"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Monday, March 28, 2011

Candidate "Forum": Summary of Meet the Candidate Articles Originally Published in The Evansville Review

Here's the promised summary of all five parts of my "Meet the Candidates" series published from February to last week.

I won't endorse one newcomer candidate over the other. I leave that to readers to decide based on what they read here. But I do endorse re-election of the incumbents, Kathi Swanson and Dennis Hatfield. There were effective, passionate and dedicated board members when I served with them on the Board and have remained so in the year since I was booted. It is critical during this time of budgetary crisis to retain people who know what the heck they are doing. Ask anyone who has held public office and they will tell you (if they are honest) that they were clueless the first year as they struggled to get their bearings. The percentage of people who feel overwhelmed by the job of board member should be kept to a minimum during these trying times.

There are only 19 years of experience among the six members of the current board who either are running for re-election or whose seat is not up for reelection. Two have one year of experience, two have three, one has five and one has six. Yes, the member with the most experience on the school board only has six years of experience. Mr. Pierick, the other "old hand" with six years of experience, chose not to run again. There are school districts in the area with boards comprised of all members with 19 or more years of experience. The turnover on the Evansville School Board is a factor in challenges they routinely face. Continuity in philosophy and having to constantly bring new members up to speed on how finance works in schools and other critical board business hampers forward motion. The act of simply writing a blinking Vision Statement endured two years and two new board members before it could be brought home. This is not to say that the voters should tolerate doofuses on the school board. They should be informed about the issues faced by the district and vote for people based on the total package they bring to the job. People who elect somebody based on one plank in the platform are shortsided and have effectively contributed to the horrid state of affairs in our country now. So read this information and use it to inform your vote. Without further lecturing, (sorry about that, it's a pet peeve of mine) here it is:

Meet the Candidates for the Evansville Community School District Board of Education Spring Election Background Information: Part One of Five As originally published February 23 in the Evansville Review

This is the first of a five part series of articles designed to inform the voters of the Evansville Community School District about the four candidates running for three open positions on the School Board. The candidates, in alphabetical order, are Dave Ammerman, Dennis Hatfield (incumbent), John Rasmussen and Kathi Swanson (incumbent). The election will be held on Tuesday April 5, 2011. A different question will be featured each week to introduce you to the candidates and their stances regarding district concerns. Each candidate’s response is presented verbatim. Please stay tuned to this byline to learn more and inform your vote.

Kathi Swanson, Incumbent

Name: Kathi Swanson
Occupation: Professional Long-Arm Quilter Education: B.S. in Psychology, M.S. in Agency Counseling Age: 49
Family: I have a 9 year old son, Ethan.
Volunteer Service: I volunteer at TRIS weekly to read with the children and in the past have read with children at Levi Leonard Elementary. Previous Public School Affiliation: I worked for 15 years at Indiana State University in the School of Nursing recruiting, reviewing applications and High School transcripts for admission criteria, advising students on curriculum requirements and certifying students for graduation.
Previous Public Service or Elected Office: I am currently serving my 3rd year of my first term as a School Board Member.
Recreational Pursuits: I enjoy quilting, gardening and camping but more than anything, I enjoy spending time with my son doing what he enjoys doing.

John Rasmussen
My name is John Rasmussen, a 59-year-old life long resident of Evansville I retired from Evansville Water & Light in 2008 after 29 years. Before that I worked eight years at the Evansville Community School District. I graduated from The Wisconsin School of Electronics in 1971 as an Electronics Technician, followed by The Wisconsin Electric Lineman Apprenticeship Program as a Journeyman Lineman in 1985.

I have been married to Vicky (Vreeland) for 30 years and she works at IKI in Edgerton. I also have two sons, Jeremy and Chad, who are 4th generation graduates of Evansville High School.

My volunteer service consists of Blackhawk Technical Collage Electric Power Distribution Class Advisory Committee, The State of Wisconsin Electric Lineworker Apprenticeship Advisory Committee (co-chair from 2005-2008), Evansville Fire Dept. (1976-1988), I coached youth bowling for a number of years, and various committees for the United Church of Christ My Affiliations with the Evansville Community School District has consisted of Adopt a Classroom at the Middle School, The Building Leadership Team at the High School in the past. I was the Lighting Director for eight of the High School Musicals. I also have been on the Budget Committee at the High School and am currently on the District Budget Committee. I was a member of the Facilities and Vision Committee for the new High School. I am also involved in local athletics by running scoreboards and keeping scorebooks at both the Middle and High Schools, I am also an Assistant Varsity Baseball Coach. If elected this would be my first elected position.

For recreation I enjoy woodworking, garden and model railroading, baseball and reading.

Dave Ammerman
Occupation: Correctional Sergeant with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections for 23 years. I work at the Oregon Correctional Center in Oregon, WI. Education: Washington High School Class of 1974, Two Rivers, WI. University of Wisconsin-Platteville Class of 1978. BA in Criminal Justice. Age: 54 Born 8/1/56
Spouse: Beth Ammerman
Spouse's Occupation: Collections Specialist for Promega Corp. in Madison, WI.
Other family members: 1 son, Ryan Ammerman, EHS Class of 2008 and currently a Junior at University of Wisconsin- Whitewater. 1 daughter, Rachel Ammerman, EHS Class of 2010 and currently a Freshman at University of Wisconsin- Whitewater.
Volunteer Service: EHS Sports Boosters, Fundraising for EHS Poms, EHS Site Committee.
Previous Public School Affiliations: None
Previous Public Service or Elected Office/ Years Served: None Recreational Pursuits: Golf, member of the Evansville Golf Association. Bowling, 2 leagues at the Evansville Bowl. Member of the Evansville Health Club.
Anything else you wish to say: We have lived in Evansville since December 18, 1992. Beth and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this July.

Dennis Hatfield, Incumbent
Name: Dennis Hatfield
Occupation: Industrial EHS Manager
Education: BS Chemistry, MS Environmental Engineering, MBA Age: over 18
Spouse: Roseanne Hatfield
Spouse's Occupation: Mathematics Teacher
Family: 4 sons - Scott and Mark at UW Madison; Adam and Brian at Evansville High School
Volunteer services: Evansville Lions Club; Town of Union Smart Growth Committee; service with a variety of community and school organizations and events.
Previous Public Service or Elected Offices: Evansville Community School District Board of Education

Meet the Candidates for the Evansville Community School District Board of Education Spring Election Part Two of Five As Originally Published March 2 in the Evansville Review

This week the candidates will share with us why they seek a seat on the ECSD board of education. The exact prompt follows.

You have each chosen to take on the difficult and rewarding task of running for a seat on the Evansville School Board. Please share with our readers the top two reasons you wish to serve.

John Rasmussen replied:
I decided to be a candidate for the school board because.1) I have been involved in school activities for many years and want to continue to be a part of providing a quality education to the students of the Evansville Community School District. 2) Being retired I feel I am able to devote the time needed to do a good job as a board member.

Dave Ammerman replied: The main reason is, I'm just trying to do my part as a citizen of Evansville. The school district was very good to our children and I'm just trying to step up and do my part. I have no personal agenda, it's all about the "kids" and the teachers and staff who guide them.

Dennis Hatfield (incumbent) replied: 1. Nothing is more important to the future of our children and our democracy than a world-class educational system. The Evansville Community School District has maintained that quality through the hard work and commitment of the families and other citizens of our community, and the unwavering dedication of the District teachers and staff. I want to help ensure that the quality is maintained even in the face of the current challenging economy and the current legislative climate. 2. From a purely pragmatic perspective, (even at the risk of sounding trite), I want to help prepare our children to successfully compete in the world economic and political arena; to succeed in higher education and in the workplace; to have the educational background to land good jobs or start new enterprises and so to be reasonably financially secure; to live happy and fulfilling lives; to realize the satisfaction that comes with contributing, in their turn, to their families, their educational system, their community, and their society. Schools are one of the primary foundations for all these things, and we let the schools decline at our (and our children's) great peril.

Kathi Swanson (incumbent) replied: When I first decided to run for the school board, it was because of my love for education and my desire to give back to my community. In examining why I chose to run again, I find that these fundamental reasons still hold true. Education has been a very important part of my life and I understand the significance of all children getting a quality education.The second reason that I chose to run for a second term is because I believe that I have some personal characteristics that are beneficial to this position. I am open-minded, willing to look at all sides of an issue, I am passionate about all children receiving the best education possible and I have the time to research issues and concerns.

Stay tuned next week when we will feature the candidates’ responses when asked to comment on how they would prioritize programs in the district that are being explored or those which have been considered for cuts during past budget crises.

Meet the Candidates for the Evansville Community School District Board of Education Spring Election Part Three of Five as originally published March 9 in the Evansville Review

This week the candidates were asked to comment on programs in the district that are being explored or those that have been considered for cuts during past budget crises. The specific prompt given the candidates follows: Please state your position on the following programs and the criteria that you would use to determine their priority amongst other programs given dwindling resources:

Gifted and Talented Services
AP/Accelerated Programming
Extra/Co-curricular Programming
Minimum Class size/SAGE program

Dave Ammerman replied:
Extra/Co- Curricular programming is a must to keep the students active after the classes are finished. Without an outlet for students, they have just wasted the day. It is also a great leadership tool.
AP/ Accelerated programming is a must not only for college credits but also a stepping stone to getting ready for college. It's a big jump to the college level and the students need to be ready. Studies show if a student takes 2 AP courses they will do better in college.
Gifted and talented helps not only the top students it also makes the teachers do a better job of teaching by pushing them to new levels. Minimum class size will be tested with the new budget and cannot be answered at this time.
4k is a good program to help kids get ready for the future but right now there is no money to start. It can be an option in the future.

Dennis Hatfield (incumbent) replied:
4K: When the community considered 4K a few years ago, most citizens were not in favor. This year a sizable group of citizens has expressed a desire for a 4K program, and in response the Board approved a study committee to report later this year. The state budget situation will have a great impact on any decision, for two primary reasons. First, because of the way state support is calculated (on a 3-year rolling basis), starting a 4K program would require a large withdrawal from the District's fund balance (or cutting a commensurate amount from other programs) at a time when the fund balance is already encumbered and strained. Second, the state's proposed large cut in per-student funding, and severe limits on future revenue, would make an ongoing 4K program challenging. Until a final state budget is enacted we simply won't know whether adding a major new program like 4K is financially feasible, both initially and in the long term.
G&T Services: The District is committed to providing every student with an education that will allow that student to achieve his/her personal best, and so help that student become a successful and contributing citizen. G&T services are a key part of the spectrum of District educational services, and the District is ethically obligated to offer such services.
AP/Accelerated Programming: The rigor of the student's academic program, and especially the number and variety of AP/accelerated courses successfully completed, are among the top admissions criteria used by colleges and universities. Taking AP/accelerated courses also helps the student perform well on the ACT test, which is an another major admissions criterion. Evansville students who pursue higher education (trade school, 2 year, and 4 year) have said that experiencing AP/accelerated courses was a great help in college success, especially in the early post-high school years.
Extra/Co-curricular Programming: Co-curricular programs are an important part of the District's educational mission, and extra-curricular activities benefit students in many ways. Pending state funding decisions may have a substantial impact on the District offerings and the participation fees associated with each. We simply won't know until we have the final budget decisions. Minimum class size/SAGE Program: It's well established that moderate class sizes result in a better educational outcome. The District will strive to maintain reasonable class sizes in the face of the current budget situation. The SAGE program is a particular case, and continuation will be heavily influenced by state funding decisions. We will keep the program if we can, but this must be balanced with all the other worthy educational needs competing for the very limited funding likely to be available.

Kathi Swanson (incumbent) replied:
I believe that we all know that pre-school or 4 year old kindergarten benefits our young children. In our district, one of the first questions we have to answer is, "Can we afford it?" The school board in its February meeting, voted to delay a 4-year-old kindergarten study committee until we know our current budget, which I personally believe is a fiscally responsible response. The administration has outlined specific objectives for the study committee and I trust the pros and cons of this issue will be thoroughly investigated at that time. Regarding gifted and talented services, AP/accelerated programming and extra/co-curricular programming, I don't believe they can be looked at independent of each other or even separate from other programming. As a school board member, it is our responsibility to provide opportunities for all students and use services that reach them where they are at that particular point in time. I have realized that it is much more complicated than prioritizing one over the other.Our SAGE program is a program that I hope we can keep. I believe that smaller class sizes for our younger children benefit them. There are unique issues at those grade levels that I feel justify the smaller class size. Having said that, with our possible budget deficit, I don't believe there should be any sacred cows. The board will need to look at all programs and make some tough decisions based on research and facts.

John Rasmussen replied:
Gifted and Talented, AP or Accelerated Programming, and the Extra/Co-curricular Programs are all important programs to different groups of students and their needs. I would not put any one above the others.

I think the core class sizes should be kept as small as possible and the non-core class sizes be kept to manageable levels. I also think the SAGE program guidelines should be met to continue the SAGE program.

I think the 4K program is a good program and would like to see it started but at this point in time I do not think the Evansville Community School District could fund it. Hoping that sometime in the future it can be funded.

Stay tuned next week as we explore budget questions with the candidates.

Meet the Candidates for the Evansville Community School District Board of Education Spring Election Part Four of Five as originally published March 16 in the Evansville Review

This week the candidates faced a budget question. The prompt follows.

There is a projected $3,600,000,000 budget deficit for the 2011-2013 State Budget Biennium, which follows directly on the heels of an expected $137,000,000 budget deficit for Fiscal Year ending 2011. We read each week of the competing demands placed on the school district and upon the board. Please describe what you consider to be the top two issues facing the board after the election, define the criteria you used to select these issues and explain how you would balance them with the remaining challenges facing the Board. How do you foresee the changes proposed by Governor Walker in the Budget Reduction Bill impacting your role as a School Board Member?

Dennis Hatfield (incumbent) replied: No answer was received by press time.

Kathi Swanson (incumbent) replied: The budget projections look bleak, however we don't know how much, if any, monies will be distributed to school districts. The first priority for me is to complete our strategic plan (which is currently being researched). This process is so important in making the kinds of decisions that this question is addressing. It provides a systematic approach to decision making and prioritizing the needs of our district. There are so many exciting initiatives going on in our district such as differentiation and curriculum mapping. We need to continue to provide the resources that keep these initiatives intact because they impact every single child in our district. At the time that I am writing this response, Governor Walker's proposed Budget Repair Bill has not been passed. Due to this fact, I don't want to comment on the specifics of the bill. I do want to comment, however, on what I witnessed in our district during the first two weeks that the bill was proposed. Community people, parents, district staff, district administration and school board members all had personal opinions and speculations about the bill, but what I saw was that everyone had one common goal - the best interest of our children in this district. This common goal was demonstrated in a number of different ways, but the goal remained the same. I am confident that regardless of what this bill ends up to be, the Evansville Community and the Evansville Community School District will work together to solve issues and do what is best for our future leaders.

John Rasmussen replied: 1) I see the budget as the biggest concern to the district. 2) Maintaining programs that will meet the needs of the students in the changing times now and in the future. These two issues seem to be the most important ones for me at this time. The criteria I used to select these two issues are with the unknowns with the State budget and the economy means the budget has an affect on all aspects of the school district. If elected I will use my common sense and the experience I have gained over the years to work with my fellow board members and the school administration to come up with an affordable budget for the taxpayers that also maintains the programs needed to provide a quality education for the students.

I do not see Governor Walker’s Budget Reduction Bill having any affect on my role as a board member as the budget decisions will still have to be made.

Dave Ammerman replied: I think the top two issues facing the board are continuing to understand the impact of the Governor's budget on the district and the impact it may have on taxpayers. It is obvious that the Governor is attempting to balance the budget on the backs of local governments and school districts and everyone, not just teachers and students, share a responsibility to continue our quality educational system in Evansville. It may require an increase in taxpayer levy, either through referendum or determining if there are any other options in the governor's budget, but the entire community must share in this sacrifice.

Next week, we finish our "Meet the Candidate" series with an opportunity for the candidates to summarize their skills and experience and indicate why the voters should "hire" them for the Evansville School Board. Stay tuned!

Meet the Candidates for the Evansville Community School District Board of Education Spring Election Part Five of Five as originally published March 23 in the Evansville Review Why should we hire you?

The final installment of our series featuring the School Board Candidates gives each candidate an opportunity to make his or her case to be hired by the electorate. The question posed follows.

There are four candidates to fill three seats. Why should the voters of the district hire you? What skills and experiences will you bring to the board making you the best candidate for the position?

Kathi Swanson, incumbent,replied: Every member of the board and board candidate brings different perspectives and skills and represent different parts of our community. I have spent the last three years learning about the intricacies of the public school system and continue to learn about such important matters as the schools funding formula, tax levy credits, special education complexities, issues that are important to our community, just to name a few! All of the knowledge I have gained helps me make informed decisions. I also believe that I have the ability to look at issues from different angles, I like to get a lot of information and ask questions about issues before making a decision and my commitment to ensuring that every child gets a quality education keeps me involved in the schools and keeps me motivated to do what I can to improve our districts programs.

John Rasmussen replied: If elected to the school board of the (hired by the taxpayers of the) Evansville Community School District I will bring 1) My common sense, students first approach and 2) My experiences as a continuing education student in the school of life to the board. Also 1) I am a life long resident of Evansville and 3rd generation graduate of Evansville High School 2) I have been involved with the school system in many aspects over the years and 3) I know I can have a positive impact on the future of the school district and Evansville. I will work with my fellow board members and the school administration and staff to make the decisions that will be needed to be made to keep the high standards and affordable quality education programs the taxpayers of the Evansville Community School District have come to expect.

Dave Ammerman replied: You can look me in the eye and ask me anything. I will look you in the eye and try to give you an answer. Together we will try to figure things out. I'm just going to do the best I can with the common sense that God and my parents gave me. Vote on April 5th, it's up to you.

Dennis Hatfield, incumbent,replied: As the senior Board member, having served on the Board for the past 6 years, the last 4 as Vice-President, I bring unique Board- and District-specific knowledge and experience. I have served on the Finance Committee, and for the past 4 years I have been Chair of the Facilities and Transportation Committee. I have helped the District successfully work through many large and small financial, curriculum, personnel, policy, extra-curricular, and facility issues. I have worked for both private industry and the government, and was one of 3 principles of a successful consulting company. Serving on other community organizations; with degrees in science, engineering, and business; having lived in the north, south, and east, in major cities and in rural areas; and with extensive international experience, I feel that I can contribute valuable perspective and insight on the many challenging issues (some new, some similar to ones we've considered before) that the Board will face in the current financial and political climate. The bottom line is to contribute to the District's ongoing efforts to achieve and maintain educational excellence and so to best serve the students, the community, and the country.

This concludes the five part series introducing the four candidates vying for the three open school board positions this spring. Please vote on Tuesday April 5, 2011. Running for public office and effectively doing the work involved is a very challenging avocation that is made especially difficult during these troubled times. Each candidate is to be commended for pursuing this often thankless task. Show your support for the candidates of your choice on April 5th!

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