Sunday, July 29, 2018

Drones entertain at EAA

DSC_0918 DSC_0906

By Adam Jungwirth
The story of the history of flight was told during this year’s EAA AirVenture with the help of some new entrants into the world of flying—60 unmanned drones that put on two shows during the past week.

The drones, operated by Great Lakes Drone Co., are custom-built on a DJI Flame Wheel F450 chassis and fitted with a 7,000-lumen light emitting diode and a Pixhawk flight controller, according to the firm’s sales and marketing director, Reyna Price.  Although one FAA licensed drone pilot is required on-site, the flying of the drones is handled by programmable computer software licensed through Arrowonics, a multi-drone technology company based in Canada.

The performances were based on a stock show from Great Lakes but augmented with 35 more drones than usual to accommodate some custom elements developed for EAA.

Services from Great Lakes include thermal imaging, assisting in underwater search and rescue operations, GIS land surveying, and agricultural imaging for gathering crop and soil data. According to the Price, the company has occasionally been hired for more estoreric purposes like locating a farmer's lost cow or retrieving a client's wallet and keys from the bottom of a lake.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Elementary school suspensions soar, prompting district to add behavioral consultants

Photo by Zack Dion
The district is adding behavior intervention consultants to deal with disruptive behavior in elementary schools.

By Zack Dion

In response to more than 400 suspensions of students in fifth grade or below last year, the board of education voted June 27 to hire three additional behavior intervention consultants to work in Oshkosh’s elementary schools.

During the 2017-2018 school year, local elementary schools had 4,295 major behavior violations (including fighting, classroom disruption and threats) and 431 out-of-school suspensions, according to statistics from the Oshkosh Area School District.

Currently, the district has two behavior intervention consultants who work among the 14 elementary schools in the district to develop age appropriate behavioral and social skills for students.

"Every school needs a behavior interventionist in it now,” Mary Diedrich, a behavior intervention consultant, said. “Because we’re seeing so much behavior that, to be frank, if you don’t have a behavior management plan, you can no longer teach. All you’re doing then is managing behaviors.”

“Going back about 10 years or so, we’ve seen an increase in people living in poverty in our community,” said Matthew Kaemmerer, the district’s director of pupil services. “And I think that’s a big part of it…. We know that people living in poverty have a lot of stressors or a lot of things going on in their lives that can cause trauma for students.”

A decade ago Oshkosh had fewer than 100 elementary school suspensions on an annual basis, state statistics show.

In a typical week of work, Diedrich visits each of Oshkosh’s 14 elementary schools three to four times to intervene with students’ behaviors. One way behavior intervention consultants improve the behaviors of students is by meeting in care teams, with other experts, the teacher of the classroom and the student having behavioral issues, to observe the student’s behavior and try to address their issues.

The Oshkosh Area School District has put out three job listings for behavior intervention consultants, looking for candidates with experience in elementary teaching, working with special education and at-risk students, and addressing students’ behaviors.

The three additional behavior intervention consultants will allow the consultants to be assigned “pods” of two or three of the district’s elementary schools, according to the skills of each consultant. 

“Students are so different compared to what they were when I first started teaching," Diedrich said. "You know, you could really support children and you could teach—you can’t do that anymore.”

She added: “If you don’t have really good behavioral management skills, these kids are going to eat you up. If you’re not a good relationship maker and they don’t feel that you’re vested in them, they’re going to eat you up.”

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Oshkosh parish learns its priest has been sent back home to India to meet U.S. immigration rules

Photo by Miles Maguire
St. Jude the Apostle Parish has been dealing with road reconstruction on Oregon Street this summer and recently learned its new priest had to leave the country to address his immigration status.
By Miles Maguire

The consequences of U.S. immigration policy have been brought home to a Catholic parish in Oshkosh, whose newly appointed priest has been sent back to India to apply for a religious visa.

In an announcement dated June 1, the Green Bay Diocese said that the Rev. Louis Golamari, who had been working as a parish priest for the last four years in Arlington Heights, Illinois, would be taking over at Oshkosh's St. Jude the Apostle Parish as of Aug. 1.

But a letter read to parishioners over the weekend of July 14-15 disclosed that Fr. Golamari, a native of India, was required to return home to apply for a new visa. How long the application process will take is not known, but it could last as little as two months, according to the diocese, or almost a year, according to congressional critics of the current immigration rules for religious workers in the U.S.

Fr. Golamari had been working at Our Lady of the Wayside parish in the Chicago archdiocese. He held an R-1 visa, which is issued for temporary nonimmigrant religious workers. It is unclear why he was required to return to India.

Barb Graham, the director of legal services for immigrants in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said that foreign priests are not typically required to return to their home country to extend their stays in the United States.

But she noted that the immigration process is extremely complicated and that it is easy to run afoul of the rules. “It’s like the obsessive-compulsive Olympics--it really is,” she said. Every case is different and depends on specific facts and circumstances, she said.

Officials of the Green Bay Diocese have provided few details about the St. Jude situation and downplayed its significance.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Global conspiracy comes to Oshkosh in new thriller

Cover illustration for "The Oshkosh Connection" by Andrew Watts.
Could it happen here—drug smugglers, foreign spies and an assassination plot all coming together under the roars of the warbirds and the screams of the aerobatic aircraft that draw huge crowds to Oshkosh for the annual EAA AirVenture?

All of this and more can be found in the pages of a new thriller by former U.S. Navy pilot Andrew Watts published just in time for this year’s fly-in.

Listen to this Oshkosh Examiner podcast to learn more. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Supervisors to take another look at marijuana referendum

By Moira Danielson

The Winnebago County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to decide Tuesday whether to put the question of legalizing marijuana, for either recreational or medicinal purposes, before voters.

The effort failed the first time through because the original language referred to legalization for both recreational and medicinal use.

According to Aaron Wojciechowski, supervisor for District 16, this resolution is part of a new movement to help citizens get their voices heard on the issue of cannabis legalization.

“The governor and leadership in the state legislature have been complacent on the issue,” Wojciechowski said.

 “We are doing this to give people the change to express their opinion on the matter and show those in Madison that this is an important issue to voters. By doing so, we hope that the results from across Wisconsin will cause some action to be taken at the state level.”

Wojciechowski is the supervisor who originally introduced the resolution and has worked to make the changes that caused it to fail the first time through.

“The main change I made was changing the proposed referendum question from a single question to a multiple choice question,” Wojciechowski said.

Wojciechowski said the difference in personal opinion on usage of marijuana is what caused the resolution not to pass when first introduced.

“Lawrence W. Smith, Maribeth Gabert, Vicki S. Schorse, and Paul Eisen were among some of the opposition,” Wojciechowski said. “However, I don't believe it was for personal reasons. I think many of them wanted it to go back through the committee level first and/or just have the language cleaned up.”

According to a survey done in 2016, 59 percent of Wisconsinites said marijuana should be fully legalized and regulated just like alcohol, supporters of the referendum question said.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Oshkosh may ease rules for backyard chickens

By Moira Danielson

The city of Oshkosh is looking to make some changes to its beekeeping and chicken keeping ordinances in response to residents’ increased interest in both hobby areas.

Currently there are 11 local residents who hold a chicken license and four local residents who hold a beekeeping license.

The new changes include reorganizing the chicken keeping ordinances to make them clearer residents as well as changing consent requirement to requiring notification of adjacent property owners.

Changes to the beekeeping ordinance include changing a graphic of the required flyaway barrier and a change to the text in the ordinance in addition to the new graphic ensuring they both match each other.

Steven Wiley,  an assistant planner for the city, said the committee has had more citizens approach them requesting approval for licenses of bees and chickens.

“Changing the consent requirement to requiring notification would help the process for some residents and bring the chicken ordinance in line with the current bee ordinance,” Wiley said. “The revisions to the organization of the chicken ordinance should make the chapter of the code easier to navigate.”

Wiley said there are no proposed changes for penalties in the municipal code and are working to create the changes to bring to the common council.

“These changes have been approved by the Sustainability Advisory Board for recommendation to the Common Council,” Wiley said. “We are still working on some of the text amendments so are not quite sure yet when we will bring the changes to the council for consideration. Once council takes action the changes would take effect basically the week after that council meeting.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

City of Oshkosh board wants parents, guardians to turn off their car engines while waiting outside of schools

Photo by Zack Dion
Cars line up to pick up students outside Oshkosh North High School on a recent summer school day.

By Zack Dion

A letter warning parents and guardians of the environmental and health risks of vehicle idling has been approved by the Oshkosh Sustainability Advisory Board to be sent to families throughout the school district.

Rachel Williams, a parent picking up her son recently from a summer class at Oshkosh North High School, saw the letter and immediately turned off her car.

“I took a picture of [the letter], so I was going to share it on Facebook,” Williams said.

The letter (shown below) asks parents to reduce idling in school zones and near children’s sporting events to prevent children from taking in the harmful emissions that come from vehicle idling.

The letter is just a warning to parents, and there will be no legal consequences if someone is caught idling their car in a school zone. In other municipalities that have passed vehicle idling laws a temperature restriction is also attached, which makes the law invalid when the temperature is above 85 degrees or below 40.

Monday, July 9, 2018

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh hit with $18.5 million claim filed by its foundation over real estate deals

Photo by Miles Maguire
Two members of the UW System Board of Regents invested in a hotel renovation project arranged by the UW Oshkosh Foundation, according to documents filed in an ongoing bankruptcy case. 
By Miles Maguire

The UW Oshkosh Foundation has filed an $18.5 million claim against the school, arguing that “chaos has ensued” because of the university’s “exceptional and egregious” behavior.

The claim represents about $18 million in loans, out-of-pocket costs and other liabilities associated with three real estate projects that the foundation financed at the behest of university officials. The rest of the money would cover the mounting legal and administrative costs of dealing with the situation.

“Although the university continues to enjoy the benefits of the projects, it refuses to uphold its side of the bargain,” the foundation said in a extensive filing dated June 28 and submitted to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Milwaukee.

The resulting “chaos has engendered three state court cases, a voluntary Chapter 11 case, an involuntary Chapter 7 case, and three adversary proceedings,” the foundation said. “All because the university will not honor its promises.”

The UW System says it has a policy against commenting on litigation. But it has argued in court that it is not responsible for the financial guarantees made to the foundation because those commitments are not valid debts under state law. The promises were executed by former officials who have since been hit with criminal charges of misconduct in office.

The argument that the university’s promises are not legally enforceable obligations has been rejected by the bankruptcy judge hearing the case. In fact she invited the foundation to file for summary judgment in April, signaling that she would rule in its favor.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Oshkosh implements teacher pay raises below CPI

Photo by Miles Maguire
The teachers union did not bring the school board's offer to the membership for a vote.

By Miles Maguire
Oshkosh teachers will get a 1.26 across-the-board raise for the next school year but step increments will bring the average adjustment closer to 3 percent, a district official said.

The Oshkosh Education Association, which is the bargaining unit for local teachers, did not agree to the wage offer, which was lower than the amount allowed by state law.

In Wisconsin school districts cannot exceed the Consumer Price Index when raising base pay. With inflation running at about 2.13 percent, the school board could have offered that amount but would have then incurred a budget deficit, said Sue Schnorr, executive director for business services for the Oshkosh Area School District.

“The long and short of the issue is that they did not offer full CPI,” said John Reiland, president of the OEA. “There was one year where CPI was 0.1 [percent], and finally we get a year where CPI is above 2 percent and we are not offered the full amount,” he said.

The OEA did not put the contract offer to a vote of its membership.

“We would, in theory, prefer that they agree to it,” Schnorr said. But in the wake of Act 10,
public sector unions don’t have much leverage. “When it comes right down to it, the board can do whatever it wants,” she said.

All but about 50 teachers are eligible for step increases, which are either $835 or $1,043, depending on where an employee is in the district’s pay plan. The step increase is not automatic, and teachers may be required to complete additional professional training to qualify.

The higher teacher compensation will cost the district about $1.5 million next year, $670,000 for the collective bargaining agreement and $862,000 for the step increments.

Pay increases were also approved for other groups of district employees, who total about 1,200.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Oshkosh's Day by Day Warming Shelter seeks to build expanded facility across from Leach Amphitheater

Photo by Miles Maguire
This vacant lot at Ceape Avenue and Broad Street, which is currently used for overflow parking at the Leach Amphitheater, could become the new home of an expanded Day By Day Warming Shelter. 

By Zack Dion

A downtown homeless shelter is proposing to double in size, move to year-round operations and construct a new facility on a site directly across from the Leach Amphitheater and a block from the city’s Convention Center.

Day by Day Warming Shelter, which currently operates from the school basement of the old St. Peter’s Catholic Church at 449 High Avenue, wants to build on a vacant lot at the corner of Ceape Avenue and Broad Street.

Officials provided details of the shelter’s plans at the June 6 meeting of the Oshkosh Redevelopment Authority. Moving in phases, the shelter wants to expand from 25 to 55 beds and eventually offer services throughout the year.

While the need to address the problem of homelessness, particularly in winter, is widely accepted, some question the wisdom of putting a shelter in this particular location.

“I think there are better places,” said Mayor Steve Cummings. In addition to its proximity to the Leach and the convention center, the lot that the shelter wants is close to Riverside Park and a couple of blocks from one of four priority development sites that were identified in the city’s new downtown plan.

The shelter’s proposal is slowly moving through the city’s review process. On June 26, the Common Council approved the use of $150,000 in federal funds to support the project without considering the specifics of Day by Day’s plans. The money could be used to acquire the Ceape Avenue site from the Housing Authority.

The funds for the lot would come from the city’s $815,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) plan. This program allows cities to tap federal money to provide housing and economic opportunities for people with low or moderate incomes.

Shelter officials say the proposed location has many advantages for shelter guests because it is close to support facilities such as the county Department of Human Services, the Oshkosh Public Library and the Salvation Army. The site is accessible by Oshkosh transit and is located near where homeless people currently spend their time.

The shelter is under a temporary use permit, which only allows it to be open 180 days per year. The permit is required due to a fire code because the building isn’t handicap-accessible and lacks an adequate sprinkler system.

Day by Day hopes to break ground at the lot in January 2019 but needs to raise $3.2 million to build its new facility, separate from its operational budget.

Monday, July 2, 2018

CEO at Bemis, Oshkosh's second largest employer, makes 158 times median pay

By Miles Maguire
Thanks to new federal rules, the estimated 2,300 people who work for Bemis Corp. in Oshkosh can now see how their pay compares to that of their peers and to that of their biggest boss.

Bemis is Oshkosh's second largest employer, according to statistics compiled by the city. In 2017 the CEO, William F. Austen, was paid $6.6 million, according to a document that the company filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

That same document shows that the median pay for a Bemis employee throughout the company was $42,015. These disclosures reveal that the CEO pay at Bemis was 158 times that of the median worker.

Companies across the country have been making similar disclosures this year because of a provision in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008.

Bemis saysthat its pay ratio is actually in line with or below the ratios released by similar companies in the Midwest and in the packaging industry generally.

But for all companies that have reported as of July 2, Bemis is well above the median number of 65, as calculated by Equilar, a company that provides data services for boards of directors.