Saturday, March 24, 2012

School Board candidates offer a clear choice

Some common sense from our friend Waring Fincke's Saturday Daily News Column

School Board candidates offer a clear choice
School Board candidates offer a clear choice
Experience and proven leadership skills needed to guide our schools

With the passage of Act 10, our schools entered uncharted territory. Without teacher and support staff labor contracts, the District needs experienced and knowledgeable leaders on the school board to make sure that the children who attend our public schools continue to receive the best education possible in the face of declining revenues and new employeremployee relationships. Kris Beaver and Therese Sizer bring much-needed skills to very difficult issues facing our schools.

Kris Beaver has served well during his seven-year tenure on the board and is seeking re-election. Beaver lives in Jackson and teaches at the Kewaskum High School. Before turning to teaching, he worked for 17 years in various businesses, including management of multimillion dollar budgets. Beaver has steered a middle course, voting to cut when funds were not available and helping to advance more realistic facilities referenda. He voted for budget and programmatic reductions to balance the budget while voicing strong concerns about the impacts those reductions would have on students. He helped bring the Badger Middle School renovation in on time and under budget. He supports creative educational improvements including expanded Advanced Placement opportunities. He brings an educator's perspective to discussions about educational choices and asks tough questions. While on the board, he helped reach consensus on balanced budgets and thorny education issues. His two children attend the high schools where they have received great educations. He wants future high school students to have the same opportunities his children enjoy.

Therese Sizer seeks the other seat on the board. Sizer has lived in West Bend most of her adult life, raising a family and working as a litigation lawyer for West Bend Mutual Insurance for the past 19 years. Her son and daughter both recently graduated from the West Bend high schools. She was an active parent in their education and athletic activities. She is intimately familiar with our schools, their offerings and some of their shortcomings. Sizer familiarized herself with school district funding and educational issues. She stresses the important role quality public education plays in the life and value of our community. She met with groups across the political spectrum, listening to their concerns. Sizer has endorsed a platform for quality public education put forward by an independent group of community leaders, Taxpayers for Excellent Education. She embraces fiscal restraint and accountability. Sizer will bring much needed legal and business skills to the board's deliberations, adding a new dimension to school board deliberations and district oversight.

Southaviney "Vinney" Pheng is making his second bid for a seat on the board. He ran last year, came in last and was eliminated in the primary. Pheng's views were made clear in his presentations to the school board and during the candidate forum last spring. I posted videos of these events on YouTube. We know he is a military veteran and self-proclaimed conservative. His children attend private school. His primary agenda appears to be lowering school property taxes. Pheng believes public education ought to cost a lot less. Pheng urged the board to spend public funds to support a religious charter school proposed by the pastor of the Baptist church where Pheng serves as a Deacon while failing to disclose this connection when speaking in favor of the proposal.

Carl Knepel is a 21-year old college student who is also running for the board for a second time. He dropped out of his last race. Knepel attended the West Bend high schools and served as a student representative on the school board in his senior year. He styles himself a libertarian who seeks fiscal conservative positions. Knepel has little real-world experience and is not a property taxpayer. He has no business skills or experience and has never managed a business enterprise, much less one close to the scope and size of our school district.

Beaver and Sizer offer the experience and skills needed to support innovative high quality education under an uncertain new set of rules and deserve election to the West Bend school board on April 3rd.

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