Six seeking seats on Janesville School Board

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011
— The Janesville School Board will have at least one new member after the April 5 elections.

Six people are running for three, three-year terms on the nine-member board.

One-term incumbent Peggy Sheridan is not running again.

The candidates are incumbents Kevin Murray and Bill Sodemann and newcomers John Burt, Scott Feldt, Kirk Henry and Fred Shahlapour.

-- Burt, 50, of 4411 Hearthstone Drive, Janesville, works for Janesville-based contractor Ryan Incorporated Central.

Burt said his main reason for running is the district's budget. The district has a projected shortfall of nearly $10 million in next year's budget, which Burt calls alarming.

"As a projects manager, I'm dealing with budgets and numbers all day," Burt said.

"Just like any other citizen in town, I only know what I read in the paper, so I think it would be premature for me to have all the solutions before I have all the facts. I think we have to look to everything," Burt said.

-- Feldt, 44, of 1815 Doubletree Drive, Janesville, is a former Rock County Board member. He ran for state treasurer as a Republican in the November elections.

Feldt teaches economics part time for Lakeland College.

Feldt said his biggest motivation for running is his children, ages 8, 6 and 3. He said a major focus of his is academic achievement.

Specifically, Feldt would like to see a system that would allow parents, teachers, principals, the board and the public to easily monitor how well the district's students are doing academically.

Feldt would like the schools to assess and report student progress on an ongoing basis, not just a few times a year. He noted that computer technology makes such a system more manageable.

-- Henry, 21, of 1617 Randolph Road, No. 2, is a student and businessman.

Henry graduated from Craig High School in 2007. Since then, he has been a student at Moraine Park Technical College, studying information technology infrastructure. He recently transferred to UW-Whitewater, he said.

Henry also runs his own computer-service business, Value Computers LLC.

Henry said he wants to be a voice for students as well as teachers.

"I'm only 21. It would be nice to have a young voice in the school board who might understand the kids better," Henry said.

-- Murray, 54, of 35 S. Randall Ave., Janesville, is a retired Janesville Fire Department lieutenant. He is running for his third term on the board.

Murray said he is running out of a desire to serve the community in which he grew up and where his granddaughter will attend school.

Murray said he enjoys the work on the board and wants to ensure that Janesville continues to have a quality school system.

"I'm getting a lot out of it personally, I think I'm providing a public service, and I'm getting a lot of positive feedback that encourages me to keep running," Murray said.

Murray helped negotiate the most recent teachers contract and was a key voice in favor of approving the agreement.

-- Shahlapour, 63, of 534 Cornelia St., Janesville, is retired. He has taught college-level business and math. He also has worked as a substitute teacher in Janesville schools.

Shahlapour and his wife, Jaleh Dabiri, operated the Hilltop Café at 123 E. Milwaukee St. for many years. They still own that building.

Shahlapour said he is running out of a desire to serve his community. He said he sees too many students with problems in academics, obesity and drugs. He lays much of the blame on parents and said he'd like to find ways to educate those parents so they do a better job of raising their children.

Shahlapour, who has been involved in community diversity discussions, said he supports Superintendent Karen Schulte's efforts to diversify the district's employees but opposes favoritism for any minority group.

-- Sodemann, 48, of 4625 W. Highway 11, Janesville, is the board president. He is the owner of Phones Plus, a provider of business telecommunication products and services.

Sodemann said one reason he is running for his third term is a desire to expand the district's "Journey to Excellence."

The process includes evaluating district administrators with measurements that can be boiled down to numbers, producing a kind of report card each year. Sodemann said he wants to evaluate teachers, as well, in a fair way to ensure the best possible teaching staff.

Sodemann said that as a school board member, he also hopes to be able to inject his ideas into the discussions of state lawmakers as they consider changes to laws governing schools. He has contacts in the Assembly as well as the governor's office.

Last updated: 4:10 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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