Greendale - School Board candidates spoke directly to voters Monday night at a forum hosted by the Highland View Elementary School PTO.
More than 30 residents attended as the six candidates vying for the board's three open spots outlined their visions for the district.
The top two vote-getters will serve three-year terms, and earn an annual $4,200 stipend. The third-place candidate will serve one year, filling the remainder of Jim Schutte's term. Incumbents Thomas Slota, Victoria McCormick and Melanie Kuzmanovic, and challengers Kathleen Wied-Vincent, Katie Mevis and Roger Dalkin will be on the ballot in the April 2 general election.
As each candidate presented their qualifications and strategy for improvement, it was clear that most shared a similar philosophy. It eventually led one woman to ask, "What sets you apart that would make me vote for you?"
Cheryl Kelly, a mother of students in first and fourth grades, left the forum still not knowing who she would be voting before because "everybody kind of said the same thing." She does feel more comfortable electing someone who has children in the district, she said. "If you don't have a kid who is in the classes, you don't really know what's happening in the curriculum."
Greendale Superintendent John Tharp, who succeeded William Hughes in August, said voters will be looking for "three candidates who can best understand the changes happening in education at the local and state level."
The changes include Gov. Scott Walker's recent budget proposal that provides no per-pupil spending increase over the next two years for traditional districts like Greendale, and that could be further exacerbated by sequestration.
The School Board candidates will have to deal with limited revenue while maintaining the district's high performance, recruiting and retaining the best teachers, and preparing for the state's new score cards.
Beyond the state budget, residents have voiced concerns about recent incidents across the district, including bullying, public safety and potential conflicts of interest.
Last March, a Greendale High School student told police after being arrested that he wrote a bomb threat in a bathroom because he had experienced prolonged bullying by his peers, including nominating him for homecoming court as a prank. Students and the district have since responded by forming anti-bullying coalitions.
More recently, a woman was charged with disorderly conduct after an incident in the Canterbury Elementary parking lot, where she allegedly threatened to use a gun in self-defense against a school aide.
Roger Dalkin's candidacy has been called into question to the point where he bluntly addressed it at the forum. Dalkin's daughter works in the district and this has some observers feeling it would pose a conflict of interest.
According to Dalkin, the previous superintendent, William Hughes, encouraged him to run for a School Board position. But Dalkin said he wouldn't pursue it until it was ruled that there was unequivocally no conflict with state statutes. Hughes contacted the Wisconsin Association of School Boards about any potential conflict of interest. The state association responded that there was not, and the report remains in the district offices. Dalkin said he would recuse himself from any vote with perceived conflict.
GREENDALE HIGH SCHOOL: 6:30 p.m. on March 27.
FACTS AND FIGURES
SCHOOLS: Canterbury Elementary, College Park Elementary, Time 4 Learning, Greendale Middle School, Greendale High School
TOTAL ENROLLMENT: 2,600
NUMBER OF TEACHERS: 193
TOTAL EMPLOYMENT: 332
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