The Nation's flag

Waunakee schools will now fly the Ho-Chunk Nation flag throughout the month of November, following a recent decision by the district’s board of education to recognize American Indian Heritage Month at all of its buildings. Other institutions have done the same.

Waunakee school officials have announced that the Ho-Chunk Nation (HCN) flag will be flown at district buildings throughout November, in recognition of American Indian Heritage Month.

The motion was introduced last week by director Dave Boetcher, who said he had raised enough funds this month to purchase seven HCN flags – one for each of the district’s K-12 schools and its administrative-office building. He asked that the flags be flown at those sites throughout the month of November moving forward.

“American Indian Heritage Month is officially November,” Boetcher told board members at their Nov. 8 meeting. “So in recognition of American Indian Heritage Month, of the land that our schools and district are cited on, of the commitment of the State of Wisconsin to American Indian History teaching in our schools, and of the contributions of our American Indian students and staff, the Ho-Chunk Nation flag will be flown at all Waunakee Community School District buildings for the month of November each year. That’s the motion.”

Boetcher’s appeal for funds to purchase the flags was met with overwhelming support from members of Waunakee Can We Talk, a community Facebook page with more than 5000 followers, but received mixed feedback from elected school officials when it was presented for consideration at their November meeting.

Director Ted Frey said he had nothing against the HCN flag itself. However, a line would need to be drawn at some point as to which flags should be permitted to fly on district property.

“At some point, there’s going to be a flag that wants to be flown that you don’t agree with. And how do we make the determination of what justifies using this one or what justifies that one?” Frey said. “That’s part of my hang-up on flying a different flag, or an identifying flag. We have a country; we have a state (flag). And now it’s just other issues on that same flag pole.”

Treasurer Jack Heinemann agreed, arguing that a policy should be set regarding the flying of flags.

“We’ve got all of these things out there,” Heinemann said, “and all of them are good causes. But when and where do we draw the line, without having a policy in place to do some of this stuff?”

Members noted that the board had previously discussed the idea of writing a policy on the topic, and that the matter had actually been referred to its policy committee for further consideration.

Frey has served as chair of the policy committee since May.

“That was my understanding,” vice president Mark Hetzel said. “We discussed it here and we referred it at a meeting – it was some time ago – to policy (committee), to come up with a plan for that. It wasn’t voted on, but it was agreed by the board as a whole.”

Hetzel said until a change in policy occurred, it’s appropriate for school-board members to vote on individual proposals to fly a given flag at district buildings.

The board ultimately approved the motion to fly Ho-Chunk’s flag by a 5-2 vote, with Frey and Heinemann casting the dissenting votes. Waunakee superintendent Randy Guttenberg said discussion of a policy regarding flags flown on district property will be added to an upcoming policy-committee agenda. The committee’s next meeting has been set for Dec. 6, at 4 p.m.

Also at the Nov. 8 meeting, members:

- Approved a mask-optional policy for students in grade 7-12, which will go into effect once the county’s mask mandate expires on Nov. 27.

- Discussed the upcoming April election. Three board-member terms will expire this spring and are up for election on April 5, 2022. Candidacy papers must be submitted by the first week of January.

- Passed a motion to return to its original policy regard public comment at meetings. The public-comment period will once again be limited to 30 minutes, and unless designated, comments must pertain to topics on the meeting agenda.

- Rejected a proposal to join the Wisconsin Public Education Network (WPEN), by a 6-1 vote. Boetcher had proposed joining WPEN this fall and cast the dissenting vote.

- Unanimously approved an administrative recommendation to release students early on Friday, Nov. 19, so that they can attend the WIAA state football tournament championship game. Waunakee will face off against Homestead for the Division II state title.

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