Gary J. Kunich

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Gary J. Kunich
Gary J. Kunich.jpg
Board member, Kenosha Board of Education, At-large
Incumbent
Term ends
April 2017
Years in position 0
Elections and appointments
Last electionApril 1, 2014
First electedApril 1, 2014
Term limitsN/A
Education
Associate'sCommunity College of the Air Force
Bachelor'sThomas Edison State University
Master'sRegent University
Military service
Service/branchU.S. Air Force
Personal
ProfessionCommunications director
Websites
Campaign website
Gary J. Kunich is an at-large member of the Kenosha Board of Education in Wisconsin. He won election to the board in general election on April 1, 2014.

Biography

Kunich served in the United States Air Force until his retirement in 2006. He earned an associate degree in Public Affairs from the Community College of the Air Force in 2000. Kunich later received a bachelor's degree in journalism from Thomas Edison State University in 2004. He also holds a master's degree in digital media communications from Regent University. Kunich reported on educational issues for the Kenosha News for four years. He currently works as the communications director for the Milwaukee Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Kunich and his wife, Ruth Ann, have three children currently attending district schools.[1]

Elections

2014

See also: Kenosha Unified School District elections (2014)

Opposition

Gary J. Kunich ran against five other candidates in the February 18, 2014 primary election. The top four vote recipients advanced to the general election on April 1, 2014.

Results

General
Kenosha Unified School District, At-large General Election, 3-year term, April 1, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngDan Wade 28.2% 6,858
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngGary J. Kunich 26.1% 6,346
     Nonpartisan Mike Falkofske 23.4% 5,688
     Nonpartisan Jo Ann Taube Incumbent 22.3% 5,423
     Nonpartisan Write-in votes 0.2% 43
Total Votes 24,358
Source: Kenosha County Clerk, "Spring Election," April 1, 2014
Primary
Kenosha Unified School District, At-large Primary Election, 3-year term, February 18, 2014
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngJo Ann Taube Incumbent 19.7% 1,917
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngGary J. Kunich 18.7% 1,826
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngMike Falkofske 18.1% 1,764
     Nonpartisan Green check mark transparent.pngDan Wade 17.3% 1,688
     Nonpartisan Robert Nuzzo Incumbent 13% 1,271
     Nonpartisan Michael Kehoe 12.9% 1,255
     Nonpartisan Write-in votes 0.2% 21
Total Votes 9,742
Source: Kenosha County Clerk, "Spring Primary Election," accessed February 18, 2014

Funding

Kunich reported $5,776.06 in contributions and $3,657.52 in expenditures to the school board secretary in his March 24, 2014 pre-election report, leaving his campaign with $2,156.54 on hand.[2]

Endorsements

Kunich did not receive any official endorsements for his campaign.

Campaign themes

2014

Kunich's campaign website listed his campaign themes for 2014:

Taxes
Taxpayers need someone who represents them and spends our money wisely. I was the first one to raise the flag about the $37.5 million CDO investment that was costing taxpayers an outrageous amount of money. I spoke up when the actions in November cost this district more than $1.65 million without teachers or classrooms seeing a penny. Our children need innovative ways to learn, without wasting money. I will be a good steward of our tax dollars.


Open Meetings and Citizen Comments
Your School Board needs to be accountable to you! No more deceitful meetings behind closed doors. The board needs to strictly follow the law on open meetings. You deserve to hear our thoughts and discussions in open. You deserve to have your voice heard with citizen comments that won't be shut down. And you deserve to hear from the board members, who should respond to citizen comments in an open forum, instead of hiding behind a podium, afraid to speak. The current board president wanted to shut down ALL citizen comments. The vice president, who is up for re-election, brought up issues for a vote that were not on the agenda. You deserve better!


Respect
I will respect all the citizens of Kenosha, and will not ram through meetings with barely any notice to our community. I will respect the law and the viewpoints of others on the board, even if they are in the minority.. I will respect our teachers. Most importantly I will respect the process of representing this community. I'll take input from special groups, but I will not cow-tow to them.


Honesty
The Board first tried voting on an issue that would cost taxpayers $1.65 million without putting it on the agenda. Then they said the meeting would take place Nov. 26, but then rushed it through at a Nov. 14 meeting on barely 24 hours notice! That's not being fair and honest with citizens, and teachers and classrooms won't see a penny of it. When people ask questions, they don't answer. That is not being honest or accountable. I will always tell you the truth and nothing but.


Teacher Pay
Our teachers deserve good pay, and should be allowed to be in a union. They deserve to be represented by a strong union. But they should have a choice, and not be forced to do something they don't want to do by a very small minority of people.


Reducing the School Hours
Three school administrators begged the board not to reduce school hours by a half hour Two teachers spoke up at the last Board meeting and said it was a bad idea. They said this will drastically reduce times teachers are on hand in schools looking after our children, and will cause massive changes to lunch hours and other schedules in numerous schools. They said it would be dangerous and affect children safety with a ratio of 600 children to one adult at certain times of the day. This decision is currently on hold as the Board faces a lawsuit over signing of a contract against legal advice. Aren't our children more important than forcing this through without citizen comment?


Superintendent
I've not always agreed with Superintendent Michelle Hancock, and have not been afraid to tell her so. I think it was a waste of money to redecorate the Education Support Center when that money could have been better used in the classroom. Honors classes never should have gone away, and I think there should have been better communication with teachers and Kenosha citizens.

But now, because of the Board's antagonistic actions toward the Superintendent THEY hired then forced from the district -- you, the taxpayer, are on the hook for her half-million-dollar retirement package. Think of how teachers and classrooms could have used a half million dollars to teach our children. If there were issues with the superintendent, it was the Board's responsibility to provide oversight. The Board did not do this.

In order for our next superintendent to be successful in Kenosha, that person must meet the three C's: Communication, Collaboration and Common Sense. I want to be on the Board that helps choose the next Superintendent, along with citizens of Kenosha, to keep moving us forward.


Accountability
This Board hired the superintendent, told her drastic changes were needed and she started implementing a transformation plan, based on the strategic plan the Board had put together. But when people raised concerns, those same Board members acted as if they had nothing to do with the plan they created and voted for! When I make a decision, I will be accountable for that decision. I will not lie to you. The recent curriculum audit showed deficiencies in this plan because it has too many steps and didn't clearly articulate goals. This gives us a chance to look at this plan, see what works and see what can be fixed for the betterment of all our students.


Achievement gap
While some board members have put politics and special interests above the needs of our children, we've done nothing to close the achievement gap. It's time this School Board quits micromanaging and helps work on solutions to help all of our children achieve greatness. If they can do it at Milwaukee College Prep, we can do it here!


The future
I strongly support ideas to increase physical education for students and to give them more access to the arts. I would love to see us offer another charter school in the future that focuses on the creative and performing arts, just like the one I attended in Pittsburgh Public Schools. I also want to look into more healthier breakfast and lunch alternatives that don't cost taxpayers additional money. Studies show that our kids perform better when they are eating healthy and have options in their education!


Graduation rates
We need to continue coming up with innovative ways for all of our children to learn. Every child learns differently. I would like to expand our options with different learning opportunities such as Indian Trail Academy, LakeView and other innovative methods. If we come up with different, creative options, demand the best of our children and hold them accountable, while working with the community, we will help them graduate. We need to listen to our teachers, give them the tools to do the job, then get out of the way and let them teach. [3]

—Gary J. Kunich's campaign website, (2014), [4]

What was at stake?

Issues in the election

Involvement of outside groups

The Kenosha board election attracted significant resources from state and national groups seeking to influence board policies. Conservative group Americans for Prosperity joined the fray after the February primary with a field team conducting phone banks and door-to-door canvassing. State director David Fladeboe noted that the group did not support any particular candidate but shares concerns with district residents about the school board's 2013 contract negotiations with teachers. Jo Ann Taube expressed surprise about the group's involvement in an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio:

I'm amazed they're (AFP) interested in a school board election in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where school board members receive a stipend $4,500 a year. [3]

Wisconsin Public Radio, (2014), [5]

A group of 60 demonstrators protested Americans for Prosperity's involvement in the election outside of the district's Educational Support Center on March 29. The protest was organized by the Kenosha Education Association, which backed Taube and Mike Falkofske in the February primary. Outside groups including the Greater Wisconsin Committee ($10,000) and the Wisconsin Education Association Council ($8,500) financed automated calls and mailers opposing Kunich and Dan Wade.[6]

Accusations of racism

Former board member Pam Stevens accused Taube of racially charged remarks about minority students at district schools. Stevens cited comments made by Taube during a January 29 forum at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside regarding achievement gaps in the district. Stevens quoted Taube as saying that "if black males are the problem we have to look into that." Taube countered that the quote was distorted because Stevens supported Kunich and Dan Wade ahead of the April 1 election. The Kenosha News published the full quote from Taube in a February 21 report:

There has been a concern nationally about over-identifying minority students, especially African American males. We need to understand that, but we also, if they pick up any bad habits, need to try to nip that in the bud as early as we can. [3]

Kenosha News, (2014), [7]

During the January 29 forum, Taube cited Head Start and early kindergarten programs as essential to teaching all students the social skills necessary for academic success. Wade explained his views on the achievement gap in response to Taube:

There is definitely inequality, I think, in the school system when it comes to minorities, and I believe the majority of that has to start at home, whether it be social skills or respect for authority and just respect in general...If they are not getting it at home, it may sound ridiculous, but maybe the parents should go back to school. [3]

Kenosha News, (2014), [7]

February 5th forum

All six candidates for the Kenosha Board of Education participated in a forum hosted by the Kenosha Area Business Alliance on February 5th. The candidates debated the selection of a new superintendent as well as the board's negotiations with the Kenosha Education Association over a new contract. Robert Nuzzo noted that dysfunction on the board drove away former superintendent Michele Hancock, forcing the selection of a new superintendent. Mike Falkofske countered that Hancock hired friends as consultants and wasted resources on conferences rather than classroom expenses. Falkofske argued that the district needed an experienced superintendent to improve academic performance.[8]

Kunich and Dan Wade took current board members to task for negotiating a new contract with the teacher's union in fall 2013. Both candidates believe that the contract violates Act 10, a state law restricting collective bargaining. Wade's daughter, a former teacher in the district, filed suit against the district in November 2013 with the help of the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. Jo Ann Taube argued that the new contract provided a stable working environment for teachers and staff after two years of uncertainty.[8][9]

Issues in the district

Board negotiations with teachers' union

In November 2013, the Board of Education agreed to a new contract with the Kenosha Education Association (KEA) by a 4-3 vote. This agreement with the teachers' union drew attention because collective bargaining over public employee salaries is limited by state law under Act 10. This 2011 law also prohibits employers from withdrawing involuntary contributions to public employee unions from wages. The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), a conservative legal aid organization, and Kristi Lacroix attempted to block the contract in court after the board vote. The WILL argued that the contract exceeded salary increase limits in Act 10. District officials countered that teachers were given one-time bonuses rather than salary increases under the agreement.[10]

A 4-3 vote by the board during a June 5, 2014 meeting settled the lawsuit with WILL by paying $10,500 in legal fees. This settlement also nullified the 2013 agreement with the KEA.[11]

Censure vote for Kyle Flood

The Board of Education unanimously voted during a February 25, 2014 meeting to censure board member Kyle Flood for citations issued by University of Wisconsin-Whitewater police officers.[12] Flood, a student at the university, was ticketed for possession of drug paraphernalia on November 11, 2013 and vandalism in late December 2013. On February 14, 2013, Flood issued an apology but stated that he will not resign from the board.

The censure vote was supported by board president Rebecca Stevens and Jo Ann Taube. Both members noted the district's efforts to ensure drug-free campuses in their support for the vote. District resident and former teacher Kristi Lacroix initiated an online petition to force Flood's removal from office after the incident became public. This petition effort did not lead to a recall or Flood's resignation.[13]

About the district

See also: Kenosha Unified School District, Wisconsin
Kenosha Unified School District is located in Kenosha, Wisconsin
Kenosha Unified School District is located in Kenosha, the county seat for Kenosha County, Wisconsin. Kenosha is home to 100,150 residents according to the U.S. Census.[14] Kenosha Unified School District is the third-largest school district in Wisconsin, serving 22,986 students during the 2010-2011 school year.[15]

Demographics

Kenosha underperformed in comparison to the rest of Wisconsin in terms of higher education achievement in 2010. The United States Census Bureau found that 22.9 percent of Kenosha residents aged 25 years and older had attained a bachelor's degree compared to 26.4 percent for Wisconsin as a whole. The median household income in Kenosha was $49,641 compared to $52,627 for the state of Wisconsin. The poverty rate in Kenosha was 16.2 percent compared to 12.5 percent for the entire state.[14]

Racial Demographics, 2010[14]
Race Kenosha (%) Wisconsin (%)
White 77.1 86.2
Black or African American 10.0 6.3
American Indian and Alaska Native 0.6 1.0
Asian 1.7 2.3
Two or More Races 3.8 1.8
Hispanic or Latino 16.3 5.9

Presidential votes, 2000-2012[16]
Year Democratic vote (%) Republican vote (%)
2012 55.4 43.2
2008 58.1 40.1
2004 52.4 46.5

Note: The United States Census Bureau considers "Hispanic or Latino" to be a place of origin, not a race. Therefore, the Census allows citizens to report both their race and that they are from a "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin simultaneously. As a result, the percentages in each column of the racial demographics table will exceed 100 percent. Each column will add up to 100 percent after removing the "Hispanic or Latino" place of origin percentages.[17]

Recent news

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See also

External links

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References

  1. Friends of Gary J. Kunich, "About," accessed February 3, 2014
  2. Information submitted to Ballotpedia through e-mail from Stacy Busby on March 25, 2014.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  4. Friends of Gary J. Kunich, "Issues," accessed February 3, 2014
  5. Wisconsin Public Radio, "Americans For Prosperity Gets Involved In Kenosha School Board Election," March 27, 2014
  6. Kenosha News, "Demonstration draws 60 to ESC," March 30, 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 Kenosha News, "Racism accusation aimed at School Board member," February 21, 2014
  8. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named forum
  9. Wisconsin Reporter, "Sauk Prairie school board may have violated Act 10 with new teachers’ contract," November 27, 2013
  10. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Kenosha schools, teachers union at odds over deducting union dues," February 11, 2014
  11. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "Kenosha School Board settles lawsuit over Act 10 dispute," June 6, 2014
  12. Kenosha News, "School board votes to censure Flood," February 25, 2014
  13. Kenosha News, "Unified board president, vice president support Flood censure," February 14, 2014
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 United States Census Bureau, "Kenosha, Wisconsin," accessed January 31, 2014
  15. National Center for Education Statistics, "ELSI Table Generator," accessed January 27, 2014
  16. Kenosha County Clerk, "Previous Election Results," accessed January 31, 2014
  17. United States Census Bureau, "Frequently Asked Questions," accessed April 21, 2014