Truce: New Proposals Will Govern Future Debates About Merging East and West

School board will review policy changes on Dec. 8

By Miranda Paikowski, Current Staff

If Superintendent Ted Neitzke gets his way, there will be no more civil wars about the high school configuration in West Bend.

The question of whether or not to merge East and West High divided and angered the community in September, but this was not the first time. For Neitzke, this recurring conflict needs to be avoided. For this reason, he has devised a plan to regulate future discussion through the implementation of two new policies and other actions. These policy changes will be reviewed by the school board on Dec. 8.

One new plan meant to stop the constant configuration discussion is the creation of policy 188, the High School Configuration Review Process. This will be the first time that there will be a specific process for the discussion on configuration to occur. “There is no process right now,” Neitzke said.

Neitzke believes that a more organized approach to the discussion will result in a less frustrated community. Many times throughout the last conversation, which ended Oct. 6 with a board vote to keep East and West separate, community members mentioned that much of their anger was a result of feeling confused by the entire process, and sensing that there was no real progress being made.

School Board member Bart Williams stated that this process will basically be a set of guidelines to be met before the board votes on even discussing merging the schools. A two-thirds vote by the board will be needed to begin the conversation.

Neitzke has described this process as containing four major steps. First, there will be the board vote to decide if the conversation is worthwhile. Second, there will be a task force similar to the one created during the last discussion. Next, there will be a referendum. Many community members were upset this last fall by the lack of a referendum and the feeling of lost opportunity to get an official community vote on the issue. Finally, in this process, the board will make their official vote.

Policy 188 will be reviewed at the Dec. 8 school board meeting, putting it one step closer to becoming official. “This policy in itself will make [the configuration discussion] less recurrent,” Neitzke said.

“There is no process right now.”
– Superintendent Ted Neitzke

Neitzke has also recommended that there be a change implemented to provide choice to incoming students of the high schools. Changes to Policy 432, School Attendance Area, is another plan meant to hinder frustration within the community and restrict the recurring merging topic.

“The proposed change to that policy, and the accompanying administrative rule, would allow parents of eighth graders to request a transfer to the high school other than the one they were originally going to attend, based on the birth date of the oldest child in their family,” Williams said.

According to Neitzke, for many students the rule will remain as it is currently, with students with odd birth dates attending West and even birth dates attending East. There will, however, be circumstances in which students will have the ability to choose their preferred school. Williams explained that students in their eighth grade year can send in an application to potentially switch high schools. Once the decision is made, it cannot be undone.

“If there is a significantly high amount of students choosing to go to East instead of West, or vice versa, then we will balance the applications to keep the school attendance numbers fairly equal,” Neitzke said. Neitzke also said that this policy will give priority to the children of alumni.

Policy 432 is already in place, but the change to the policy still is in the process of being reviewed. According to Williams, it will be brought up for a second time in front of the board at the Dec. 8 meeting. According to Neitzke, both of these policies were being thought about initially this past mid-September. Neitzke expects that both of these policies will begin early next year, in January or February.

Once these policies become official, future school board members and superintendents must adhere to their rules, unless, by unusual circumstances, they choose to change the policy.

Along with these policies, Neitzke believes that changing certain things about the high schools’ appearance will solve some concerns brought up by community members. One thing Neitzke believes drives the merging argument is the idea that East and West lack a sense of pride and school spirit. “When people walk through the halls, they can barely tell when they have crossed the line into the other school,” Neitzke said.

According to Neitzke, there must be something done to the appearance of the school to aid students’ pride for their school’s identity. Currently, the colors of the East and a West High Schools lack a sense of vibrancy, Neitzke said. Neitzke has proposed that the fieldhouse, as well as the main hallway that connects the high schools, be repainted.

Neitzke also plans on placing signs throughout the community that reinforce West Bend’s sense of school pride. Signs that say “Welcome to the Home of the Suns” or “Home of the West Bend Spartans” will further help people distinguish between the two schools. An estimated $40,000 will be taken from the West Bend fund balance to pay for the paint needed.

Neitzke mentioned that a major reason the issue was brought up is due to the fact that the school has seen low participation of community members and students who actively supported two schools before they feared that the two-school institution would be taken away. “At sports events, it is common that the only people sitting in the crowd are the players’ parents. There have been too many cases in which we have seen a larger crowd for the visiting team than our own,” Neitzke said.

According to Neitzke, it is necessary that the community supports the teams it already has if West Bend wishes to prove that they truly do support the existence of two schools. He believes that a heightened school spirit will make for a more content community on the unique setup of the West Bend High Schools.

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