Daily Bread for 4.6.23: After the Spring Election in Whitewater

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be partly sunny with a high of 50. Sunrise is 6:26 AM and sunset 7:27 PM for 13h 00m 18s of daytime. The moon is full with 99.9% of its visible disk illuminated.

Whitewater’s Landmarks Commission meets at 6 PM, and the Whitewater Common Council  meets at 6:30 PM.

On this day in 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev presents the first periodic table to the Russian Chemical Society.

 In yesterday’s post on Wisconsin & Whitewater Election Results, I promised a post with an analysis of the results. This is that post. I’ve written about the election over the last month, with an emphasis on the school district: (1 3.11.23 Candidates’ Forum), (2 Referendums), (3 Dual Language & Teaching on Race), (4 Surveys), (5 Gender & Orientation), (6 Standardized Scores), (7 Managerial Issues). 

Remarks below: 

Preliminaries. We’ve no polling for Whitewater, and no professionally-selected focus groups. As it turns out, we don’t have our own daily newspaper, either. Our professional journalism comes from the next town over. That may one day change; today is not that day. (A supposed local election analysis that talks about how many women are on the board, or that cannot even count accurately the candidates’ vote distribution within the city, isn’t a serious analysis for Whitewater.)  

Cultural Issues. We can dispense with one concern quickly and thankfully. The one candidate who advanced these concerns found himself finishing last. Some portion of the school board race was regrettably and wrongly hijacked to address with concerns over LGTBQ+ youth activities. For my response to that sad effort see On LGBTQ+ Movie Night at Whitewater’s Library. Five of the six candidates in the school board race avoided falsely scapegoating inclusion efforts for the serious and widespread challenges our students face. Remember now: Extreme Populism Presents as Trolling. It’s easier to hit the like button than to create a likable, let alone sound, policy.

Referendums and Language Instruction.  Referendums and language instruction were not controversial at the candidate forum, and it’s improbable they were significant motivators for voters. In any event, Lisa Huempfner, for whom language instruction is a profession, carried the city and won a seat on the board. Her own views as expressed at the candidate forum were balanced; she spoke practically and sensibly. 

Whitewater’s situation is difficult, with some students experiencing challenges that money can’t solve. Their situation is like being part of a pyramid of eggs: one wrong move can lead to many shattered lives. 

State of District. What do residents think is the state of this district? I’d guess they and the candidates mostly agree: We are a socio-economically challenged community with poor academic performance. What would have been an insult once is now a widely understood description. Boosterism and toxic positivity are dead in this district. There would not have been this many candidates and this much discussion if the community felt satisfied.

The Managerial Concern. Again, and again, even if during the campaign spoken sotto voce or in euphemisms, candidates and residents expressed concern about the management of the district. Why it so hard to say plainly? After all, I just did.

There’s no animosity in this; it’s a plain statement.

Note well, I do not know how all this will end, but it is clear to me — and others thinking clearly — that this vote reflects a need for direct superintendent and community discussions in large, open forums. There have been some listening sessions only recently, but they have come late and it is insufficient to have board members at those sessions speaking for the superintendent. 

In the last post of the FREE WHITEWATER schools series, I addressed this topic:

This might have been an election, also, about the managerial approach of this superintendent and her administrators. There have been oblique references from some of the candidates to these concerns, but nothing so direct as someone who favors candid conversation would have wanted. Last year at FREE WHITEWATER, I wrote that the community needed direct, blunt discussions on managerial policy. See from 8.1.22 Two Postures, Two Approaches and my comments under that post. Everyone would have benefitted from that approach, however uncomfortable at first. It was a road not then taken. 

A discussion of a managerial approach, like one of educational fundamentals, would have been all to the good. Fair, calmly addressed, dispassionately considered.

The vote, it seems plain, is a vote for more of this. 

Big changes require big discussions. Those aren’t discussions with a board, or the district leadership team, they’re discussions with the community. Those aren’t discussions through a board, administrator, or principal, they are discussions from the superintendent directly with the community in large settings. 

If there had been no large changes, this would not be necessary. There have been large changes, so it is necessary. 

This libertarian blogger lamented less of this before the election. It’s now clear that the administration will not be able to carry on successfully without a dialogue and reconciliation with community groups. There’s been some talk about the role of the superintendent and the board, but that’s secondary as a practical matter. 

It’s the relationship of the superintendent to the community that this electorate expects to be addressed. 

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
5 months ago

Good take on this. 100% these changes are not going to work as top-down. It says a lot that you are calling for a change in outreach without demanding a specific outcome. (You obviously know that a specific outcome is on people’s minds.)

You are actually rather matter of fact about all this.

Whitewater expects direct answers from the leader at the top, no one else. That’s how this town runs.

5 months ago

Yeah, there is a problem getting how Whitewater works going on here in 2023. School leaders can do what they want but they are going to meet big opposition undermines their chances. It is counter productive. The election was about people saying that you aren’t doing this over our heads.