**CORRECTION** I made the incorrect assumption below that the Tri-County Area Times had successfully contacted all nominees for the School Board. After it being pointed out to me that this was incorrect, I double checked my physical copy of the paper (which you can buy at Fall-Mart if supplies are still there!), and discovered that the editor only successfully contacted myself, AnneMarie Anderson, and Amy Kurtz. Jess Mattson and Jill Geske were NOT contacted.
The Tri-County Area Times e-mailed all of the candidates for School Board and asked them the same questions. Below are the questions, as well as my responses to them. Please don’t forget, that the primary is tomorrow! 7AM-7PM. You should be able to register the same day if you need to, as long as you bring a form of picture ID and proof of Fall Creek residency!
1). What criteria and qualities will you be looking for in hiring a new Superintendent for the Fall Creek School District?
Fall Creek has had an excellent program of celebrating and advertising the District’s successes. I would like to see our new Superintendent continue that tradition. They should also be a person that is focused on academic success, first and foremost above all other things, as that is the primary purpose of the school district – to educate our children, the best that we can. They should be intimately knowledgeable in the way that the Department of Public Instruction judges schools, and seek to use that knowledge to support continual, measurable improvement. They should have integrity, believe in full transparency, and be honest and unafraid to talk about areas for improvement.
2). What aspects in terms of how the District functions are you satisfied with and like to keep the same and are there things that you would like to see changed or improved?
Our office staff and educators are excellently professional and very good at what they do. They also care deeply about the success of our children, as I do. That does not need to change.
What I would like to see changed however, is the Board of Education itself. It should act as a check and balance for the Superintendent, rather than a rubber stamp for their policies. While not necessarily adversarial, a good Board of Education should be filled with passionate people that represent a cross section of the electorate. There should be strong, deep discussions about the challenges facing the District, and vigorous but civil debate should not only be tolerated, but in fact be fostered and encouraged.
Transparency should be strongly encouraged, and if I get on the Board, I’ll push to have it codified in the Board’s written policies that all meetings will be video recorded and published on the District’s website, along with the informational packets that the board members receive at the start of the meetings. I would like to see these packets provided to the public BEFORE the meetings, so that the citizenry can make educated comments at the start of Board meetings before the issues are discussed and voted on by Board members.
Additionally, I would like to put forward what I call the “Take a Break Act”, which would set term limits on Board Members. These term limits would, however, NOT be absolute. Board members would be able to serve two consecutive terms, and then must wait for one full term before running for office again, at which point they can run for another two full terms before taking another break. In this way, the Board of Education and community can reap both benefits of having new blood, new ideas coming into the Board periodically, as well as the benefit of retaining the wisdom of Board members that wish to keep serving our community.
3). How can the Fall Creek School District benefit from the growth in the Chippewa Valley region (Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls-Lake Halle-Altoona) especially in terms of gaining new students?
I don’t think that a School District should be attempting to reap the “benefits” of any growth that may occur in the Valley, nor attempt to chase any specific growth in its student population. What I call “The Fallacy of Perpetual Growth”, I actually see as large a problem in our society that causes organizations to continue to push for greater continual growth, while at the same time gutting their internal resources to fuel that growth, making their staff do more with less. I call this “The Jenga Effect”, and it inevitably results in the collapse of the organization. Enron, KMart, and WorldCom come immediately to mind as examples of this. This is short term thinking.
I would rather have our District practice long term thinking and prepare itself to handle the natural ebb and flow of the community’s population. Rather than focus on growth, focus on bolstering its own internal resources, improving on what they already do, which is to provide an excellent education to all students of the Fall Creek area.