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 1 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.
Address challenges of declining enrollment
MS – the district could improve the education because that can attract parents and families. Maintain a solid financial footing in the district and don’t want to blow up our budget. In the near future we need to look at facilities and make it possible for growth where needed and attract families.
MW – the district motto is we are a destination. If that’s so – we need to set ourselves apart – the choice to use common core standards is a mistake. Parents in Slinger, Mequon and WB say they can’t understand the new math. If we want to be a destination we could work to stabilize curriculum and local communities can set their own standards. That could set us apart. The white privilege test did not help this district.
CZ – need to take a look at demographics and how many children we expect in the future. Partner with city and council and what can we do to attract new citizens to the area. How do we differentiate ourselves – I spoke with a 9th grader about journalism and I noted these were not classes offered to me. It’s amazing the different opportunities we have. We have scale on our side to offer attractive classes. We need to work on our reputation. It’s undeserved but true – we need to make sure as a school board that we don’t micromanage. That creates distrust. Let’s look why they are school choicing out.
KR – Student school choicing out to Slinger and Kewaskum. What are they doing better than we are? Let’s work to draw more families to the community. We need to promote school district and hire a good superintendent. We have an outstanding curriculum and promote trades education. This used to be a manufacturing town. We need a trades renaissance. Controversy drives teachers away. Curriculum changes – that’s controversy, that’s makes student leave. Let’s promote the good school system, and community we are.
Is a board member a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system and why
MW – hard to differentiate between the two. I have friends and neighbors and colleagues that send kids to schools here. As a SB member my job is to advocate for the school district. I’m a hard worker and love to research. I talked to a 3rd grader – her words were, “I get to learn cursive.” She said, “Her teacher got them all cursive handwriting books and none of the others are learning cursive.” I thought how great that was. I would push for more kids to learn cursive. I don’t know I can separate between community and school system.
CZ – school system is asset of the community. Answer is both. One of toughest jobs is the community isn’t always aligned in their views. It’s important to listen and set personal bias aside. We need to focus on what we do best – we act as listeners and advocates in the community. Important to navigate and that 100% won’t be aligned
KR – first is to be a rep of school system. So many businesses that want to support and we can expand and save tax dollars with public/private partnerships. We need to get behind the students and learning even if they aren’t going to college.
MS – a school board member is a rep of the community. You’re elected to work and guide the entire school district. Work with the superintendent to set the vision and establish goals. Working with the superintendent and you have to balance between the community and the school district. You need to collaborate and represent all parties. Parents, families and children are foremost.
How to attract and retain teachers and future leaders
CZ – critical issue. We need to attract, recruit and retain quality staff. Our reputation is not great and it’s unfortunate because we live in an era of social media but ironically so many of those opinions are captured on the permanent internet. When trying to attract a new superintendent or teacher they will surf the net. I don’t know they’ll like what they see. Compensation is important and we need a model to attract and recruit and retain good workers.
KR – we have great teachers in the school system. We need to stop them from leaving. Some great teachers and admin left for Slinger. We made a bad superintendent hire and we don’t have three of top admin and that creates uncertainty. We need a good superintendent that knows the students. Superintendent needs to be active in the community. If we have a great leader we stop the flow out and create atmosphere of teamwork
MS – in 2016 statistics from DPI our teacher force at WB is a bit more experienced and more degrees than average for the state. We have rather low turnover compared to other areas of the state and we also had a study that our compensation is in the top range relative to other districts. Some of those things need to be looked at again. Competitive compensation. We also have to establish good culture within our schools and teacher engagement. We need to have a superintendent who can work from the top down. Bring in good administrators and build a good system. The community is attractive and have manufacturing, businesses and stores.
MW – if I were a teacher it would be important to me to have clear expectation with benefits, salary, and classroom conduct. Having clear expectations helps. In our budget drivers is a provision that teachers and staff meet – it will meet what the others pay and we are in the top 5% in teacher salary. The superintendent we hire – it’s a juggling act and we need a solid leader and clearly spell it out.
What school district should WB most resemble?
KR – Slinger is run well top to bottom. They’re smart and recruited some of our admin and teachers. There’s things we could do to emulate others. Tax benefit wise – 30 – 40% of school districts take advantage of energy performance contracts. These cost-saving measures for energy improvements. We need to emulate what other districts are doing.
MS – I compare WB with Neenah, Wisconsin. We’re fairly comparable. Need to consider factors. Size we’re comparable to Neenah. When I look at budget – there are similarities. To some extent comparing us to a district like Slinger or Kewaskum it’s like comparing apples and oranges. When you look at HS we have great CTE program and AP classes. We are offering many good things with arts and music and athletic programs.
MW – my brother in law is the finance admin in Wisconsin Rapids. I think we have a better school district here. At cost per student in Slinger they spend less per student than WB and I think there is a perception that Slinger School District is more conservative than WB.
CZ – we’re a unique community. This has to work for our own community. We can look at other district for better ideas. Other reason this is important to identify. We want the best and brightest ideas to fit here.
Click HERE for Part 2 of the candidate forum.