Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, April 2, to elect representatives for two open seats on the New London School Board.
Incumbents John Faucher and Virginia Schlais are running for re-election, and will be challenged by Jason Pues.
The County Post East sent surveys to each candidate. The questions on that survey, along with candidates’ responses, are listed below.
Please tell us about your background, qualifications, and why you are interested in running for school board.
Faucher: I’ve served on the New London School Board for six years. I believe education is the most important factor in the success of our forthcoming generations. Ultimately, our future and our Nation depend upon it.
Pues: I am a graduate of New London (class of 95); I also attended UW-River Falls. I have been involved in the community through fund raising and coaching sporting activities, tee ball and wrestling. I have held a number of committee chairs and am able to not only organize but delegate when necessary. I feel that we must have quality choices when it comes to our local elections and I would be a positive addition to this year’s board of education.
Schlais: I have a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Nursing from Marquette University. I moved to New London in 1988 with my husband (Dr. Dale Schlais) and our children. We have four children; all have graduated from New London High School. I have been on the School Board since 1997 (minus one year). I serve as clerk and have serve on many committees of the school board during that time. I am an active member of the Wisconsin School Board Assn. As always, I am passionate about education for all children, and willingly give up my time to accomplish this goal. I am also running again because of all the changes Act 10 has brought to our district and I want to use my experience, knowledge and expertise to continue to help implement those changes. Also, we will have a new district administrator and again I would like to use my experience etc. to assist in a smooth transition of this person to that position in our district.
What areas of the school district’s budget do you think should be looked at when considering future budget reductions?
Faucher: We’ve already cut our budget by $3.5 million in the past two years and we’ve targeted another $1 million budget reduction for 2013-2014. The burden of these reductions is shared throughout our district. Everyone has had a part in cutting costs. We’ve changed health insurance carries and increased premium share for staff. We’ve reduced staff, administration, teachers and support staff. We’ve modified post-retirement benefits, reduced interest payments, modified transportation practices, capped wage increases and captured utility efficiencies. We’ve also adjusted class size parameters, maximized grant opportunities and changed the trend in losing students through open enrollment. New London has always been a lean district that has tried to do the best with the limited resources they have. We will continue to look at ways to shave costs; however we are already approaching a point where we are lean as we can get before compromising programs that are important to our student’s success.
Pues: Hopefully we can maintain the current budget, and have Madison allow schools to get the increase in funding. There are many challenges with any budget and all must be accounted for. What we have to ask ourselves is; how does this affect our children in the district? Is it the right choice? You can’t really put a price on quality education, and yet we do. So in this respect every reduction has an effect on our children and must be scrutinized to make the best choices available to us as we continue in our trying economic times.
Schlais: In the past 3 years we have cut around 3 million dollars from our budget. Yes, the first year much of the cuts were funded from the changes in teacher benefits via Act 10, along with cuts our budget items. The last year and looking towards next year’s cuts have come from our budget items. We are looking at everything we can. We are decreasing interest on our loans, bus route changes, making our energy use the most efficient as possible, decreasing staff as best we can without putting implementation of education at risk, changes in how we plow snow, you name it we have done it. If anyone has other ideas, I will entertain them.
In what ways do you think the school district could collaborate with neighboring school districts to effectively share resources and services?
Faucher: We must always keep an open door with our neighbors and explore ways help one another solve problems. One area we might be able to share services could be in the area of special education.
Pues: Did not respond.
Schlais: Collaboration with other school district in course offerings, special students’ needs, etc. are always and will continue to be looked at.
What types of incentives, if any, would you support to either retain students or increase the number of students who enroll in your district?
Faucher: We’ve already done quite a bit in the area of alternative educational opportunities such as increased on-line course offerings, and we are in the process of creating a charter school for students who do better in a non-traditional setting.
Pues: With plans to extend vouchers, and the law of open enrollment, the school district needs to be proactive in keeping our students. This means making sure the district is staffed correctly and students have the support and support staff needed to make their experience in our district a positive one. We need to continue to maintain the highest level of academics and extra-curricular activities to make a well-rounded young adult. We also must sustain the new levels in all forms of electronic media as that is still where the future lies.
Schlais: A great education with flexibility is our incentive. Our Next Generation Charter School has a huge goal towards keeping and drawing students to our district. It combines online learning with teacher and classroom support and accountability, allowing personalized education with strong teacher support. The offering of online classes to our traditional in school population also gives them more opportunities to explore classes of individual interest. Also, we are reaching out to those that have opted out of our district to find out why and what we could do to meet those needs and opportunities. Collaboration with Fox Valley Technical School for credit classes offered here also will help meet the needs of some students.
Why should people elect you?
Faucher: I believe people can trust me to carefully weigh all decisions so that in the end, students come first. I believe in the district’s mission of “Success for all students.” I’ve learned a great deal through six years of participation on the board, and I never stop learning. As a small business owner in New London I feel I’m in touch with my constituents, and I know that fiscal responsibility to tax payers is an absolute must. We are all stake holders in the success of our community.
Pues: I feel I am ready to serve our community at a higher level. If elected, I promise to be fair, and look at issues with an independent view. I read somewhere “This is an American public school, and American public schools were created to make better Americans.” I think that should be our goal. To make sure that every child in our district has the opportunity to become the best that he/she could be.
Schlais: I ask you to reelect me because of my experience, involvement, good standing on the board. Reelect me because I have a passion for the excellent education of your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. These students are our future. Education is a key to that future. I will continue to work hard to help them to have an opportunity for that great future.