Vote for new Whitewater Unified School District Board

Henri J. Kinson, Contributor

The Whitewater School District has been suffering for years at the hands of an incompetent school board.  The election on Tuesday, April 6th, is our chance to change that.  

Evident for a while, it became glaringly obvious with the board’s (mis)handling of instruction through Covid.  Last fall, Whitewater, unlike its neighbors, decided it wouldn’t provide its students face-to-face instruction.  This left our students, their academics, their athletics, and their parents to suffer.  Ironically, the only area school district that refused to take Whitewater students for face-to-face instruction was… Whitewater.  Parents took the hint:  more than 10% of its students left.

For 2019, the last year available, Whitewater had the lowest state test scores among East Troy, Elkhorn, Milton, Jefferson and Fort Atkinson.  ACT results tell much the same tale.  Starting in the hole, its insistence on virtual instruction put our students even farther behind.  By how much?  Well, Virginia’s Fairfax County Schools found F grades increased 83% by going virtual.  Not surprisingly however, the Whitewater School Board never asked for such statistics because that would require some intellectual curiosity and an original thought, or just as likely they think “It’s probably best not to confirm everyone’s suspicions that we’re hacks.”  Regardless, whether it’s 50% or 100%, our kids were hindered by their own school district in a race where the odds were already against them.

It also hurt Whitewater economically.  The lost students mean a budget cut of at least $1.6 million, but don’t worry, our property taxes will be raised $800k next year to help make up for it.  We’re blessed with a district brain trust that has found a way to simultaneously raise our property taxes and cut school budgets. 

It’s not just academics and taxes, but athletics too.  Over the last three years (’17-’19), Whitewater has won 1 team conference championship (hat tip, boys’ track ‘19).  By contrast, conference competitor East Troy has won 14.  Either Whitewater’s kids are inferior every year, or they’re not the problem.

But there must be something Whitewater is good at.  Well yes, there is: we are the state champs at losing students.  For the 192 Wisconsin districts with more than 1,000 students, Whitewater bled proportionally more students (219) in the last six months than anyone else, posting an 11% loss (the average was less than 1%).  This has led to another achievement: the highest per-pupil instruction costs in the conference.  We Whitewater taxpayers pay the absolute most for the absolute least, yet another accomplishment.

Is this to say that Whitewater doesn’t have some great teachers, students, athletes, coaches, and staff?  Hardly, as I know several.  The question is, are they great because of the district or in spite of it?  The answer is obvious.

Culture starts at the top: success breeds success, but at Whitewater failure is breeding failure.  When I went to Whitewater, we were an academic and athletic powerhouse.  Our test scores were tops and championships were routine – just look at the high school gym’s walls.  By contrast, the current board runs a district where mediocrity would be a significant improvement for just about everything.  It has produced a culture of indifference and incompetence, forcing more than an entire class of kids to walk away last fall.  It’s time for a change.

There are three candidates for school board, Zimmerman and Kachel not being incumbents (Svec dropped out).  I won’t speak for them here, but given the repeated failures of the board, you really don’t need to know them: we can’t do worse than what we’ve got now.  Please vote for Zimmerman and Kachel on Tuesday, April 6th.

Sincerely,

Henri J. Kinson

Whitewater School District resident, Parent of four boys in or graduated from Whitewater, 

Proud Whitewater alum (WHS ’85), Former Whitewater School Board member, UWW ‘89

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