The four candidates for the Iola-Scandinavia School Board spoke at a forum on March 20.
They are competing for two seats in the April 3 spring election.
Incumbent Charlie Wasrud is being challenged by Steve Madson to represent the town of Helvetia.
Incumbent Colleen (Sykes) Smith is being challenged by Kristen Hoyord to represent the village of Iola.
Following are each candidate’s written response to questions prepared by the I-S Community Advisory Committee.
Hoyord: I have five years of college education with a degree in nursing. I was born and raised in Iola. I am a graduate of this school district. I have the professional confidence and knowledge to help make executive decisions, along with a personal attachment to this community.
I am married and together Jay and I have three children. We would like to see our children graduate from this district. I want to play a part in making sure my children and others of this community have nothing but the best education and school experience. I believe this is where the Board of Education comes into play.
It is my promise that if I am elected I will make certain that the interests of our children will always be first and foremost.
Madson: Graduated from Iola-Scandinavia Schools in 1979 (the last class from the old school). I have lived in the Iola community for most of my life.
Graduated from UWSP. Currently employed at F&W Media (it will be 24 years in June). I am married to Marie. I have two kids: Emily and Nick, who are both freshmen at Iola-Scandinavia Schools
I was a member of the Iola & Rural Fire Department for 22 years.
I enjoy being active in my kids’ sports activities. I love spending time with my family at home and going to Eagle River.
I have an interest in giving our children the best opportunities possible. I have experience in the budgeting process and feel I make good sound decisions based on the information provided.
I certainly do not have all the answers, but I am willing to learn and search for the answers/solutions in a fair and educated manner and what is right for the community.
I want to do something again to serve the community. I was a volunteer firefighter for 22 years, retiring as a captain. I want to be involved in our school’s education process and help in the decision making.
The students of our district should always come first.
Smith: I have been a homeowner/taxpayer in the village of Iola for 44-plus years. I taught junior and senior high at Iola-Scandinavia 24 years.
I have been on the school board 18 years, chairperson of the Curriculum Committee, member of the Policy Committee. For the past few years I have been board clerk.
When I retired from teaching, I stated that I would continue supporting the education of the students here at Iola-Scandinavia. I believe my teaching experience benefits this school district.
Wasrud: I was born and raised in Iola, graduated from the Iola-Scandinavia High School in 1972. I attended UW-Marathon County for one year. Since that time to the present, I have been in construction as an independent contractor, except from 1997 -2006 when I was employed by Krause Publications as the building & grounds/maintenance director.
I have been married to Mona for 38 years. We have two children, Benjamin and Amanda. Ben graduated from I-S High School in 2002, Amanda graduated in 2004.
I am a member of the Iola Lions Club and an active member Our Saviors Lutheran church, and currently serving as Congregation President.
I have served on the board for nine years. Prior to that, I was on the committee that solicited pledges to provide $2 million in community funding for the I-S Community Fitness & Aquatic Center. I also served on an ad-hoc committee to plan the 1994 middle school addition to the high school building.
I am currently on the Building & Grounds Committee and the Transportation Committee. I have also served on the Finance Committee and Negotiations Committee.
I believe my experience of past practices and connection to our community can contribute to preserving our successes, as we make changes to address our future challenges.
What do you see as the most important issue facing the I-S School District and what would you do to address that issue?
Madson: I feel there are several important issues facing the district. The shortfall in the budget is the most important because it leads to so many other issues. Unfortunately, this looks like an ongoing issue that has been addressed for the last few years. If there was an easy and fast solution, it would have been solved by now.
The way to address this issue is for everyone to work together the board members, administrators and teachers to find new ideas to overcome/minimize the loss of funds and the increase in expenditures. But always keeping in mind, our students first.
Smith: The most important issue I believe is each student in our school; teaching our students what they need for their future.
As chairperson of the Curriculum Committee, I, along with the other members, have been approached by many of the curricular areas for changes. We have looked into the science and social studies to move from one grade level to another.
At last week’s board meeting we looked at food science, which is being taught at the present time in a science class and also in a family and consumer education class. Rather than having each class overlapping each other, we approved it as a separate one-semester course.
Distance learning and course options through a university or technical college have been made available.
We have seen favorable results from tests given, such as the WKCE. I believe our students are well-prepared for further education or whatever they choose to do. This is always an ongoing issue, however.
Wasrud: Funding and budget issues – this has been the case for the past few years. We have to consider all areas of spending, keeping in mind the effect cuts may have on student opportunities.
Hoyord: To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if we can say there is one “most” important issue as all issues fold into each other. A few issues that need direct attention in my mind are;
1. The budget: Trying to find that happy medium, if you will. We need to make cuts in each and every area without affecting the education and diversity of co-curriculars for our children.
2. We need to maintain our quality teaching staff, keep our classroom sizes small so that they can provide the best education they know how.
3. We need to make co-curriculars available to all students as this will help with creating diverse children and maintain an importance of teamwork whether it be on the court, field or stage, etc.
If the school board becomes involved in divisive or controversial issues, what would you do to maintain decorum, dignity, and unity among the board members, with visitors attending the meeting, and within the community?
Smith: I believe I have been able to communicate in a pleasant, respectful manner with the other board members. In fact, four of them are former students.
Several members of the community have called me on the phone. I have listened to their concerns and have shared information with them as well.
I don’t believe we get anywhere by being hostile. I am willing to hear other’s concerns and hopefully they will listen to what I have to say.
Wasrud: As to maintaining decorum at the meetings – in the past when someone from the audience has spoken out of turn, one of the board members has usually responded to them, but if they continue to shout out comments, at that point, I do not respond to them.
As to the community at large, I have always returned phone calls and been open to discussing any issue.
Hoyord: It is important to treat all persons with respect. There are going to be difference of opinions, but if we all keep our eyes on the “prize” – our children -together we should be able to have a conducive atmosphere in which needed decisions can be made.
I think community opinions are important, but social decorum needs to be maintained. As a board we have to be able to listen to all ideas with an open mind, answer and ask questions with respect shone to all.
Madson: The board members need to be on the same page. Whether they all agree on a topic or not, once a decision is reached that decision needs to be supported by all. Individuals can have their opinion, but must still support the decision that was made.
Given declining state aid to schools, what are the keys to balancing the budget?
Wasrud: For us, declining state aid has coincided with declining enrollment – we have been dealing with this for a number of years now. Through professional development, it is beneficial for us when our teachers expand their range of subjects that they can teach. We have to continue to look at all expenses and revenue sources.
Hoyord: One word comes to mind with this question: moderation. Everything needs to be done with moderation. In a school district this size we can’t afford to be heavy in any areas. Individual budgets need to be looked at; we can’t ignore and find a cure-all in cutting programs, teachers, co-curriculars. As mentioned earlier, we have to find a happy medium.
Madson: Everyone needs to work together maybe more than ever to take a look at the budget – its expenses and revenues. There also needs to be give and take from all involved to help minimize the deficit today and moving forward. No one group can have a selfish mind frame if we are going to solve this ever growing issue. Most importantly, the good of our students needs to be our priority.
Smith: Because of the decline in state aid, it makes it very difficult to produce a balanced budget. In some previous years we have been able to do some one-time or “band-aid” things. However, that has come to an end the past couple of years.
The Finance Committee has been looking into combining some duties in personnel.
We have to discourage adding to what we already have.
I do not like to cut teaching positions, but, unfortunately, that is where the larger cuts can be made.
We are not the only district in this dilemma.
I know I don’t have much of a solution. However, I have given the Finance Committee some suggestions. I hope the Finance Committee can come up with favorable solutions.
The Finance Committee has been successful in not raising taxes for several years, and I hope that can continue.
What role do you feel the school district should play in local economic development and what would you do to facilitate that role?
Hoyord: I think the school district needs to be appealing to outside families looking in. Let’s be honest, Iola is not abundant in employment opportunities, which is why the school district needs to attract families.
Both my husband and I travel for our careers. We had the opportunity to live in outside communities, closer to our jobs, but we wanted the smaller school district for our children. Small school districts can be appealing.
If families are going to move to this area, we have to promise the benefits of a smaller district: smaller class sizes, more one-on-one attention, availability of co-curriculars. And a welcoming community as a whole that works together for the best interest of our children.
Madson: The school district’s role in economic development should be to attract as many people to live in this community because of our schools. We need to sell our school system – the things we can offer.
We need to promote the great things this school system has to offer, from its great group of teachers, our history of high test scores, to our facilities and the many opportunities this district provides.
Let’s see our enrollment grow because parents want their kids educated at Iola-Scandinavia, even though they will have added expenses to work outside the district.
Smith: According to realtors in the area, buyers with children are attracted to Iola and Scandinavia because of the school. At our last curriculum meeting, a parent from outside the district was “school shopping.” He had heard of our reputation.
Many people visiting comment on the condition of our facilities. The buildings are attractive and well-kept and are handicap accessible. Several years ago, a student in a wheelchair from another school district came here for a year as her school was not handicap accessible.
Having the fitness & aquatic center is a draw. So many people from outside the area are amazed and surprised that we have such a facility in a small town.
Our athletic facilities have attracted people as well, especially since we have improved the track and football field.
Certainly the test scores, graduates doing well in colleges and universities, very low dropout rate (usually none) are components that we have in our favor.
We can be very proud of what we have here, and we have every right to “toot our horn.”
Wasrud: Low property taxes that are comparable to area districts – anyone buying property is going to be concerned with that expense. Many people will visit the school in a district they are considering moving to. The Fitness & Aquatic Center and the good condition of our facilities are a plus for us. We have a history of achievement on our test scores, and also a history of community support. We offer a class called Publications, which is an example of making students aware of what goes on at local businesses.
In a recent ISCAC survey, over 90 percent of respondents indicated satisfaction with both the teachers and academic curriculum. What would you do to attract and retain quality teachers?
Madson: I think this relates to the previous question – we need to promote these types of facts to new teachers as well as informing the current staff, which I am sure happens now. We need to sell new teachers on the great things this district has to offer. We also need to continue to support and recognize our current staff for the great job they do on a daily basis.
Smith: I have sat in on some interviews for teaching positions. I am amazed at the candidates that are coming out of the colleges and universities. I have seen some of the student teachers we’ve had and I’m amazed there as well.
We have been fortunate to have quality teachers and many for several years – 20- and 30-plus years. The low turnover of teachers says a lot about our school system. Many have made their homes here.
Attracting and retaining quality teachers has been the norm at Iola-Scandinavia.
Wasrud: We certainly need to remain competitive with other schools in compensation for our teachers. We need to support our teachers and provide a work environment where they can be successful. I believe as many people leave their jobs for this reason as any other.
Having long term employees has been beneficial to the school in the past, as it has been beneficial to the community as well.
Hoyord: First let me say that I agree 100 percent. We have teachers that put our children and their needs first. I feel the board of education needs to make further education and certifications a priority for our staff. We need to acknowledge the good that our teachers do.
As the board of education we need to be aware of the challenges and successes that our teachers are encountering on a daily basis with our children. Why not witness this first hand.
Teachers need to know that the administration and board of education is behind them in what they do. I believe trust is a huge retainer and will allow us to create a higher morale within our teaching staff and in turn accomplish the goal of children first and an excellent education.
In your opinion, what is the role of: a) a district administrator; b) a school board member; c) a teacher; and, d) administrative staff?
Smith: I’m going to start with the school board members. We cannot make any decisions or make it sound as though we can (make decisions) as individuals. It is only done with us as a group at an official meeting. We are the governing body, making policy for all areas from students, administration, staff. We approve checks and bills, contracts, act on student concerns.
The district administrator is in charge of enforcing and overseeing that policy is up-to-date, curriculum is in line with state standards, buildings and grounds are safe, communication is being done with the community.
The administrative staff enforces the policy, involving students and personnel. They are in charge of “goings on” in their respective buildings or areas.
The teachers are responsible for the learning by the students in their classrooms, teaching the curriculum set by state standards, maintaining a safe atmosphere in their areas.
The business manager, of course, is in charge of the financial records.
The food service director plans meals, purchases needed supplies, reports data, complies with state standards.
The buildings and grounds director, of course, is in charge of repairs, upkeep and safety of all properties of the district.
The fitness & aquatic center director hires life guards, swimming instructors and other personnel for special classes.
The transportation director is in charge of the buses, Suburbans and any other transportation for safety and performance, as well as the bus drivers.
There are things that each can do and can’t do. All of these individuals and groups are a team, making up the whole.
Wasrud: Administrator: Set goals and keeps all staff focused on achieving goals.
School board member: Establish and review policy, oversee budget and set tax levy, be a listener in the community.
Teacher: Nurture and inspire student achievement.
Administrative staff: Support learning by providing a well organized, safe and efficient school.
Hoyord: The administration and support staff of a school district needs to be treated just as any other corporate business. An org chart should be followed, and all should have the best interest of the business, in this case, the children, in mind. The education and experience of our children is the primary goal.
District administrator is the lead of all support staff, and should over see day to day operations. He/she is the professional link to the board of education. The administrator should create policies for approval by the board of education and bring forth policies that need revisiting by the board of education. He/she then makes certain the district is run by these policies.
School board member: Unbiased party that takes facts/opinions/suggestions from both educational staff and community members; implements polices to improve performance in staff and student body.
Teachers: Our teachers are the key to our children. Their main focus needs to be the education and well-being of all children that they encounter to assure that they have every educational offering possible. In many cases they are the role models for our children and need to be upheld to the highest regard.
Additional administration (ie: principals): They oversee our teachers and student body. They evaluate lesson plans and observe classes. They need to be certain discipline is done in a fair and consistent manner, following policies as set forth by the board of education. They evaluate and ensure a safe environment for all. They report to the district administrator and the board of education.
Madson: In my opinion it should work like an organizational chart.
The school board is like a board of directors that makes the decisions for the district – they are the leader, the decision makers.
The district administrator sees to it that the decisions of the board are carried out as well as operating the school’s day-to-day business. Also, provide support to the staff so they can carry out their jobs as best as possible.
Administrative staff: Help the district administrator with the day-to-day operation. Provide support and tools to the teachers to make their jobs successful.
Teachers: To make our students the best in the area; provide feedback to the administrative staff, ideas and suggestions that will make their jobs easier and more efficient. All in all, the students need to come first.
Do you support the enforcement of the I-S School District’s athletic code? If yes, why? If no, why not?
Wasrud: Yes, one of the lessons in sports is that you understand the rules, and that you follow those rules, and those rules apply equally to everyone. Our academic standards for participation are a notch higher than the WIAA guidelines, I agree with our guidelines and see them as reasonable.
Hoyord: Yes, I believe that a “co-curricular” code of conduct should be in place. With that said, I feel this should be approved via the board of education just as any other policy for the district. I also feel the basis of the code should follow other guidelines as set forth by the WIAA.
It is important that students realize academics are first and foremost. Students in co-curricular events need to set an example as they are representing our district.
Madson: Academics always should come first. Athletics and other extracurricular activities certainly are an important part of our student’s education and help mold our children into all-around better individuals.
Yes, I support the school district’s athletic code, however, like the other policies it should be reviewed, updated and approved by the school board on an annual basis
Smith: Yes, I do support the athletic code. It helps the participants to become good, responsible citizens, good representatives of our school and communities.
I don’t see any “punishment” extreme, but rather see it as it fits the “crime,” if you will, by sitting out a game or contest.
It is unfortunate when students “botch it,” but they have to learn that there are consequences for their actions, whether those actions are intentional or unintentional.
As a member of the school board, how would you communicate with the public when the board’s decision differed from your point of view?
Hoyord: As already addressed earlier, there is bound to be a difference of opinions. Respect is the key here. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.
If actual information is provided, the board needs to work together to come up with a decision the majority can agree upon. If this is done during an open board meeting, my personal views will be out on the table for all to hear. If this decision is made during a closed session, only the final vote can be discussed.
Madson: If a decision is made in the open session of the meeting, if one’s opinion differs on the outcome they still need to support the decision that is made. They may still have a difference of opinion but cannot undermine the decision that was made and the implementation.
If a decision is made in closed session, the results of the vote should never be revealed. By this I mean revealing who voted for or against the agenda item. Again, the decision needs to be supported by the whole board and the implementation carried out as a group.
Smith: During my years on the board, we have had a good working relationship with each other. That doesn’t mean we don’t disagree at times. I don’t think we should agree all the time.
I have voted against a decision in which I was the minority. But I accepted the board’s decision without any negative feelings. I accept the majority decision.
Wasrud: I would not look to communicate with the public on a past decision. If a citizen would ask me for an explanation of a decision, I would certainly have a discussion with him or her.
What one or two policies, which are not directly related to funding, do you feel are necessary in the post Act 10 era in order for the school district to achieve its goals?
Madson: Looking at the policies of the school, all of them are important to achieve its goals. I have singled out three: 532.2 Professional Staff Contracts, 533 Personnel Hiring, and 537 Professional Staff Development.
I have chosen these three because our ultimate goal should be to have the best students of any school district. In order to do that we need to (1) continue training for our current staff; (2) retain the good teachers; and, (3) when we do have to replace a teacher, recruit the best available and sell them on what this district has to offer.
Smith: I think there can be a good relationship with the staff, administration and school board. I believe we can continue to be fair and competitive with surrounding schools when the union is not recognized and staff members have no collective bargaining rights.
I don’t think it will affect the retention of teachers and staff here. I think the quality will continue. We are a small school and we know our staff personally.
Wasrud: Utilize more online learning opportunities as more jobs in the future will be online. Also, continue to hire quality teachers and promote professional development toward the goal of offering a wide ranging curriculum.
Hoyord: To be completely honest with all of you, I do not feel I have enough information to make an educated statement on this question. There are policies listed that have not been revisited since the Act 10 budget reform. To site a few, 532.2 professional staff contracts last updated in 2001, 533 personal hiring, annual operating budget #620 last updated in 2008, administrative contracts #221 last updated in 2001.
With that said, I am willing and able to learn everything needed to make educated decisions which are in the best interest of our children and our school district.
Smith: Being on the school board has been very interesting, especially having the knowledge and background as a teacher and as a taxpayer.
Not only have I taught here for several years, but I am a parent of three children who graduated from I-S and also I have nieces and nephews who have attended and graduated from here. We hosted four foreign exchange students who attended here as well.
After retiring, I worked with several adults through the Waupaca County Literacy program.
I am a charter member and current president of the Iola Lioness Club. As a Lioness member, I am involved in various activities in the community and school.
As you can see, I have been involved in helping others learn and I am interested in their future.
I look forward to serving the school and the community on the school board for another term.
Wasrud: I see surveys and studies on what it is that makes people happy. One conclusion I agree with is that happy people are those who have choices, and it is my hope that our graduates are prepared to pursue their choices.
I am a proud citizen of the Iola-Scandinavia School District. We have a lot of good things going for us here at Iola-Scandinavia. I believe our leadership team has made good decisions in the past that have contributed to this success. Community support will insure that we will continue to have a successful school.
I am thankful for the privilege of being a school board member currently and would like to continue.
Hoyord: My promise to you is that if I am elected I will do everything in my power to be certain that the best interest of our children and our school district is first and foremost. I obviously don’t have a handbook with all the answers, but I am willing to listen, eager to learn and ambitious to set forth. I promise I will not let you down.
Madson: If elected I look forward to serving the tax payers, teachers, administrators, support staff and most important the students of this district. As I stated in my opening remarks, I do not have all the answers but am certainly willing to learn and work hard to find them.