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Candidates differ on closing school in Parkview district

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GINA R. HEINE
March 29, 2011
— Two of the Parkview School Board candidates say the district needs to close a school, one opposes any school closures and one said he needs more information.

The board voted in December to keep Newark Elementary open next year, and a facility use committee is developing a plan for the following years.


The board will consider the committee's recommendations later this year.


Four candidates are running for two seats in the April 5 election, including incumbents Devon Gookin and John King and newcomers Clay Hammes and Elizabeth Brockwell.


Brockwell is an elementary music teacher in the Janesville School District and said she's running because she wants someone on the board who has experience in education and can be an advocate for teachers and students. She'd also like to see a female on the board, she said.


Gookin is seeking re-election to finish some of what the board has started, he said.


"I want to see a strategic plan implemented. I want to see through the fact that we want to raise test scores and provide opportunities for students that we don't provide at this time," he said.


Hammes said he was motivated to run based on what he's seen and heard of the district since moving his family to the area more than five years ago primarily because of the school district.


"The district seems to be failing to thrive," he said.


Part of the problem is the economy, he said, but the board has failed to make decisions to improve the district.


King said he "can bring a lot to the table since I work for another district right down the road." He understands school finance and what needs to be done to balance a budget, he said.


"There's a lot of school boards out there that don't understand, and they make decisions because they don't understand. I just feel I bring that to the table," he said.


Budget

Q: What's your position on the school district's budget?


Brockwell: She "wouldn't even be able to begin to answer" how to balance the budget "until we have an understanding of what's going to happen with (Gov. Scott) Walker's bill. I know there's cuts to be made."


She supports keeping teachers to keep class sizes down and said the district should continue to explore charter school options and marketing to attract more students.


Gookin: It's too soon to respond how to balance the district's budget because numbers keep changing.


"I don't want to cut anything. Every cut that we make affects the students' education," he said. "I'm open to anything as long as it makes sense fiscally to the taxpayers and (is responsible) to the education of the students."


Hammes: The district has spent a lot of time and energy on consolidation, but the issue needs to be addressed head-on, and tough decisions need to be made.


"I believe we do need to consolidate," said Hammes, who is a member of the facility use committee.


King: It was tough for him to approve teacher and staff contract extensions this month that included employee benefit contributions and a 2-percent pay cut. But the board accepted the concessions for one year and will have to decide where to go from there, he said.


Every program will have to be looked at, he said.


"If we have to cut more programs because of the funding, the people in the community are going to have to realize, do they want their school to be like this? The only other alternative is a referendum. The way the economy is right now, I don't think that's a viable option," he said.


Newark School

Q: Should Newark School remain open?


Brockwell: She wants to keep Newark open.


"I am not in favor of closing any schools," she said. "The Newark School does a lot for our community. I don't want to see any school close, whether it's Newark or Footville."


Her son is in second grade at Newark.


She knows tough decisions need to be made, she said, and the board has to do what's best for the district, but she doesn't support closing a school.


Gookin: He voted in December to keep Newark open "because I felt that there wasn't enough information available to us to warrant closing the school," he said. "Now, does that mean I'm going to vote against (closing) it in the future? No, I'm going to take the information given to us and look at it, analyze it and think about it before I make a decision."


Hammes: Of the consolidation options presented last fall, he said, closing Newark appeared to be most beneficial to the district as a whole.


He said he entered the facility use committee with an open mind and "is certainly willing to learn something new. I want people to know I am remaining objective."


Reducing the number of schools is not about Newark or Orfordville, it's "truly about what I feel we need to do to (make) Parkview strong in the future," said Hammes, who has daughters at Footville and Orfordville.


King: He voted against keeping Newark open next year.


"We can not support three elementary schools. We can't afford 12 kids in a classroom," he said. "My kids went to school there, so I know what they're (parents) are talking about when they say it's not a typical classroom. But eventually we're going to have to close one school. I'm not saying it's Newark, (but) one school. There's just no way getting around it."


Bios


Elizabeth Brockwell


Age: 41
Address: 12151 W. Carroll Road, Beloit.
Job: Music teacher in the Janesville School District
Education: Bachelor's degree in music education, master's degrees in interdisciplinary studies/curriculum and administration/curriculum and instruction.
Community service: Treasurer for PTO at her son's school.
Elected posts: None

***


Devon Gookin (I)


Age: 46
Address: 301 Cherry Lane, Orfordville.
Job: IT validation manager in the health care field
Education: Bachelor's degree in political science and a bachelor's of business administration, UW-Milwaukee.
Elected posts: In his fourth year on the Parkview School Board.

***


Clay Hammes


Age: 40
Address: 601 E. Rime St., Orfordville.
Job: Director of safety and worker's compensation, Blaine Supply.
Education: Bachelor's degree in vocational rehabilitation, master's degree in risk control, UW-Stout.
Community service: Served four years in the Army National Guard, member of the American Legion.
Elected posts: None

***


John King (I)


Age: 49
Address: 13543 W. Beloit-Newark Road, Brodhead.
Job: Buildings and grounds and food service supervisor at Brodhead School District
Education: Two years of college courses
Community service: Former youth baseball and soccer coach
Elected posts: Serving his sixth year on the Parkview School Board

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