Second in series on April 5 election
By Robert Cloud
When voters go to the polls April 5, they will elect two of three candidates running for the Waupaca School Board.
Incumbents Connie Baldwin and Kirsten Greenfield and challenger Steve Hackett are seeking to be school board members this year.
“I’m running because I believe that I can continue to be a voice for students and parents,” said Greenfield. “I believe my nine years of experience with the board is valuable when it comes to decision making. I enjoy working with the board and hope to continue to do so.”
Baldwin said she is running for a sixth term “because I am invested in our schools and in the community where I’ve resided for 26 years. I appreciate that my daughters received a great education and I want to continue that for all children in our district. I also want to provide a smooth transition and offer my many years of experience as a board member as we move forward with a new district superintendent.”
“I’ve seen things that need our attention,” Hackett said. “Being a member of the school board will allow me to make my voice, my opinions and my suggestions heard in a manner previously unavailable to me. In this way, I will be able to facilitate change.”
Hackett believes the strengths of the Waupaca School District are its teachers and staff.
“We have so many very good employees working for the people of Waupaca,” Hackett said. “I know. I’ve worked with them. We must do all we can to ensure they want to stay.”
“We offer an incredible education from dedicated, compassionate staff, and provide a wide variety of activities, fine arts programs and sports within the walls of well-maintained buildings,” Baldwin said, when describing the district’s strengths. “We are financially sound and mindful of our taxpayers to not raise taxes higher than necessary due to careful, thoughtful spending and saving. I want to be certain this success continues by maintaining our current policies, procedures and goals.”
Greenfield also believes the district’s biggest strength is its staff.
“The teachers, support staff and administration work together to provide the best educational environment,” Greenfield said. “The Waupaca schools are well balanced with strong academics, extracurriculars and cocurriculars. The staff and administration are open to new educational opportunities. I think the monthly board monitoring process is one of the best ways to keep in touch with what is working.”
Baldwin said that among the challenges Waupaca schools currently face is declining enrollments.
“We will carefully monitor hiring, programming, class sizes and building space to continue to provide a high quality, cost-effective education that prepares our students for their individual career goals,” Baldwin said. “Declining state aid will be addressed through continued future planning, careful spending and maintaining a solid fund balance to avoid high interest short-term borrowing. We will also continue to address the lower achievement seen with some students who reside in lower income homes by offering additional support and services to meet their higher needs.”
Greenfield noted that state funding for public schools has been steadily decreasing.
“Because we are a fiscally conservative district we make cuts when appropriate and raise taxes as a last resort,” Greenfield said. “Our district administrator and business manager continually monitor the state reimbursement situation and plan accordingly. I think we make the most of our resources without affecting our student’s education. Another challenge is maintaining a high level of educational opportunities with a declining enrollment. We have been creative and will need to continue to do so.”
Hackett believes the board must work to hire and keep good teachers and staff, “giving them the tools they need to excel, continuing education in new and up-to-date methods, working hard to see that the newest and best methods are incorporated into their plans to educate students.”
Hackett also recommended that the district continue working with local corporations to help train future employees.
“We should be working hard to expand that program if possible,” Hackett said.
Recently, a number of parents asked the Waupaca School Board to expand Chain O’ Lakes Elementary School from kindergarten through second-grade classes to kindergarten through fourth grade.
The candidates were asked what they think of that proposal and how they would respond to those parents.
“I think it is worth having an in-depth discussion regarding the advantages of expanding to include the third and fourth grade,” Greenfield said. “It’s important to consider the staffing and financial implications before making a decision. I would tell the parents that I have an open mind about their proposal and I’m looking forward to hearing the pros and cons. I am always happy when parents come forward with ideas.”
“I have spoken with our current and new superintendents, both elementary school principals, our special services staff and the PTG parent who is bringing this request forward about the pros and cons,” Baldwin said. “I’m glad that parents researched the potential benefits of this change, but also realize that it will stretch our special services staff and may not be the time to make this change given continued declining enrollment. I assure our community that we will carefully study all aspects of this request before making a decision.”
“I’m neither in favor of this nor am I opposed,” Hackett said. “What would be the cost to implement such an idea? Is it the best use of school space? I need more information bedfore forming an opinion.”