School board elections in Alaska and Wisconsin spark debates over budgets, academic performance

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March 26, 2014

By Nick Katers

Voters in Alaska and Wisconsin will cast ballots for school board candidates on April 1, 2014. Residents of Anchorage School District can choose from six candidates for two available seats. Victorious candidates will confront budgetary issues in the school district that have forced layoffs for 219 employees for the 2014-2015 school year.[1]

Eleven Wisconsin school districts among the nation's largest districts by enrollment are holding elections for 30 seats. There are competitive board elections in Appleton, Janesville, Kenosha, Madison, Racine and West Allis. Board candidates in Eau Claire, Green Bay, Oshkosh, Sheboygan and Waukesha are running unopposed. Candidates across the state have debated the best methods for improving academic performance. These discussions have ranged from the best implementation of Common Core standards in Janesville to the merits of a technology initiative in Madison that uses $27.7 million in public funds to increase student exposure to computers.[2][3]

Spotlight: Kenosha Unified School District

The race for two seats on the Kenosha Board of Education has exposed tensions within the district. Current member Jo Ann Taube has defended the board's decision to negotiate a new contract with the teachers' union in 2013 despite a state law limiting collective bargaining rights for public employees. She argues that the contract provided stability among teachers after two years of uncertainty. Challengers Gary J. Kunich and Dan Wade have been vocal opponents of the negotiations. Taube has also been criticized by former board member Pam Stevens for using racially insensitive comments during a candidate forum on January 29, 2014. These accusations have been rebuked by Taube as political maneuvering by Stevens, who supports Kunich and Wade.[4]

District residents have also expressed concerns over the behavior of board member Kyle Flood. The board unanimously voted during a February 25 meeting to censure Flood for citations issued by University of Wisconsin-Whitewater police officers.[5] Flood, a student at the university, was ticketed for possession of drug paraphernalia on November 11, 2013 and vandalism in late December 2013. The 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. On February 14, 2014, Flood issued an apology but stated that he will not resign from the board.[6]

Candidates have raised $18,754.32 and spent $10,510.27 ahead of the election based on pre-election reports from the school board secretary. Dan Wade ($6,498.72) leads the field in terms of total contributions while Gary J. Kunich ($3,657.52) has reported the highest expenditures.[7]

Candidates

Alaska

Anchorage School District
Seat C
UncheckedBox.jpg Pat Higgins
UncheckedBox.jpg Liz Ross
UncheckedBox.jpg Dean Williams

Seat D
UncheckedBox.jpg Kameron Perez-Verdia
UncheckedBox.jpg Don Smith
UncheckedBox.jpg Karli Lopez

Wisconsin

Appleton Area School District
At-large
UncheckedBox.jpg Diane Barkmeier
UncheckedBox.jpg John DeVantier
UncheckedBox.jpg Sharon Fenlon
UncheckedBox.jpg Barry O'Connor

Eau Claire Area School District
At-large
UncheckedBox.jpg Trish Cummins
UncheckedBox.jpg Charles Vue

Green Bay Area Public School District
At-large
UncheckedBox.jpg Michael Blecha
UncheckedBox.jpg Katie Maloney


Janesville School District
At-large
UncheckedBox.jpg Diane Eyers
UncheckedBox.jpg Fred Jackson
UncheckedBox.jpg Kevin Murray
UncheckedBox.jpg Bill Sodemann
UncheckedBox.jpg Dale Thompson

Kenosha Unified School District
At-large
UncheckedBox.jpg Mike Falkofske
UncheckedBox.jpg Gary J. Kunich
UncheckedBox.jpg Jo Ann Taube
UncheckedBox.jpg Dan Wade

Madison Metropolitan School District
Seat 6
UncheckedBox.jpg Michael Flores
UncheckedBox.jpg Wayne Strong

Seat 7
UncheckedBox.jpg Ed Hughes

Oshkosh Area School District
At-large
UncheckedBox.jpg Allison Garner
UncheckedBox.jpg Barbara Herzog
UncheckedBox.jpg John Lemberger


Racine Unified School District
At-large
UncheckedBox.jpg Thomas Fineran
UncheckedBox.jpg Pamala Handrow
UncheckedBox.jpg Melvin Hargrove
UncheckedBox.jpg Henry Perez
UncheckedBox.jpg Jacqueline Pinager
UncheckedBox.jpg Wally Rendón
UncheckedBox.jpg Dennis Wiser

Sheboygan Area School District
At-large
UncheckedBox.jpg David Gallianetti
UncheckedBox.jpg Jennifer Pothast
UncheckedBox.jpg Larry Samet

Waukesha School District
At-large
UncheckedBox.jpg Barbara Brzenk
UncheckedBox.jpg Joseph Como, Jr.
UncheckedBox.jpg Karin Rajnicek

West Allis-West Milwaukee School District
At-large
UncheckedBox.jpg Dan Bailey
UncheckedBox.jpg Gail Radonski
UncheckedBox.jpg Diane Narlock
UncheckedBox.jpg Kristi Bonaparte

See also

References