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Robert Ducoffe, provost and vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, opens the school's spring graduation ceremony on Saturday in the DeSimone Gymnasium on the school's campus in Somers. For more on Saturday's ceremony, turn to Page A5; for additional photos, go to

Proposed Gateway budget raises taxes, tuition

RACINE — The proposed Gateway Technical College budget contains small increases in tuition for students and in property taxes for homeowners.

The college’s Board of Directors met Wednesday night during a public hearing at its Racine campus to discuss the budget and new challenges to recruiting faculty.

Homeowners would pay $127.80 for a home valued at $150,000, a $6.02 proposed increase compared to last year. This amount will be finalized in October by the board after the tax levy is assessed. The exact amount will vary in each municipality. The proposed increase for tuition is 1.5 percent, adding $271,000 of revenue to the budget.

The proposed budget is for the 2018-19 school year. It was approved by the Board of Directors during the public hearing. The board will vote on the final budget at a meeting next week Thursday.

“We aren’t struggling … but at the same time, we are managing with limited revenues,” Bill Whyte, senior vice president of operations said.

Recruitment strategies

Whyte said that at times during Gateway’s existence, the school would receive more than 150 applications for a single job. Now, board members agreed, some jobs were receiving only five applicants.

“It’s going to get tougher and tougher to recruit because there just aren’t as many people in the market anymore,” he said.

A high rate of turnover also was a concern, Whyte said, considering baby boomers are still retiring.

“It’s getting tougher, but Gateway is a preferred employer. We have to be a lot more creative,” Whyte said regarding the hiring process.

Whyte did say that in the face of these concerns, student recruitment has always been a priority.

Repairs and Foxconn

Repairs for multiple Gateway campuses also were discussed at the meeting. According to Whyte, repairs for campuses next year will cost $8 million in total. This money does not come out of the operating budget but rather is borrowed by the college. The Racine and Kenosha campuses were built in the 1960s.

“We have to continually work at keeping things up-to-date,” he said. “When you have buildings this old, you have to spend money on boilers and roofs and chillers. Every year we have to stay on top of all of these facilities issues; we have to be able to stay open.”

Gateway President and CEO Bryan Albrecht said he believes the budget is helping move the college ahead. He said that currently, 90 percent of Gateway’s students are getting jobs within six months.

Albrecht also discussed the upcoming Foxconn manufacturing campus, which is to be built in Mount Pleasant and estimated to bring with it up to 13,000 jobs. Gateway began four new degree programs in partnership with Foxconn, one program titled Advanced Manufacturing beginning just last week. Also, he said, Gateway already has 40 of its students working for the upcoming development.

“Foxconn has been a game-changer for us,” Albrecht said. “They have been a great partner for us.”

Gateway serves Kenosha, Walworth and Racine counties.

'Thank you for the opportunity:' Ryan gives final state GOP convention speech in office

MILWAUKEE — Looking back on more than 19 years in public office, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Saturday that he did not think he would end his career as third in line to the presidency.

“I’m just a guy from Janesville that really didn’t expect to be doing what I’m doing,” Ryan said, and thanked his supporters in the Wisconsin 1st Congressional District. “They took a risk on a 28-year-old guy to be their congressman, and I’ll never forget the gratitude I feel toward them doing that, giving me their trust.”

Since 1992, Ryan said, he has attended the annual Republican Party of Wisconsin convention. During his time in office, he has addressed the crowd as a junior congressman — first elected in 1998, he’s been the 1st District’s congressman since Jan. 3, 1999 — and in 2012, as a vice presidential candidate; and on Saturday at the Wisconsin Center, he gave his final speech to the delegates as speaker of the House of the Representatives.

Ryan, 48, announced in April he is not seeking re-election in November.

“I’m not going to do a Boehner thing here,” Ryan said to the crowd in reference to former House Speaker John Boehner’s propensity to get emotional at a moment’s notice.

It was well known that Ryan did not want to become speaker and had the job he wanted as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction on taxation, tariffs and other revenues collection.

“Out of a sense of duty, I took the job and believed that it had to be done and I’m grateful, grateful for the opportunity,” Ryan said. “I’m the youngest guy in this job since 1860-something … with kids at home, it’s a hard job. It’s a good job for empty-nesters; it’s not the right kind of job with kids at home because you’re always on the road.”

Since Oct. 29, 2015, Ryan has served as speaker, becoming the youngest House speaker since James G. Blaine in 1875; he said Saturday that since President Donald Trump was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017, the House has passed 500 bills, but added that more than 400 are still in the Senate and many have been filibustered, preventing a vote.

Ryan touted success in passing tax reform and increasing funding for the military, and said he plans to make welfare reform a priority in his remaining months in the job.

And while standing before several hundred supporters, he thanked them for their support throughout the years.

“I am so thankful for the opportunity that you have placed in me, especially the people of the 1st District,” Ryan said. “As I come full circle on this, I’m very grateful and very proud, but at the end of the day when your guy has been there for 20 years, and your kids are 13, 14 and 16, the thing I’m most proud about is being a husband and being a dad … I need to be more than just a weekend dad.”

Watching Ryan’s career

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, said he remembers meeting Ryan when he was first running for Congress and watched him get elected.

Sensenbrenner said he saw Ryan become devoted to working on a congressional budget and, in the beginning, only had nine co-sponsors on his idea.

“I was not one of them,” Sensenbruner said. “As time went on he got more and more support.”

Sensenbrenner, whom Ryan called his “dean,” said when Boehner stepped down as speaker, Ryan was the only person that could command national attention.

“When Paul Ryan accepted the speaker job, he knew that that was going to be the last elected office he was going to hold,” Sensenbrenner said. “Because the speaker’s job is probably the worst job in Washington, D.C., and it was made worse again because of the Senate.”

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he remembers meeting Ryan in 1997 before he was elected to Congress.

“I was impressed and I did think, ‘Boy, this guy is really young to be running for Congress,’ ” Vos said, adding he was impressed with Ryan’s intellect. “There’s not a person that I know, even hardened Democrats, who don’t respect his intellect … and that’s shown through ever since he started.”

After 20 years, Vos said Ryan has not changed.

While some people might not be completely happy with the job Ryan has done as speaker, Vos said he empathizes with him, and said it takes skill to “corral a group of very rambunctious group of people, takes an awful lot of skill.”

“People in Congress, Democrat and Republican, they got there because they have something going for them,” Vos said. “It doesn’t always get the headlines because of something Donald Trump said today, but if you look at the record, he’s got an incredible amount of things to be proud of.”

Before state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, got into politics, he remembers being part of a security detail as a police officer for a Ryan event in 1998.

“I listened to that man speak and I said ‘This guy has the level of integrity that I would expect to see in someone representing me,’ ” Wanggaard said. “That’s the first time ever that I pounded signs for anybody.”

Since getting into politics, Wanggaard said he’s gotten to know Ryan as a friend and has watched him become “older and wiser.”

“You can tell when he talks, he speaks from the heart,” Wanggaard said.

Fundraising plans

With some claiming a “blue wave” of Democrats is coming in the 2018 midterm election, Ryan is optimistic that Republicans will keep the House.

As one of the Republican Party’s biggest fundraisers, Ryan plans to tour the country with U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., whom Ryan has endorsed to succeed him as House speaker.

“Part of the reason why I’ve been so successful is because Mitt Romney put me on the ticket (as vice president), I became more of a national figure in those days since then, and it’s given me the ability to do a lot of fundraising nationwide,” Ryan said. “It’s true, I’ve broken all the (fundraising) records as speaker.

“That’s why I’m teaming up with Kevin McCarthy from here on out, together, because I want to introduce Kevin to the network of supporters that we’ve accumulated through the years. To make sure there’s a seamless transition from myself to Kevin.”

“As I come full circle on this, I’m very grateful and very proud, but at the end of the day when your guy has been there for 20 years, and your kids are 13, 14 and 16, the thing I’m most proud about is being a husband and being a dad … I need to be more than just a weekend dad.” House Speaker Paul Ryan

To save a quilt: Committed husband saves artwork on barn from Foxconn

CALEDONIA — These quilts aren’t made from corduroy or silk. They’re works of art, displayed for Racinians and visitors alike.

In 2008, the Racine Arts Council started the Quilts on Barns program, commissioning paintings inspired by quilts. They’re easily spotted by local drivers, and they hold a special place in the hearts of their creators.

One of the quilts was endangered, but the work of one husband saved it.

‘Bear Paw’

Clarice Sklba, then 72, and a group of her friends in First Fridays Quilters spent hours planning and painting their wooden, eight-by-eight design: “Bear Paw.” It was hung at a farm owned by Sherri Shaver on Braun Road on Aug. 8, 2008.

However, Clarice wasn’t there for the ceremony. She died that day after a battle with cancer.

Now, 10 years later, the barn is scheduled to be torn down — it’s on Foxconn land.

“It’s on Ground Zero for Foxconn,” said Bill Sklba, Clarice’s husband.

Bill contacted Shaver to see if she was willing to part with the painting. She was OK with it, and the Eco-Justice Center on the north side agreed to give “Bear Paw” a home; Bill had been a board member at the center and a memorial garden for Clarice still grows there.

Abstract artist Masini to show work

RACINE — “Chaos and Order,” an exhibition of new works by abstract artist Blase E. Masini, will run through June 2 at the Racine Arts Council’s ArtSpace Gallery, 409 Sixth St.

Volunteers from Habitat for Humanity went to Shaver’s barn on May 1, took down the quilt and rehung it at the Eco-Justice Center, 7133 Michna Road, run by the Dominican Sisters.

The painting is attached to a shelter for the alpacas that live at the center, facing Michna Road.

“Anybody who drives by can see it,” Bill said with a hint of pride. “The Eco-Justice Center is going to be around for a long time.”

The design for the painting — four red, paw-like shapes against a yellow background — was Clarice’s favorite for her own handmade quilts.

“I’ve got several around here,” Bill said with a laugh. “(‘Bear Paw’) means a lot more than a piece of barn quilt.”

Quilts on Barns

There are 22 Quilts on Barns across Racine County. Racine Arts Council Vice President Kathi Wilson came up with the idea more than 10 years ago, before she ever worked with the RAC.

Visiting Grundy County, Iowa, Wilson saw numerous barns adorned with artistic, painted quilts across 64 miles. She brought the idea back to Racine and contacted the RAC, which took up the project, intending to “draw attention to ag-tourism based businesses,” according to Real Racine.

More than 200 volunteers, including Clarice Sklba, helped paint the wooden quilts that can now be seen across the county.

Barn quilt to be installed May 12

WIND LAKE — Racine Arts Council invites the public to attend a free “Quilts on Barns” event from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday, May 12, for the installation of the newest wooden quilt pattern. The panel will be installed on the barn at 6314 S. Loomis Road, a designated rustic road.