Delavan School Board applicants share their ideas and concerns

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Catherine W. Idzerda
November 9, 2011
— Eight people have submitted letters of interest for two open seats on the Delavan-Darien School Board.

Three of the letters are for the seat formerly held by Joey Torkelson. Five are for the seat formerly held by Carol Murphy.

Torkelson resigned on Oct. 11. Murphy resigned Sept. 27.

The school board and administration have been in conflict with a parent group since the summer. The parent group is concerned with a variety of issues including teacher retention, the atmosphere in the schools, discipline and curriculum changes.

The school board and the district have renewed efforts to communicate with the community.

The eight letters carry a few common themes, including the need to increase communication, decrease the number of students who leave for other districts and improve and standardize discipline practices. Two of the letters mentioned the need for more technical education.

For Torkelson’s seat, applicants have to live in Sugar Creek, Richmond, Bradford or Darien townships. For Murphy’s seat, applicants have to live in Delavan Township.

The board will consider all the letters and decide whom they want to interview. The interviews will be conducted in open session in a meeting tentatively scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17 at the Delavan-Darien School District Office.

Candidates for Torkelson’s seat

-- David Jeffrey, W7906 R & D Town Line Road, Delavan, thinks the largest issue facing the district is open enrollment. Open enrollment allows students to attend other school districts.

“Another issue I would like to address is the lack of vocational courses. I believe that we can tie local businesses involvement to vocational courses to create a stronger program. It will help take care of our average students to create future possibilities for those students.”

Jeffrey also cited experience dealing with the businesses and city.

-- Daniel G. Hartogh, N4081 Westwood Drive, Delavan, said he has two children, one attending school in the district and another who does not.

He listed “communication with the community” as one of the most important issues.

“I personally know how it feels to have an important family issue turned down by the board,” Hartogh wrote. “The board should always hear issues of administration misconduct. Because of this board being misdirected on how to communicate with the community, the community became upset, and two board members resigned.”

Hartogh cited his abilities to work with members of the public and his training.

In June, Daniel and his wife, Cassie, considered a lawsuit against Delavan-Darien and Waukesha school districts for discriminating against the educational needs of their son. The suit was not pursued after the Waukesha district allowed their son to attend a virtual school, said their attorney, Jeffery Spitzer-Resnick.

-- Lori Hintz, N5261 County M, Delavan, has served as the vice president of the PTO at Turtle Creek Elementary, volunteered in the classrooms, planned and fundraised for new playground equipment and chaperoned field trips and dances. She helped organize the “Souper Art Extravaganza” at Turtle Creek and has worked at book fairs.

“I have been interested in joining the school board since it was first recommended to me by Turtle Creek Principal Tim Cline six or seven years ago” Hintz wrote.

Hintz thinks that although the district is struggling with a variety of issues—including leadership, discipline and communication—it has positive qualities.

“We need to all come together with trust and belief that we area a good district but may need to make a few changes to get to become one of the best school districts.”

Candidates for Murphy’s seat

-- Robert P. Craig, 6467 Highway 11, Delavan, wrote he received a quality education in the Delavan-Darien School District that helped him succeed.

He noted that the district was facing issues concerning discipline, test scores, and teachers not following individual performance plans.

Some of those problems are being addressed, he said, and the district should continue those efforts.

He recently attended the district’s strategic planning session, which he described as “a worthwhile effort that can bring the taxpayers, school board, and teachers closer to achieving the community’s goals.”

-- Kathy Kort, 2730 Willow Point Drive, Delavan, noted her experience as an active parent. She served a three-year term on the Delavan Christian School Board, including a term as president, and coordinates the Delavan-Darien High School Parent Advisory Committee. She also coaches volleyball and forensics, serves hot lunch and has chaperoned band and orchestra trips.

She wrote that board members need to be critical thinkers, ask tough questions and be willing to take on complex issues such as students and teachers leaving the district, discipline problems and academic issues.

-- Steve Logterman, 7968 Summit Drive, Delavan, said he believes that the “issues our school district faces are not unique, nor are they insurmountable. As we saw this summer, communication is a core issue that needs to be addressed, and I believe changes are already being made to improve lines of communication.”

Logterman said he is concerned about the retention of staff and students.

“As far as student retention, I hear a lot of unsubstantiated reasons for leaving (the district) from many people I encounter. I believe we need to address this issue head on, meet with the families that are leaving and try to change public opinion in any way possible. We have a lot of good things to offer, and we are already spreading the word … but it also important talk personally with these families.”

Logterman said he also hoped to reach out to the Hispanic community so their voices could be part of the discussion.

-- Larry Palmer, 2502 S. Shore Drive, Delavan, touted his experience: “I am a retired educator with 36 years experience in three states and six different school districts”

He also has been a substitute teacher in the district, and two of his children attended Delavan-Darien schools.

“These reasons have given me an insight to both the positive and negative aspects of the school district,” Palmer said.

Palmer’s wife, Janet, teaches music at Turtle Creek Elementary School.

“… There would be some situations that I would not be allowed to vote on because of a conflict of interest,” Palmer wrote.

However, he felt that being on the school board would have an overall positive effect when “dealing with the issues that confront the school board.”

-- Nicole Stebnitz, 826 Shady Ave., Delavan, expressed concerns about a variety of topics including:

The budget: “... We need to do even more in order to keep our taxes liability neutral for our taxpayers.”

Teacher evaluation: “…I would like to see us implement an evaluation process that will let teachers go based on merit. I would also like to be able to reward teachers based on merit.”

Student discipline: I want to make sure that our administration admits to the problem and allows for some sort of group think tanks involving teachers, parents and administration to come up with specific ideas in the area of uniform and definite discipline.

Technical education: “Not all students are going to go to college. We have cut back on most of our technical course at the high school, and I believe that we need to bring all of that back in some sort of fashion.”

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