Area boards contribute mightily to their schools’ success

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By Ted Pennekamp

 

The Wisconsin Association of School Boards has set Oct. 1-7 as Wisconsin School Board Week, a time to build awareness and understanding of the vital function an elected board of education plays in its community. Area school districts are joining all public school districts across the state to celebrate Wisconsin School Board Week to honor local board members for their commitment to their schools and the students. 

“It takes strong schools to build a strong community, and these men and women devote countless hours to making sure our schools are helping every child learn at a higher level,” said Robert Smudde, District Administrator for Prairie du Chien Area Schools. “They make the tough decisions every month and spend many hours studying education issues and regulations in order to provide the kind of accountability our citizens expect.” 

Smudde said the key work of school boards is to raise student achievement by: 

•Creating a vision for what the community wants the school district to be and for making student achievement the top priority; 

•Establishing standards for what students will be expected to learn and be able to do; 

•Ensuring progress is measured to be sure the district’s goals are achieved and students are learning at expected levels; 

•Being accountable for their decisions and actions by continually tracking and reporting results;

•Creating a safe, orderly climate where students can learn and teachers can teach; 

•Forming partnerships with others in the community to solve common problems; and 

•Focusing attention on the need for continuous improvement by questioning, refining and revising issues related to student achievement. 

“School board members give the Prairie du Chien Area citizens a voice in education decision making. Even though we make a special effort to show our appreciation in October, their contribution is a year-round commitment,” said Smudde.

Of course, the biggest and most visible project being undertaken currently by the Prairie du Chien School District is the $18.9 million school facilities upgrade, which the school board members put a lot of time and hard work into, before the referendum and after.

The members serving the Prairie du Chien District and their years of service are as follows: Christine Panka-6 years; Lynn O’Kane-6 years; Kyle Kozelka-4 years; Duane Rogers-3 years; Nick Gilberts-3 years; Cassie Hubanks-3 years; Lonnie Achenbach-1 year, (12 years prior to a two-year absence from the board).

“School board membership is one of the most personally demanding forms of public service,” said River Ridge District Administrator Dr. Jeff Athey. “The River Ridge Board of Education spends countless hours preparing for and participating in monthly meetings. They also devote a great deal of time in studying education issues and laws and listening to the concerns of community members, parents and teachers. They never are completely “off the job” as board members.”

Athey said he would like to thank the River Ridge Board of Education for the important role they play in taking care of the communities’ children.

River Ridge School Board members include: Kenny Nies (since May 2014), Kerri Schier (since May 2007), Cory Moravits (since May 2016), Jason Cathman (since May 2016), Cory Raisbeck (since May 2015), Karla Irish (2008-2014 and since May 2017), and Adam Guthrie (since March 2017).

During Athey’s time as the Superintendent/Elementary Principal (since July 2015), the River Ridge Board of Education was responsible for:

•Addressing air quality/electrical code violations at the Patch Grove and Bloomington sites,

•Involving their communities in the creation of a long-range plan for the school district,

•Passing a successful referendum in November 2016 for creating eight classrooms, a second gym, and moving all district students to one site (Patch Grove) beginning November 27, 2017,

•Approving the start-up of a cross country program (Fall 2017),

•Approving all-day, everyday 4K beginning the fall 2017,

•Approving adding Advanced Placement Science to the high school curriculum beginning with the 2017-18 school year.

These are just some of the accomplishments of the River Ridge Board of Education.

“We salute the public servants of the River Ridge Board whose commitment and civic responsibility make local control of public schools in our communities possible,” said Athey.

“School boards across the state are comprised of amazing individuals. Board members either volunteer their time or receive minimal monetary compensation,” said Wauzeka-Steuben District Administrator Robert Sailer.  “In return, they are put in a position to make decisions that are never unanimously favored. They are constantly on call and people continually try to influence them. Board members have to be special to balance being a political figure and also maintain their own ethical and moral compass to represent the community as a whole. This is my sixth year in the district and I have never been more proud of the W-S board.”  

Sailer said that over the last six years the Wauzeka-Steuben School Board has done tremendous work. They have made many hard decisions to balance the budget, for example. They have dealt with some extremely challenging employment matters that they knew would lead to a better institution, and they have taken on projects within the school to create a more sound environment. Currently, the board is putting together a 3 to 5-year plan that focuses on facilities, curriculum and staffing. 

“This is very time consuming work, but as each one of them would tell you, they do it for the kids and they do it for our future generations,” Sailer said. “To be a board member anywhere is a tremendous responsibility and I am forever grateful for these types of people in our world.”

Current Wauzeka-Steuben School Board members are as follows: Tom Jazdzewski - 11 years, Bill Marfilius - 8 years, Nikki Asleson - 3 years, Tom Martin - 2 years, and Jessie Bird - 1 year.

“There is no more important job than facilitating today’s youth so that they can become productive and contributing members of society,” said Seneca Superintendent David Boland. “Schools meet that challenge, and school board members play an integral part in that process. The work that is done by school board members is crucial in terms of setting the course for the district’s future. The board’s role in establishing, providing for, and improving district programs impacts all students, employees, and community members. These board members have done a good job, and have worked very hard in this vital role to ensure that our school can best benefit our students and our school community now and in the future.”

During the summer of 2016, the Seneca School District had the E3 Coalition replace almost all existing fluorescent lights in the school with high efficiency LED lights. The total cost of that project was $48,707. The new lights are projected to save the district $13,343 per year, meaning the project will pay for itself in a little over 3.5 years. The new lights are under warranty for 10 years. In addition to being more cost-effective, LED’s are ergonomically beneficial, more environmentally friendly, and show colors more accurately.

Seneca School Board members include: Mark Johnson, president - 18 years of service; Shawn Lenzendorf, vice-president - 10 years of service; Larry Kelley, treasurer - 8 years of service; Rachael George, clerk - 2 years of service; Chad Sime, member - 5 years of service; Brian Reynolds, member - 4 years of service; and Gary Allan, member - 2 years of service.

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