Friday, August 27, 2021

Dear School Board


I emailed my local school board and superintendent the following message yesterday. My last two posts in Verbostratis were letters to leaders and followed a similar thread of thought, but this one is a bit simpler. I welcome constructive and supportive discussion of any of them. 


For background information regarding the topics: 

Waukesha Is Only Wisconsin School District To Opt Out Of Federal Free Meals Program 

Waukesha School District informs staff to remove controversial signage

Masks Optional For 2021-'22 School Year In Waukesha: The board of education removed most of its COVID-19 mitigation measures





RE: Requests to revisit masks, universal food service, anti-racism, and equity



To the WSD Board and Superintendent,


I ask you to close your eyes for a moment and take a long, deep breath in, hold it for a moment, and then let it slowly out in a long exhale before slowly opening your eyes once more.


Breath. We all do it. We all inhale, stop, and exhale over and over all day and all night long. Deep breaths feel good. Whatever we look like. Whatever our bank account says. Whatever language pours from our mouths. We all breathe.


That breath. We are all connected by that one need and many others. Whether we like it or not. Whether we believe it or not.



When you picture our students, I hope your vision includes ALL of them and ALL their realities. Do you see all the colors, all the genders, all the religions, all the ethnicities, all the classes and castes?


I hope. They all breathe. Just like you and me.


Angry parents, demanding citizenry, fuming pundits. How is their vision? How is their breath? It’s all shallow and constricted.



It’s a duty of the board and administration of a school system to help expand vision and breath- to cultivate that broad vision of ALL, despite the broken bits that some have. Will it upset some? No doubt. But we must remember, the goal is to help ALL the students breathe a bit better over time.


Because if all the students breathe well, they can create an amazing future for themselves- ALL of themselves- and their eventual children. It gives them the space to try and to fly. That’s what education is all about, in my opinion.


There’s a lot going on, but if I just focus on this idea of giving breath to all our students, I see these three things as vital. I hope you consider them:



  • Please work that universal food service back in for all our students. Shared meals are a time to be together as a community and being full makes one breathe easier. If there’s extra food, I am sure older students would gladly organize sharing with others in need. Extra waste? Get the students to build a district-wide composting program.
  • Please implement a mask mandate. We want our kids in school and that face-covering helps. Districts already in session across the country are seeing absences skyrocket.
  • Please get back to equity and anti-racism. It’s not political- it’s moral. Our history, civics, and literature cannot be taught without facing our full truths. If we face it, we can breathe.


I really hope the teachers have been provided with a strong support system for this 3rd school year of Covid. I really hope a detailed system is in place for parents/guardians for what the district will do when kids/teachers become ill and what the district needs them to do.


I hope we all work together so we can all breathe slowly in, pause, and slowly out...together.


Friday, July 16, 2021

The Future




It's been a long time since I wrote here. Not that I haven't written- it's been mostly to friends and politicians. Today, I decided to take my state rep up on his offer to allow emailed comments for a listening session he will be holding next week. Rep Kapenga will be at the Sussex Library on July 20 as described in the attached photo.


Here's a copy of what I sent him. I included the request to keep my address hidden as many folks on social media are being attacked for voicing their opinions to politicians. It's a rough world out there. 


I am sorry I won't be able to attend this listening session. It would be my first and I would love to, but I have a prior book club engagement. Thank you for allowing written comments of your constituents.


You ask what is most on our minds concerning the state of Wisconsin.


For me, it boils down to this: who is on our team?


If it includes kids, we should ensure all kids have bountiful supplies, healthy schools, plenty of quality teachers, and job opportunities after they graduate.


If it includes Black and Brown people, we should make sure our criminal justice system doesn't single them out for judgment. If a young white woman gets arrested for drug dealing and having a weapon, she should get the same court care and sentencing as a young Black person.


If it includes rich and poor, both should contribute what they can to our overall society. For the very poor, it's really not worth the cost of collecting. Wealthy folks should pay into the system in such fashions that follow the old adage: for those with more means, more is expected. We have spent 40 years trying out trickle-down. It hasn't worked. We need to change our ways.


If it includes folks with medical and/or mental conditions, they shouldn't be expected to go broke or work tirelessly just to pay for their medical needs. If human life is truly sacred, we should support ALL of it with universal physical health and mental health care.


If it includes the elderly*, we should create incentives to support them. Middle-aged folks are left trying to support their parents and raise kids at the same time. If they are unable, the elderly suffer. Again, if human life is sacred, we should create systems that support that. Youth/elderly campuses are just one idea. *And that idea of "elderly" must include *all* elderly.


If it includes our land, air, and water and all the species that reside therein, we should establish and administer laws to protect them. PFAs are an abomination we know must be stopped. All people should have clean food, water, and air. Our biodiversity relies on those things as well.


If it includes everyone, we should all have easy access to voting rights- rights that are fundamental to our representative democracy. My choices should have as much of a chance of being picked as yours. The game cannot be rigged through restrictive voting rules and/or gerrymandering.


Thank you again for allowing this sharing. As a constituent, I am grateful. I trust my address will not be made public.


Friday, March 12, 2021

Mind Metamorphosis


 


March 12, 2021


Representative Scott Allen

97th Assembly District 

8 West

PO Box 8952 

Madison, WI 53708-8952


Dear Rep. Allen:


As one of your constituents, I wanted to comment on your Youtube video Science, Faith, and Fundamental Fairness.


You reference the biblical message that you and the rest of humanity are created in God’s image and indeed, I recall in Matthew the story of Jesus saying that whatever we do to/for the least, we are doing to/for him. To me, that says we’re not just in God’s image- each one of us is of God. I believe that can help us all not fall back on our ego: the part of us that differentiates the “I” from everything and everyone else. Too much ego leads to overvaluing oneself and one’s thoughts over the other and, in my mind, that leads to that fairness issue you mention. You and I are equals, despite what our egos might want to convey.


Ego is an internal mental booster at its best- a motivator that we can accomplish something if we try. It can also help us believe we are better than “other” for whatever reason(s), including but not limited to our looks, intelligence, family, job, sports ability, country of origin, religion, or gender. Too much ego leads to overvaluing oneself within one’s framework of life. Too little ego leads to feelings of helplessness and despair within that framework.


Your tone on the topics of science and gender is pretty derisive- as if your ego has you on a higher ground on these topics. One’s sex is, as you mentioned, based on chromosomes. But when one looks beyond 1980s high school biology of which you referenced, humans can have mixes beyond XX and XY. They (we) are all human beings in the eye of God, I would assume, because they (we) are all his creations. There are even sexual variations in other species. May I suggest “Rare bird: 'Half-male, half-female' cardinal snapped in Pennsylvania” for a fascinating read in this year’s BBC site on one case.


Gender is another facet of humanity. Quite a bit of “gender” is societally-based on the assumptions of sex-based roles that you alluded to. As I’ve already outlined how fluid “sex” is, once we add our personal interests and abilities into the subject of DNA, “gender” can become wonderfully complex. A “man” doesn’t have to be a stern breadwinner (if they don’t want to or have other skills) and can laugh and cry with their loved ones and wear makeup (if they want to). A “woman” doesn’t have to keep house (if they don’t want to or have other skills) and can be a stern breadwinner and not wear makeup (if they want to). In fact, anyone with skills and abilities can do any given role and should be applauded for their attempts- it’s a “they” situation, not a he/she. Again, I felt derision when you described gender misidentification as a “fad”. Yes, we all struggle at some level with identity, but to be boxed in any form is one’s truth and should be respected. Some of us get boxed quite a bit more than others. As a woman, I have felt quite a bit of sex and gender boxing. This reminds me of a famous woman whose roles have been the source of much studying.


Jesus valued Mary Magdalene. To me, that shows again that all are welcome and that is the fair behavior to model. She wasn’t the “ideal” by societal sex or gender standards. And yet, her name lives on today.


I’m not going to argue your statement that “biologists have proven men are stronger and faster and have greater endurance than women”. I’ll simply direct you to Georgetown University’s Center for the Study of Sex Differences in Health, Aging & Disease. There are differences and studying all benefits all- perhaps your 3 criteria relate to this sports focus that really isn't an issue. Rather than waste time and money on the notion that women’s sports need to be defended against transgender people, how about we work to make sports and all other realms in our country open and safe for everyone? Women aren’t clamoring for protection against trans people. We want to be safe from sexual harassment as we’re seeing in the Cuomo case and what we saw in the Clarence Thomas case. LGBTQIA folks are seeking to feel safe and equally protected under US law. Black and POC folks are looking for the same. And every last one of us deserves the right to vote and be represented in our government. 


There are definitely many facets of US life that need critical help to be fair for all. “Protecting” girls’ and women’s sports from transgendered people is not one.


I thank you for your work and consideration for all of your constituents.


Sincerely,


Susan Baumgartner

Waukesha, WI


Sunday, January 31, 2021

It's Weird. But it Shouldn't Be.

Overcast winter weather can give you plenty of time to think. I’ve been thinking about feelings and perspectives a lot lately. Since January 20, I and many I know have felt differently than they have for the last few years. Some have slept better. Some think the world is over. It all has to do with US politics, and I felt compelled to list a few things about life right now. 


President Biden hit the ground running. According to federalregistry.com, Biden has recorded 24 EO’s so far. 


  • EO 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad

  • EO 14007: President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

  • EO 14006: Reforming Our Incarceration System To Eliminate the Use of Privately Operated 

  • EO 14005: Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America's Workers

  • EO 14004: Enabling All Qualified Americans To Serve Their Country in Uniform

  • EO 14003: Protecting the Federal Workforce

  • EO 14002: Economic Relief Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • EO 14001: A Sustainable Public Health Supply Chain

  • EO 14000: Supporting the Reopening and Continuing Operation of Schools and Early Childhood Education Providers

  • EO 13999: Protecting Worker Health and Safety

  • EO 13998: Promoting COVID-19 Safety in Domestic and International Travel

  • EO 13997: Improving and Expanding Access to Care and Treatments for COVID-19

  • EO 13996: Establishing the COVID-19 Pandemic Testing Board and Ensuring a Sustainable Public Health Workforce for COVID-19 and Other Biological Threats 

  • EO 13995: Ensuring an Equitable Pandemic Response and Recovery

  • EO 13994: Ensuring a Data-Driven Response to COVID-19 and Future High-Consequence Public Health Threats

  • EO 13993: Revision of Civil Immigration Enforcement Policies and Priorities

  • EO 13992: Revocation of Certain Executive Orders Concerning Federal Regulation

  • EO 13991: Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing

  • EO 13990: Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis

  • EO 13989: Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel

  • EO 13988: Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation

  • EO 13987: Organizing and Mobilizing the United States Government To Provide a Unified and Effective Response To Combat COVID-19 and To Provide United States Leadership on Global Health and Security

  • EO 13986: Ensuring a Lawful and Accurate Enumeration and Apportionment Pursuant to the Decennial Census

  • EO 13985: Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government


It’s weird to see so many topics that support so many different people and our environment. But it shouldn't be.


The CDC has revamped their COVID19 screens and added new reports, including a daily community profile report that is currently 33 pages. In it, Wisconsin is now described as a “yellow” state with prolonged high risk of spread. It’s good to see that all our parameters (cases, deaths, positive percentages, new hospital admits, percent beds used, percent ICU beds used) are trending downward. Unfortunately, testing is also going down. Hopefully neither the new fulltime face-to-face school in 6th-12th grade in the WSD that started this week, nor the attempts of our state legislature to remove Governor Evers’s emergency orders (including, but not exclusively, his mask mandate) throughout the state, won’t negatively impact those data trends. Alas, we’ve lost 61 residents in Waukesha County since 1/14 when I last tracked weekly figures. That’s more than 3 a day. In Wisconsin, for every 100 folks who are hospitalized, 24 won’t make it. 


It’s weird to see so much data on the CDC website regarding COVID-19. But it shouldn’t be. 


The White House has established regular press briefings and COVID pandemic briefings. In addition, all agencies have been directed to speak clearly and regularly to the public about what is going on in their areas. The WH transcripts are all posted in a timely fashion on their website. On January 29, Press Secretary Jen Psaki gave a heads up for a trial of giving Biden’s upcoming week’s schedule. 


“Next Monday, the President will meet with the Secretary of State at the State Department.


On Tuesday, President Biden will deliver remarks and sign an executive order advancing his priority to modernize our immigration system.


And Friday is, of course, Jobs Day, and the President will deliver remarks about the economy.”


It’s weird seeing such transparency and breadth of work in the White House. But it shouldn’t be


In EO 14008: Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, the following wording on scientific autonomy is included:


“President Biden will also sign an important Presidential Memorandum on scientific integrity to send a clear message that the Biden-Harris Administration will protect scientists from political interference and ensure they can think, research, and speak freely to provide valuable information and insights to the American people.”


It’s weird to see explicit shout-outs to the autonomy of science and scientists. But it shouldn’t be. 


A number of cabinet members have been confirmed. While they may have histories within the Democratic Party, they passed through the process fairly quickly and Janet Yellen in particular received strong bipartisan support. 


Antony Blinken: SECRETARY OF STATE 

Janet Yellen: SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY 

Gen. Lloyd Austin: SECRETARY OF DEFENSE 

Avril Haines: National Intelligence Director


It’s weird knowing none have direct family or business ties to the current president. But it shouldn’t be.


It’s weird not seeing the president golfing and tweeting rants. But it shouldn’t be.


It’s weird seeing the president bow his head and go to church services and memorials to those who have died to COVID19. But it shouldn’t be.


It’s weird thinking we may actually see shifts at the federal level toward policies that will support people and not “business” and those who control the majority of wealth. But it shouldn't be. 


It’s weird feeling some hope. But it shouldn’t be.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Our Choices Our Dance


School District of Waukesha Board of Education Members Bill Baumgart, Joseph Como Jr., Greg Deets, Patrick McCaffery, Corey Montiho, Kurt O'Bryan, Karin Rajnicek, Amanda Roddy, Diane Voit

School District of Waukesha Superintendent Jim Sebert

School District of Waukesha Deputy Superintendent Joe Koch

Mayor of Waukesha Shawn Reilly

County Executive Paul Farrow



Monday, January 11, 2021


Dear Officials, 


I am writing as a resident and parent to advocate that our schools and community adopt a science-based system with gating against COVID-19 that emphasizes safety for all our citizens, especially our students and teaching staff.


A pediatrician friend here in SE Wisconsin shared the recent article by NPR, How COVID-19 Attacks The Brain And May Cause Lasting Damage with the reflection that they are very concerned about the public not taking this virus seriously enough. We all know today that there is an average 1% chance of death in Wisconsin for those who contract this virus and this now includes 2 of our children aged 10 to 19. In the article, we are shown that there is also the real possibility of developing significant long-term side effects involving the brain. “For many affected patients, brain function improves as they recover. But some are likely to face long-term disability, de Erausquin says.” The damaged brain areas may include parts that control the body, leading to malfunctions in heart rate, blood pressure, and even urinary control. I also recall the Ohio State study in September that showed college athletes with recordable damage to the heart muscle itself after a COVID-19 infection. This virus is NOT the flu. 


I believe the push by some politicians to safeguard entities from potential future COVID-19 litigation is because they know that what they are advocating, pushing to stay open (both businesses and schools) and not adhere to medically-based protocols, are risky and dangerous choices.


We can make different choices. Many scientists and medical professionals have established covid gating criteria for different places around the world. Former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden’s PreventEpidemics.org has a great one that includes alert tiers for when and where different ages of school children should be as community viral rates change. While our numbers have gone down, our hospitals are still very busy, rates are “very high” per DHS, and appear to again be rising.


We (all adults everywhere) knew this would be a dance. We (all adults everywhere) knew we’d need to adapt. If rates fell, we could relax. If rates rose, we would need to contract. We (all adults everywhere) have done a poor job at that dance so far because too many sat on the sidelines or even put their feet out to trip those out on the floor. To consider coming back together until we have fewer infections and appreciable levels of vaccinations throughout the community is folly.


We should have done this all months ago. However, it’s not too late as we move forward to finish the second half of the school year. Please do what you can to support and protect our children and staff. Please advocate to those you know within other entities at city, town, and county levels to adopt a strong plan. We need to work together. Please.


As a side note, if nothing new is done locally, and the federal government releases plans for vaccinations and/or viral control when the Biden Administration takes over on January 20, I ask that the school board, the city, and the county accept those plans, promote them, and actively put them into practice. Again, we need to work together. As so many have said before: together we rise, divided we fall.


I thank you for your work and your consideration.



Sincerely,


Susan Baumgartner