Lots to talk about

Good morning. There’s lots I’d like to discuss.

First, we did it. Yesterday bested an old hit high and turned in 1,023 unique visits and 2,595 page loads. It’s pretty exciting to meet one of the goals I set for the blog less than three months after it started.


While falling asleep last night (I swear if we all put our minds to it in this alpha state we could change the world) it dawned on me: Why was Molly Steffen prancing through CENTRAL, the poster child of how to neglect taxpayer assets, with reporter Charles Benson after school hours? Kyle Prast received a surprise knock on the door. I think I know why.

Oh, I could spend a couple of unpleasant weeks trying to wrench the evidence out of the district, but there’s no doubt in my mind that Elmbrook mouthpiece Andy Smith arranged that interview. The reporter probably sought out Prast to even the story.

So much for Elmbrook’s neutral stance.


Since we’re on the subject of Central, did anyone else see the leaking pipe showed on this morning’s TMJ4 spot? (I know, but the channel was still tuned from last night…) Do you as a taxpayer need any more proof that the district is negligent in their responsibility to maintain the schools? I’m trying to find the footage for you and will link to it when it becomes available.

In the meantime you should know that this is probably the same pipe that was leaking at Central LAST year. Maybe it’s been left to leak so that it can be shown on all those tours.

Would you let a pipe in your home leak for a whole year? Even if it’s a new leak, would you let something like that go unchecked?


Elmbrook School Board Member Glen Allgaier confirmed yesterday that a large chunk of referendum money is to be spent AIR CONDITIONING THE NEW AND OLD GYMS. Can you imagine that new district expense given all the summer practices? When I danced we were always told to work in an “air neutral” room as much as possible. Now not only will the athletes have state-of-the-art weight training rooms (when physicians constantly warn against youngsters weight training) they’ll be crisp and cool when they work out. Your tax dollars prudently spent?

Hopefully Kyle Prast will have more today. I’ll link if she does. (Here’s her blog.)


Let’s continue referendum discussion on this thread if possible. Later today (before I head to book club) I’ll post a thread for gloating. I’m really nervous about my stake in the outcomes tonight, but then I’m always nervous on election day.

Win or lose, at least I care. I have no doubt a few of you will get personal tonight with attacks one way or another. That’s too bad. (By the way, Scott Berg, you can continue to obsess about me on your own Web site. You won’t be allowed here.)


That’s it for now. I’m sure there will be several updates today.


  1. Dave Frank says:

    Wow. That was the longest I have ever had to wait to vote. All the voting booths were full when we arrived at Dixon this morning. Might be just a fluke but I have never seen it that busy before.

    By the way the TMJ4 video mysteriously cuts-off after Molly speaks. Emlbrook and TMJ4’s evil plot continues…. (that is sarcasm by the way, which is very hard to do when typing).

  2. Cheri M. says:

    In Feng Shui, leaking water translates to money dripping out of one’s hands.

    I’ve been told the reason young people are cautioned against weight training is that they can affect the placement of the spine and put pressure on something internally which does not cause the sensation of a pinch but may lead to the sudden heart attacks seen in some young athletes.

  3. You’re kidding! I didn’t watch it. Guess I’ll do that.

    Thanks for the emotional clarification.

  4. Kathryn says:

    I think pretty much anyone can prance through Central after hours–the high schools aren’t locked down evenings. As for Andy, so what if he did; and why is he the only one who can pick up a telephone? When the middleschoolers had their ‘free hugs’ demonstration, one of them alerted the media. They got on the 10:00 news too.

    By the way, my video cuts out before Molly gets through her second sentence.

  5. Forget “so what” it sounds testy. Andy is the PR guy. If he did arrange publicity and he didn’t insult anybody in the process, I’d call it a job well down.

  6. Agreed. Whether or not the outcome was likeable, or Andy Smith is likeable for that matter… his job is to make the district look important and look good. If a few heads get stomped on in the process… it’s unfortunate, but it is his job.

    God knows it’s a job I’d never want….

  7. Right. Dripping pipes sure make us look good. Besides, isn’t the district supposed to be neutral? Neutral would have arranged both Steffen and Prast interviewed at the school.

    Here’s an article on weight training and teens. It’s not JAMA, but it cites a pediatric source. Weight training isn’t the topic of the day.

    Paying for air conditioning in gyms all summer long is the issue.

  8. Hello all — To end the speculation and provide facts, JoAnn Williams of FOX6 called the district offices late Monday morning asking to conduct an interview about the referendum and do a walk through of Central. On her own, she contacted Roger Johnson who was also interviewed. We did not contact her. Charles Benson of ‘TMJ4 called later in the afternoon Monday and asked to do a walk through of Central with someone with a tie to the proposed plans. I suggested Roger Johnson, whom he opted not to interview because Channel-6 had, and instead responded affirmatively to my suggestion of Molly Steffen, who served on the HSST and will be a Central parent. We did not contact him. To be fair and even-handed, I suggested that he might want to consider interviewing Kyle Prast, who lives relatively close to Central and who has been a visible critic of the referendum proposal. I would NOT have had to do that, and could’ve said to Mr. Gibson, “well, do your research and find the opposition person you’d like to talk to on your own, but trying to be fair and just IS what the school district is all about. Some will never believe that, but that is their perogative. I presume that Kyle is appreciative that, short on time, Channel-4 did take my suggestion and sought her out to provide an opportunity to be part of the same story/airtime. I hope that the same courtesy would have been extended to us given similar circumstances — this is a friendly hometown in which fair people do things like this … at least that would be my hope. I was happy to see that Kyle got on the air at 10pm. However you feel about the referendum, PLEASE vote today on this question and on the other races. When I was in school decades ago, I lived with an immigrant from what was then Latvia, Russia. He had been allowed out by the Soviets with the promise his family would follow the next week. Forty years later he was still scraping up the money to go back every few years, and when I knew him it was to see his dying wife and catch up on new grandchildren. PLEASE VOTE … I can tell you that Alex Maculskis, God rest his soul, never missed a single election, even small primaries, and even in his frail eighties. Thanks, everyone.
    – Andy Smith
    Director of Communications
    School District of Elmbrook

  9. (To Mr. Benson) … my error. Apologies.
    – Andy

  10. “You should avoid weight lifting, power lifting, and body building until your body has reached full adult development (usually, between the ages of 15 and 18) because these sports can result in serious injury. Your pediatrician can help determine your stage of development.”

    That’s from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  11. Andy Smith, thanks for admitting that you arranged the interview between Channel 4 and Molly Steffen.

  12. Where’s Waldo….I mean Walter?

    If the referendum passes, which I guess it won’t, I will live. But there better be a Forensics Office drawn up in those plans!

  13. Uncanny, isn’t it.

    Agreed, Shawn. Heck, I’ll help decorate.

  14. Dan, I’m talking weight training where a number of teens are installed with 0 or 1 or 2 adults.

    You are talking physical activity. The school district provides many opportunities for physical activity that are not weight training related.

    It does say that there was “supervision and low instructor/participant ratios” in the study. Perhaps the Pediatric association will change their recommendation some day based on the research you cite.

  15. Cheri M. says:

    I do like your story about the Russian immigrant, Alex. It is both touching and motivating.

    The particular readership audience here is a rather deep thinker. We ponder and make connections when we take in new information and anecdotes.

    I respect and have learned a lot from many people who I didn’t necessarily agree with at some point on some issue(s).

    In the story you shared I find TOO MUCH to agree with. Some may chuckle at that, some may wonder if there’s a great typo in that sentence, but let me explain.

    Like your friend some of us keep doing what we can… saving for visits with dear ones… voting… etc. And like your friend we may feel somewhat disappointedly misled by the officials. I will use the recent example of the High School Facilities Referendum Summary sheets distributed in the past few days in mailboxes. These sheets state that the “February 2008 Stragetic Planning Community Survey Identified Long Term Facilities Improvements as the Greatest District Challenge *”

    The asterisk (*) is explained in smaller print as: Top response from residents with children and with no direct connection to the district. While this may be the top priority for the 553 respondents who are Non-Employees with Children, this could easily mean taking care of all our buildings, not a mandate to pass this high school referendum.

    Some may see that use of the that statistic quoted on the School Referendum as a spin.

    There is another statistic which may also be significant, and that is the 698 or 34% of 2025 respondants who cited the greatest district challenge as community trust in the board and district administration.

    Like the officials who kept your friend Alex from his dreams, the district may prevail in many things. Like your friend Alex, we will persist.

    “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”


    “Fix the process (not the person).”

  16. Was your weight room air conditioned?

  17. Heads stomped? Good grief, Driver! We’re having an argument, not warfare.

  18. Tacky Cindy warning…

    I just read through Andy’s post again. I would think that a communications director:

    1) could maintain an understanding of the value of paragraphs in written communication;

    2) would sense the need for continuity when presenting an issue.

    Further, I am confused by the inclusion of the Alex story. It sounds like the man walked away from his dying wife and grandchildren (which would presume children) in order to become a naturalized citizen and vote in every election. I’m not sure that represents a set of priorities I would choose to emulate.

    I do agree that voting today is a good idea.

    Mr. Smith, can you arrange for me to photograph/video the leaking pipe at Central High School today? I’d very much like to document the care Elmbrook School District is taking to maintain our assets.

    Thanks. –Cindy

  19. Cheri M. says:

    What, no one wants to delve into Feng Shui?
    … Leaky pipes analogous to money dripping through one’s hands?

  20. Cheri, it wasn’t a lost comment, trust me.

    Danny boy, you win. Hanging out with 25 teenage boys dripping sweat and testosterone is more than I would do for my country, much less my school district.

    Two boys home over the summer was enough for me. (Thank goodness they were trained early to master the washer/dryer.)

  21. Cheri M. says:

    Gosh, I thought Alex (the immigrant) was basically tricked, lied to, or given a spin… to believe his family would soon follow him to the US. Then officials did not follow through, and his family was stuck in the old country. He could visit them occaisionally, but neither could he live there… nor were they free to come here.

    If he had the option to stay in the old country with them but left… one would wonder, for what? What benefit… did he earn extra money which they desperately needed? Did living in the US give hope that his family would be processed to join him here?

    Maybe the real moral of the story is that we should all move out-of-district and leave the children behind to attend Elmbrook schools?!


  22. Cindy:
    As if so often the case, your choice of words is interesting: “Admitting?”
    I explained, I declared, I stated, I described, I clarified, etc., etc. But you used the word, “admitted.”
    I’m one of the few people who is willing to point out these types of distortions, innuendo and techniques of propaganda that you use. You don’t like it when people do so, and I am one of your many targets therefore.
    The following is your direct quote: “Andy Smith, thanks for admitting that you arranged the interview between Channel 4 and Molly Steffen.” I responded to a media request, just as you would if you held this position.
    It’s important to point out another very recent example of how people truly need to consider the veracity and motive of your material. Just a few days ago you built an entire column — a very misleading column — around the photo of a potted ficus tree at Central. You tied all sorts of rhetorical points to that photo.
    What readers of your column did NOT see, and what you did not show them, is well known by those who work in the building —
    Just twenty feet away is a very large in-floor planter of lush, thriving fifty year old plants, some of which are so healthy that they reach up beyond the ceiling and into the rooftop skylights. Why did you not show those, Cindy?
    As you may know, a ficus tree is highly susceptible to losing its leaves even when moved the slightest distance. A ficus tree responds badly to changes in temperature. Yet, it stands not five feet from the windy front entrance doors of the school. Why?
    It is the southwestern exposure at BCHS, and in this school, just about the only place with enough light for a ficus. A different plant might have been a better choice. Was it a gift? Was this an opportunistic photo? You bet. A misleading article based on a distorted premise? Absolutely. Honest? Hardly.
    Your columns are opinion, but beyond that, many are quite sly propaganda. The people of this community deserve better.
    I invite you to take a photo and publish it of the thriving planter containing hardy varieties just feet from what you chose to publish.
    I also invite you to not chose words that mislead, such as “admitting” rather than what is the truth — my taking time to fully explain the origin of the television interviews Monday because you were implying more than what they were.
    To the best of my ability, I do not allow the school district or its employees to be unjustly disparaged, or be the victims of character assassination.
    I have much work to get accomplished today, and need to get back to it so that the taxpayers are well-served … though I will be working well past 10pm this evening. Yes, one of my jobs is to monitor newspaper coverage, letters to the editor and other sources of information about the school district and correct it when it is wrong, misleading or distorted.
    It’s not because you are important that I do this; it is because the truth is. Now, what “spin” will you put on this? I hope none. Thank you.
    – Andy Smith
    Director of Communications
    School District of Elmbrook

  23. Ok, maybe it is warfare. Y’all have fun.

  24. No spin Mr. Smith. You said it all.

    May I please have someone meet me at Central today so I can photograph/video record the leaking pipe used on tv this morning? I am anxious to document the care the district is taking to manage the facilities. This is the second time I’ve asked. I think I’ll pop the request in an e-mail, too.

  25. Mr. Smith seems to be waxing poetic these days. From Alex to the Ficus Tree he’s a regular Neruda!

  26. As long as we all understand that I’m not important…

  27. Cheri M. says:

    “Cooler heads will prevail.”

    Those words of wisdom were pronounced by my first boss (post-college) as he declared me a winner in front of colleagues.

    What would he think today? I suppose he’d think it would’ve been quite appropo to post your own photo of the lush and thriving plants, and skip the verbal response (a picture is worth a thousand words).

    Or recall that Barbara Walters once asked during an interview, “If you were a tree, what tree would you be?”. If you wanted a light-hearted response, you could’ve made yourself analogous to one of the thriving trees? The fact that Cindy identified with the ficus is rather poetic, however it does not indicate that there were not other elements, even beautiful elements, around.

    Let’s focus on anything positive, which we might be able to work on together. For example, what are the criteria for Milwaukee Magazine’s ranking for top school district… Greendale was chosen in May 2007.

    As for the rest, let’s take it with a sense of humor. It’s really OK to have different views. In learning more about what others think, there can be a sense of WIN-WIN. No one has to lose. We can all be winners.

    Don’t worry about someone else’s verbiage. A simple “Thank you for allowing me to clarify” would’ve spoken volumes. Sometimes less is more.

    And on that note, I will take my own advice and say TTFN!

  28. BrkfldDad says:

    While I do find Andy Smith’s concerns to have some validity, the double standard still makes me chuckle. Okay, Cindy chose to show the dying ficus tree and perhaps left out the forest. But last year in the ‘neutral’ district newsletter on the $109MM referendum the district showed pictures of empty or nearly empty ‘competing’ district high school rooms/cafeterias, up against stacked to the gills BCHS and BEHS facilities – blatant attempt to make the spaces seem much smaller and more crowded than the other schools, but just as misleading as a single leaky pipe or dying tree may be. I continue to be amazed at their doublespeak and apparent lack of realization of the public’s perception they aren’t getting the straight story. The recent clarification of the gym/PE costs, leaving out the shared HVAC costs (and where does that then get allocated?) being a prime example, I saw through it right away.

  29. BrkfldDad – I remember the pictures being taken at East. They positioned the cameras not in the corner of the room, but more towards the center so that the rooms looked even smaller.

    Ah, the art of photography. We sure are a renaissance bunch, aren’t we?

  30. El gato says:

    I worked at one of the polls this morning and there was about 20% turnout at 1:00 p.m. and mostly older folks who I would guess aren’t ready to have their taxes raised. Hopefully this portends well for the people who expect a more responsible effort from the board.

  31. Cheri M. says:

    It’s April Fools’ Day and Cindy is doing PR for the district by showing the conditions we could address for $6.2M… Meanwhile Andy’s experiencing a role-reversal of his own by helping us see the schools as a showplace.

  32. Someone told me 800 at 1:00 pm in the second. There were about 2200 total voters in the 2nd a year ago.