Candidates differ on goals, budget ideas
Four to compete for two seats on Brown Deer School Board
Brown Deer - Incumbents Lisa Zielinski and Barry Godshaw will square off against former School Board member Leslie Galloway Sherard and newcomer William Weisgerber in the April 2 spring election.
Galloway Sherard, who lost her bid for re-election last year, has been a university admissions counselor, works in health care human resources, and currently serves on the Teaching and Learning Committee. She said the School Board and administration are on the right path and that it's important to build a quality K-12 experience for children, which can shape the trajectory of their lives.
"It's a great time to be a board member," Galloway Sherard said, "and I want to serve."
Godshaw said that although he frequently finds himself on the losing end of 6-1 votes, it's worth it to voice his opinions.
"I have good common sense on a lot of issues and sometimes it feels like I'm the only one who speaks out," Godshaw said. "At least I come out and say what I feel."
Weisgerber, a best practices manager at Northwestern Mutual and member of the Finance and Facilities Committee, said the School Board is a natural outgrowth of his and his wife's community involvement.
"We really like Brown Deer and we want to be involved," said Weisgerber, adding that when he petitioned the board last year to decrease 5-year-old kindergarten class sizes and the district later added a teacher, "seeing that in action really got me interested."
Zielinski, who has an accounting background and chairs the Finance and Facilities Committee, wants to continue the work of her last three years on the board.
"I think the board is moving in a good direction," Zielinski said, "and I'd like to see that momentum kept."
Zielinski, if elected, plans to ramp up the intensity of the district curriculum, set board and administrative achievement goals, and update the voluminous body of board policies. Chief among her goals is the improvement of the data that helps measure the performance of students and the district.
"We're looking at getting more consistent data," Zielinski said. "We have finite resources, so it's a matter of putting them in the right place so we can get the most impact."
Weisgerber said he wants to see the district take advantage of its new buildings, continue support of the K4 program, which he says is critical in the development of young children, and increase special programming for over- and underperforming students.
"How can we take that base (of district successes) and build on it?" Weisgerber said. "(Students and teachers) are doing some great things at the schools, and they need to continue doing that."
Godshaw's focus, he said, would be to find ways to improve test scores. While holding the line on salary and benefits, he said, he would prevent layoffs and cuts to district programming, "to still provide the same educational opportunity for children."
Galloway Sherard said her "number one goal" is to increase student achievement on state and national tests, while looking for ways to leverage the new facilities, advance the district's strategic plan, and fund professional development for teachers.
"The teacher is the key for students to connect," Galloway Sherard said.
Brown Deer will be facing a number of changes from the state and federal levels, including the adoption of Common Core Standards, the state report card rating system, and educator effectiveness system, slated for statewide implementation in the 2014-15 school year. The educator effectiveness system, meant to evaluate teachers and administrators based on a number of criteria - including test scores - has been suggested by many as a steppingstone toward merit pay for teachers.
"There's nothing that's put in place right now," Godshaw said, adding that merit pay could come into the picture someday with the inclusion of the educator effectiveness ratings. "Once the system's in place, then we can decide."
Weisgerber said the School Board would need to look at which type of culture it wants to create when considering merit pay, between a straightforward culture of stability resulting from regular pay raises and the "entrepreneurial" culture created by a merit system.
"I've seen the merit model work in the sales world and the business world," Weisgerber said. "But you have to be in the mind-set, which could be difficult for teachers."
Galloway Sherard said that in addition to a competitive base salary, she would be interested in a "pay for performance" system like those she has seen in the private sector. She said she would also favor incentives for professional development like the Master Educator License pursued by some Brown Deer teachers.
Zielinski said an administrative committee is currently exploring the idea, as well as the board through its participation in the Southeastern Wisconsin Teacher Evaluation Consortium.
"We're going to discuss it in a lot of depth," Zielinski said. "We want it to be a collaborative effort between the board, administration and staff."
With Gov. Scott Walker's 2013-15 budget proposal including a freeze on school revenue limits around the state, many districts will have to tighten their belts in the coming years. Brown Deer has an advantage in that it has room under its revenue limit due to the fact that it didn't levy its maximum possible amount in past years, and operating costs should go down over time due to the increased efficiency of its new buildings - nevertheless, budgeting could be a source of contention in the coming years.
"We should be looking pretty good," noted Weisgerber, though he said he would be interested in new sources of nontax revenue, like a cut of concessions at sporting events going to the district.
"Any time that we can create variable revenue from that kind of space helps us down the line budgeting," Weisgerber said.
As in previous years, said Galloway Sherard, the board should give district administrators an expectation of little to no increase in the tax levy and have them tailor the budget to fit that expectation.
"That was the deliberate approach we've taken every year," said Galloway Sherard, adding that when it comes to strategic plan initiatives, board members will need to "look at each item and see if we can do it."
Zielinski said the board will need to go through the budget with a fine-toothed comb in the coming years, and that her expectation is to advise no tax levy increases beyond those associated with the referendum projects. She added that she would like to see budget additions and possible cuts prioritized to ease the process in the coming years.
Godshaw also said he would look toward alternative sources of revenue like possible advertisements at district-owned sports facilities, but would make a wage and benefit freeze the foundation of his budgeting process.
"If those stay the same, you shouldn't have to cut anything else," he said.
School Board members will participate in two upcoming forums:
The Brown Deer Junior Woman's Club host a School Board and Village Trustee Candidate Public Forum at the Brown Deer Community Center, 4355 West Bradley Road, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday.
And the Brown Deer Citizens for Responsible Government host a School Board and Trustee candidate forum at Brown Deer High School, 8060 North 60th St., from 9 a.m. to noon March 16.
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