Voters in the Weyauwega-Fremont School District will choose a new representative for the School Board in the April 1 election.
Kurt Duxbury and Reuben Larsen are running for the town of Weyauwega seat currently held by Tony Beyer.
Beyer is not seeking re-election.
Also up for re-election on April 1 is Dan Kohl. He holds the town of Fremont seat and is running unopposed.
Both Duxbury and Larsen are seeking their first terms on the School Board.
Duxbury is a native of Mosinee who graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with a degree in elementary and middle school education and a minor in math. He has a master’s degree in educational leadership from Marian University.
He joined the W-F School District in 1998 as a middle school math teacher.
Duxbury held that position for two years before becoming the dean of students and athletic director for one year. That was followed by one year as the middle and high school principal and then a couple years as the high school principal.
In 2005, he joined Quantum Dairy full time as a partner and general manager.
Duxbury has lived in the district since 1998. He and his wife, Anna, have two sons: one in first grade and one in preschool. Anna has lived in the district her entire life.
Larsen grew up in the town of Weyauwega and has lived in the W-F School District for more than 25 years.
He attended St. Peter Lutheran School in Weyauwega from kindergarten until the beginning of fourth grade and then Weyauwega Elementary School. Larsen attended W-F Middle School until the beginning of his eighth grade year. After he stopped going to school, he said he pursued “self education” through the family business and by reading.
He grew up in his family’s business, J.R. Larsen Company. He worked in marine construction for a time before returning home to the family business.
Larsen has owned J.R. Larsen Company for about 2 1/2 years.
He does not have any children. His girlfriend, Shaun Gates, has a daughter. Larsen is involved in the homeschooling of the girl, who left the W-F district after fourth grade.
Duxbury: I look back at the 16 years that I have lived here, and this community has provided me with opportunities and support in everything that I have done whether it was while I worked for the Weyauwega-Fremont School District or after I decided to come to Quantum Dairy, LLC. This is an opportunity to give back to the community that has given me so much.
Looking back to when I was a teacher and administrator here, for most of the years, the board itself really functioned well together. I think back to board members as I was beginning my career like Jim Taylor, Frank Zaboj, Richard Wagner, Jane Hutchison, Susie Faulks, Jim Otte, Steve Baitinger, Steve Ebert and the list could go on, and I remember them as successful people and leaders who truly cared about Weyauwega-Fremont and its kids.
Even now as a farmer, when I made the huge transition, there are a lot of local people who have supported our farm, taught me a lot and supply us with what we need to be successful. I think I can represent a very broad group of people from my past experiences and what I am doing now.
I am a kid guy, Even though I haven’t worked at school in 8-plus years, the thing I miss most about my career change is the kids. It was very enjoyable watching them grow, cheer them on and teach them about subject matter and life choices. Now that I have my own children, all my nieces and nephews from my wife’s side and several employees’ children going to school here. this is the time for me to jump back in and do whatever I can to help make a difference.
I think I bring a very unique skill set. Being that I was a teacher, coach, athletic director and administrator here, I know what goes on between these walls and outside of these walls. During college, I worked for the Mosinee School District as student labor as part of the custodial staff, so I have done almost every job in a school except drive bus and serve food.
I understand kids. I understand school budgets. I understand the politics of it. I understand facilities, and I understand curriculum. Being a business owner has really allowed me to sharpen my budgeting skills as margins are very tight in many businesses, and farming is certainly a difficult road to navigate with so many things that are out of your control.
I feel comfortable working with large budgets, managing projects and working with a very diverse group of people. I tell people all the time my greatest strength is my ability to surround myself with good people.
I think I did that at school, and I have done it in our business by hiring and doing business with good people. You surround yourself with good people, find a way to give them what they need to be successful, and your supervision becomes helping them brainstorm and tweak things rather than telling them what to do or fight fires.
Larsen: While campaigning door to door, my conversations with district residents have had great influence on my motivations and, it’s not that I want to recant anything I have said but I’ll stick to what has been added.
There was an elderly farmer, who I will refer to several times, that I had never met before. I stopped to talk to him while going door to door, and he has really become the foundation of why I think I need to continue the efforts I’m making.
I may have been fortunate to have never had to panhandle for money or wonder where my next meal would come from, but I still feel as though I have made many sacrifices in life; and although I don’t know the details of those sacrifices by his humble lifestyle, it was clear the elderly farmer knows very well how and when to make sacrifices and has done so many times in his life.
I think it is very beneficial to have that understanding of what may seem like a negligible amount of money to many of us could be of great significance to other people, and if they are going to be forced to give the school district money, that money should be used in an extremely frugal manner.
It is unfortunate that some of these people lack the skills, time or resources to speak for themselves, and I think it is the combination of my abilities to do something and my understanding of their struggles that both motivates me to be on the School Board and makes me the most qualified to represent the taxpayers.
I think the biggest thing I have to bring to the table, though, is that I proudly left school in early eighth grade and my pursuits in self education provide countless examples and experiments of how education can be improved.
Larsen: I think not only growing up in a family business but one that serves such a diverse spectrum of customers has been many different experiences from challenging to educational.
Seeing the way things are done in many different businesses has been an experience far beyond the scope that this article could ever begin to cover. I’ve been the president of the Evanswood Cemetery since 2007.
I started Transparency Projects to record local municipal meetings and post them on YouTube; this has also been a wonderful insight on parliamentary procedures.
Although my involvement hasn’t gone much past an involved parent, I was enrolled myself in one of the first classes, American Studies I, offered by Freedom Project Education and have followed their growth with great interest.
I have also been a regular attendee at the homeschool convention every spring in Oshkosh, where I have seen many ideas involving new and innovative ways to educate the next generation.
Duxbury: As a former administrator in the district, I have logged plenty of hours at School Board meetings. I have seen the meetings run efficiently, and I have seen them run inefficiently.
I think I can work with the administration and the other board members to make sure that we are working to be as efficient at the meetings as possible. I believe I have been at every School Board meeting since I decided to run for this seat, and I think I would have no problem working together with all of the current board members.
In our business, we work very closely with our consultants, growers, employees, bankers and vendors. I feel very comfortable sharing my views on things and making good decisions after listening to others’ ideas.
When I came to Weyauwega in 1998 to be a new teacher. I came with the mindset that I was going all in. I bought a home and started coaching and teaching, knowing I would do whatever it takes to be a contributing member to the community.
Sixteen years later, I can say that I still have that mindset. Going from a sixth-grade math teacher to a managing partner of a large dairy farm about sums it up. My mindset has always been that I can do anything I set my mind to.
Duxbury: To support the students and staff, promote lifelong learning, promote our school district in a positive manner, to evaluate the administration, follow board policy and to make financially sound decisions.
To accomplish this, I will listen, be available whenever possible, respect the other board members and people who attend the meetings, use the experience I have both in and out of the school setting and stand behind the decisions we make.
Larsen: I think the role of the School Board is to first represent the taxpayers and then provide new ideas when possible on how to improve the goals of education, being the ones that can take a look from the step back perspective more easily.
As a representative of the taxpayer, I think there is a need to take everyone’s opinion into consideration, but we must remember that many people, like the elderly farmer, may not be able to afford an unlimited budget for education.
As a member of the school board, there is a responsibility to understand every action of the board they support in it’s entirety and not vote for something only because it was recommended by administration or because it is not fully understood and everybody else supports it.
You have to be brave enough to ask all of the “dumb” questions. As a board member, I will not support any action that I do not understand and I will not simply rubber stamp anything.
I think it is a very accurate analogy to say that a school board member is like a judge. You have to take the wants and needs of two or more parties and compare them, and neither party may get what they want but everyone should get what is fair and best for the education of the children.
Larsen: I think virtual education has proven to be a clear leader in education as we’re on our third year of using it in the household here. From our experience, there are very few, if any, disadvantages and if classes are missed or something isn’t understood, it’s just a simple matter of going back and watching the video of class.
I think courses like MOOCs (massive open online courses) are currently revolutionizing education at an astonishing pace. In certain situations, there is no replacement of one-on-one instruction, but MOOCs will allow students access to teachers that may hold a PhD, are extremely skilled and may have spent an entire career teaching and learning about what they are teaching.
It may otherwise never be possible for students to have access to such a teacher.
I also think there is a desperate need to bring back one of the aspects of the one room school house. The last stage of learning anything is to teach it, this is why the only way to become an airline pilot is to be a flight instructor in smaller aircraft first; it’s something you can only learn proficiently enough through teaching; simply being a student is not enough.
By having older students teach or tutor younger students, not only do they get to that point of fully understanding something but the social skills of working with someone who isn’t their peer.
I think there is a certain benefit of a combined campus with more students in one location, but that is one aspect of the one room school house that was lost and should be brought back.
Perhaps there is, in fact, a decline in enrollment as there are fewer families with four, six or eight children in them being common, but I think the declines in enrollment are a huge issue needing much attention.
My father left school in high school, I left in middle school, and our daughter left after fourth grade. At least in my family, if this trend continues, will the next generation even go to school at all?
As anyone with a business background, especially if it isn’t a monopoly, knows, when business is decreasing, you must ask yourself where is everyone going. While public schools have seen steady declines in enrollment, Freedom Project Education has seen steady and huge increases in enrollment.
The students of the future are demanding a higher quality of education, and I’m not entirely sure if public school will be able to keep up with the private alternatives. I think the biggest thing, if there is any hope for the school district to keep up with these trends, is to maintain the current status of being debt free and not being committed to choices of the past allowing for more freedom for new opportunities in the future.
Duxbury: As a parent, I want to see my children exposed to a variety of opportunities at school so they are well rounded and so they can thrive with their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses.
Today we are blessed to have very safe schools in Weyauwega-Fremont with many excellent teachers and staff. It is a great feeling when you drop your kids off at school in the morning, knowing that they are in good hands.
I am all for staying current with technology, facilities, extracurricular activities, and curriculum, but none of that will replace a safe learning environment where children feel comfortable learning from great teachers.
While declining or stable enrollment is a concern because of the funding that goes along with it, we have a great opportunity to figure out how to update and use our facilities better to give our teachers and students the best opportunity to thrive.
From there, we have to better advertise the feeling I have as a parent that when I drop my kids off at school, they are Luke and Noah Duxbury and not just a number in a big fancy building.
Duxbury: There is just something about a small town that makes them a great place to grow up. I grew up in Mosinee, which is also a small town.
My dad passed away when I was 8 years old, but that small town took me under its wing. Teachers, coaches, neighbors, fathers of my friends kept me out of trouble, taught me, took me hunting and fishing, loved me. When I go back to visit my mom and attend church on Sunday, there it is full of familiar faces that helped her raise me.
Thankfully, my kids have that same luxury here, because we are fortunate to live in a small town where people know them by name and truly care about them.
I know people in this small town will always be looking out for them; they will build friendships that will last a lifetime. I know they will get to participate in a lot of things, because the competition isn’t so great that they can’t taste success. There are and will always be familiar faces that they can count on.
Like in any business, organization or school, a great leader is necessary. I think Scott Bleck is a major strength. Right now, Weyauwega-Fremont School District has a committed leader who was home grown and has a long career ahead of him.
I trust him with my children and know he is a good man any way you look at it. If we don’t recognize the fact that a good, young district administrator could almost write their ticket to go anywhere, we would be fooling ourselves.
He has decided to make Weyauwega his home and has stayed committed to our district. I will do anything I can to support him and encourage him to stay for years to come. Stability in leadership is key to the success of any business, organization or school.
There is always room for improvement. I think it would be wise for us to look at the strengths of our community and run with them. We have the luxury of living in a safe rural community with endless access to woods, water and agriculture. I think we need to advertise ourselves as such.
What a great place to raise a family. Make lifelong learning and work ethic a priority. People who work hard, are trustworthy, continue to learn and do what they enjoy will rise to the top.
We need to expose kids to a variety of things, hold them accountable for the graduation requirements, but allow them to take courses that interest them. Creating lifelong learners provides much more knowledge and a much more productive citizen.
Larsen: I think the financial position of the school district is a huge strength. Being a small community, I think there is a wonderful opportunity to offer a specialized education praising what is great in our local community and to be more self sufficient as a community by teaching what great things we have here to buy as consumers and careers that are possible right here in our community.
Career goals should include more than just hoping to leave this town someday.
I think the biggest weakness the school has is forecasting trends. The purpose of educating children is to prepare them for life and careers, and unless we take trends forecasting into serious consideration, we will never be able to stay ahead of the curve.
Larsen: I’m appalled that the idea of adding a computer lab to the elementary school is even being considered. Computer labs were a great thing in the ‘90s, but I think they have already become obsolete. We’re talking about something that was the thing to do a quarter of a century ago.
Computers are affecting every aspect of our lives, and we’ve already come to the point that each student should have their own computer and be part of their everyday routine or even to the point of the whole education experience taking place through a computer.
Yes, this would be a $1 million expense, but wouldn’t that be better than spending nearly the same money on expanding a school with declining enrollment?
The elderly farmer I talked to said something to me that I may never forget as we were discussing the unquestioned spending in the school system. He said, “It’s not that they want a quarter or half of what you have. It’s about what they want, and if what you have isn’t enough,
that’s your problem.”
That point was driven home and made obviously clear later on when in the many houses I went to, I happened to end up at a beautiful house with a black top driveway and a swimming pool, where I was told by someone who has spent a career in public education, “Your comments about not raising taxes were very irresponsible.”
To me, it is extremely irresponsible to invest in obsolete technology or to add onto a school with declining enrollment as in the proposed fitness center.
There’s also been a lot of talk about not knowing what the community support is for a fitness center. From what I have seen at meetings and campaigning door to door, the community does not support such an expense; perhaps this election will act as a referendum as I will not support adding onto the school when we already have far too much unused space.
I’m also opposed to Common Core. Not only because I think the standards are extremely low, but because we should not have someone in Washington forcing us to all use the same solution to education.
No school will ever be able to excel in anything if they are stuck on the same low level.
In closing perhaps one of my favorite quotes – “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” – Albert Einstein.
Duxbury: I think it is safe to say that almost every administrator, teacher, coach, adviser or support staff member who works in a school does so because there was someone they remember from their childhood that made a difference in their lives through their education, and they want to be that someone.
These are the people in the trenches every day, and it is the job of the School Board to support them. I think it is important for the School Board to model teamwork, stability, open communication and the ability to make decisions in a timely manner.
As a board member, I think I can do these things, I think I have a lot of common sense and make decisions quickly with confidence and move forward.
On a board, you get your one vote. I will take that vote seriously.