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Letters to The Platteville Journal for Feb. 20
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Platteville’s contributions

I am the Executive Director of Family Connections of Southwest Wisconsin. Our office is located in Platteville. I wanted to write a letter to the community of Platteville and recognize the amazing community of people, students, families and businesses in Platteville. Almost all of Family Connections’ family resource services depend upon local fundraising, donations and volunteers. Platteville continues to meet the challenge of giving! Whether I see the gifts through monetary gifts to Platteville United Way, Platteville Community Fund and direct donations to organizations, fundraisers, school projects, community groups, scholarship funds, churches, etc. … Platteville continues to give.

What amazes me even more is that it isn’t just monetary gifts that the community gives. It is also the gift of items and things that families and others may need, diapers, clothing, household items, food, bedding, and furniture. Just drive by the Platteville Thrift Store on any given day and you will see the pile of donations waiting to be priced and put out on the shelves. The generosity of the people in this community is plentiful and sincere. Blood drives, bake sales, items for silent auctions … again people continue to give back to the community!

The greatest gift that I see from members of our community is the gift of time. Whether it is chairing a committee, or putting in a few hours here and there, the gift of time is priceless. We see these gifts in churches, schools, city councils and committees, the arboretum, chamber of commerce, university, youth groups, civic groups, volunteer boards, mentors and many, many more.

Continue to give back, Platteville; the spirit of giving is contagious and our community has the fever. We are all very fortunate to live, work, and raise our families in a community that gives and cares for each other.

Julie K. Walter
250 Elmer St., Platteville

The ‘prison complex’

In your Feb. 13 Etc. column, you list the three parts of the Justice system as the legislature, the police and prosecutors, and the judges. There is a fourth component that muddies the waters and makes justice seem a commodity rather than a right that citizens expect. The prison–industrial complex has heavy influence with the three components you describe.

The Legislature works at criminalizing more and more behavior and extending prison sentences egged on by the PIC. Legislators and prosecutors, as well, run for re-election on the claim of being “tough on crime.” So prosecutors indulge themselves with 105 charges for the same sick crime. And some folks think that’s OK, but a 15-year sentence is not, because 907 years was more appropriate.

Is 15 years in jail considered a lenient sentence, or common sense brought to bear by a judge who gets no extra reward from 907 years? Where is common sense in this exchange?

In the meantime, the Corrections Corporation of America has established a lobbying office in Madison (as is has in every state capital) in its effort to privatize our state’s prison system. (It used to make money from the prisoners we sent to its facilities elsewhere and wants those profits back.) CCA increases its profits with every newly criminalized behavior and every increased sentence the recipients of its support among those legislators seeking the ”tough on crime” badge can get. It works hard and spends hard to maximize its profits.

Prison guards are also in the PIC, and the Wisconsin guards are now working to get out from under the governor’s attack on pubic unions here, by seeking a better deal under a private prison system — a system our current governor supported as an assemblyman not too many years ago.

While we argue about appropriate sentences and wasted undercover work, the money is following its leaders.

Walt Wisniewski

City vs. Browning

On Friday, Feb. 22, I, a lifelong resident of Platteville, will be prosecuted for various City of Platteville Code violations.
The hearing will be at 1 p.m. at the Courthouse in Lancaster.

If you are interested in finding out how the City of Platteville spends your tax dollars you are invited to attend.

Darrel G. Browning

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Skyward and the DPI

There have been a number of questions about the procurement of a Statewide Student Information System that the Department of Administration conducted on behalf of the Department of Public Instruction. At its essence, the procurement process ensures that the best vendor offering the best services at the best price is selected, without any political influence on the process.

To begin with, we understand that people may be disappointed that a Wisconsin company was not the highest scorer in this instance, and many have asked why Wisconsin companies are not given preferential treatment. The answer lies in Wisconsin’s state law and fair trade law among the states.

The law states that if a Wisconsin company receives preferential treatment in Wisconsin’s procurement process, other states will give preferential treatment to their own in-state companies instead of considering Wisconsin vendors on an equal basis. Since many Wisconsin companies do business across the nation, Wisconsin’s scoring system does not favor them during the proposal process so they are not unfairly blocked from competing in other states.

Understanding that background, we can then look at the DPI Statewide Student Information System procurement. The law creating a Statewide Student Information System was adopted in 2011 Act 32 with a goal of creating a single statewide data warehouse for student information for more than 440 school districts and non-district public charter schools in Wisconsin.

At its core, this initiative was undertaken to reduce cost, improve efficiency, ensure equity across districts, improve data access and security, and extend Student Information Systems features beyond what many districts have today. The intention is to utilize technology to create a seamless system for information sharing between districts all around the state, which allows parents, school districts and state officials to make better informed decisions. While some school districts have portions of their own systems, they do not communicate with one another.

Following the passage of Act 32, DPI studied other states’ systems and conducted an extensive outreach process with end-user stakeholders to develop objective system requirements and selection criteria for the SSIS. These stakeholder groups included school nurses, school district IT professionals, special education teachers, regular education and advanced learning teachers, principals, superintendents and administrative support staff. Based upon the objectives and requirements provided by DPI for the SSIS, our agency administered and managed a competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) process that began in May 2012.

When any RFP is posted, there is an opportunity for any interested vendor to protest the evaluation criteria and methodology before the evaluation process begins. Our agency did not receive any protests about the evaluation criteria or methodology for the SSIS solicitation.

Under Wisconsin law, the procurement process is designed to prevent any political influence. Elected political officials, including the Governor and state legislators, are intentionally removed from the process to ensure undue influence cannot be exerted on the process. An evaluation team follows statutory guidance to ensure a fair, unbiased recommendation based upon merit.

The process also encourages input from experts and end-users. In this case, each of the vendor proposals underwent an exhaustive review process by a knowledgeable, experienced evaluation team to ensure the vendor selected met the needs of DPI, Wisconsin school districts, and was in the best interest of the taxpayers. The evaluation team was made up of education professionals representing a wide variety of Wisconsin school districts and one DPI civil servant who had experience with existing student information systems. Education professionals were able to provide input based on their individual school and district needs.

In addition to these steps, an independent third-party monitored the entire process and issued an extensive report. Key findings of the report include:

The RFP “was drafted to identify the best possible vendor for the job at the best possible price.”

“…the vendor with the highest total score was the clear winner. The Evaluation Team unanimously recommended that the SSIS contract be awarded to the highest scoring proposer. The vendor recommendation was fair to all vendors, and consistent with the RFP and applicable state law.”

In addition, the selection process included “an exhaustive qualitative review of the proposals submitted against pre-written benchmarks and an objective cost component. Finally, based upon my observations, the Evaluation Committee did not appear to be subject to any outside influence on the selection process.”

As a result of the procurement, transparent process, Infinite Campus, a company based in Minnesota, received the Notice of Intent to Award. Once the Notice of Intent letter has been issued, vendors have the opportunity to protest if they feel the contract award was not made in accordance with Wisconsin law. A protest for the SSIS procurement has been received by DPI, and the vendor will be provided a fair opportunity to have their concerns objectively reviewed.

Stephanie Marquis
Communications Director, Wisconsin Department of Administration

Editor’s note: According to media reports, Skyward student information systems are used by more than 50 percent of Wisconsin school districts, including the Platteville and Potosi school districts.