Four vie for three seats on Edgerton School Board
Edgerton residents Donald McFarlane and James Salimes are running against one-term incumbent Amy Horn-Delzer, who is the current board president, and two-term incumbent Sue Tronnes.
Cindy Vondrasek, an 18-year school board member, is not seeking re-election.
Despite being under the cloud of an austere state biennial budget proposal seeking $900 million in cuts to education, the Edgerton School District has plugged a possible $1.3 million district deficit—mainly through pay cuts written into a teachers contract extension ratified earlier this month.
Yet despite its recent savings, the district has faced a trend of sinking enrollments and declining state shared revenue. Amid those concerns, the candidates answered the following questions about state legislation, district contracts and how the district could save money.
Q: The district and its teachers union ratified a labor deal this month even as Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill and his proposed state budget were pending. Teachers agreed to concessions to pay and benefits as well as a health insurance change and an option for the district to deepen the concessions if the state budget picture worsens. Overall, what do you think of Walker's budget repair bill and the proposed state budget?
Horn-Delzer: "I do agree that the state of Wisconsin cannot continue the current spending patterns of the past several years. I, however, don't agree with Governor Walker's methods of going about limiting spending. I feel that the budget repair bill as well as the proposed budget puts an unfair burden on the public education system in general. He (Walker) was quoted as saying local governments now have the tools they need, but I see it as tying our hands and giving us less choice on how to do business in our own district, and that is unfortunate."
McFarlane: "Overall, I fully support it. In some areas it didn't go deep enough. From what I've read of the budget bill, there's nothing there that focuses on getting rid of the unfunded mandates, such as the requirement from states for certain program offerings that say we have to offer foreign languages to students at specific grade levels."
Salimes: "I think he tried to do too much all at once. I think overall there's aspects of the bill that I don't know about that I still find out from different people. You just wonder whether those things come into play. If you want to find the silver lining, I guess it did force us to come up with some solutions in our own budget."
Tronnes: "I don't know about the whole collective bargaining thing. Settling the teachers contract was a positive thing. They've (teachers) made some really good compromises, and I'm very happy about that. I do think it was very difficult to go so far in one step. But generally, I am in support of changes in Scott Walker's budget. We can't continue to spend at the rate that we've been spending, and I support taking a step back."
Q: The school district is reviewing bids for its busing contract as it decides whether to retain Burns Bus, a private, local contractor that has bused Edgerton students for decades. Officials estimate busing costs the district $800,000 a year. What are your thoughts on going out for bids for a bus contract?
Horn-Delzer: "I am sensitive to the fact that a local business has covered busing for a long time. However, this has to be looked at as an area to be economically wise. The RFPs (requests for bid proposals) state that if we go with a different bus company, our (current) drivers should be given first priorities to be hired back as drivers. If it could save our district, I think it (bidding out the contract) may be the right thing to do."
McFarlane: "I totally support it (bidding out the bus contract) even though it's a polarizing issue. Burns Bus has been here for a long, long time. They've always done an excellent job. But with future budget forecasts, everything has to be on the table. Everyone should understand it's not just a matter of the lowest bidder that gets the job. It's the lowest bidder that's going to fully meet the needs of the district."
Salimes: "I know (Burns Bus owner) Larry (Burns) really well. I'm for what he does, he's been a part of the community for so long. My biggest concern is the drivers keeping their jobs. I'd like to see it happen where the people who have jobs now could continue to work."
Tronnes: "We have had the same contractor working for us for all of these years. We're not exactly sure when or if it (the bus contract) was ever bid out in the past. As responsible stewards of our district, we should look at different companies. I'd hope we don't have to take our services to a lower level, but we need to compare. We don't know if what we're currently paying is competitive because it's never been bid out."
Q: The Edgerton School District's financial woes have been ongoing, with enrollments and district finances declining steadily in recent years. What are a few key areas on which the district could focus to save money?
Horn-Delzer: "I think the pattern of our budget cuts this year is a very good one for our district. I agree with (Superintendent) Dr. (Dennis) Pauli in keeping the cuts as far away from students as you can. Cuts should stay away from affecting programs and putting more students in a classroom if possible. We need to continue to look at saving on costs through our operating budget, electricity and utility options and reducing busing (costs)."
McFarlane: "Dr. Pauli has worked to implement a lot of the things I would have suggested. For instance, consolidating building and grounds programs was a good move. We should look at the busing (contract), which I know is under review, and we need to look at 4K. The way I see that program is a way for parents to not have to do anything with their kids for an extra year. It's like a babysitter. It doesn't seem to affect a student's integration into K-12, and I haven't seen any convincing data otherwise."
Salimes: "One of them is the scheduling program the teachers use that allows the teachers to schedule their day. Are there other options for that? I also want to learn if the school's behavior instruction program, one of its disciplinary programs, is working. I also wonder if postage costs could be cut by using email. We also should look into the (district's) 4-year-old kindergarten program to learn if that's worth the money put into it. We could look into eliminating that (the 4K program)."
Tronnes: "I'd like to avoid cuts if we can help it. The concessions that they (the teachers union) made to insurance goes a long ways towards helping us deal with budget shortfalls. In the meantime, we have strong administrators who are creative and spend time figuring out how to save money without affecting students or programs."
Edgerton school board
Amy Horn-Delzer (I)
Address: 6400 W. Valley Springs Road, Janesville.
Job: Veterinarian, Chalet Veterinary Clinic, Stoughton.
Education: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, UW School of Veterinary Medicine, Madison.
Community service: Volunteer at Edgerton Schools, Fulton AWANA Girls Club director, Wartmann Endowment for the Edgerton Performing Arts Center board member.
Elected posts: Edgerton School Board, one-term incumbent and current board president.
Why she's running: "I feel that starting our children on a positive learning path is very important for youngsters up to 12th grade. I'll do anything I can to give them a positive educational environment, balanced with the reality of giving the taxpayers a fiscally balanced school district."
Address: 137 Forest Ave., Edgerton.
Job: Computer and electronics repair and support, full-time student; served in the U.S. Navy during Operation Desert Storm, 1990-92.
Education: Associate degree in mechanical design from Blackhawk Technical College, 2010; working on an associate degree in industrial engineering.
Community Service: Former volunteer emergency medical technician, Edgerton.
Elected posts: None
Why he's running: "I'm running for the school board to try to get our educational system focused on the core components of reading, writing, math, science and social studies and a basis in the arts—anything that gives kids a well-rounded basic education."
Address: 9208 N. County H, Edgerton.
Job: Associate pastor of Fulton church, Edgerton; former quality control manager in the screen-printing industry.
Education: Bachelor's degree in biblical studies, Moody Bible Institute.
Community service: Yahara PTO; involved in various Edgerton youth service projects.
Elected posts: None
Why he's running: "I would like to be a part of maintaining the quality education and wholesome environment that the Edgerton School District offers. The qualities I bring are creative problem solving as well as a positive attitude and willingness to learn."
Sue Tronnes (I)
Address: 739 Highway 73, Edgerton.
Job: Customer service, Harder Corp., Madison.
Education: Graduate of Edgerton High School, 1983; bachelor's degree in business administration from UW-Whitewater, 1987.
Community service: None
Elected posts: Edgerton School Board, two-term incumbent.
Why she's running: "Although we've settled (a contract extension) with our teachers, we've got ongoing budgets to continue to work on. I hope I can help out with that. I think we have a great school district, and I want to support it. I don't really have an agenda."