Michael Koles is a candidate for the Iola-Scandinavia School Board.
He is running for the position being vacated by William Peterson, representing the townships of Scandinavia and Amherst.
“I decided to run for the I-S School Board because I believe that education is our highest leverage strategy to grow our community and country,” Koles said. “My family chose, and many others choose, to live in an area because of the educational system. Increasingly, our younger generations choose to live in a place based on amenities first and a job second. If we want to continue to have and further develop the great community we are blessed with then we need to continuously work on maintaining and improving our already high quality educational system.”
Koles believes he is the best candidate for the school board position.
“I have always had a passion for education and have spent the last 15 years of my career in the University System. This passion has only increased now that my children are in K-12.”
My strong belief in a quality educational system is supported by my understanding of local government in Wisconsin, given both my career and my past elected service,” he added. “Furthermore, I am a collaborator and believe that I can work with my new colleagues on the board to identify solutions amenable to the many and varied interests in the community.”
He believes school funding continues to remain a challenge due to many factors, including shared revenue changes coupled with declining enrollment. He said the board will need to work with faculty, administration and the entire community to continue to find innovative ways to overcome this obstacle.
“Given the new reality throughout the public sector, the school board has the opportunity to develop a quality faculty and staff evaluation system,” Koles said. “Any such system should empower the employees of the district to plan, do, check and adjust (what he refers to PDCA). I am excited to see how a system that encourages goal development, implementation, evaluation and adjustment through a feedback loop process can serve to foster a continued growth process.”
Koles said attraction and retention of high quality teachers will increasingly become an issue given faculty demographics, the rural nature of the district and its ability to provide competitive compensation.
“Teachers are the foundation of the educational system, and I believe we need to be discussing what the whole Iola-Scandinavia community can do to enhance our appreciation,” he said.
“I don’t believe there is a big, single silver bullet that will solve revenue issues; otherwise, we would have probably pressed that easy button long ago,” Koles said. “Instead, my sense is that multiple smaller strategies will be necessary in the short run.
“In the long run, I don’t think we should be asking ourselves ‘which cuts do we make this year?’ We cannot cut our way to a quality educational system.
“Instead, we should be asking about how we increase revenue through innovative strategies that are sensitive to both the taxpayers and low resource families. I believe this includes figuring out how to grow the student population and better leverage the high quality assets already in place in the district.”
Koles does not like the idea of using a referendum to increase revenue for the I-S School District.
“I am philosophically opposed to referenda,” he said. “The founding fathers were clear about the role of elected representatives and their need to make difficult decisions.
“That said, school districts throughout Wisconsin have been placed in a difficult position and are required by law to initiate a referendum to exceed caps. Thus, if caps needed to be exceeded to maintain the quality of education, I would hold my nose and support a referendum.
“Whether or not I would personally vote in favor of caps being exceeded is another matter altogether and would depend upon a number of factors, especially whether or not we are engaging in a discussion about long term efficiencies, revenue generation, and other potential structural changes.”
Koles is employed at the UW-Extension Waupaca County Community Development Educator. He has degrees in Political Science/Environmental Studies from Wartburg College (Waverly, Iowa) and Urban and Regional Planning from UW-Madison.
Koles and his family have lived in the I-S School District for 10 years. He and his wife, Brenda, are both originally from Antigo and most recently lived in North Fond du Lac, where Koles served as a village trustee and plan commission member.
They have two children – Tanner, 9, and Clara, 8. Brenda is a commercial underwriter for Acuity Insurance.