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Unified improves compliance with board expectations, work still needed

RACINE — Racine Unified is steadily improving its compliance with standards set by the School Board for its instructional programs. However, there are still some areas in need of work.

The district was 84 percent compliant with the School Board’s operational expectations for its instructional programs from May to April, up from 72 percent the previous year and only 44 percent four years ago.

“We’ve made considerable improvement in this area,” said Rosalie Daca, Unified’s chief academic officer. “I’m very proud of the work our teams are doing.”

Daca presented the first half of a report on the district’s progress during the School Board’s work session at Horlick High School on Monday. The report is set to be approved as part of the board’s consent agenda during its next business meeting.

Some areas of compliance

The district is in compliance when it comes to using standards to measure student progress. It uses Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress, or the MAP test, to assess K-8 students, and Children’s Progress Adaptive Assessment for dual language students in K-2, as well as an observation system for 4K students that works for dual language and special education students.

The district is in compliance with expectations when it comes to teaching students based on personalized learning plans, as student goals are set using their MAP scores.

Unified provides enough alternatives to traditional classrooms for compliance, because of its extensive programs for home-bound students, its magnet schools, alternative programs and special education programs, to name a few.

The district is also compliant when it comes to innovative program creation. Programs created within the past year include Project Lead the Way medical intervention, sophomore career academies and the REAL School-Gateway iMET engineering pathway.

Some areas of non-compliance

The district is not compliant when it comes to evidence of culturally responsive teaching practices. Staff at only nine of Unified’s schools, all of them elementary schools, have received professional training in this area.

Daca said the district is in the process of reassessing how to deliver this training.

“It was dedicated right now just in our elementary schools, but looking forward, we know we have to get to our middle schools and our high schools,” she said.

Deputy Superintendent Eric Gallien said these practices would give the staff a better understanding of the students that they interact with every day.

The district is also not in compliance with the directive to place students with disabilities in the least restrictive environment possible. Although Unified does meet the target for more than 63 percent of its disabled students to be in a mainstream class with non-disabled peers for a majority of their day, it has too many disabled students spending less than 40 percent of their time with non-disabled peers.

Daca said the district plans to talk with the Department of Public Instruction to understand where those targets come from and why they’re important.

Unified’s English language arts and math curriculum are compliant with Common Core standards, but its science curriculum is not. World language and arts are not in compliance, but are set to come into compliance next year. Although science for grades 6-12 is set to come into compliance next year as well, the elementary schools are not set to comply until the 2019-20 school year.

Daca said she would like to hold off a year on the implementation of a new elementary science curriculum, as not to overwhelm the elementary teachers, who had a new ELA curriculum this year and a new math curriculum two years ago. 

“The progress shown is remarkable,” said Dennis Wiser, School Board vice president, during Monday’s meeting. “The improvement on compliance is remarkable. This is going to leave the district in good shape for years and years to come.”

Daca plans present the second part of her instructional program compliance report in May.

“The progress shown is remarkable. The improvement on compliance is remarkable. This is going to leave the district in good shape for years and years to come.” Dennis Wiser, Unified School Board vice president

An initial version of this story included the wrong implementation date for Unified's elementary math curriculum. The new curriculum was implemented two years ago. 

Ortiz to participate in L.A. Sparks training camp

RACINE — It didn’t take long for Gabbi Ortiz to get a chance to advance her basketball career.

Minutes after the Women’s National Basketball Association Draft was completed on Thursday night in New York, the Oklahoma University senior guard got the call.

The Racine native and graduate of The Prairie School has been invited to training camp of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. She has signed a training camp contract and will join the team in Los Angeles for the beginning of camp April 29.

After the three rounds of the WNBA Draft were completed, opportunity rang.

“They called right away after the draft was finished, and I took them right away,” Ortiz said by phone from Norman, Okla. “I was hoping for an opportunity anywhere that came up. When it comes to the WNBA, you’re grateful for any opportunity.”

She will leave for Los Angeles a few days before camp to get acclimated.

Ortiz knows the pace of play is much faster in the WNBA and also knows that training camp will be nothing like she’s done before.

“All I keep hearing is to be in shape, and my goal is to be in shape,” Ortiz said. “The (WNBA) game is so much faster from college, so I have to be in shape and be ready to learn.

“From what I’ve heard from my friends in the league, once the 29th hits, you’re getting after it. You’re doing two-a-days and practicing with the team every day.”

Great season with Sooners

Ortiz will be one of 15 to 20 players in camp. In addition to the Sparks’ three draft choices Thursday — Russian center Maria Vadeeva in the first round, Florida State forward Shakayla Thomas in the second round and Czech center Julia Reisingerova in the third round — two other undrafted players were signed by the Sparks.

Ortiz, who was the 2015 Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year, is coming off a spectacular senior season with the Sooners, who finished 16-15 and made the NCAA tournament.

She was the only player on the roster to start all 31 games, had career-high averages of 12.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game and led the team in 3-pointers (84), 3-point field goal percentage (.385), free-throw percentage (.929) and minutes per game (36.5). She also led the Big 12 in average minutes (36.5) and 3-pointers per game (2.7).

She scored in double figures in 20 games, with a career-high 31 points with eight 3-pointers against South Florida on Dec. 9, and a week later scored 25 points (seven 3-pointers) against New Mexico.

Ortiz, who turns 22 on Sunday, said getting this shot at the pros is what she has been working for since she began playing basketball as a kid.

“You dream for an opportunity like this and hope to get the opportunity to play at the next level,” she said. “I’m extremely grateful for Los Angeles for giving me a chance to compete for a spot. I couldn’t be more thankful. I’m taking a step in the right direction.”

AAA for boaters coming to Racine

RACINE — Running out of gas can be a little nerve-racking. It’s worse when it happens on water.

TowBoatUS intends to alleviate those fears. For $72 per year, members can hail TowBoatUS crews 24 hours a day. There are already more than 40 locations on the Great Lakes, and two new ones will be opening soon: one in Racine and the other in Waukegan just across the Illinois border.

“When your boat breaks down on the water and you don’t know what to do, call us,” Captain Gareth Stamm stated in a press release.

Coming to Racine

The opening of the Racine and Waukegan ports spells the closing of a Kenosha location that opened more than 15 years ago. This change was meant to shorten arrival times for crews near the Wisconsin-Illinois border, Stamm told The Journal Times.

There are more than 300 such ports across the U.S., making TowBoatUS the largest towing fleet in the nation, according to the company’s website.

TowBoatUS’s Racine boat came in Thursday and is docked at Pugh Marina.

Memberships are valid nationwide. So, if you’re a member from Racine but get stuck out on Lake Superior, you can still call TowBoatUS for no additional charge.


Among the services offered are towing, fuel delivery, jump starts and soft-bottom ungroundings. Nonmembers can call for help too, but they’ll be charged an hourly rate.

Stamm said that, although rescues for members are technically unlimited, you won’t be allowed to abuse the service with unreasonably frequent breakdowns.

“You really have to press your luck for TowBoatUS not to cover you,” Stamm said. He mentioned someone in Illinois who he had to pick up seven times in one summer.

The service isn’t meant to replace insurance or emergency calls either. If there’s a major emergency, such as a fire or a boat taking on water, Stamm advises sticking with traditional distress calls.

Stamm compares TowBoatUS to roadside motorist clubs such as AAA — but on water instead of the roadways.

On the side, Stamm can recover sunken boats. However, he would suggest calling for help before a watercraft goes under.

“We would handle the vessel and whatever danger the boat is in,” Stamm said.

TowBoatUS Racine and Waukegan can both be reached by hailing on VHF channel 16, or by calling 708-890-9979 or 800-391-4869. There’s also a smartphone app that can be used to signal for help.

More info can be found at


David Zalubowski 

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo reacts after being called for a foul on Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, April 1, 2018, in Denver. The Nuggets won 128-125 in overtime. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Evelyn Lajiness, an AAUW Racine member, helps get ready for the book sale.

Robin Vos won't run to replace Paul Ryan

MADISON — Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester said Friday morning he would not campaign to represent the Wisconsin 1st Congressional District in Washington, D.C.

Vos was considered a top contender among potential Republican candidates to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said Wednesday he would not seek re-election.

“While I know that our nation’s capital desperately needs more conservative reformers from Wisconsin, Michelle and I have decided that we can do more good continuing to push state-based conservative reforms,” Vos said in a statement, referring to his wife, Michelle Litjens.

Vos’ announcement was the latest from a group of high-profile Wisconsin Republicans to reject a run, after being floated as a potential candidate.

Reince Priebus, former White House chief of staff to President Donald Trump; Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva; and Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, each said Thursday they would not be launching campaigns to replace Ryan.

Meanwhile, University of Wisconsin Regent Bryan Steil and Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Salem, have said they are mulling whether to run. Sen. David Craig, R-Town of Vernon, also has not yet said whether he will run.

Ryan’s announcement was cause to celebrate for Democrats, who long have loathed his proposals to slash social safety net programs and cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations.

Wisconsin Democrats targeted Ryan with even greater intensity heading toward this year’s election. They touted his departure Wednesday as a sign of their momentum — and GOP weakness — heading into the 2018 cycle.

As of Friday, whichever Republican prevails as the candidate will face either Caledonia activist and ironworker Randy Bryce or Janesville School Board member Cathy Myers.

But that could change if former Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha, who also represented the First Congressional District between 1993 and 1995, decides to run. Barca told The Journal Times on Thursday he is considering it.


Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said Friday he would not be running to replace U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan in the First Congressional District.