Our Views: Greg Ardrey, write-in candidates David DiStefano, Steve Huth merit votes for Janesville School Board
Incredible news sometimes leaves Gazette journalists shaking their heads and suggesting “you can't make this stuff up.”
Exhibit A: The Janesville School Board race. Five candidates seek three seats Tuesday. This supposedly nonpartisanship election has devolved into nasty partisanship.
Nomination papers for two candidates were ruled invalid amid claims one set was doctored. Police were called out of concerns an aggressive, confrontational union representative was harassing, stalking and intimidating district office workers. That union rep, Dennis Hughes, alleged an administrative cover-up, coercion, fraud, lies, incompetence, corruption and police manipulation. He deemed Superintendent Karen Schulte “sociopathic.”
Add claims of character assassination, court challenges, affidavits, depositions, restraining orders and calls for firings and an independent investigation.
What sad lessons for our kids. The partisan storm seemed to have passed, leaving board President Greg Ardrey and newcomer Carla Quirk still on the ballot. Board member David DiStefano was kicked off but is waging a write-in campaign. So is district retiree and former board member Steve Huth.
Then came news that Quirk—who is backed by the teachers union—got a hit-and-run ticket March 1 after supposedly misleading Janesville police about where damage to her vehicle occurred. Quirk's credibility sank, and last week Julieta Henry announced the union encouraged her to run as a third write-in option. That occurred as the state's teachers union mailed literature supporting Quirk, Ardrey and Huth.
Now, Quirk's attorney claims an accident reconstruction specialist says Quirk's vehicle could not have struck a neighbor's pickup as police allege. Attorney Roger Merry also happens to be Quirk's campaign treasurer.
Are you following all this?
Changes in union benefits and the prospect of the school board adopting a merit pay plan are driving the partisan rancor. The first issue became less important last month when the board approved a new health plan that will save millions. Employees who stick to Janesville's two main providers will pay little or nothing more.
So who are the best candidates? The Gazette endorses Ardrey, DiStefano and Huth. It's not even close. They're extremely qualified and by far the best candidates to steer the district's educational future. Do not be lazy and sit out this election or just choose the two names on the ballot. You must write in the names David DiStefano and Steve Huth. If you're not sure how, ask a poll worker.
Ardrey is a top-notch board member seeking his third three-year term. He's a champion of personalized education plans that consider each child's abilities and needs. The idea is undergoing tests at Lincoln Elementary. He wants the best decisions for students while recognizing fiscal restraints. He advocates positive learning environments, people and opportunities so kids see what's possible.
Ardrey, who is projects manager for Alliant Energy, uses his professional experience and analytical abilities to serve the district. His wife works for the district, and they have a son in school. That gives him unique perspective.
DiStefano deserves much of the credit for the new health plan. He works for an insurance agency, has spent his career analyzing complex benefits and pushed the board to form a benefits committee he chaired. The previous plan's $3 million projected deficit might have meant layoffs.
DiStefano owns up to his nomination papers error—not having the election date on one page. “It's on me,” he told our editorial board. He has two kids in school, has made key contributions in three years on the board and wants to ensure every child has a chance for an exceptional education.
Huth has vast credentials. He served the board in the early 1990s while working as Blackhawk Technical College's economic development coordinator. He left the board to work for the school district, doing stellar work as career and technical education coordinator and summer school director for 20 years.
He retired last July, but don't think of Huth as a retiree. He's passionate, visionary and ambitious. He's organizing an April 21 seminar on science, technology, engineering and math education at BTC's Advanced Manufacturing Training Center. He is known and praised across the business community and state for understanding the link between education and career.
Even if you believe Quirk's latest accident story, her credentials aren't close to the candidates above. Yes, she reviews Rock County budget items at her courthouse job. But when we asked why she's running, she didn't express a desire to raise educational quality, as these three did, but said she was inspired by politics, union activism and protests. She didn't know the difference between district charter schools and private education. Asked about merit pay, Quirk told us, “I don't think one person should be deemed better than another—not in teaching.” That should offend quality teachers.
Our editorial board and Henry didn't meet given her late candidacy. She responded to questions by email, and her answers showed why the union supports her. She chafes at merit pay. She vowed to hold accountable the administrators “involved in attempting to steal this election.”
This election is crucial. On Tuesday, get to the polls and vote for Ardrey and write in David DiStefano and Steve Huth.
Wednesday, April 1: Milton mayor.
X Anissa Welch
Thursday, April 2: Wisconsin Supreme Court.
X James Daley
Friday, April 3: Rock County Branch 5 judge.
X Michael Haakenson
Saturday, April 4: Janesville City Council.
X Sam Liebert
X Douglas Marklein
X Carol Tidwell
X Paul Williams
Sunday, April 5: Janesville School Board.
X Greg Ardrey
X David DiStefano (write-in)
X Steve Huth (write-in)