‘Kiss’ and tell

Photos submitted. Oregon High School students involved in the drama’s club one-act play are, front row, from left: Rose Tusler, Zack Bonno and Rebekkah Schultz; middle row, from left: John Unertl, Julie Gulling, and Julia Taenzer; back row, from left: Nicole Hall, Alexa Uselmann, Beryl Miess, Chris Foster, Alex Cook and Sarah Olson; not pictured: Michael Lucas (tech) and Sam Miess (understudy).

When it comes to that much anticipated (or feared?) first kiss, there is plenty of drama involved. So perhaps it’s appropriate that the Oregon High School drama club’s first appearance at a state competition covers exactly that memorable (or forgettable?) topic.

Club members will perform the play, “How to Kiss a Girl” in the state festival competition at Viterbo University in La Crosse on Friday, Nov. 21, after making it through district and sectional recent Wisconsin High School Forensic Association (WHSFA) competitions.

Drama advisor Kathleen Tissot said this is just the third time the club has participated in the one-act festival, and the first time it has qualified for state competition. She said students did a “fantastic job” in district and sectional competitions after working hard on the project since school started, with auditions held back in spring.


Referendum a big success

After the last Oregon School District referendum vote went down in flames in April 2012, it was a bit of a surprise that the latest attempt – two separate votes at nearly twice the cost – passed by such a comfortable margin (around 60-40 percent). 

But with years of work put in by district officials to better understand residents’ wishes, as well as communicate their own needs, they said the public’s positive reaction indicates the two sides have made significant progress toward understanding each other. 

In a letter last week to district residents from Oregon School Board president Dan Krause and district superintendent Brian Busler, the two thanked voters for “their consideration of the solutions” the district presented to voters on Nov. 4.


Opposite Sides

Photos submitted. OHS and German students collaborated earlier this year during the students’ trip to Germany on posters for a World War I exhibition that opened in Langen, Germany on Oct. 18.

Nearly a century ago, they could have been bombing, shooting and stabbing the futures out of one another in the muddy trenches of Western Europe.

Today, teenagers from Germany and the United States are instead learning together about the great common tragedy of World War I from their respective points of view, strengthening bonds between peoples who were once bitter enemies.

Because of a longstanding relationship between “sister cities” of Langen and Oregon, high school students from both sides of the Atlantic have been learning a lot about one another – and themselves – through frequent travel exchanges. 


Voters approve both referendums

The Oregon School District is in line for an upgrade.

Two-and-a-half years after voters rejected a $33 million district referendum, voters handily approved two referendums totaling $55 million Tuesday.

District administrator Brian Busler credited the success to continuous efforts of district officials, board members and others to communicate the district’s needs with the public.

“We’ve been working on this for almost seven years, and we have spoken to literally hundreds, if not well over a thousand community members,” he told the Observer on Tuesday night.

Citing a survey sent out after the failed 2012 referendums that garnered around 1,700 responses, Busler said “eight out of 10” people wanted the school board to “keep looking for solutions.”


No matter referendum, taxes going down

No matter if the Oregon School District referendums pass or fail on Nov. 4, school taxes will drop next year.

The Oregon School Board unanimously passed two budgets Monday night, dependent on the result of the vote on Tuesday. District business manager Andy Weiland said district officials will be waiting “until the last minute” to get results of the election canvass on Nov. 10 before submitting the budget, which is also due that day. 

“It’s going to be a very busy day,” he said. 

If the referendums pass, the total levy will be $23,132,060 ($352,107 more than last year) and the mill rate will decrease from $12.31 in 2013 to $11.98 per $1,000 of assessed property value (a 2.72 percent decrease). If they fail, the levy would drop $276,530 from last year to $22,503,423, with a mill rate of $11.65 (a 5.37 percent decrease).


Decision day for district

Photo by Scott De Laruelle. Nov. 4 is judgment day for the Oregon School District referendums.

After years of planning and months of public meetings, open houses and informal talks with residents, the future of the Oregon School District will be made clearer after the Nov. 4 vote.

On the ballot are a pair of referendums –  one centering on a variety of academic, athletic and safety upgrades and one for associated maintenance and upkeep. 

The additional taxpayer cost of the $54.6 million referendums would be $386 per year on a $200,000 home, but district taxes will drop next year regardless of whether they pass or fail. 

Because of the way the current long-term debt is structured, district officials say, the actual impact is expected to be closer to $72 per year over the next 20 years on that same home. It’s good timing, because some long-term debt is falling off soon.


Politics color school standards debate

Screenshot from Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website. Wisconsin students in grades 3-8 will take the Smarter Balanced assessment for the first time in spring 2015. The tests were devleoped to align with the Common Core State Standards, which have become a political controversy lately around the United States. This screenshot is one sample question from the test.

As the Nov. 4 gubernatorial election approaches, an under-the-radar issue could very well determine how Wisconsin’s public schoolchildren are taught.

The Common Core State Standards, created by a consortium including the bipartisan National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers and adopted by nearly every state, have recently created a political firestorm in Wisconsin. A handful of states have since replaced Common Core or are considering doing so, and earlier this year, Gov. Scott Walker asked state legislators to repeal the standards when they convene in January. 

Walker faces a tough re-election challenge from Madison Metropolitan School District school board member Mary Burke, who has criticized proposals by Walker to repeal and replace the standards in various media reports.


Large crowd supports Nedelcoff

Photos by Scott De Laruelle. Around 150 people attended the Oregon School Board's meeting Monday night, many wearing Oregon High School basketball shirts in support of basketball coach Jon Nedelcoff, who was accused of bullying players at a previous school board meeting.

It was standing room only in a sea of orange as around 150 people – many dressed in Oregon basketball T-shirts – attended Monday night’s Oregon School Board meeting.

The main item on the agenda was the board’s approval of the district’s 2014-15 budget, but the massive turnout was to support Oregon High School boys basketball coach Jon Nedelcoff, who two parents accused during the public comment period of the Oct. 13 school board meeting of bullying some players. 

At that meeting, Tina Bastien and her husband Bill Jacobs said Nedelcoff was verbally abusive to their son and other players when they were on the OHS boys basketball team, and took the district to task for essentially sweeping the incidents under the rug. 


Teaming up for safety

Photos submitted. New signage is now in place at the renovated student drop-off area between Netherwood Knoll and Prairie View elementary schools.

It may be just a temporary fix, but Oregon School District and Dane County public health officials are pleased at the new look outside Oregon’s two elementary schools. 

Last Friday, with the help of Public Health Madison and Dane County, the district unveiled a new solution to the ongoing vehicle congestion issue between Netherwood Knoll and Prairie View elementary schools. It opened up the area to reduce the volume of vehicles and improve the flow of traffic around Circle Drive and Soden Drive. 

A longer-term solution is included in the school district’s Nov. 4 referenda. 


Judge responds to ‘bias’ letter

Oregon Municipal Court judge Beth Cox has “routinely” been invited to speak at Oregon schools to discuss the importance of voting.

So she was surprised when a letter to the Observer last week accused her of “unacceptable, immoral, irresponsible behavior” and taking “political advantage” in talking to high schoolers about voting rights a few weeks from an election.

Cox said the presentation, given Sept. 29 to around 200 students in four classes at Oregon High School, was on the nation’s history of voter registration, from the establishment of the Constitution in 1789 to current efforts regarding voting rights and voter ID. 

“This talk was something I offered to do because I would like to see more young people participate and vote,” Cox said.