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Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Petre attacks Evans at school board candidate forum


On Tuesday of this week the Franklin Education Association held a forum featuring candidates for the Franklin School Board. Current member Janet Evans could not attend because of a previous commitment. Candidates Don Petre and John Thompson are union-backed. Both have signed the Walker recall petition.

I have obtained notes taken by a Franklin resident who was in attendance. They are presented here in their entirety, unedited with the exception of just a few spelling corrections.


School Board Candidates Debate at School District Headquarters 13 March 2012

Candidates in attendance: Aimee Schlueter, Don Petre, and John Thompson

Members of the community seated in attendance numbered twenty-four.

à This is a review of my notes during the debate and not to be taken as anything but my recall of what I perceived was the intent of the response, unless in quotes.

INTRODUCTION

John Thompson has no children who attended FPS but has worked with several groups of students through his career and at St. James parish in Franklin. Mentioned forty-two years military service. He stated that better schools increase the property value of a community and this may be one benefit of an increase in property tax.

Aimee Schlueter introduced herself as an employee of Franklin in the 911 system who appreciates the effect that the benefit and Union changes have had on the public employees but recognizes the need for fiscal responsibility and the wise use of funds.

Don Petre started by asking the question “How many here think that a school district should be run like a business?”. ( I was only one of two people who raised a hand ). He then stated that “No board of directors of a multimillion dollar corporation would hire someone with a high school education like Janet Evans to run the company”. He has a BA in Education and an MA in Education Leadership.

WHAT MAKES THIS SCHOOL DISTRICT ATTRACTIVE ( TO……..?)

Thompson - …..but could be less attractive if classes become overcrowded and we don???t find creative ways to control costs. We need to explore options to raising funds.

Petre—In Franklin I see parents who care about their children and a staff that is of high caliber. We need “congenial management” dealing with staff. In Franklin many parents are engaged in the extra curricular activities of their children.

Schlueter—Quality education comes down to teachers, students and their parents. The School Board has the responsibility to provide the best environment at an affordable price.

WHAT FUNDING DO YOU THINK IS DISPENSIBLE

Petre—Does not want to say in particular however he considers everything on the table. May need to increase class sizes if necessary then went on the say how that influences the educational outcome.

Schlueter—Facility planning needs to really be looked at. “I want to avoid just increasing taxes”.

Thompson—“Nothing is untouchable”. Look outside of the tax base for some funding. In buildings we may look toward repairs instead of some new building. Energy efficiency etc.

IMPORTANCE OF TEACHER MORALE

Schlueter—It is an integral part of a teacher's effectiveness. ….."Learning begins at home”

Thompson—Teachers are on the front line. We need to support their needs.

Petre—(He perceives teachers being) “blasted by the media and community”. He explained how they had to make an adjustment in a 9% cut in pay like nearly everyone else and they are moving on. He states that Franklin is fortunately a “growing community” ( I perceive that he thinks this will increase the tax base to be able to afford to provide more to the Board ).

HOW TO ATTRACT STAFF

Thompson—Need a good environment for learning with good climate control. We also need manageable class sizes and to support the “mental needs” of the teachers.

Petre—We don't have attractive schools. The facilities, especially the Middle School are in rough shape. We need better computer labs and sports facilities.

Schlueter—“I know teachers who like the facilities”. There is definitely lots of room for improvement but we need to be fiscally sound.

FACILITIES MOST URGENT NEEDS

Petre—High School is most in need. “The athletic facilities are an embarrassment” He went on the compare the Middle School Gym to one that he recently saw in Illinois at a grade school. To get funding “we could explore corporate naming rights”. There is also a T.I.F. proposal out there. The Middle School is also a problem “because I can't even find my way around in there with a map”. The outside traffic is a mess too.

Schlueter-- Most urgent is the Middle School.

Thompson--- I find the High School to be most urgent. It is a group of additions that has hard to maintain climate control. The mixed use of the gym as an auditorium is a problem and does a disservice to the performing arts. Labs and classes are of poor quality. Secondly the Middle School…..(same stuff).

TECHNOLOGY IN EDUCATION

Schlueter—We should look at possible cost savings of switching from Mac to PC for some applications. The technology used in schools is a must have item.

Thompson—It is more important to know how best to use the technology and not be a slave to it. We also need to develop more creative thinking skills and use technology to aid basic thinking skills.

Petre—We need to teach 21st century skills for example I teach Accelerated Geometry. In Oak Creek we have a partnership with Caterpillar where some students go the their site and learn that technology. That would be something to explore in Franklin. Smart boards…and I like to bring the Internet into the classroom.

WHAT IS THE ROLL OF A BOARD MEMBER AND WHAT IS A HIGH PERFORMANCE BOARD?

Petre—Need focused common goal. “Janet Evans does not have a common goal.

Schlueter—Need a commonality of purpose and a reasonable nature but you can't lose integrity.

Thompson—Consider the staff and the community. We need to be cohesive and act as one team. The goal is a perfect school system.


ADDRESSING THE INCREASING ENROLLMENT:

Schlueter-- We have to examine the numbers of students and projections and plan from there.

Thompson—We do have an increase in enrollment but with that comes increase in funds. With students from outside district we get funding for that as well. We need to attract as many students as possible.

Petre—With increased student load there comes problems. We could explore shared class space, Thirty-two students in a class gets to be a challenge for a teacher and impacts quality. You could find opportunity to train students off site and thus free up space. We could explore avenues of opening up the facility to community needs.

YEAR ROUND SCHOOL

Thompson—It could work and I like a quarter system. There are lots of side issues to consider. Advantage of no three month lag where you have to spend a month catching up.

Petre—“I am intrigued by the idea”. He has a sister in Kenosha at a pilot project in quarters. “Shorter breaks are wonderful with no catch up. Could alleviate overcrowding in some systems.

Schlueter—„I have no problem studying the idea”. You would have to see if enough teachers would go for the idea. Is it fiscally responsible?

VIEW OF ROLE OF THE ARTS

Petre—Arts are a very important component of education and we should seek creative funding from outside sources to promote arts.

Schlueter- “I completely agree and find it a way to instill creative thinking”.
 

Thompson—I enjoy the Arts and they teach kids organized thinking skills. Arts teach creativity and relieves stress.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT MERIT PAY?

Schlueter—“How do you measure the value of a teacher?” It can be difficult. I am currently going through a forty page document offering ideas on the subject.

Thompson—It all depends on who the management is. It could promote nepotism and gives the “boss” too much of the decision. It would be hard to compare teachers who teach unrelated subjects to students of unrelated talents or desires to learn.

Petre-- I see a benefit in the purpose but it would be problematic. Raw test scores wouldn???t work. You would have to identify realistic goals to achieve, It would be hard to compare different types of classes or students. I would see how you could base it on teachers continuing education and extended training.

HOW TO DRIVE THE BOARD FORWARD

Petre—We have to try to work within the framework set by the State. “Financially we do have more freedom than we did in the past”. We can take advantage of the benefits that are now presented to us.

Schlueter—Everyone needs to move forward with the new system. Things changed.

Thompson—We need to find the best way to make this work for us even if we have to work harder at it.

 

MOST PRESSING ISSUE OF A MODERN SCHOOL

Schlueter—Budget, We need to provide a safe and secure learning environment.
 

Thompson—We need to develop more creative thinking. We need to maintain the moral of the teachers to retain quality staff.

Petre—“We need to pick the correct School Boards”. We need good facilities with better labs while having to work within the confines of the State.

IF YOU WERE A SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER, WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR?

Thomas—I listened to the voice of the people

Petre—Saw the importance of the STEM Science and Math programs and brought a partnership similar to that of Oak Creek and Caterpillar to Franklin PS. Managed to keep class sizes down, improve curriculum, and found ways to make building and grounds more efficient.

Schlueter—Represented the Taxpayer. It is important to be aware of the fact that over 75% of households in Franklin do not have children in FPS. And many of the remaining 25% do not support the increased funding that the proposed construction brings.

CLOSING STATEMENTS

Petre—“We are not making cardboard boxes in our multimillion dollar corporation”. I have impacted the lives of 5000 adults who have children. I try to teach 21 century skills. I have touched the lives of over 20,000 children. I have a BA in Education and a MA in Education Leadership. I am a taxpayer and am enduring a 9% pay cut. I am ready to work within the framework set up by Madison.

Schlueter-- We need outstanding education. To get that we need a Board that is accountable and respectful….. I plan to be responsible to the taxpayer.

Thompson-- I know how to work from within a budget. My forty-two years in the Military and my years as a deputy sheriff taught me the benefit of prior planning. To get the school system to work we have to bring the taxpayer and the school together.

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