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Christina Lieffring / CHRISTINA LIEFFRING 

Ten-year-old Marjorie Anderson of Burlington made a new best friend, Piper, at the Tiny Paws Small Dog Rescue booth at Burlington's Home and Garden Expo on Saturday. Piper was one of the dogs the shelter, located at 2616 200th Ave., Union Grove, brought to the expo as available for adoption. 

Will Runzheimer’s acquisition change its local philanthropy?

WATERFORD — Each year, about 110 Burlington Area School District students each year put on neon sashes and ensure their younger peers safely cross streets and board buses after school. But due to a lack of funding, the 2018 safety patrol may not enjoy the same perks that previous generations have.

In the 2000s, the safety patrol was sponsored by the United Way of Racine County, but in 2016, the organization shifted its focus toward workforce education. In 2017, Runzheimer International, located at the intersection of highways 36 and 164, stepped in and sponsored the group.

But in January, private equity firm Thomas Bravo announced a deal to purchase the Waterford-based company, which analyzes mileage and relocation costs for corporations worldwide, and combine it with Boston-based Motus.

In February, Kim Hardesty, who until last week was the administrative assistant for the Burlington Police Department, announced that “due to their recent acquisition (Runzheimer) are not able to make that donation this year.”

BASD Superintendent Peter Smet said the district would still have the safety patrol in 2018, but it might not be able to provide some of the same perks and incentives students received in previous years.

According to Hardesty’s announcement, the organization holds an annual skate party that raises about $1,500 to $2,000 per year. The cost of the program is about $5,000 to $6,000 per year; that money is primarily used for a trip to the Wisconsin Dells that includes a pizza party and a trip to a waterpark.

The actual cost for the program was $5,900 in 2017. At the time of the announcement, the program was short about $4,200 for 2018.

A good corporate citizen

Smet and other organization leaders in western Racine County are more concerned whether the safety patrol foreshadows what will happen to Runzheimer’s philanthropy now that the company has been acquired.

According to a 2014 IRS form, BASD and its individual schools received tens of thousands of dollars in grants from the Runzheimer Foundation.

“We were a very lucky benefactor of their generosity,” said Smet.

They weren’t alone. In that IRS 990 form, filed in November 2014, it was reported that the Runzheimer Foundation donated $967,555. Some of those funds went to national organizations such as the American Cancer Society and American Heart Association, but a lot of it went to organizations in Racine County, especially the county’s west end, and to groups in the Milwaukee area.

“Runzheimer has been an unbelievable corporate citizen of the Burlington and Waterford area,” said Smet. “Any change to that would be sad because they’ve been a great contributor to our community.”

The foundation had regularly donated to Love, Inc. a Burlington-based 501©(3) organization that provides a variety of services for those in need. Executive Director Barbara Howard said Runzheimer usually purchased one or two tables for the organization’s Friday Night Lights fundraiser, which took place last week, but the company said it would not be able to do so this year.

“There’s a lot of rumors going around,” said Howard. “We’re in the dark like everybody else.”

New leadership

Craig Powell, president and CEO of Motus, said the acquisition had not included the Runzheimer Foundation, which appears to be a standalone entity operated by the Runzheimer family. The Journal Times was unable to reach the Runzheimer family or Runzheimer Foundation in recent weeks for comment.

Powell said Runzheimer, now under Motus, would continue to be a corporate citizen of the Waterford area.

“Generosity and philanthropy are core tenets of the Motus culture,” Powell said. “Moving forward, we will continue to generously support philanthropic efforts in the communities we serve and with worthy causes that are of collective interest to our team members and customers.”

“Runzheimer has been an unbelievable corporate citizen of the Burlington and Waterford area. Any change to that would be sad because they’ve been a great contributor to our community.” Peter Smet, Burlington Area School District superintendent
This story has been updated since publication to note Kim Hardesty's departure from the Burlington Police Department.

Grading change a difficult shift for Racine Unified

RACINE — Racine Unified’s shift from a traditional A-to-F grading system to a 0-to-4, standards-based grading and learning model has been a difficult shift for the district.

At the beginning of this school year, the standards-based learning and grading model was implemented for kindergarten through eighth grades in the subjects of reading language arts, math, music, art, physical education and health. The only high school classes that have officially adopted the standards model so far are freshman seminar, algebra 1 and algebra 1 lab. Unified plans to expand standards-based grading to more classes and grade levels in the coming years, but some teachers have voluntarily begun using the system prior to it being required.

The ongoing switch to this system has caused concern among parents, as evidenced by online comments on a previous Journal Times report on the subject.

Ed Holle, father of an eighth-grade student at the REAL School and of a student at Case High School, expressed worry about how these 0-to-4 grades will be accepted at colleges where admissions departments generally look at grade-point averages.

“This is a little bit of a change,” said Rosalie Daca, Unified’s chief academic officer. “They need to understand that we are not going to do anything that’s going to jeopardize their ability to get into college. That is not going to harm them at all.”

Generally, a finalized score in Unified’s standards-based model of 3.8 to 4 would equal an A+ on the traditional scale. A final score of 3.59-3.79 would be equal an A and 3.38 to 3.58 would be an A-.

Daca said that Unified will convert standards-based grades for high school students into traditional GPAs at the end of each semester.

Standards-based grading in other schools

The standards-based learning model focuses on student understanding of specific concepts instead of a final percentage grade. Through this model, Unified students are assessed using a scale from zero to four. Each number correlates to a certain level of understanding for each standard or specific concept.

The Milwaukee Public Schools district has used standards-based grading for many years and piloted the standards-based report card in a K-8 school 15 years ago. However, MPS high school students receive traditional letter grades and grade-point averages along with their standards-based grades.

“We realize that colleges and universities pay attention to multiple factors about their applicants, such as tests like the ACT/SAT, courses taken, personal essays, extracurricular experiences and GPA,” said Melanie R. Stewart, director of student performance and improvement at MPS. However, we found parents like to see letters grades and a GPA because it is a familiar system to them at the high school level.”

Other Wisconsin districts have implemented their own versions of standards-based grading, including Wauwatosa School District, Sun Prairie Area School District and several others. Kenosha Unified has implemented standards-based grading in some subjects for K-5 students.

Katie Miota, director of admissions at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said that her office doesn’t often receive applications from recent high school graduates who’ve been evaluated with standards-based grading. However, UW-Milwaukee does get receive from students who have attended other colleges, such as Alverno College, a Roman Catholic school in Milwaukee.

Many schools that use standards-based grading supply those grades to colleges along with the equivalent grade-point averages when sending student transcripts.

The UWM Admissions Department considers all academic factors to be important when evaluating a student, Miota said.

She said that GPA is a good measure of student success and understanding, but that the UWM Admissions Department also takes into account standardized test scores and classes in which the student was enrolled.

Miota said students looking to attend UWM should not be concerned that a different grading system at the high school level would disqualify them from admission.

Conflicting information

Holle said that during a parent-teacher conference in the fall, and in conversations with the REAL School principal, he was given conflicting information about how the new grading system works and what criteria students would have to meet to obtain certain grades.

He added that he didn’t think the transition was communicated well to students, parents or faculty.

Daca said that although it was a difficult shift for teachers, all of those who are required to use the standards-based grading received training in it, as well as ongoing support if they have questions or concerns.

“If parents are being told any kind of information about this system that they feel doesn’t sound right, then they should contact the principal,” Daca said.

Unified had initially intended to expand standards-based learning and grading for science and social studies classes in the 2018-19 school year, but has decided against it. Instead there will be more of a soft rollout. In 2018-19, teachers in those classes will do standards-based instruction, but will use a traditional final grading scale. Standards-based grade reporting will not be implemented at the high schools until 2019-20. Unified will spend the next year planning, training teachers and communicating with parents about the change.


The standards-based model does not include grades for homework. Daca equated doing homework to a sports team practicing for a game.

“If your child plays a sport, and they go to practice during the week, they don’t get any points for that during the game on the weekend,” Daca said. “But if they don’t go to practice, they’re not prepared for the game.”

In her opinion, homework should be a safe space for students to make mistakes. This helps the teacher understand the student’s thought processes and help to explain concepts the student doesn’t understand.

“It’s a necessary part of schooling, but it’s not something that should be weighted so heavily that that’s what, in turn, makes your grade,” Daca said.

Teachers still track homework completion in order to speak with parents about how the students are doing, Daca said. She added that if a student isn’t learning through doing his or her homework, that will likely affect knowledge of the standards and, therefore, their final grade.

Informing parents

Stacy Tapp, chief of communication and community engagement at Unified, said the district began informing parents about standards-based grading and learning in August, prior to the start of the current school year. Parents were informed via autodials, emails and an article posted on the district website, she said.

Holle said he didn’t learn about the grading change until the parent-teacher conference in the fall.

Parents interested in finding information about standards-based grading should go to At the bottom of the web page is a link to a detailed guide to standards-based grading for elementary and middle school parents.

Johnson: Russia investigation has to 'come to a close'

KANSASVILLE — In September 2016, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson recalls being in a meeting with different heads of committees, national security advisers in the Obama administration and then-FBI Director James Comey.

“The narrative from the administration to members of Congress was ‘We have evidence that Russia has attempted certain things in our election, but we’re aware of it, we’ve got it under control,’ ” Johnson said.

Johnson, R-Wis., added that the Obama administration officials urged the participants of that meeting to go out and assure the public that they have confidence that the results of the election will be legitimate.

Without revealing any classified information given to those who attended, Johnson said he told members of the administration that he was not going to make that claim.

“I won’t dispute what you’re saying, but I’m concerned based on what you’re telling me,” Johnson recalled saying at the meeting.

On Friday, Johnson spoke to the Union Grove Area Chamber of Commerce at the Michael’s On The Lake Restaurant, 3101 Eagle Road, Kansasville.

“What I know right now, I don’t think in any way, shape or form, Russia affected the results of the election,” Johnson told the group of about 50 people.

That story came up when one of the members of the chamber of commerce asked Johnson about election security.

With the 2018 midterm elections rapidly approaching, Johnson said the Department of Homeland Security is working with the states to establish a main contact person and possibly provide security clearance in the event election data is breached.

“Nobody is ignoring this … this is being taken very seriously,” Johnson told the group. “The states by and large have to run these elections and ask for advice from (the Department of Homeland Security).”

Sen. Ron Johnson: Robert Mueller 'should resign'

RACINE — U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said Friday afternoon that Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian influence in the 2016 presidential campaign, should step down.

Johnson added he thought “James Comey interfered far more in the (2016) election” than Russia.

Probe has to ‘come to a close’

It has been 18 months since the meeting that Johnson described. During that time, Comey has been fired, officially for allegedly mishandling an investigation into presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s private email server — although Trump said in a May interview with NBC’s Lester Holt that he fired Comey because “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story” — and former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been named the special counsel to investigate Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election.

The Mueller investigation has charged 13 Russian nationals and several people close to the Trump campaign, including Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser; Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman; and George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about contacts with Russia.

“I think Robert Mueller is a man of integrity, you see the type of rigorous investigation he’s undertaking,” Johnson said. “I wish James Comey would’ve done that with the Hillary Clinton email scandal, quite honestly.”

Johnson has been critical of the process to investigate Russian interference, including telling The Journal Times Editorial Board that he thought Mueller “should resign” because of conflicts of interest, and said the investigations by the Senate and House should have been concluded before a special counsel was assigned.

“The problem with a special counsel is it just gets out of control,” Johnson said. “We need to bring this (investigation) to a close. We need to find some certainty. We have enormous problems facing this nation and having this over this administration’s head is not a good thing.”

“We need to bring this (investigation) to a close. We need to find some certainty. We have enormous problems facing this nation and having this over this administration’s head is not a good thing.” U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, on Mueller investigation