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Expulsions on the mind of new school board president

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
April 30, 2008
— The new president of the Janesville School Board plans to ask the community for help in curbing the number of student expulsions.

The board voted 9-0 Tuesday to name DuWayne Severson its new president.


Severson replaces Debra Kolste as board president. The board customarily chooses a senior member for the job, and Severson is the longest-serving member who had not yet been president.


Severson, 50, was elected to the board in 2003 and re-elected in 2006. He is director of sales and network development for Mercy Health System.


Severson said after the vote that he hoped to involve more community members, especially service clubs, in the thorny issue of reducing the surging numbers of student expulsions.


The board’s nine members are co-equals when it comes to votes, but the president has a big say in setting meeting agendas.


Board policy provides that the president and the superintendent set the agenda.


For several decades, the board’s custom has been to put an item on the agenda if two members request it. However, that rule is not written down, Superintendent Tom Evert said.


Severson said the custom has worked in the past, and he intends to honor it.


Tuesday’s short meeting was delayed as members discussed whether they would have an open vote or a secret ballot. Secret ballots were used only for contested races until last year, when new board member Tim Cullen objected to a secret vote in a contested election.


The state Legislature and city council vote in the open, Cullen said Tuesday, and there’s no rule that says the school board must elect its president by secret ballot.


The board voted unanimously to vote in the open.


The board also elected Amy Rashkin vice president, Lori Stottler clerk and Bill Sodemann treasurer.


All votes were unanimous, and there were no other nominees.


Severson said he also would change the order of the board’s agenda, moving student representative comments and public comments to the top, because students and the public are the board’s most important constituencies.


In the past, the consent agenda has preceded the student and public comments.



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