Finding a balance while still advancing the Waukesha School District's technology effort and establishing a trust with PTOs in the wake of two parent groups stealing from their respective schools' organization within the last year are two of the top issues among the school board candidates.
Five candidates are seeking three school board seats in the April 5 at-large election. Longtime board members William Baumgart and Ellen Langill are seeking to retain their seats while one seat is guaranteed to have a new member with Steve Edlund not seeking re-election.
Baumgart, whose top priority is to continue innovation among staff, and Langill, whose objective is to retain high-quality teachers and staff, are joined on the ballot by Gregory Deets, Amanda Medina-Roddy and Gretchen Budde.
Deets, who says classroom size should be reduced to an average of 25 students, says electing people who have children in the public schools is important. Medina-Roddy, whose top priority is school safety, is a parent of a second-grader at Hawthorne Elementary and returns to the ballot after nearly winning a board seat last year. Budde, a parent of a child at Bethesda Elementary, said establishing technology integration standards and increasing school safety are top agenda items.
The top three vote-getters will earn three-year terms. Board members make an annual salary of $6,400. Candidates were given a 75-word limit to answer each question.
What are your views of allowing all students to have iPads and would you implement any changes to the district's technology effort?
Baumgart: I am a believer in our iPad program. Compared to some, we have had a smooth implementation. As I visit classrooms, I have seen excellent use with very positive impact on students. As to changes, I think we need to and will continue our professional development programs for staff. Each year we have gone further, gotten better.
Langill: I have voted to approve our use of iPads for students and have witnessed some of the wonderful results of our technology initiatives. Our teachers are trained in the wise use of this technology, which opens up new worlds to our students, but we always caution that they are just a tool, and not person-to-person communication between students and teachers, and among students is also crucial.
Budde: I would like to see standards established based on best practices to shape curriculum on how much, what type, and when technology is used. The iPad is meant to be a tool in the classroom, but given concerns with cost, security and usage I would also like to explore other options in place of the iPad. To perform this review, I would like to see a multifaceted panel including educators, parents, students and administration.
Deets: The Waukesha One initiative has given our students an edge for their future technology needs. With that said, we must work more with experts in the field as well as law enforcement to be more proactive in preventing misuse of the iPads. Policies should reflect these high standards, and consequences should be in place for those that violate them. Additional professional development for staff and ongoing meetings/communication with students and parents should also be implemented.
Medina-Roddy: The iPads are great learning tools when used appropriately. Parents and teachers tell me that the iPads become a distraction, come back to school with inappropriate materials, uncharged, or not at all because a family member has the device. Removing those materials or charging takes away from learning time. The only change I would implement is not allowing elementary grades to take the devices home.
Should the district or board have some type of oversight on PTOs going forward, or what is your solution so parents can trust PTOs?
Baumgart: I believe we (the board and administration) may be discussing this further. But a PTO is an outside organization over which we have little control. I believe we need to require certain steps if they use our school buildings. This may begin with mandating audits.
Langill: The misplacement of PTO funds at two elementary schools has been tragic and we all decry it. It is now in the hands of the authorities where it belongs, and we support the efforts of our other PTO parents to continue to have financial oversight and systems in place to monitor the control of such funds.
Budde: Accountability and transparency of fundraising and expenditures of the PTO are two elements I feel will help provide oversight on the financial aspect of the PTO and also work to re-establish trust that may have been lost. Tools to provide the accountability and transparency would include monthly reporting of the PTO activity to the district as well as ability of parents to request those reports or have the reports been made public.
Deets: The district should have oversight of PTO/PTA funds to ensure financial accountability and transparency. However, how funds are spent should be decisions that are made at the local school level.
Medina-Roddy: Given this past year, I recommend a policy such as a partnership between the two entities may be established when the PTO agrees to conducting an annual audit and a copy given to the district's chief financial officer and parents for accountability. If fraudulent activity is discovered, the police must be notified and the district CFO may become involved to assist in rectifying the situation.
Why should you be elected to the school board?
Baumgart: I have significant experience on this board, thus can provide much-needed continuity. I have proven to be a long-term advocate of public education. I have helped the board and administration develop a positive, professional relationship. This allowed us to move forward rather than stagnate in spite of external pressures. We have turned our culture to one encouraging staff to develop ideas, provide input, improve. I will continue to support this growth.
Langill: I would like to remain on the school board to continue to monitor our work as a highly-innovative district in our dual language program, our charter schools, STEM and other great initiatives. I believe that Waukesha has become a leader among school districts in Wisconsin in our forward-looking approach to problem solving and in our support of the initiatives of our wonderful teachers.
Budde: As a parent, I have a vested interest in the (school) district. I want to know that when students graduate from the district they are prepared and able to be competitive in today's global society. To me this means blending together the growing technology-driven world we live in with a balance of non-technological skills while meeting budget constraints, ensuring safe schools, and while provide a learning environment that enables all students to achieve academic success.
Deets: I have 30-plus years of experience in education as a classroom teacher, a special-education teacher and a former elementary principal for 21 years. I will bring a new pair of eyes and ears to the board and won't hesitate to ask the tough questions or hold myself and staff accountable. I will be visible throughout the district by hosting monthly public listening sessions and be available by phone, email or in person.
Medina-Roddy: I want to serve our students in a greater capacity than I currently do as a parent volunteer. I will support the teachers and parents by encouraging strong programs and curriculum that create college and/or career ready individuals. I will continue the efforts of the district to keep the residents, business owners and taxpayers informed and involved through mutually beneficial partnerships.
William Baumgart (inc.)
Address: 612 Elk Lane, Waukesha
Years in Community: 42
Occupation: Semiretired; outplacement consultant, Lee Hecht Harrison
Education: Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, master's degree in business administration, Marquette University
Political History: School board member (1995-present)
Community Involvement: Involved in United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County and Boy Scouts over the years; Partners for Education director; advisory committees at Waukesha County Technical College, Workforce Development Board and Youth Council and Committee, which is part of the Workforce Development Board
Family: Wife, Kathryn; three adult children who all graduated from Waukesha schools
Phone: (262) 547-2854
Ellen Langill (inc.)
Address: 227 N. Charles St., Waukesha
Years in Community: 35
Occupation: History professor, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Education: Bachelor's degree in Latin and history, Grinnell College (Iowa); master's degree in history, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; doctorate in history, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Political History: Co-chaired the school referendum in 2001; school board member (2002- present)
Community Involvement: Waukesha Zoning Appeals Board chairwoman; The Women's Center, former chairwoman; United Way of Waukesha County, former board chairwoman; Adaptive Community Approach Program, former chairwoman; Women & Girls Fund, board member; State Historical Society of Wisconsin, former president; Elder with Southminster Presbyterian Church in Waukesha
Family: Husband, Ross; two adult daughters who graduated from Waukesha South High School
Phone: (262) 542-1270
Address: 2409 Pendleton Place, Waukesha
Years in Community: 3
Occupation: Hospital development coordinator, Wisconsin Donor Network; stay-at-home mom
Education: Master of Arts in counseling with an emphasis in pediatrics and youth; Certification in Thanatology in grief and bereavement, Lakeland College; bachelor's degree in public administration and political science, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
Political History: None
Community Involvement: Bethesda Elementary School parent volunteer; Girl Scout troop co-leader; Healing Hearts of Waukesha County volunteer; Parents Place volunteer
Family: Husband, Gary; three daughters, Emersyn, Avelyn and Charlotte, one of whom attends Bethesda Elementary School
Phone: (262) 617-5869
Address: 612 Minaka Drive, Waukesha
Years in Community: 26
Occupation: Special-education teacher at Eagle Elementary School in the Palmyra Eagle School District; former elementary school principal at Hawthorne Elementary, Meadowbrook Elementary and Heyer Elementary for 21 years in the Waukesha School District
Education: Bachelor's degree in elementary education and special education, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire; master's degree in educational administration, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Political History: None
Community Involvement: Active member at St. William Catholic Church in Waukesha
Family: Two children in the Waukesha School District
Phone: (262) 544-9715
Address: 100 E. Main St., Waukesha
Years in Community: 11
Occupation: Destination service consultant, Community Orientation Services, Inc.
Education: Bachelor's degree in adult education and a master's degree in human resources, Ottawa University
Political History: School board candidate (April 2015)
Community Involvement: Clocktower Condominium Association president; Republican Hispanic National Assembly member; Hawthorne STEM PTO committee member (fundraising and public relations); superintendent advisory council; Sunday school teacher, children's choir director; First Congregational Church of Genesee executive board member (2007-15); La Casa de Esperanza Inc., Americorp member (2001-03)
Family: Husband, Eric; three daughters ages 8, 4 and 1. Eight-year-old attends Hawthorne STEM
Phone: (262) 470-0058