Thoughts on the Whitewater School Board Election

I was prompted to the candidates submissions to the Whitewater Banner, and the stark contrast between Tom Ganser and the other two candidates. So my thoughts:

Mary Zimmerman:

I love her answers and her focus.

Larry Kachel:

I am running for the open seat on the Whitewater School Board because I believe my unique background in business, finance and education can help the school district achieve success. The students and families in the school district  were hit especially hard by the COVID Pandemic.  When the district went virtual, many lower income and rural families struggled due to slow, or no internet service.  Working two-parent and single parent families were forced to make very difficult financial decisions while trying to do what was best for their kids.  Many families chose to open-enroll their children out of our district due to their poor virtual experience last spring, the uncertainty of virtual vs in-classroom teaching this past fall, and the cancellation of most extra-curricular and athletic activities.  According to the Department of Public Instruction and WUSD data, our enrollment dropped from 1,962 students in September of 2019, to 1747 enrolled students in January of 2021. We had over 200 more students open-enroll out of the district than those that open-enrolled into the district, which was about 100 more than the prior school year.  Each student that lives in Whitewater, but enrolls elsewhere, potentially causes WUSD to annually lose $8,000 to $12,000 in state funding, depending on whether the child is considered general education or special needs. This is a huge financial concern for our local school parents and taxpayers.

I am greatly concerned about the educational and the emotional losses our students have suffered due to the pandemic. Many parents, teachers and taxpayers felt their voices simply were not heard when tough decisions had to be made. If elected, I will fight to re-prioritize spending to bring students back up to grade level; a setback largely caused by COVID.  We need to actively recruit the students we lost back to our schools. We have a lot of good things going on in the district, but we often do a poor job of marketing and communicating. I give credit to the school board for recently approving some after-school sports programming in the 5th and 6th grades, something I have openly sought for several years now.  We need more extra-curricular activities to keep students engaged. We simply, within reason, must do a better job of providing our students what is needed.

I have been actively involved with UW-Whitewater to create a “COVID-related” tutoring and mentoring program, to help bring our K-12 students “back up to speed”.  I believe having a great “Town and Gown” relationship can be one of this community’s greatest assets that can set us apart from neighboring school districts.  Although it is not a done deal, I believe the effort has to be made.  It is nobody’s fault that COVID arrived, it is now up to us to move forward.  If elected, I will bring a different way of thinking to board meetings.  Students, teachers, staff and administrators have been back working in the district.  With vaccinations now occurring, it is time the school board also comes back to public/hybrid meetings, socially distanced with masks, of course.  I will always attempt to put the student’s interests first, but parents, teachers, staff and taxpayers all have to have their voices heard.  It’s the Whippet Way!  

Larry’s focus is for the students and open enrollment. I love his intent on moving forward, eliminating these virtual school board meetings… it is about time.

Tom Ganser:

I am going to break apart Tom Ganser’s comments into several items. My overall feel is that with my private sector background versus his lifetime in academia… I just do not see things the way he does.

I believe the most critical issue facing the WUSD today is the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The response requires balancing different and sometimes competing perspectives, including those of students, families, school district personnel, the community, and medical and mental health experts.

COVID response is not even in my top ten of critical issues. I strongly prefer Kachel’s mentality to move forward. Maryann does not even mention COVID.

I also believe that proactively seeking to reduce open enrollment out of the district in ways that are reasonable, sustainable, and fiscally responsible, must be a district priority, along with attracting, supporting, and retaining high quality employees for every aspect of the school district’s operation.

Tom Ganser was the deciding vote on keeping our kids out of school over this school year. He is directly responsible for the loss of students and the inevitable tax increases that will come as a result. The biggest move Whitewater can make (in the short term) to prevent further hemorrhaging of students is get Tom Ganser off of the school board.

Budget planning for the district must take into consideration the pandemic’s impact on school operations, as well as the level of local, state, and federal funding available to the district.

Referendums and tax increases?

Efforts to meet the needs of the very diverse population of students attending Whitewater schools must be at the heart of every classroom, program, and activity, and school board decisions must take into account and balance the voices and opinions of citizens.

Whitewater was surrounded by communities on all sides that kept their kids in school significantly more than our current school board. I do not want Tom Ganser to be the guy balancing “the voices and opinions of citizens.”

The impact of the pandemic on me as a member of the school board has been far more profound than anything I could have imagined – but not just in negative ways.  I have learned more than ever that for our schools, “essential worker” doesn’t just apply to teachers and teacher aides, but to all the district’s employees, including building and central office administrators, administrative assistants, and maintenance and food service personnel.

I am not a fan of people judging who is essential and who is not. I believe that if you work pretty much any job and bring home a paycheck and put more into the system than you take out …. you are essential. I also strongly believe that if you take care of your family mentally, spiritually, and physically you are essential. I will even go further and declare that if you have a heartbeat you are essential.

So those are my thoughts. I see a profound difference in the candidates….


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