March 21, 2018 – West Bend, WI – Four candidates vying for two seats on the West Bend School Board participated in a candidate forum this week at West Bend City Hall.
The forum will be separated into two posts. Part 2 is below.
Kurt Rebholz – son of two public school teachers, went to UW-Stevens Point, worked at Amity Leather, lived her 24 years, has two kids, my kids got a wonderful education here, business owner of Bay Market Force, hired a lot of students, have passion for community, lets reverse trend of 400 kids leaving the district, let’s hire a superintendent.
Monte Schmiege – in last three years I’m the most senior member of current board, bachelors degree, worked at WB Company and Regal Ware, three adult children, volunteered at Good Shepherd Lutheran and with Habitat for Humanity, treasurer of board and policy chairman, I’m engaged with work on the board, most important aspect is teaching and learning, what’s being taught and how effectively, district has many great things going for it,
Mary Weigand – attended school board meetings for years, current member of CFAC and served on human growth and development committee, have a vast knowledge of curriculum, home schooled children, US Naval academy in 2005 they went away from celestial navigation to GPS and 10 years later went back to celestial navigation. We in WBSD have lost our course and I often hear education needs to change to fix the 21st century. Run for school board and say ‘talk about curriculum’ because that’s the meat and potatoes of education.
Chris Zwygart – chief legal officer at WB Mutual and there for 23 years, I help manage our board of directors and also board on St. Joseph’s Hospital and proud of that work. I’m running because we have a fantastic school system and they wanted to establish a public school foundation and we researched how that would be done and under management of several great boards raised several million dollars. What a gem we have in the community. It’s one of the few areas where if we do our job well, everybody wins. Better educated children means better educated workers. We have challenges with superintendent and facilities. I want to help and I have the skills to help.
District employees and taxpayers – how to choose between the two
MS – the budget is somewhat limited by the revenue limits so you have to work within that budget or you will have to bring up an operational referendum. We are working well within our budget. Between employees and taxpayers – we have to consider what’s needed for the employees. We have to be competitive and meet or exceed the market. What’s happened with Act 10 the old structures and now different districts have different formulas. We would need regular repeated studies to help fit within our revenue limit. We need to keep in mind the repairs needed and we don’t budget ourselves into the corner.
MW – we have budget drivers and the staffing portion is 70%. The budget drivers are a nice tool and the board evaluates them frequently. Decisions for anything else we should make data-driven decisions. At some point the board needs to lead and it’s a juggling act between valuing people’s input and using data for decision. There have been energy savings implemented and Johnson Controls helped implement many energy savings and that’s been a great asset.
CZ – as I’ve talked to taxpayers – why would angry taxpayers show up at a school board meeting? The perception we’re raising taxes and wasting money and the other is we have administrators leaving. That comes down to budget. We need to deal with them with transparency. I think teachers understand budgetary constraints. Don’t work in isolation as a school board
KR – I’m a fiscal conservative and a supporter of WBSD. Taxpayer – we’re a conservative community and want to hold taxes down. I have some good fiscal ideas. Dave Ross has done a good job but we can help with energy contracts. There are facility improvements with an energy performance contract. An $80 million budget need to put resources to attract and retain good teachers.
Changes in school curriculum
MW – Common core was adopted without board approval. The English language arts will be approved next winter. Looking at advanced 8th grade and I see it’s supposed to be with good literature with character building and teach values and vocabulary. This curriculum is 180 school days and has 40 days on sustainability of U.S. food supply. The love of learning is being sucked out of our students. We can’t teach everything – we need to choose the best curriculum. There’s so much good stuff out there.
CZ – it is absolutely true that school board oversee curriculum. I can’t imagine the state thought we’re going to take a group of part time people and appoint them the arbitrator. It would be absurd for teachers to obtain permission from the board. We should not turn curriculum into a political football. I’m passionate about this. We employ experts. We should oversee the process and that it’s working but leave the curriculum to the experts.
KR – I agree with Chris. We’re first to none in advanced curriculum. Curriculum can’t be a controversial topic. We’re a public school system and curriculum can’t be chosen on what books are good or bad. This drives teachers and students away. We need to have a cohesive school district.
MS – leaving curriculum to the experts – the experts are the liberal professors in the liberal universities in the non-government organizations that drive the choices of curriculum that are passed down to states and school districts. That is what some people object to what they finally find out – like the privilege test what’s going on. A teacher chose to use a test compatible to engage New York curriculum. When you leave the curriculum to the experts this is what you’re getting – I would agree with Mr. Zwygert that you can guide the selection of curriculum – but change happens fast .
How to stress accountability – who is accountable to the school board and how do you measure performance
CZ – accountability can be a scary concept. School board interacts with the superintendent and that’s where the accountability lies. IN private industry that can be shared responsibility. A board member has to work with the superintendent. The next choice is critical. The school board works with the superintendent.
KR – how we’re measure on accountability and performance. Can we reduce the trend of students leaving. That’s a measurable action to measure success. Board actions to help that. Board unity. I was part of superintendent search committee. It’s a serious decision to hire the next superintendent. Is the longest serving the way to have a school board in WB. I want to support unity and a positive direction. We need to compromise, be accountable to the superintendent and be judged on how we attract students.
MS – superintendent is the only employee of the school board. I’ve been working behind the scenes to collect sample evaluation instruments for the superintendent. We tried a superintendent evaluation last year and it was bumbling along. Before that – in my experience – we didn’t do much evaluating of the superintendent. We have to have strategic goals and the board needs to monitor performance. Thinking of a dashboard where the superintendent presents to the board with where the district stands on certain parameters. Mr. Neitzke had a bulletin board with facts and we need something that puts the data before the board.
MW – the board oversees the superintendent and the super oversees the admin. The school board is accountable to state law and the community – one thing we’ve seen is the lack of transparency. Recently every meeting hasn’t been taped – lately the admin and the board decided not to tape it. We’re accountable to the community. At the superintendent search and Dave in charge of HR and we talked about the pyramid and there is a protocol.
How does school board work to prepare HS student for college or technical training or workforce training
KR – our board needs to help students whether they choose college or trades path. That’s a passion of mine where I believe let’s promote more advance placement classes. Our community is concerned about trades education. Local companies have helped promote trades education. As a business owner I’d like to promote and bring more community resources in and enhance the curriculum.
MS- we want to have as wide a variety of options available. We have students getting college credits in HS, AP courses, CTE and well supported by the community. Different companies provide equipment. In seventh and 8th grade the students can get credits for H.S. There are a wide range of opportunities and we need to have a strong counseling program.
MW – change in recent years that students don’t need to go to college. Not everyone will do that and I like the change that’s happening with trades and technical school. We can do a better job informing kids that these are really good jobs. We can encourage students to get out of school in three years and I’d like to open that environment. That’s a really valid aspect.
CZ – take a look at school board’s mission statement. College readiness and career success. If they want to go directly into a career the student will be prepared under both scenarios. We have the scale to offer unique classes and we’re doing more with regard to trades. Anything we can do to bring more community resources in. We can train students to earn a fantastic wage in a trade and we need to encourage that. Use our size and scale to distinguish ourselves.
Social media – how do you improve the situation?
MS – Social media has somewhat subsided. Not sure how relevant that question is. We do have a communications person in the district who is working with a consultant to improve the communications aspect. We did a communications audit. Long process to get that going. We’re working on it. We need to have positive communications coming out of the district about the achievements and successes and we need to respond to complaints or objections that arise. We need to respond to that readily and a communications person would help in that area.
MW – not aware of anything with social media. Communication is the key. Talking to parents – from individual schools the communication is good. If parents are communicated with by the parents or teachers. The district office needs to work on that more from the top. Transparency. Everyone should have access and openness
CZ – do something to do what we can to avoid controversy. There will always be unusual controversy. We need to social media and use it as an advantage. Why are we seeing that. We need to promote and tell the truth. That’s simple. Tie into transparency and communication because if you don’t communicate there’s a different version of the truth. Transparency. Social media record stays out there a long time.
KR – positive and negative social media. Sometimes it’s self inflicted. We haven’t had an effective leader for multiple years. The teacher hasn’t felt they’ve had a good leader. School curriculum and challenging teachers and that brings negative social media. Once we have a great superintendent in place let’s put a great communication in place. Let’s talk to everyone and tell us how great a district we have.
Why are candidates running in tandem?
MW – when I took out my papers I didn’t know who else was running. I didn’t know the other two at all. Until tonight I didn’t know their views. I would be happy to serve with Monte as we have the same goals and concerns. It’s interesting how that happens.
CZ – when I started I wasn’t sure who would throw their hat in the ring. With regard to the signage – yes, there’s more clustering with Mr. Rebholz. Perhaps it’s intentional. Talked about school as a business and issues like budgets and contracts and there are business concepts to manage district affairs. In addition we’ve heard differing viewpoints. Differences on curriculum and managing teachers. We want to leave curriculum to the experts – that is one of the contributors to why the signs are clustered.
KR – I endorse Chris Zwygert for school board. I knew of Chris by name and he’s of impeccable character. Monte and Mary are great family people and community members. Our sons played together with Mary’s kids. You and Dave have a great family. When I met Monte I really didn’t know you. When you said curriculum was your first choice and policy was your second. I had to work with Chris.
MS – there are curriculum concerns and I’m happy to work with Mary. I think some of our supporters have brought us together. I have utmost respect for all the candidates and what they might bring to the table but clearly there is a difference. Curriculum, for many years, has been left to the ivory tower. I have the utmost respect for our teachers and I attempted to do that with the science and I was not permitted to have a separate work session for discussion.
What is role of School District in regard to vitality of district and how will you accomplish
CZ – economic growth and vitality – this education thing, everybody wins when we do it well. If we can have students well prepared for the workforce, that will help. It means people with a better education can earn a higher wage. We want to attract people to move to the community. Keep property values high and make sure people are ready to work. It raises the standard of living for everyone
KR – 21st largest school district in the state. We’re a large entity. Retired teachers have encouraged me to run and promote unity.
MS – first responsibility is education of children. College and career ready. Students who go on to college hopefully they will return. Have to have an attractive education and we need employee satisfaction so that keeps the good teachers in the district. There is a strong connection with Moraine Park and UW-WC. If we have a good solid education program then good things happen. WBSD moved up in state report card and now ‘exceed expectations.’
MW – mission of district is to educate kids. We want them to be respectful and have a good work ethic and collaborate with community and schools. We need to let district know we respect parents and parental rights. There are a lot of choices – some home school, online learning, parochial – if we want them to come here we need to make it a destination with solid curriculum that parents can trust and let parents know they’re respected.
When people ask if West Bend is a great school district, what do you say?
KR – I will shout it from the rooftops. More passionate than ever to fix our communication issue. This is a great school district. Let’s reduce the controversy
MS – is WB a good district, Yes. In spite of what people say our teachers are staying more than average and more experienced and more degrees than state average. We have strong programs at the high schools of wide range and career possibilities. Whole range of activities and these are attractive to draw people to the district. Our community is top notch with safety.
MW – being a student from 4th grade on up with the ski team and band and when our kids were school age and our daughter was home schooled the district was wonderful in working with us. She took AP science and they have a great relationship with the community. Our son participated in sports and other son participated in automotive and our daughter is a professional violinist and if someone said – it’s not perfect but if I get on the board I will help make it better.
CZ – this is a district of a larger scale which gives us opportunities. We have quality teachers who care and they sacrifice their own time and go above and beyond. I want to add that we have a school board that’s supportive of the district with a top notch superintendent.
Monte Schmiege – served on board for 3 years. Attended three Wisconsin Association of School Board conferences to increase my knowledge in this area. I spend a lot on school board weekends to review and analyze the packet. I’ve worked hard to get a grasp on board policies. We need solid policies. I’ve delved into school board policies. District has some conservative practices and we would like to continue that. WB could use some longevity on the board.
Mary Weigand – I’m a nurse and I could look at some issues as a nurse in triage. Right now the bleed is the superintendent. We need a good super, and hire some good admin, stabilize the district and communicate with the community. I have a lot of questions I would like to propose to a superintendent candidate. I am a hard worker with community values and I want to restore community values. Board has a responsibility – board doesn’t teach curriculum they approve the curriculum. I want my community better and I desire to hear from more people in the community. Strong solid conservative.
Chris Zwygart – everyone intends the best but we have different approaches. I want to say why I can help – I am an attorney and my job will be to keep the board out of trouble and focused. School finances are difficult and I’m a CPA so if there are issues we can resolve them. I’ve recruited top level execs. With issues like finance and budget and regulation I have the skills needed. With curriculum, there’s talk about this set up by liberal professors – we employ people to review curriculum. This should not be a political football.
Kurt Rebholz – we’re four conservatives sitting and running for school board. Serious issues include hiring a superintendent and saving the community taxpayer dollars and look at the $80 million budget and let’s retain and attract teachers. Let’s not push a curriculum agenda – with school board members with that view we may lose more good teachers. My dad talked to me about good grades – and he praised an A effort. I will give an A.