Spring 2014 Election
Janesville School Board candidates tackle issues during forum
JANESVILLE--Candidates for Janesville School Board sparred Tuesday on issues ranging from communication to teacher compensation during a forum at the city's Educational Services Center.
Four of five candidates were on hand for the event hosted by the League of Women Voters and Janesville Area Council PTA. The candidates are vying for three open seats on the board.
Candidate Fred Jackson was absent.
Two incumbents, Kevin Murray and Bill Sodemann, squared off with former school board member Dale Thompson and newcomer Diane Eyers to talk about issues they find most important within the district.
Murray, running for his fourth term, stressed sustaining what the board has achieved to until this point and taking time to make sure progress is made correctly.
“I view this educations system as a big wheel that has all these spokes," Murray said. “We're all here for the students, for our children and our grandchildren to succeed. But I think we're on the verge of something that might not be sustainable.”
Murray said the board should take a look at what's in the box instead of what's outside the box when looking at issues such as the international program and teacher compensation.
"To me, before or after Act 10 doesn't have any impact on how we treat employees," Murray said. "How we retain and attract talent is the real question. We want to keep the best, most experienced people here."
Sodemann, also in his fourth term, hadn't planned to seek re-election until he had a last-minute change of heart. He said he decided to run to maintain the progress the board has seen since his tenure began.
"I've worked hard the last nine years and seen some great results," Sodemann said. "But we're in a critical stage."
Sodemann said priorities for him include the Journey to Excellence, which spotlights employee performance as a way to judge effectiveness by measurable results.
He said the board has made efforts to communicate with staff to find out what's going well and what needs improvement in order to gain input on how to improve the district.
"We're now on a pretty good path I think we can sustain," Sodemann said.
Thompson said the district has done a good job in recent years, but he would like to have a say in making it better. He said he wants to help set the tone to make schools run more efficiently.
"I think we need to create a team atmosphere and effort," Thompson said. "I want to see what we can do to come together in a positive manner."
Teachers should be more integrated into policy making rather than told of decisions after the fact, he said.
Thompson said the state legislature needs to give the district time to put programs such as the federal Common Core standards into place.
“We were faced with numerous new requirements with limited funding," Thompson said. "We are being overwhelmed. The legislature needs to give us time to implement what's already been approved."
Eyers said that as the mom of an 8-year-old, she is devoted to the district and cares about its success.
"I am willing to make tough decisions for the district," Eyers said. "I am passionate about the school district and want to be a part of the decisions at hand. I will dig into problems to make the best informed decisions."
She said the district has made strides but needs to continue on its path.
"I can't think our district should stop on progress we're making," Eyers said. "We always need to be growing and getting better and better and better. We need to continue with Common Core and academic accountability"
Eyers said the district must improve its morale with clearer communication.
"A lot of people don't understand the background to decisions being made," Eyers said. "We need to communicate why things went the way they did. Clear, conscience communication on what is happening and the way it does."
The election will be held Tuesday, April 1.