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A tall ship, an icon of Port’s heritage PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 24 June 2015 21:29

Ahoy, seafaring buffs: Board the Denis Sullivan in the Port Washington harbor and get a taste of Lake Michigan’s great age of sail

One hundred and twenty-five years ago, there could well have been more boats in the north slip of the Port Washington harbor than there are today.

    That section of the harbor, just a stone’s throw from the main business street, is now a part of the marina. During the boating season these days, it’s a busy place, with the comings and going of the charter fishing fleet, transient yachts moored dockside and in slips and on some weekends dozens of racing sailboats rafted together.

    Yet in the second half of the 19th century, that water was at times covered with sailing ships tied gunwale to gunwale. Photographs made in the era show a forest of masts towering above the husky hulls of freight-carrying sailing vessels in the harbor, most of them schooner rigged with two or three masts.

    This was the golden epoch of commerce under sail, a time when Lake Michigan was a liquid highway for materials and goods, and Port Washington was an important commercial port of call.

    How fitting it is, then, given that rich seafaring heritage, that the masts of a 19th century schooner will once more stand tall over the Port Washington harbor when the Denis Sullivan makes a number of extended visits this summer.

    The Sullivan doesn’t really date to the 1800s, of course. Launched in 2000, the vessel is a re-creation, authentic in as many ways as possible, based on several famous schooners that sailed these waters circa 1870s. Owned by Discovery World of Milwaukee, it has been designated Wisconsin’s flagship, and the well-traveled green-hulled three-master has become one of America’s favorite tall ships.

The Sullivan’s stays in Port Washington—for four days starting this Thursday, followed by the weekends of July 4-5 and August 21-23 and probably a weekend in September—are the result of a new partnership between the City of Port Washington and Discovery World. While in Port, the schooner will be open to the public for deck tours and sailing excursions.

    The cancellation of this year’s Maritime Heritage Festival leaves a void that the Denis Sullivan will help fill. Appreciation of the community’s seafaring history has been demonstrated for years in strong attendance and backing for the festival and is already evident in financial support for the Sullivan’s visits, including contributions from the city, Tourism Council, Business Improvement District and several corporate donors.

    All of which suggests the Sullivan could have a future in Port Washington. Mayor Tom Mlada, who is leading the initiative to bring the tall ship to Port, thinks so, and surely this historic harbor, said to be America’s first manmade harbor, would be an appropriate home-port-away-from-home for the tall ship, perhaps its winter berth.

    Rising lake levels even hint at the possibility that the ship could be berthed for extended periods in the north slip. Picture the schooner, with her soaring bowsprit, clipper bow and three towering masts moored virtually in the heart of the downtown.

    That may be the future. For now, it’s time to go sailing, and the Denis Sullivan will be ready to go Thursday. With luck, one of Lake Michigan’s typically robust sea breezes will kick in, and the great schooner, with as many as eight sails set, sheets straining, blocks creaking, will heel to the insistent wind and with its bow wave curling (sailors of yore called it “a bone in her teeth”) will give the fortunate folks on board a taste of life in the great age of sail.

On a previous visit, the Denis Sullivan sailed past the Port Washington lighthouse in a fresh breeze.

Contempt for teachers PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 17 June 2015 19:36

The proposal to abolish virtually all licensing requirements for teachers in Wisconsin attacks the heart of education quality

What is it about teachers that provokes such mean-spirited behavior by some Wisconsin legislators?

    Are these grown-up politicians still bitter over mediocre middle-school report cards that got them grounded by their parents? Still mad about being sent to the office for being naughty in a grade-school classroom? Miffed over getting an “F” on a freshman English essay because the teacher took issue with serial misspellings?

    Outside of the Capitol halls controlled by the Republican majorities of the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly, teachers are respected. National opinion polls consistently rank teaching among the most respected professions. Anecdotal evidence of high regard for teachers abounds. Ask anyone, from recent graduates to senior citizens, and you will likely hear of teachers fondly remembered for making a difference in their lives.

    But in the Legislature the budgeting process has been perverted into an assault on teaching. Proposals to reduce state funding for K-12 public schools and the University of Wisconsin system, to shift tax dollars from public schools to private schools and to undermine tenure for UW professors all have a negative effect on public school teachers. But the topper, the affront that reeks of contempt for teachers, is the proposal to allow people who do not have teacher training or even a college degree to be licensed as teachers in Wisconsin.

    The proposal would make Wisconsin the only state in the U.S. to certify teachers without bachelor’s degrees. Wisconsin would have the distinction of the lowest standards for teachers in the nation.

    Students will certainly pay a price in the eventual deterioration of the quality of their education. But the instant harm of the proposal, which State School Supt. Tony Evers has aptly described as “breathtaking in its stupidity,” would be its impact on teachers.

    If signed into law—and there are strong indications it will be in the final budget—the dismantling of standards for their profession will send an explicit message to teachers that their training and their degrees in their chosen fields of education are considered meaningless. It will tell them their work is so ordinary, so undemanding, that anyone can do it.

    The provision was slipped into the budget by the Joint Finance Committee at 1:30 a.m. on May 20 with no public debate. Its sponsor, Rep. Mary Czaja (R-Irma), said it was intended to help rural schools find teachers.

    Yet representatives of rural schools seemed dismayed if not appalled by the idea. One of them, Jerry Fiene, executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance, said, “This totally destroys any licensure requirements we have in Wisconsin. It’s very concerning.”

    Under the plan to lower teacher standards to rock bottom, any person could be licensed to teach any non-core subject in grades six through 12, with no college education required. Anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any subject could be licensed to teach English, math, science and social studies, with no teacher training required.

    Education experts across the country have condemned or ridiculed the Wisconsin Legislature’s astonishing willingness to undermine teacher standards, but it doesn’t take an expert to see it as mindless meddling in necessarily demanding licensing requirements.

    Teaching is a skill that needs to be taught. That is the purpose of education schools. Subject matter needs comprehensive study. Aspiring teachers need the intellectual rigor that comes with the mastery of a college course of study and the guidance of mentors that is required under current teacher certification rules. There is no reason this should not apply to non-core subjects, including technical education, as much as to the basics.

    There is much irony in the claim by its backers that weakening standards would make it easier for schools to find teachers. The opposite, that it would reduce the number of available teachers, is more likely true. Who would want to go into a profession that is treated so shabbily by a state’s legislators?

    Why any lawmaker would want his or her name associated with this codified denigration of teachers is beyond understanding. We can’t imagine that the people of Wisconsin want anything to do with it. We suspect it is a nearly universal hope across the state that clear-thinking Senate and Assembly Republicans will stand up and demand that this idiotic measure be excised from the budget and consigned to the nearest wastebasket.

    Failing that, it will be up to Gov. Scott Walker, who has the most powerful item-veto authority in the nation, to get rid of it. He has not been considered a friend of public education, but with a stroke of his pen he could mitigate that damning perception.

Spare Fish Day a needless mandate PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Thursday, 11 June 2015 21:28

Requiring thousands of Fish Day attendees to wear wristbands in order to buy a beer is a solution in search of a problem

Let us now accept guidance from an ancient aphorism that has proved valid time and again in the course of human events. Expressed in proper English, it counsels would-be do-gooders: If something isn’t broken, don’t try to fix it.

    Port Fish Day isn’t broken. It doesn’t need fixing.

    Fish Day is a smooth-running operation that on a single day brings thousands of people to downtown Port Washington, shows them a good time and raises a lot of money that civic organizations invest in maintaining the good life in the community.

    It is not broken, not in need of a tune-up, not even a squirt of WD-40.

    Yet now it is being pressed to make a repair it doesn’t need or want.

    Police Chief Kevin Hingiss has proposed that people buying alcoholic drinks at Fish Day be required to wear wristbands.

    It may sound like a small thing, but nothing is small about Fish Day. The celebration can attract as many as 30,000 people. Fitting wristbands on the vast number of them who wish to buy a cold beer to go with their fish and chips would be, as one Fish Day official aptly put it, a “logistical nightmare.”

    Under the proposal, people would have to line up at points near the entrances to the celebration grounds, present a driver’s license or ID card and, if 21 or older, have a band sealed around their wrists. The point of this exercise, the chief says, would be to combat underage drinking.

    The police chief’s interest in Fish Day is quite understandable. It’s a big day for police, and not in a festive way. Merely the presence in the downtown of a crowd more than double the size of the city’s population presents challenges. Add to that the impressive quantity of beer consumed in connection with the event, and it is safe to say Port police officers earn their pay on Fish Day.

    But this is not to say that Fish Day is some sort of bacchanal. On the contrary, drink-induced misbehavior has been relatively minor considering the size of the crowd. Over the years, the problems police have had to deal with mostly involved people of legal drinking age, many of whom did their imbibing at private parties or local taverns. Wristbands would do nothing to alleviate these problems.

    The wristband requirement would add a new complication to the already complex process of managing the celebration. Imagine the length of the lines of Fish Day goers queuing up for the mandatory bands. Logistical nightmare indeed.

    Beyond the impact on Fish Day organizers, consider the effect on the people who come to downtown Port Washington to enjoy Fish Day. Whether they are visitors or residents, these folks are all Fish Day’s guests, and they deserve hospitable treatment. What’s more, they are customers whose purchases are important to the community. Regardless of their age, every one of them who might want to buy an alcoholic drink—even senior citizens—would have to endure the aggravation of waiting in line and producing identification for the privilege of wearing a wristband.

    The volunteers who work at Fish Day stands are well trained in the law’s requirements for alcohol servers and diligent in applying them.

    Fish Day servers control underage drinking by employing that marvelous quality called human discretion. If a person looks to be too young to drink, they don’t serve him or her without checking IDs to verify they’re over 21. If a person’s appearance makes it obvious that he or she is old enough to drink legally, they sell them a beer.

    Members of the city’s Finance and License Committee expressed sensible reservations when the wristband idea was first proposed. There are ample reasons for the committee to reject it altogether. The most compelling one is that Port Fish Day doesn’t need a gratuitous mandate from the police department. After more than 50 years of operation, it knows how to run a successful festival safely and efficiently.

    It’s not broken. Therefore, it doesn’t need to be fixed.

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