Judy Magee, Tim Schultz, and Dirk Weber are all running for election to two open seats on the Clintonville School Board.
Schultz and Weber are incumbents, while Magee is the challenger.
The County Post East sent surveys to each candidate. The survey questions, along with each candidates’ answer, are listed below.
Please tell us about your background, qualifications, and why you are interested in running for school board.
Magee: I grew up in Clintonville and am a life-long resident (66 years). I also worked for 45 years at Clintonville High School. I have been interested in running for school board since I retired in 2009. I think the right time is now. I have gained a tremendous amount of valuable experience in being an elected official through my positions as city alderperson and mayor. I can bring that wealth of knowledge to the school board. While I am grateful to all who have and currently serve on the board, I think there is always room for an experienced newcomer to offer a new perspective on issues we face. Currently there is not a representative from the City of Clintonville on the school board.
Schultz: I am a Clintonville High School graduate, 1974. I am running for re-election because my term is up.
Weber: I was a veterinarian for 30 years. I retired recently. My wife Cathy and I have lived in Clintonville for 27 years. We have three adult sons who all graduated from Clintonville High School. I have been on the board of education for 15 years. I have also served on the CESA 8 Board of Control.
Many residents have scrutinized the school board’s use of closed session on recent occasions. Do you feel the board could be more open with its discussions, reasons for adjourning into closed session, and record keeping? Why or why not?
Magee: I think that every organization and business can innocently make mistakes. However, once someone or a group like the school board becomes aware of a mistake, or a way that things like open meetings and open records could be done better, an effort should be made to improve. The school board has been confronted for months about various issues and in almost every occasion most members have sat quietly at the meetings and failed to make changes. It is not the original interpretation or choice that I find fault with but the lack of change after things have been pointed out that I think are wrong. I think the school board should rely on the administrators for answers but not in such a way that they are lead blindly without asking additional questions, asking for clarification or asking for supporting data. I assure the voters that I will ask questions and listen to my constituents, which includes residents, parents, business owners, community leaders, school staff and students. I feel that at times the school leadership does not recognize that their “constituents” includes all of these groups. It takes each of these groups to make our schools successful – not just those that operate on the inside of the school system.
Schultz: I think our use of closed session has been appropriate. Personnel issues should not be discussed in public. Our employees have rights, too.
Weber: This question is mostly in regard to the way the board handled administrative raises this past fall. My opinion is that there are two things we should have done differently. First, if we were going to freeze salaries, we should have taken that action in the spring of 2012 so that all of those who were affected had the opportunity to find another job if they didn’t like the salary freeze. Secondly, when we changed our decision from a salary freeze to granting raises we should have waited a meeting to take that action. I am saying these things with the benefit of hindsight. Other than that, I think our closed sessions are quite reasonable. When we go into closed session we are discussing staff and occasionally students. Those are discussions that need to remain private.
Enrollment numbers at Clintonville High School have been steadily declining over the past few years. What, if anything, do you think the district can do to attract more students?
Magee: Some things are within the district’s control and some are not. Obviously who lives within the district and how many children families have we have little control over. However, we can do everything in our power to make ourselves appealing to new families considering where to locate. When the board and administrators have been confronted in the past few months with test scores there was a quick response that at times appeared to be more like excuse making. We may be higher in poverty levels but then we still need to answer the public’s questions as to what we can do to continue to make improvements in light of the challenges like poverty we face. I think our school district as a whole needs to have a stronger connection to the community, which includes businesses. As mayor, I have heard that our businesses do not have a strong connection to the administration. The business leaders could be the best advocates we have to new employees if they had the confidence, trust and relationship with the schools that they are seeking.
Schultz: The Clintonville School District cannot attract students, other than a few through open enrollment. What is needed is for more school age children to live in the district, which would best happen if the Clintonville area had more and better jobs available that would attract young working families. Clintonville is a wonderful area to live, but there needs to be more opportunities to earn a good living.
Weber: We have to do what we can to make sure our district is attractive to families who may be considering moving here. Recently, the Wisconsin DPI has developed a school report card. Every school in Wisconsin is scored based on quite a few factors. We will be judged on those scores. We will have to do what we can to improve our school scores. There is a lot of data generated with the standardized tests that students take. We will use this data to improve and customize instruction for our students. Hopefully, that will mean our students are getting a better education. The school report card scores and explanations are easily accessed at the Wisconsin DPI website. We also have to publicize the non-academic activities that happen in our schools. Examples would be the running club for elementary and middle school students, the high school play that ran recently, and the recital given by the Solo and Ensemble performers. These are valuable experiences for those students. The benefits of these non-academic experiences may not show up on a standardized test.
What areas of the district’s budget do you think should be looked at when considering future budget reductions?
Magee: In the most general sense I think that every area should be open for discussion when it comes to cut backs. I think that we need to look at assuring that each employee is paying their share of benefits in the most equal way possible. Wages will of course be different for different positions but there may be savings if all employees paid the same for benefits. I think engaging everyone in budget discussions is a great idea. Perhaps there are ideas that the employees have in order to save money that does not directly impact the educational experience of each student. While the administration and board must ultimately make the final budget decisions, we can reach out to others in the organization for ideas.
Schultz: Nothing is off limits.
Weber: The details of where money will be spent will be worked out over the next several months. We work out a budget according to student numbers and needs. For example, the elementary school may need an extra class of one grade if there is a large number of students in that grade. Another example would be at the high school where students can choose some of their classes. If student interest is insufficient, some classes may not be offered. Another variable in the budget process is what decisions are made at the state level and how those decisions affect public schools. This may be an appropriate spot to show appreciation for everyone in our district for their support. Fund raising can be a tough subject, but the money that is raised for school activities is a tremendous benefit to our students and is greatly appreciated.
Why should people elect you?
Magee: I would like to give back to the school system that provided me a wonderful career for 45 years. I enjoyed seeing the thousands of students that passed through our system while I was a high school secretary. I believe that I can be a candidate that will listen to all of my constituents and assure that we as a school board fairly answer those questions asked of us. I want to be sure that we understand all the issues before us. As a retired person, I have ample time to give fully to the commitment one needs to give to such an elected position.
Schultz: I try to exercise good judgment and make decisions that are in the best long-term interests of the district.
Weber: I should be elected because I believe in the value of public education. As a school board member I try to make decisions in the best interest of our students and our school district. And while we have to do our best to reach all of our students, I believe the school board also has a responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of the entire community.