Mystery place: Dec. 7, 2008

Work with farm women honored

Rep. Ryan talks about the economy

Lake Geneva native named pastor

Downtown Whitewater chooses new board members

Delavan manufacturer closing

Better e-mail address for Dan Plutchak

Swope conviction upheld

Lake Geneva home prices drop

Delavan woman pleads not guilty to embezzlement

Oct. 2008 stories

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Friday, October 20, 2006

The Week honored with five NNA awards

Mike Heine, who covers Walworth County courts and government for The Week, and our sister daily, the Janesville Gazette, has been honored with a first place award in the National Newspaper Association's Better Newspaper Contest.

The awards were announced last weekend at the trade group’s annual convention in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Contributing writer Susan Lanham also won a first-place award for a humor column.

The two first-place awards were among five awards The Week received for work published in 2005.

The other awards are:

-- Second place-best special section, for the 2005 Lakeland Builders Association Parade of Homes section.

-- Second place-best use of photographs

-- Honorable mention-best use of color

Heine's story (he also did the photography, by the way) was on the annual C.O.P.S. camp for kids. (Read it here) The organization helps survivors of law enforcement personnel killed in action.

Heine's regular beat in the Walworth County Courthouse regularly brings him in contact with those accused of crime.

Often in the newspaper business, victims tend to fall into the shadows. But Heine's sensitive portrayal of what these kids are going through adds a perspective that we normally wouldn’t get, but certainly need to understand.

This is Heine's second award for work published in 2005. He also won a third-place award from the Association for Free Community Newspapers for original news writing. The award was for a story on the emotional day of testimony at the sentencing of Carol LaPorte, who had been convicted of stabbing her husband to death.

Coincidentally, LaPorte's conviction was overturned recently, and last week a judge scheduled a new trial.

(Read) Lanham's hilarious account of her family trying to warm up to a niece's fiance is the writer's third award for humor, all of them first place.

The editions that the judges examined in the photography category included a photo essay on the Wisconsin School for the Deaf’s valedictorian by Terry Mayer, a photo essay by contributor Doug Stewart on a local man’s cow hoof trimming business and coverage by freelance photographer William Glasheen of the UW-Whitewater baseball team’s College World Series win.

In the color category, the issues submitted to the judges included color ads for Pesche’s Greenhouse, Reed’s Furniture and Shorewest Realtors.

~Dan Plutchak, editor

Post continued HERE

Friday, October 13, 2006

Parents and students hold the keys to school safety

If we had lulled ourselves into thinking a school tragedy couldn't happen here, because of our small, close-knit communities, the deadly school shootings of two weeks ago should be a wake up call.

Consider this: Platte Canyon High School in Colorado, where a gunman shot and killed one student before killing himself has a student population of about 450. That's half the size of Delavan-Darien High School.

Weston High School, where principal John Klang was shot and killed while trying to wrestle a gun away from a student has a student population of around 140. That's smaller than Williams Bay High School.

And if we thought smaller schools were safer, the shootings of five young girls in a Pennsylvania Amish one-room schoolhouse proves that idea to be a myth.

As writers Donna Lenz Wright and Chris Schultz found out when reporting this week's cover story, schools are reviewing their safety policies and procedures.

Keep in mind however, that safety isn't something that schools began thinking about two weeks ago.

For years, police liaison officers have been a part of the larger districts.

Photographer Terry Mayer tagged along with officer Michele Martin of the Whitewater School District last week. Mayer found that even though school shootings are in the news, liaison officers remain responsible for dealing with a wide range of safety and security issues.

However, officers can't be everywhere all the time.

Sometimes it is a simple action that makes the difference.

Here are two things those of us with school-aged kids should do:

First, we need to participate in our school's security procedures.

How many times have you gone into your child's school and not bothered to check in at the office?

I know I'm guilty.

Heck, most of the staff knows me by now (although my sons don't go to school in Walworth County, I suspect this happens everywhere.)

It seems an inconvenience to stop at the office and sign in if I'm only going to be there for a few minutes.

But that lax attitude promotes a false sense of security.

As more parents are in schools without proper ID, it becomes increasingly difficult for teachers and staff members to identify who should not be there.

Before we know it, nobody is keeping track of who is in our schools. In fact, that remains a focus of the Colorado investigation; how was the gunman able to freely make his way through that high school.

Second, engage your kids in talking about what's going on in their school.

We don't have to expect our kids to be a hero, like Matt Atkinson, the student who told school officials what he had heard about a deadly plot at Green Bay East High School.

But we can let them know that it's O.K. to talk about what they've heard at school.

Granted, that's easier said than done.

I know our kids clam up because they fear that if they talk to us, we'll go shouting it around they school and everyone will know they said something.

Kids need to be reassured that they can tell their parents of concerns and their parents will respect their privacy while at the same time making sure that dangerous situations are addressed.

We also need to let our kids know that even if something they hear sounds like a harmless prank, adults are capable of making reasonable judgments and not, "flipping out over nothing," as my son would say.

The sad truth for risk-averse Americans is that some things are just not preventable.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't do what we can to avoid tragedy. Sometimes it's the simple things that mean the most.

~Dan Plutchak, editor

Post continued HERE

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Widow's bill settled, but bad taste remains

We learned this week that Marion Barker has settled her bill with the county. That's the bill for her husband's last month of care at the Lakeland Health Care Center that took six years to arrive.

If you've been following the story, you'll remember that Barker's husband died in July of 2000 after accidentally falling at Lakeland Health Care Center.

Brent Barker tripped over another patient in a hallway, hit a box fan and other things during the fall and died from the injuries, according to a friend who says he witnessed the incident.

At the time, Marion Barker was encouraged to sue, but declined. Then, in July of this year-some six years after Brent Barker died-Marion Barker received a $5,000 bill for his last month of care.

As Mike Heine reports in a story this week ('It was ruining her life'), Barker has agreed to pay $2,000 to settle the bill and move on with her life.

But Barker, along with her daughter, Laurie Engl, weren't the only ones upset by how the whole situation played out.

Several readers called when the story first broke to express their astonishment with the situation, and I agree with them.

Honestly, it's not too hard to take a stand against how this case was handled. It's like taking a stand against drunken driving.

What surprised me was that the Lakeland Board of Trustees, who would have the authority to toss out the bill, didn't step in on this one.

Were they worried about setting a precedent?

I'm not convinced that would be much of a problem. In fact, the county could set a policy to handle just such a case. If someone accidentally falls and dies at the Lakeland Health Care Facility and the spouse declines to sue, and the county overlooks sending a bill for six years, the payment is forgiven.

The reason for the six-year delay? The bill stood untouched for years because the corporation council's office, which handles overdue bills, was overworked and understaffed, they told Heine.

To be fair, county departments are stretched ever thinner as taxpayers demand increasing fiscal restraint. But at some point you have to throw in the towel and move on. This should have been one of those cases.

Lost in the legal wrangling over the bill is Marion Barker's decision not to sue at the time of her husband's death.

She apparently believes that some things are simply just accidents.

People who think like her are rare indeed.

In our lawsuit-happy society, it seems we need to place blame somewhere. After that, we make them pay. The idea that some things are just terrible accidents seems to be a concept that has long been forgotten.

In my book, that alone is reason enough to tear up the bill.

~Dan Plutchak, editor, The Week

Post continued HERE

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