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Evansville School Board will see at least one newcomer win seat

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GINA R. HEINE
March 24, 2010
— At least one new face will join the Evansville School Board after the April 6 election.

Newcomers Eric Busse and Nancy Hurley are running along with incumbent Melissa Hammann for two seats on the board. Incumbent Jeff Herbers is not seeking re-election.


The ballot also will include a fourth candidate, Joel Haynes, who has withdrawn from the race, citing not enough time to commit to the board.


Busse and Hurley say they have thought about running for a while, and now is the time.


"I just want to do more for the district than just be a parent," Busse said.


"I think I've had a number of experiences that have allowed me to see how the school is run," Hurley said, noting that jobs as a school district substitute teacher and local newspaper reporter precluded her from running.


Hammann said she'd like to help the schools by completing two terms because of the big learning curve in the first term. She said she would continue to be a hard-working member.


Budgeting

The three candidates agree that balancing the budget will be the top challenge in the next term, but all said there's no easy way out.


Hurley said the board has to work the hardest to preserve the areas that directly affect education—quality teachers, materials and a safe and secure environment.


"I think the places to cut are places where they are least likely to affect the kids," she said.


One thing she saw while participating in the district's program-based budgeting process that could be cut was food and beverages at district-held meetings, including the back-to-school day for teachers, she said.


She would also like to look into fundraising opportunities to supplement areas of the budget, Hurley said.


Busse agreed. In his day job reimbursing claims for grant awards to school districts, he said he sees how funding sources are going to have to come from outside.


"You're going to need more of a grants writer or people that understand how to write grants to get funding," he said.


He said the district can look to foundations or trade organizations that offer grants for specific programs, and that research can be done by anyone on staff.


Looking to extracurriculars as a place to cut would be a bad idea because they are an extension of the classroom, Busse said.


In an interview last week, Hammann said she was waiting to hear the results from the district's program-based budgeting teams. They will report on what administrators, teachers and community members believe are the best ways to meet the districts budget needs.


"I know this budget intimately, and there's not fat in it," she said.


The district "could do with a lot more volunteerism in the schools," she said. She pointed to the recent solo and ensemble competition, which was put on with the help of probably 100 parent volunteers, she said.


Future facility needs

With some classes tight in lower grade levels and an aging middle school, none of the candidates were ready to commit to plans for facility needs.


The district needs to hold off on building projects until the high school debt is paid off, Hammann said.


She noted the thousands of dollars that the district saved, however, by buying the land in the 1960s that the high school was built on in 2000. She said the board shouldn't consider a land purchase until the state budget "opens up."


"We're not going to buy land when we can't afford teachers," she said.


Hurley said she knows the district has capital needs now, but enrollment projections need to be studied.


"What I would hope to do is be able to look at all the parameters, look at where enrollment is, look at the state of the buildings … and see what makes sense," she said.


She said she knows conditions aren't ideal at the middle school, but it is structurally sound, so the district may have to live with the facilities "until we're in a better position to be able to do some longer-term remedies."


"I think first we have to look at what space is available now," Busse said, "and determine … how much growth can go into those spaces."


He said enrollment numbers would have to show a great need for building anything new.


"I think the facilities we have now are fine," he said.


Eric Busse


Age: 50


Address: 478 Badger Drive, Evansville.


Job: Grants management accountant in Madison


Education: Bachelor's degree in accounting from Upper Iowa University in 1990


Community service: Board member for Evansville Youth Baseball


Elected posts: None


***


Melissa Hammann (I)


Age: 51


Address: 250 Eager Court, Evansville.


Job: Homemaker, worked as analytical chemist at Wisconsin Energies until 1997.


Education: Master's degree in chemistry from University of Toledo


Community service: Worked with the PTO on Jack-O-Lantern Jamboree and numerous other school activities for the past 11 years.


Elected posts: One term on Evansville School Board.


***


Nancy Hurley


Age: 55


Address: 223 W. Main St., Evansville.


Job: Freelance writer/editor


Education: Bachelor's degree in English in 1978 and master's degree in continuing and vocational education in 1984, both from UW-Madison.


Community service: Member of the communications task force for the Creekside Place capital campaign, volunteer at Evansville Ecumenical Care Closet and for Meals on Wheels, board member for council of Catholic women at St. Paul's Catholic Church, St. Paul's outreach coordinator, assistant director of the Catholic youth organization, member of the junior class representative for Evansville High School music booster.


Elected posts: None



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