Four running for three Evansville School Board seats
Dennis Hatfield (I)
Address: 14202 W. Golf Air Drive
Job: Columbus Chemical in Columbus
Education: Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Purdue University, master’s degree in environmental engineering from IIT in Chicago, and an MBA from Northwestern.
Community service: Member of Evansville Lion’s Club, Union Township Smart Growth Committee.
Elected posts: In sixth year on the Evansville School Board
Address: 576 Garfield Ave.
Job: Retired from Evansville Water and Light
Education: Graduate of Wisconsin School of Electronics in 1971, graduate of Wisconsin Linemen Apprenticeship Program in 1985.
Community service: Worked with school athletics; member of school budget committee, high school building leadership team and interview committee for new school staff members; coached youth bowling and high school baseball; helped light of annual Fourth of July fireworks; co-chair 2005-08 of Electric Linemen Apprenticeship Advisory Committee; member of Blackhawk Technical College Electrical Power Distribution Advisory Committee; member of Evansville Fire Department from 1976-1988; and a middle school adopt-a-classroom volunteer.
Elected posts: None
EVANSVILLE At least one new face will join the Evansville School Board this spring.
Incumbents Dennis Hatfield and Kathi Swanson and newcomers David Ammerman and John Rasmussen are competing for three seats.
Board President Michael Pierick is not seeking re-election.
Without Pierick, Hatfield said he would be the most senior person on the board.
“I think I bring some perspective and historical knowledge that I think probably nobody else has. We’ve been through a lot in the last six years,” he said.
His goal is to improve the quality of education—“that’s how people are going to get jobs and move on to higher education.”
Swanson said her love for education is what pushes her to seek another term.
“That first term is such a learning experience,” she said, adding that she feels she has a better understanding of the district, which would help her decision-making in a second term.
Ammerman said his interest in running for school board started when a couple teachers approached him months ago.
He has two daughters who attend UW-Whitewater.
“The school was very good to them, and I just figured it was my turn to step up,” he said.
Rasmussen said he’s a lifelong Evansville resident who’s always been involved in the community, and the school board would be one more way of staying involved. He said he knows the community, and his two sons were fourth-generation Evansville grads.
The candidates answered the following questions:
Q: What are your views on the school district budget?
Hatfield: In this economy, it’s awfully tempting to think boards need to cut and slash, Hatfield said, but there’s “other alternatives we can do besides further reduce the quality of education.”
He said he’s happy the board quickly approved a two-year contract extension in February for teachers and staff that includes benefit concessions.
Ideally, he’d like to keep class sizes reasonable and maintain a big spectrum of programs.
Swanson: Balancing the budget will come down to what harms each child the least. She would hate to increase class sizes, she said, and the board will look at using some fund balance to ease the pain.
She said she was glad to see the staff contracts extended because it preserves the district’s good relationships, unlike other districts where staff morale is low.
Ammerman: Balancing the budget will be tough, and the board would have to use common sense when cutting. College prep courses should be protected, he said.
As a state employee, Ammerman said he agreed with the contract extensions.
“I know what they’re feeling … I’m willing to give up, I just don’t agree with the way they took away collective bargaining,” he said.
Rasmussen: He would work with other board members and staff to come up with an affordable budget that still maintains programs, he said.
He said he agrees with the contract extensions, “because I do not agree with Gov. Walker—the way he’s going about balancing the budget. I think it’s going to hurt education.”
Q: A committee in fall will study how 4-year-old kindergarten could work in Evansville and make recommendations to the board. The action comes after a parent last year presented a petition from community members asking the board to start 4K. What are your views on 4K?
Hatfield: He needs to hear the committee recommendation and public input before making a decision, he said.
“If it’s going to benefit the students, then we probably would like to offer it,” he said. “A big factor will be how much we’ll have to dip into our fund balance to keep current programs. … I really want to hear what people have to say and what the numbers look like.”
Swanson: The district likely wouldn’t have the money to start 4K, so it won’t be an issue, she said. More education gives children a leg up, but community support also needs to be considered. She said the district would have to navigate carefully with the many day cares in town.
Ammerman: The district has no money to start 4K. He said he wouldn’t want to have to lay teachers off if the program started.
While 4K is a worthwhile program, he said, “I don’t think it’s the right time.”
Rasmussen: 4K is a good program, “but the question is, how are you going to fund it? I don’t know.”
Educated decisions will be made after the issue is studied, he said. If no funding is available, the program would have to wait.