.

    On the subject of schools:

    Marcello’s children don’t “happen to go” to private school. He chose to put his children in private school (implying they are too good for public schools) but he wants to serve the school systems on the board?

    Many school board candidacies tout that their children attended public schools, and it’s long been almost a point of qualification for running for school board.

    Check out the biographies of the MPS Board. They all talk about sending their children to public schools. If a Public School isn’t good enough to educate someone’s child, how is it good enough to be serve by that person?

  34. BrkfldDad says:

    Shawn – don’t go down the slippery slope others have, Marcello putting his kids in “private school (implying they are too good for public schools)” isn’t necessarily accurate. I know a lot of good people, who for part of their academic life have chosen to put at least 1 child in private schools, not because thought they were too good, but because it was a better environment for them. I don’t blame him at all for doing it, just find it odd he’d run for school board… I think Cindy’s got it right, stepping stone for other political aspirations.

  35. Hold on, Shawn. I don’t think you can summarize that Mr. Marcello has sent his children to private school because he believes they are “too good” for public school. Our public schools simply can not compete with the religious education provided by parochial (or private) schools.

  36. I may be wrong…but I think Mr. Marcello may have been a product of the Catholic schools himself.

  37. True. I haven’t said it’s a “good thing” or a “bad thing” that Marcello has kids in private schools instead of Elmbrook. It is simply a “thing” that voters deserve to know.

  38. I’m with BrkfldDad here. Families have to do what is best for their children. Private school, homeschool, doesn’t disqualify a candidate. We need all the educational options we can get.

  39. Which implies, Libby, that the public school isn’t good enough. If it was good enough, they’d be in public schools (unless you like wasting $10,000 a year on a school that is just as good at the free one)

  40. Right the point is that I smell a rat.

    It’s the classic case of working for a company not even you would patronize.

  41. You didn’t say the schools were not good enough…you said he “chose to put his children in private school (implying they are too good for public schools).” That is two different concepts. If it is a religous component he is seeking, then yes…our schools would not be good enough (becasue they do not provide that type of programming.) Therefore, they would not be “wasting $10,000 a year on a school that was just as good as the free one” – the private one would be better.

  42. Shawn, just how much do you think school board members are getting paid? It’s a public service. Citizens are owners, weather they enroll or not. We need public schools even if they aren’t the best choice for everyone.

  43. If a public school lacks religious education, it is not good enough for someone who desires religious education.

    If the public school were good enough and they opted for private school, yes, it would be wasting money.

    So therefore, either the public school isn’t good enough or Marcello likes wasting money.

  44. And Kathryn, no matter the salary they are still an employee of the district.

  45. Correct – if it is a religous component they are seeking, then the public school could not possibly be considered good enough.

  46. He’s still an owner, too.

    Going to go chop onions until my spelling improves.

  47. Hey – something called “Word Press” just told me to slow down…that I am typing comments too fast. What is that all about? Has this happend to anyone else?

  48. It’s the blogging deity asking you to be good.

    Actually, WordPress is the blog software I use. Evidently you are one crack typist. I think it runs on a java script for comments. Those comments are then posted to a server I pay for every month (godaddy.com) and then they automatically show up on the url when you come back.

    Sometimes when the software senses too many comments in a short period of time it will hold those comments back until I approve them. It’s a spam protection (and saves you from reading all those viagra ads that come through.) I’ve never heard of the “typing too fast” until now. Hopefully it’s not a persistent problem.

    There’s a WordPress upgrade that I can install on the server, but in general I’m upgrade adverse if something is working well. So far, this version has been fine.

  49. I…will…type…slower

  50. Clearly you have an axe to grind against Marcello that goes beyond the issues to the personal. That is sad.

  51. Well, Matt, it beats the heck out of making stuff up like your buddy Jeff Speaker did a couple of years ago.

    It’s all there. It’s all public record. If you call presenting the facts an “axe to grind” I’ll just have to agree to disagree.

  52. BrkfldDad says:


    I think you missed the rebuttal point(s) here. You didn’t say the schools weren’t good enough, you said the kids were ‘too good’ for public schools. Two VERY different arguments and points of view, the latter of which I don’t agree you can ‘label’ Marcello with.

  53. Jeff Speaker isn’t my buddy. He’s too much of a tax increaser for my taste. Where did you get the idea that we were buddies!? By the way, as far as I can tell as an outsider, you, Kyle Prast and others have been doing a great job of questioning the referendum.

  54. Sorry, it was something I’d heard. If you say you aren’t, then you aren’t.

    Why the affection for Marcello?

  55. No affection here for Marcello either, other than I don’t think it’s very nice of you to bring his children in to your political arguments. I’ve even worked to defeat Marcello in an election. When Marcello ran for the state senate in 2001, I worked for one of his oppenents. Ted Kanavas won, the guy I worked for (Scott Newcomer) came in 2nd, and Marcello came in somewhere after that.


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