This Just In ...

Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

These folks did it...couldn't Franklin?

The Franklin Public Schools intelligentsia is hell bent on scheduling a referendum to address what it perceives as facilities in need of repair. The district has hired architects that have said they will even help “spin” the referendum, has sent out several surveys asking what improvements residents favor, and has scheduled upcoming workshops with the end goal a ballot question asking residents  to voluntarily give themselves a property tax increase.

Never mind that high school sophomore Jimmy reads at a 6th grade level.  Jimmy would like a nicer swimming pool and lockers.

Spiffier facilities would be great, but only if we needed them and we could afford them.

I couldn’t help but think of Franklin’s impending tax increase question (referendum) as I read a recent edition of the Milwaukee Catholic Herald newspaper about a major development at Pius High School:

“After years of staging productions elsewhere, this May the Pius XI High School performing arts community will finally have its own home in the form of the Father Robert V. Carney Performing Arts Center and Wendy Lindsey Theater.

'What this will really be is the home we need, the home we’ve never had,' said Bonnie Scholz, chairperson of the Performing Arts Department at Pius. 

The performance space is a $3 million project that has been a 10-year effort on the part of Pius administrators and alumni. Construction began in August and is on schedule for completion this May. The center will feature a 500-seat theater and a 7,600-square-foot “pre-function” multipurpose area with two art galleries and a reception space."

Pius, of course, is a private high school and can’t resort to referendum to pay its bills. So how did it pull off a $3 million performing arts center and theater?

“The project has been financed almost exclusively by private donations from alumni and parents.”

Well isn’t that interesting.  Good for Pius! 

Here’s another example of terrific community involvement from a public school that does have referendum as recourse.

In September of 2008, Greendale High School played its first game on its brand new artificial turf football field. On September 11, 2008, I posted a blog, “The Greendale School District: How’d they do that?” Here’s an excerpt:

“Greendale High School will be an exciting place Friday night. The talented, high-scoring Panthers, ranked 2nd in the CNI weekly poll of area football teams, play their first home game of the season at 7:00 against archrival Greenfield, and unveil their brand new artificial turf.

I had the chance to see the turf up close this week and it’s gorgeous. If you only saw that turf, you’d swear it was an NFL or college field.  Every yard line and hash mark is beautifully marked. The pro-style goalposts have those little flags on top that let you see the wind direction. The turf is surrounded by a spotless running track.

So how much did it cost? Half-million? Three quarters-million? One million? And is there a big tax increase on the horizon?

The new field cost $689,000, but the school district paid $250,000, a little over one-third of the cost. The rest came from donations. Greendale NOW reports, ‘The (Touchdown) club received several anonymous donations, the proceeds of a brat fry by Greendale’s Youth Football Organization and $60,000 from the Greendale Panther Athletic Booster Club.’

Tax increase? Early estimates have the Greendale district REDUCING the school tax levy by almost five percentage points
 that would put next year’s school tax levy increase at under two percent.”


There’s more. Projects completed in Greendale the summer of ’08 according to GreendaleNOW included the new football field, renovation of the art rooms and asbestos removal and new flooring in 21 classrooms.

Franklin really loves Franklin. I’ve seen it at parades, fundraisers, and athletic events. Franklin cares deeply about families and neighborhoods. There’s tremendous civic pride. Franklin is decent, humble, hard-working, a values-oriented community.

Could Franklin pull off what Pius and Greendale did, galvanizing community support, no matter what or how long or how much it takes to reach a common goal?  I believe Franklin could.

Maybe I'm wrong but I’m unaware of any serious grassroots effort in Franklin to fundraise for school amenities that would require minimal or zero tax dollars. Please, someone set the record straight if I’m mistaken.

And if such ideas haven’t been discussed or attempted in the past, I’d dearly love to know why not.

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