Neal Loehrke faces Tim Baehnman this spring in a race for a seat on the Weyauwega-Fremont School Board.
Loehrke, the incumbent, is seeking his third three-year term on the board, while Baehnman is a first-time candidate.
Sandra Smith is also up for re-election in the April 7 election and is running unopposed for another term on the board.
All eligible voters in the school district may vote for both of these school board races.
Born and raised in the school district, Loehrke is a graduate of W-F High School. He has owned Valley Well Drilling since 1977.
“My experience involves all aspects of business: customer service, purchasing, bidding, accounts payable and receivables and making balanced priorities. I always brought this business experience to the board when I have made decisions for the past six years,” he said.
Loehrke has six children and four grandchildren.
“My two oldest daughters graduated from W-F and my four youngest are currently students at W-F in the third, sixth, tenth and twelfth grades. I have been active in this school district as a parent since 1981. As an involved parent in all my children’s education I have spent hours volunteering in classrooms, attending athletic events, drama performances, choir and band concerts. I have a vested interest in the success of the W-F school district,” he said.
Loehrke describes himself as dedicated, having a 100 percent meeting attendance rate for the past six years.
He has attended daylong workshops and annually attends the multi-day state convention in Milwaukee on school board issues through the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
“Through these classes I am very knowledgeable in school law, parliamentary procedures, agenda settings and the keeping of meeting minutes as required by law,” Loehrke said.
He said he is prepared at meetings.
“I thoroughly read all information given to the board along with researching information myself to bring as much knowledge to meetings as possible to make the best decisions for our students. I have always been willing to spend my own time and resources for the betterment of the W-F School District and that willingness will continue,” Loehrke said.
He said he is not afraid to ask tough questions.
“I do not automatically vote ‘yes’ for what is being recommended to the school board. I use common business sense when I am being asked to approve any financial expenditures,” Loehrke said. “I am willing and I do listen to the many parents and taxpayers that reach out to me often. I listen to all concerns and complaints with an open mind. I do not discount any complaint and do my best to come to an agreeable solution.”
His vision for the district is to have balanced resources for all students from special needs through gifted and talented.
“I believe the maintenance of our school buildings needs to be a priority. The board is currently working on developing a five-year maintenance plan for the HVAC systems throughout our schools. I am the chairman of a sub-committee appointed to find practical and prudent solutions to our HVAC needs,” he said.
He said district-wide energy efficient upgrades can reduce operating costs, and savings in energy costs can be put toward students. The school board needs to work with the administration on budget priorities.
“I believe it is the board’s responsibility to make budget decisions with input from the stakeholders of the district. It is very important for the school board to understand where taxpayers dollars are going. Decisions need to be made on data, not emotions,” Loehrke said.
Baehnman was born and raised in the district and is a graduate of W-F High School. He works at CHS/Larsen Coop, where he is a propane field technician. He began working there following graduation from high school.
He has two sons. Both of them are students in the school district, with one of them in the middle school and the other in the high school.
Baehnman explained how his past experiences, both professional and civic, would help him as a member of the W-F School Board.
“During my 15 years with the Weyauwega Area Fire Department serving as a state certified Firefighter 2 and later elected to treasurer/secretary, I experienced team work, self-control/discipline, collaborated thinking, accounting and the importance of good decision making,” he said.
Baehnman said his full-time employment with CHS/ Larsen Coop as a propane field technician further strengthens and reflects his responsible decision-making abilities.
“As I work in customer service daily, it is important to understand the customer’s needs and wants,” he said. “It is my job to figure out how to provide, with good judgment, a fair, workable, fiscally responsible solution to the customer and CHS.”
Baehnman said, “With these qualifications, attributes and strengths in mind, I know I can bring a good, sound, open-minded approach to the Weyauwega-Fremont School Board. I understand it is the board’s responsibility to make good sound decisions in the best interest of our students, staff and the community. Each decision, big or small, requires collaborated thinking, good clear review of the facts presented, thought process on how each decision made not only affects the immediate future but also the long-range effects.”
His vision for the district’s students of today and the future would ultimately be a solid, well taught education, he said.
“I envision the district always making constant little improvements to the curriculum, educational tools and environment in an effort to keep current with the times,” Baehnman said. “The public school system is a business. Student enrollment is going to be fluid. A reduction in state funding does not have to mean a reduction in the quality of the education that we provide. The district needs to work responsibly within the financial limits available to them. It is important to constantly have measures in place in an effort to monitor the daily operations and its needs.”
He said the W-F School District has many strengths, specifically its good, quality teachers and being fiscally sound.
“The challenges facing our district are a declining enrollment, keeping up with technology, retaining staff and maintaining and updating our facilities. We need to take every opportunity to retain the teachers we have and recruit new teachers as needed.
“I feel the district needs to be more involved with the communities. The bottom line for our school district is to remain relevant to our children, families and community.
“To achieve that we must grow. As we look to grow our school district, we need to take every opportunity to build a strong next generation of academic excellence,” Baehnman said.