West Bend School Board candidate forum hosted by Common Sense Citizens of Washington County

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West Bend School Board candidate forum was hosted Wednesday night by Common Sense Citizens of Washington County. The event was held at the West Bend Moose Lodge and about 18 people were in attendance.

Chris Jenkins, president of CSC was the moderator and provided the introduction:
We are a Grass Roots Group of a “Regular Joe”, Common Sense, Taxpaying United States citizens that have decided to find the time to make an impact on the futures of our towns, cities, counties, states and country.

Pledge of Allegiance.

Introduction of School Board Candidates minus Tiffany Larson, who couldn’t be here.

KEN SCHMIDT (KS): 2 degrees from public universities. Want to focus on positive aspects of district and relationship with business community.
JENNIFER DONATH (JS): Instructor at UWO. 8 yr old son at McLane. Involved. Importance of good education and opportunities to succeed.
RANDY MARQUARDT (RM): 6 yr incumbent. Listed accomplishments; remodel of Badger/Silverbrook, advocated at State level for district, charter schools, health clinic for district employees, saving for Jackson Elementary, led board through contentious debates. Wants to continue moving district forward.

1) What skills would you look for in next superintendent?
JD: classroom experience, understanding of trials in district and the issues of communication problems
RM: manage large organization and budget, involvement in community
KS: good communicator and manager, engages community, strong background in curriculum

2) Address disconnect between school board and faculty, find balance:
RM: mostly supervisory role for board, faculty has right to be heard, but that doesn’t translate into right to have opinions adhered to without question
KS: continue transparency, be open to comments as board meetings are now, be available to community, and have leadership groups. Engagement surveys, should be give and take
JD: Want to make sure community understands rules. ie, teachers report to super, for liaison group, teachers choose representatives, not superintendent. Understand open records requests and make sure concerns are answered in a timely manner.

3) How important are extracurriculars; how to balance the wants and needs with fiscal responsibilities?
KS: It’s pretty balanced now. Advocate for more input from community regarding arts and athletics
JD: Love that many families donate at high school level, would like to seem more at elementary level.
RM: Academics first. Need to make sure we’re still a destination district, and make sure kids in lower income levels can participate

4) Scott Walker’s Act 10.
JD: one million people signed petition to have him recalled, he wasn’t. Let’s move on
RM: re-balanced scales, listed date on improvements financially for schools
KS: both he and wife were in favor of Act 10. Needed for the taxpayers. Provides balance. Teacher average salary $61k, not bad.

5) Though CSC is conservative leaning group, this race is non partisan. How to balance convictions with duty.
RM: I am member here and WC Republican Party, but keeping students in mind is most important along with making fiscally responsible decisions
KS: conservative doesn’t mean close minded. Remember that I’m elected by everyone and needs of students come first.
JD: Students first. Must compromise. Make sure we have social workers, hot lunches for kids that need it, listening to different perspectives

6) How would you prefer referendums be handled?
KS: At general elections to get most of community involved in the vote
RM: Prevent same issues coming around and around. Get to root of issue and make sure a sound plan is in place before decision. Unlike local radio personalities, we understand that we can’t buy everything we want in cash…loans are needed, just as a mortgage is on a house.
JD: Referendums when needed…to assure local control of spending

7) Common Core, go!
JD: Basically, teachers stressed too. Too many tests. Galileo needs to be looked at. Would like to get away from so many tests.
RM: Common core means something different to everyone. We need standards. But who has right to set these standards? Understands that all states would like students to know the same things from state to state.
KS: Anti-common core. Too rigorous in some areas, too weeks in others. But, it’s here. We need to work with it. Funding is tied to these standards.

8) How to share resources between county, state, city and schools.
RM: resources are shared by community. What are job attitudes going forward?
KS: Would like to see services merged…county/city social depts. with school. Recognizes needs for social help.
JD: Reduce redundancies. Use students to do community projects. Would like to see more partnerships with UWWC and MPTC

9) Too much standardized testing?
KS: District to work on reducing number of tests
JD: Some teachers complain that the technology isn’t’ working all the time. Create more efficient ways to test. Less time wasted.
RM: Galileo replaced other system for instance. Predictive qualities. Serves purpose.

10) Drug/mental health issues. What is school’s responsibility?
JD: More social workers in schools, more police, more parent awareness programs
RM: striking a balance, not role of public schools to be social workers. Board tries to strike the balance between helping families and working with county servicers and forming more partnerships.
KS: Parent nights, present info to them. Use outside agencies. This is coming from me, a mental health professional

11) Are we doing well with career readiness as well as pushing the 4 yr liberal arts degrees?
RM: Changing mindset hard. Kids wanting to be blue collar workers not popular, but needed in the workforce. School district preparing kids for many opportunities
KS: Many kids I know make less with their degrees than their counterparts who have a learned skill. Technical school important as well as college
JD: Career readiness and job fairs. Some kids can’t afford college. Being an educator, biased towards 4 yr degrees, kids learn a lot of skills in college; don’t downplay importance of this education.

12) How do you measure success of 4K?
KS: number of children being enrolled
JD: the fact that it even exists is a success.
RM: not maligning parents who put kids in 4k, but it exists because it’s a money maker. If 40% of kids aren’t ready for Kindergarten, then 40% won’t be ready for 3k. We can’t control the kid’s lives from 0-5.

13) Is the tax base adequate right now?
RM: Yes, enough and sufficient.
KS: The levy provides adequately.
JD: Yes, but funds need to be reallocated from admin to teachers and things that directly affect the children.
Final statements:

JD: Being an educator, different way of looking at things that my opponents. Improve communication. Fix how things are financed…less admin, more resources in schools. Build Jackson Elementary sooner than later because it has problems.
RM: School districts are data-driven organizations. Important to keep different personalities from creating strife. Keep focus on the kids and continue moving forward with improvements we’ve made.
KS: Heart is in school district, has best interests in mind. Champion accountability. Remember that parents are primary educators and teachers are supporters. Connection with school and business community important. Supports and will encourage more private funding of major projects in schools.

Closing and reminder to vote APRIL 5.

A special thanks to Paula Becker for filing this report.

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