Janesville School Board candidates hold common ground
Private charter schools and vouchers will erode the quality of public education.
Test scores shouldn't be the only tool used to evaluate teachers.
Never mind agreeing to disagree.
At a forum Monday, candidates for the Janesville School Board agreed on a variety of issues ranging from balancing the budget to being an efficient and productive school board member. And unlike political discussions at the national level, the candidates were civil—and often complimentary of each other.
"I really don't think there is a bad choice," candidate Deborah M. Schilling told audiences at home and at the Educational Services Center, where the forum was held.
The forum, sponsored by the Janesville League of Women Voters in cooperation with the Janesville PTA, was taped and will be televised at a later date on JATV. It featured incumbent Greg Ardrey along with candidates Jack Champeau, David DiStefano and Schilling.
In agreeing with each other, the candidates acknowledged that many issues such as the budget and teacher evaluations didn't have single-solution answers.
When asked how balancing the budget should be addressed, DiStefano said the community needed to lead the way.
"I think we need to look at this as a community," he said. "I think we need to prioritize spending."
DiStefano added that he thought teachers should contribute to their health care costs, but balancing the budget shouldn't "rest on the backs of the teachers, either."
Schilling agreed, saying the district needs to look for budget cuts in creative ways. She did add, however, that taxes probably would have to be raised.
Ardrey seconded those opinions, adding that balancing the budget would require a variety of changes.
"We're going to need to make cuts, we're probably going to need to raise taxes and we're probably going to need to go to our fund balance," he said.
Champeau, who spoke last on the issue, said he felt the same way. He then added, "It would probably make for a better forum if I differed from the other candidates."
For the last question, forum moderator Laura Boettcher asked participants to describe what distinguished them as candidates. The candidates' answers were:
-- Schilling: "I'm a mom. I'm the main caregiver in the family." Schilling touted her connections within the school community—parents, teachers and others—that would give her a unique perspective.
-- Ardrey: "Other than being an incumbent, I'm an engineer." When Ardey was on the district's boundary line committee, he was able to use his experiences to give board members "data-driven results" to help them make decisions.
-- Champeau: Five years working on the board of the district's virtual academy—he now serves as its president—other volunteer experiences in the Janesville schools, and his joint position with the UW-Rock County/UW-Platteville engineering program have given him a "passion for education."
-- DiStefano: His experience with employee contracts, both in bargaining and nonbargaining situations, would be "invaluable" during the next round of teacher contracts. He served on the district's boundary lines committee and has two children at Harrison Elementary School.