At the recent candidate forum at New Berlin West School, Dave Maxey, who has been board president since 2008, declared that New Berlin was the best district in the state.
But how does he define "best"?
It couldn't be for highest achievement. After all, according to the report cards for districts released by the Wisconsin Dept. of Public Instruction on September 17, 2013, New Berlin (along with 133 other districts statewide), fell in the second-highest category. New Berlin's score of 77.1 was lower than Mequon-Thiensville, North Lake, Hamilton, Cedarburg, Whitefish Bay, Elmbrook, Germantown, Arrowhead, Mukwonago, Lake Country, Stone Bank, Hartland-Lakeside, Maple Dale-Indian Hill, Kettle Morraine, Wauwatosa, Whitnall, Pewaukee, Port Washington-Saukville, Franklin Public and several others.
Nor could it be for the facilities. District facilities have suffered from deferred maintenance/lack of funding allocation. Under leadership of so-called "fiscal conservatives", schools that were once assets, deteriorated. New Berlin Center Elementary was razed. Prospect Hill was declared unfit for students and closed. Glen Park, one of the District's top performing schools, was closed and put up for sale. The District merged elementary schools and now has several mega-sized ones. Although it would be developmentally more appropriate for middle school students to be housed in a building by themselves, the New Berlin District has them share facilities with high school students. When Dr. Kreutzer was superintendent (2007-2011), he asserted that Eisenhower needed $44 million in upgrades. it would have been cheaper to have built one state-of-the-art high school than what it cost to renovate and update the two high schools. It is also more expensive to staff and operate two high schools than it is one. Eisenhower and NB West continue to have unequal amenities. Although officials have deemed the Eisenhower swimming pool beyond repair, the Board has not allocated funds to replace it.
What about offerings for kids? In a federal complaint, parents decried the lack of equity for boys and girls in the District's sports programs, including swimming. The school board cut some district-sponsored extra-curricular activities, retaining the ones that were directly tied to curriculum. Unlike many other Wisconsin school districts, New Berlin's does not have a 4-year-old kindergarten program
As for staff and environment, there was that awful staff handbook that many found objectionable. There was a mass exodus of personnel from the district. The district lost many experienced teachers and administrators. You may recall that Dr. Kreutzer was the only superintendent to stand with Gov. Walker at a March 2011 news conference and express approval of Walker's much-criticized budget-repair bill. Dave Maxey was there, too. Later, Kreutzer said he was directed to make that endorsement by the school board. Kreutzer also expressed that a superintendent position should be apolitical.
Speaking of politics, Maxey inserted himself into the Walmart controversy. Many New Berlin residents signed a petition opposing rezoning land on Greenfield Ave. for a Walmart Supercenter. Maxey attended a City Hall meeting and gave a speech in favor of Walmart building that store. He identified himself as the president of the school board and claimed that Walmart has been donating to our schools on a "very regular basis." I decided to check Maxey's statement. I didn't find any mention of Walmart donations in the school board meeting minutes I reviewed. And when I made an open records request to view the records of all donations from Walmart within the past 3 years, Superintendent Garza responded that the District didn't have any.
At the candidate forum, Maxey conveyed that the District could improve its communication and be more welcoming. For example, he'd like school secretaries to warmly welcome visitors. Apparently, Superintendent Joe Garza didn't get the message or wasn't interested in doing that. When the forum at New Berlin West ended, Garza walked over to Bill Moore and shook his hand. He completely ignored the three New Berlin women who were standing by Bill. Two of those women were former employees of the District (an administrator and a library aide) and the other was me, a former member of the New Berlin Board of Education.