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West Bend School Board candidate forum. Bullet points on various issues including funding formulas and how to get people to work together.


March 21, 2017 – West Bend, WI – West Bend School Board candidate forum at West Bend City Hall. Candidates include Richard Cammack, Ryan Gieryn, Nancy Justman, Bob Miller, Joel Ongert and Tonnie Schmidt.

On April 4 voters in the West Bend School District will vote for up to 3 candidates to fill 3 open seats on the West Bend School Board. There are six candidates running for three open seats in the Spring Election.

The forum is coordinated by the West Bend Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Chamber Executive Director Craig Farrell.

Unbiased forum with the intention to give candidates a chance to ask questions of general voter interest.

Richard Cammack – decided to run to help teachers and students get more excited about education. Excited about the complexity of the issues

Ryan Gieryn – grew up and went to school in West Bend. Two children in the West Bend School District. Ran two years ago when he went to WB schools and want future generations to get great education in WBSD.

Nancy Justman – three children in the WBSD. Having been involved in district there is a golden opportunity and the time is now to look at situation and issues and bring everyone together to enhance education

Bob Miller – three children in the WBSD. Keep common sense and being respectful to taxpayers and that the School Board represent everyone.

Joel Ongert – I care about our kids. This was one of the best school districts in SE Wisconsin. Unfortunately we’ve lost that excellence but we can get it back. Get rid of standardized tests and attract and retain quality teachers and that excellence for all is the children we owe it to.

Tonnie Schmidt – West Bend was the place to raise a family and have kids. We have I’m motivated to run for school board because I don’t want to wait for federal or state programs to make change.


New funding formulas for best advantage of WB schools

RG – it takes a good two years to figure out how the funding works. What the Gov. is proposing can allow WB to have more money per pupil. Be able to apply

NJ – Hope Gov. changes can help the district. Get social workers back in the district, enhanced library and aids back in the classroom. Reassess and reallocate dollars and put students first.

BM – Hope Gov. proposal comes through. Want to make sure we’re fiscally responsible

JG – Works at Caterpillar and run up against some hard times financially. Where I can help with a budget- even though we’ve lost money at Caterpillar we can still provide results. Deliver a quality product. We live within our budget.

TS – We ask families in our district to live within their means and I’m hoping we can get money from the state it’s important to focus on what we can control. Work with what we have. There’s a string attached to the money for the state formula funding and it’s tied to what teachers and admin pay in health care. Pay teachers more.

RC – I’m fiscally responsible in my real life and that shows I can handle money. In terms of financing monies from Madison – Superintendent Olson said we’d look at financials in the fall and before fall I can tell you where money is going. Local community participates in local businesses and draw more business into the area.


What school district should WB most resemble?

NJ – No sure of what district. In order to have happy, productive successful students we need to portray that to our staff and families. We need more open communication. Want students to be proud to say they’re from WBSD. We need to own that we’re WB.

BM – Want to see board represent WB. See us grow the district the way it is to be

JG  – WB is a great school district – we have to take it back to level of true excellence. Where our teachers want to be here. I want the choice to be simple – parents send their kids to WB.

TS – WB is our home for 18 years. Bring WB back to what it has the potential to be. But we think it can do better. I’ve been studying the Slinger School District. We need to look to other districts on why we’re losing students to those districts.

RC – I’m concentrating on this district and there’s so much we can do. My passion is the changing role of education. It’s necessary to look at the overall affects of change in this country.

RG – Our schools have to work with the families that live in the community. Provide a safe place and the best educators and help make WB a good school district


Are you a representative of the community or the school system?

BM – I represent the community. The best education for our children.

JO – Need to represent both. I’d like to create community forums in non-intimidating settings. The district employs a lot of people and we need to be the voice of teachers, support staff, students and parents. Our teachers need to have their voices heard.

TS – If I’m a School Board member I would focus on representing the community. We need to educate our students. I like to talk to people in the community and hear differing opinions and if there’s a problem I want to help be the one to fix it.

RC – I would represent the kids

RG– Both. I’m representing the community and the district and being a good representative of the district.

NJ – The school district is the backbone of this community. If we have a strong school district it equals a strong community. I’d represent all aspects at all times.


What ideas to get teachers and administrators to work together

JO – My parents both public school teachers. Need strong leaders at principal level. Principal needs to listen to and empower their staff. Teachers need to be empowered.

TS – The teachers should know what the administrators do in the school district. There are trust issues and there should be an all-company meeting for teachers and admin. The admin should take a turn talking about how they serve the teachers.

RC – The discord in our country between liberal and conservatives – see some sort of meetings and discuss why. If we talk to each other the teachers, community and school can better come together and eliminate the strife between ideologies. Schedule meetings with principals and administration and talk more about what’s happening locally.

RG – It’s an ideology problem. All parties at the table need to be willing to listen, put egos aside and be willing to compromise. We’re here for the betterment of education.

NJ – We have fences to mend. An all-staff meeting with administration and school board. It all comes down to listening. The school board should hear the issues. Golden opportunity with new leadership. We need to move forward with open dialogue.

BM – Ideology is big issue. Need to create a team atmosphere. All administration and school board should get into some listening sessions.


Difference of opinion between employees and taxpayers – how do you choose.

TS – Being fiscally responsible serves both taxpayers and teachers. WBSD does pay teachers competitively.

RC – Balance is important. Need a common level of satisfaction. Balance income and expense.

RG – WBSD does pay teachers fairly well. But it’s not all about money – it’s being happy where they are. If we continue to be fiscally conservative, pay our teachers well and provide them being happier in the workplace.

NJ – Communication is critical. We have a set school budget we have to live within. Accommodate needs of students first and then teachers and taxpayers.

BM – Work between taxpayer and district employee – make the best decision for our children. Pride in education is the ultimate goal.

JO – Collaborative effort between district and community. As a board we can be as transparent as possible on where our dollars are being spent. Detailed budget and where ever single dollar being spent.  On the district side we need to listen and be transparent.


School Board candidates stress being fiscally responsible, are we over spending on schools now?

RC – We’re not spending enough on schools. We should have priorities. Right now this country is mixed up in its priorities.

RG – Can we levy less than the allowable? Yes, but you’re going to be looking at cuts to staffing, programs and for me that’s not possible.

NJ – Yes possible but to be overly financial responsible – I’m a taxpayer and I don’t like to cut my check I know it’s for the betterment of the community and the student.

BM – It is possible but I don’t want to see our children hurt in the process. I want to see quality education. We want to be the destination district.

JO – Supporter of fully-funded public schools. We’d be looking at cuts. I don’t know that our district has underlevied in a long time. We can be fiscially responsible, living within our means, getting support from local businesses and asking families to pay small fees

TS – I support maximizing the levy. The way state formulas work WB gets less money from the state. I would not support an operational referendum or a referendum that gives a permission to exceed the maximum.


School Board needs to stress accountability. Who should be individually accountable to School Board and how do you measure performance?

RG – School Board should find a superintendent to run the district and that person is accountable to the School Board. Everyone under the super is accountable to their supervisor.

NJ – Superintendent. It’s very important to work with the superintendent and important that person provides excellent leadership. School Board can help enhance super to make best decisions.

BM – Superintendent. As a board we need to make clear set goals.

JO – The Super is responsible to the board and the board has to set clear, concise plans. Also need a long-term strategic plan and the board has to sit down with the superintendent to review progress. School Board needs to make sure the super holds the rest accountable

TS – Superintendent is responsible for operation of school district. I’m pleased we have a new superintendent. It’s important for school board to know where the money is being spent. Super needs to stay on a budget. We should talk to parents and make sure they’re happy and talk to teachers to see that admin is serving them.

RC – Superintendent is a wonderful man. Super needs to be accountable to the board. If you have six people driving a bus and one person in the back – I would prefer the superintendent drive the bus. The board should supplement the superintendent.


School Board perspective on preparing H.S. for college, technical or workforce training

NJ – We should provide multiple opportunities to our students. Students can take AP courses, apprenticeships. Not all students are designed for four year college. With partnerships we can expand that.

BM – Watching students explore different career paths and make sure the students get basic requirements.

JO – We’re teaching our kids life skills. Talking to students early enough to see what best fits their needs/personality. Challenge is to stay on top of what’s happening around us. Is there a new industry we don’t know about?

TS – Our teachers are preparing students for an uncertain world. The vocational skills programs are wonderful. Some kids don’t want or can’t afford college. District is doing a good job of developing the skills. We still have room to grow. Likes the on-the-job training.

RC – Create a committee that links the university, the technical school and the district together. If you’re getting college credits you can also get technical school credits.

RG – Amazed by what H.S. has to offer. We have more AP classes for college-bound students. One student attended UW- Madison and he entered as a sophomore. Students receiving CTE training. Students can attend classes at UW-WC and MPTC. One area we could work harder with is our students need soft skills. To interview properly, be somewhere on time.


Various groups use social media to create negative views of the district. How do you work to improve the situation?

BM – Show transparency in the school district. We need to publicize more

JO – We’ve got people within the district who want their voices heard and when they’re not heard they’re taking to social media. Host stakeholder forums. Need to talk about positive things. Have community get behind our kids, teachers and district.

TS – Social media won’t go away. Reason why people speak out is because people feel like they’re not being heard. If we listen and give more opportunities to feel validated, that should help. Always important to at least listen. We also need more transparency. Don’t hide what we’re paying for things. We need to celebrate our successes.

RC – You’ll have negative groups with everything. I haven’t experienced this.

RG – The district needs to do a better job of accentuating the positive in the classroom and do a better job in being clear and concise. You’re not going to make everybody happy. Just be honest. There will always be people who complain.


Core beliefs: Are you in favor of common core – Yes or No.

J.Ongert – Yes T.Schmidt – No R.Cammack – No  R.Gieryn – Yes  B.Miller – No


Are you in favor of retaining Galileo Testing – Yes or No.

T.Schmidt – No R.Cammack – prefers not to answer  R.Gieryn – No B.Miller – Maybe

J.Ongert – No


Closing remarks

RC – Impressed with the people sitting up here. Met such great people. Meeting principals and going around the school.

RG – Great group of candidates. I’ve never been a politician. I’m going to ask that people get out and vote on April 4. Have your voice heard.

BM – Get out and vote. Make sure you’re a well-educated voter. Our children deserve the best. I want to earn your vote. I’m in this for the kids. Excellence with pride – that should be our district.

JO – WB is a great place to live. The school board hired a great superintendent and he’s almost done with first academic year and it’s time for him to act. We need to get back to being a great school district. Make sure teachers are empowered. The only party I care about is our kids.

TS – Proud to be here and it takes guts to run for school board. Everybody’s heart is in the right place. We might have different ideas on how to do things. Want to clarify – Jackson School, we’re going to have to do something and my previous experience in construction I’m very comfortable evaluating what the price tag should be. Other school districts get taken advantage of by construction companies that build specifically for schools; we need a competitive bidding process.




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