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  • Writer's pictureAletheia

Letter from a Waunakee School Board Member

You just never know what will show up in your website inbox...

On Monday, we had two interesting messages waiting for us. A parent, having read our recent post, Teachers Gone Wrong: A Waunakee Case Study, had written to share with us even more garbage going on in the Waunakee Community School District (WCSD). (Expect a post on that information, coming soon...)

The second message, dated Saturday, April 23rd, was from WCSD Board of Education (BOE) Member Mark Hetzel, pictured below, who challenged Dane Undivided to post his message on our site.

Without hesitation, our team decided to take Mr. Hetzel up on his challenge. Below, we provide the entire text of Hetzel's email to Dane Undivided. We've highlighted some passages we found particularly relevant. Our response to Hetzel immediately follows his letter to us:

I am more than disappointed in your methods to unify Dane County. From the recent posts regarding the WCSD, specifically attacking various staff with hyperbolic accusations and vicious character assasination, you show your true colors. As often happens, your methods are exactly what you accuse your intended targets of.

I fail to see how your elevated vitriol does anything but pit one person against another.

Your fear tactics will not succeed in bringing people together, except for those few who believe in your methodology and beliefs.

I don't question your right nor anyone's right to Freedom of Speech, but with that comes a huge responsibility to not exagerrate [sic], to disagree with civility, and to take individual responsibility for your words.

Your posts are anonymous, yet you feel free to accuse, to exagerrate, and to attack viciously specific people. Hypocritical comes to mind.

You are proponents of freedom of speech, yet you don't accept comments to your posts.

If you're truly looking to make change and bring people together, I suggest that means more than converting all to your views. Unity doesn't mean everyone thinks the same, rather it's coming together and respecting all, including others with distinct difference of opinions [sic], to work towards a common goal.

If you truly believe in freedom of speech, I challenge you to open the comments up to public opinion; I challenge you to include your name(s) with each post.

I respectfully ask you to post this message on your website. If you won't agree to these challenges, I suggest you rename your site Dane Divided, a far more accurate description to your not so hidden agenda, and what your messaging is doing.

Finally, while I write this as an individual, I am a proud member of the WCSD BOE. I am proud of our teachers, administrators, and our entire staff. They are highly skilled professional, and exceptional educators who generously share their skills and commitment to our students to help them reach their full potential. Our students are their focus, and I am proud of our student's hard work and high achievement. We have a community that is wonderfully supportive of our schools, our students, and our staff. Together all of these help to make the WCSD Schools among the best in the state, check that out, it's a fact.

Sincerely, Mark Hetzel

As promised, our response to Mr. Hetzel:

Dear Mr. Hetzel:

Thank you for reaching out with your views on our post, Teachers Gone Wrong: A Waunakee Case Study.

We knew the post would ruffle some feathers. We knew there would be a few people who wouldn't like it much. We suspect those same people also won't much care for the upcoming Part 2 on the role of administrators in this same story. However, we take our mission statement and our philosophy quite seriously. You may or may not have read our mission statement. We've provided you with a link to it, for the record, and respectfully note that it includes the following action points:

  1. Actively look for and detect threats to our liberties and to the vulnerable

  2. Warn others of present and future dangers

  3. Scrutinize the actions of public servants and expose those who fail to represent us

  4. Guard children from the influence of falsehoods, immorality, and harmful behaviors

  5. Empower citizens to stand against injustice and fight for freedom

Both of the posts we've published about the WCSD this year fulfill every single one of these items.

WCSD parents came to us with deep concerns and solid information. Frankly, the river of WCSD intel just keeps flowing. These parents have found themselves, along with many other WCSD parents, unable to find satisfaction from, or even to feel heard by the bulk of the BOE, on which you so proudly serve. One of your former BOE colleagues, David Boetcher, recently lost his seat on the board precisely because parents felt he had failed to heed their concerns about what is happening within the district...and to their children.

Contrary to your assertions, we have exaggerated nothing. Parents provided us with open records that made matters abundantly clear. We have asked no one to accept our word or our commentary alone. We have shared the records publicly in our posts. Anyone can read the documents for him- or herself. We encourage people to do so.

Meier and Stenroos Emails
Download PDF • 186KB

However, in the interest of summary, some of the most relevant facts are these: At least two WCSD teachers were involved in formulating and advocating a plan to propagandize, psychologically manipulate, socially marginalize, and physically torment students deemed inadequately compliant with WCSD's masking policy.

In concert with concerned WCSD parents, Dane Undivided has attempted to protect vulnerable children. We find it quite telling that you—a school board member, elected to represent not only the parents of those vulnerable children but also taxpayers unlikely to sanction the intentional infliction of suffering or abuse upon students in the schools they fund—have rushed to protect adult teachers, who envisioned and intended to make their own lives less frustrating through very ugly means, and who should know better.

You use a lot of noble words and phrases, Mr. Hetzel. You speak of civility, of unity and coming together, of respecting others, including those with distinct differences of opinion. You invoke these words and phrases while accusing us of hypocrisy.

Perhaps you can explain to us and to parents in your district, Mr. Hetzel, the civility of creating a plan to shame and blame children into compliance with a school policy. Is it civil, in your view, Mr. Hetzel, to plan to impose more intense physical suffering on children who are already struggling? Is it "unifying" or inclusive to categorize and divide students based on compliance with an already divisive policy? What room has there been for WCSD parents and children to maintain a difference of opinion on masking? Or to live out that difference without experiencing dismissal or denigration? By the account of the numerous parents who've reached out to us, seems like precious little.

You say Dane Undivided engages in fear tactics. Ask yourself, Mr. Hetzel: What was WCSD's masking policy if not one long, ongoing fear tactic, repeatedly leveraged against children for the sake of an overblown virus that statistics plainly demonstrate was not a significant risk to Dane County children at any point over the last two+ years? (See Screen 8 of Public Health Madison & Dane County's dashboard.) And why did you and your fellow WCSD BOE members not fight to ensure that children were not subjected to or ensnared by that fear tactic?

You speak of the need to take personal responsibility, Mr. Hetzel. We absolutely agree that personal responsibility is crucial. And we have exercised ours. We didn't have to draw attention to what's going on within WCSD. We could have turned our back on the parents who came to us—parents who couldn't get a hearing from the BOE.

But, gee...shouldn't teachers take personal responsibility when they are discovered to have envisioned, planned, advanced, and implemented information or ideas that potentially damage the children we've placed in their classrooms? Shouldn't school administrators take personal responsibility when they fail to recognize that the teachers they oversee are going off the rails? Shouldn't school board members like yourself take personal responsibility when they discover that abusive attitudes or behavior have been percolating or erupting in their district?

We have no doubt whatsoever that WCSD boasts many, many fine teachers and that most of them do want to do right by children. But two teachers in your district allowed their own frustration and desire for compliance to short-circuit their care, compassion, and good judgment toward children...and they would have liked to take out that frustration on children district-wide. The instincts they not only clearly expressed but actively worked to operationalize shouldn't be given a pass—certainly not by a school board member. As we noted in our recent post, if such attitudes and instincts are ignored, they will not lead to better things later.

In short, we all have a charge, you more than most, to ensure that when problems surface in a school district, they are promptly and squarely confronted and dealt with. We have alerted you to a serious problem in your district, Mr. Hetzel. We suggest you find a way to solve it that doesn't involve misdirection.

Most sincerely,

Aletheia and the entire Dane Undivided team

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