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Five seats open on Delavan-Darien School Board

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Catherine W. Idzerda
March 28, 2012
— Five seats on the seven-member Delavan-Darien School Board are open in one of the liveliest school board elections in years.

In the past, incumbents faced little competition—often none.


This year, longtime board member Rick Heine is not running.


And last summer, community members raised concerns about the atmosphere in schools, lack of communication from officials and the loss of students to open enrollment.


After a series of sometimes contentious meetings, two board members resigned. Lori Hintz and Steve Logterman were appointed to take their place.


Since that time, the district has instituted a strategic planning process. Many of the same community members who raised concerns about schools have joined the process.


However, open enrollment numbers continue to be a concern.


Students that leave the district take their share of state funding with them. Last year, the district lost more than $1 million in state revenue to other districts.


Although seats on the school board are divided into town and city districts, residents vote at large and are able to pick candidates for all the seats.


On April 3, voters will pick three of six candidates to represent the city of Delavan. Incumbents Lee Holden and Jeffery G. Scherer face three challengers: Joe Peyer, Roxann Petermann Kelton and Luis Solis.


For the seat representing the Delavan Township, voters will pick between incumbent Logterman and Larry Palmer.


For the seat representing Darien, Bradford, Sugar Creek and Richmond townships, incumbent Hintz will face Sharon Gonzalez.


Each candidate wants to see a cultural change in the district that will encourage achievement, help retain students and teachers and improve the quality of learning.


How that change would be accomplished varies from candidate to candidate.


Leland Holden: "Open enrollment and test scores are the biggest issues," Holden said.

Part of the challenge is that the schools serve a large population of transient students. Many of those students either don't speak English or speak very little.


While the district embraces its diverse population, it has to work harder to bring English language learners up to speed.


Holden is hopeful the strategic planning process will bring the community together and generate new ideas.


"This time, there's a lot more excitement about the process and a lot more participation," Holden said.


He hopes that when the community becomes engaged in the schools, their perception of what's going on will change.


Holden would also like to see more vocational education choices.


Joe Peyer: "We need to declare war on open enrollment," Peyer said in a written statement.

For Peyer, that means reaching out to students who are enrolling elsewhere and changing the culture in schools.


"We need to solve behavior issues and bullying problems at our schools and not be afraid to expel the problem students," Peyer said.


Adding more vocational and technical classes might make the district more attractive to local parents.


Leadership changes could be part of the solution.


"We need to evaluate our schools staff and make the necessary changes," Peyer said. "The board, administration and staff need to believe in each other to work together for our schools and our community."


Roxann Petermann Kelton: "I think we need to have shared leadership in the schools," she said. "It's become more top-down."

That style of leadership often leaves the teachers out of the planning and information loop. Teachers end up feeling undervalued, adding to the teacher retention problem.


Communication and collaboration will lead to a more positive learning environment.


She'd like to see the school board take a more active role in the schools by seeing the positive things that are happening.


She applauded the strategic planning process as a step forward.


Dr. Jeffery G. Scherer: Scherer thinks the district's cultural change needs to start at the top.

"We've got a lot on our plate—we have a test score problem and a very serious open enrollment problem," Scherer said.


Superintendent Wendy Overturf was hired four years ago in hopes she would reverse some of those trends, and Scherer doesn't think she's been successful.


"It's become very clear that we need a leadership change," Scherer said. "Her style and methods just haven't worked here."


In addition, Scherer doesn't think she has the support of the teaching staff.


Scherer supports the strategic planning process, especially because it's meant continued community involvement in the schools.


In the future, he'd also like to see subcommittees of the board that would deal with specific issues such as buildings and grounds and the open enrollment.


Luis A. Solis: Solis said he is motivated to run because he is the father of four kids in the district. He grew up in California, where the schools are crowded.

"I came to realize how important education is," Solis said. "I was a troubled teen, but I was really fortunately to have teachers and counselors that helped me graduate."


He believes the schools have gotten a bad rap but acknowledges there are problems.


"We've got to make sure that our children are in a safe environment," Solis said.


Academic performance needs to improve, too, but you "can't have one without the other," he said.


He's also concerned about the achievement gap between Hispanic and other students that begins in about middle school.


Steve Logterman: Logterman, who was appointed to the board in the fall, said he sees change happening through the strategic planning process.

The process is addressing many of the issues that touch on open enrollment, school environment and academic achievement.


"It's also bringing the community together," Logterman said.


His formula for change?


"We spend a lot of time talking about how the teachers need to do this, the teachers need to do that, the teachers need to engage in best practices," Logterman said. "But it's just as important for the administration to engage the teachers. I think the administration has a good plan, but if they're unable to implement it, it's just a plan."


Engaging teachers in the process, getting their buy-in, will help move the district forward and improve morale.


For Logterman, it's not just one group or another that needs to step-up.


"The administration needs to engage the teachers, the teachers need to engage the students, and the parents need to take ownership of their children's education by reinforcing respect for their teachers, the importance of effort and the respect for their peers."


Larry Palmer: "I've taught in six districts in three states for 36 years," Palmer said. "I think I can offer something to the school district."

That would include ideas that are "not necessarily in the box," Palmer said.


"I feel that I can offer some help," Palmer said. "Other school districts have had similar problems and have worked them out."


He said a fresh viewpoint could help.


He's also concerned about teacher morale and retaining the best students.


"Teachers are the front line when working with students," Palmer said.


With all the discussion that's going on about the school board, the administration and the teachers, Palmer worries that people are missing the forest for the trees.


"I think the bottom line is still the education of the students, and sometimes I think we lose sight of that."


Sharon Gonzalez: "The issues I see right now are attracting and retaining top-notch staff and attracting and retaining students," Gonzalez said.

The first step towards that goal?


"Open communication at all levels of the district," Gonzalez said. "The piece that's missing is communication between administration and staff."


Teachers need to feel like they can approach administration with their concerns.


"Without two-way communication, decisions are made that aren't in the best interest of everyone," Gonzalez said. "You need buy-in, you need acceptance, for the best ideas to work."


Teachers can be trusted to implement a good plan if they're part of the process, she said.


Lori Hintz: Along with open enrollment, communication is Hintz's primary concern.

That includes communication between administration and the board, administration and teachers and the district and the community.


"Sometime I think that there are things that fall through the cracks," Hintz said. "The board needs to be fully informed on things instead of just taking somebody's word for it."


Hintz is also striving to get more input and involvement from parents and teachers—their contributions are needed to create a better school community, she said.


Seat representing the city of Delavan

Leland Holden (I)


Age: 56


Address: 119 1/2 McDowell St., Delavan.


Job: Town of Delavan Public Works Department


Education: Delavan-Darien High School graduate and two years of collage.


Community service: Elks Club, coached youth soccer for eight years, Red Devil youth football for four years.


Elected post: Three terms on the school board


***


Roxann Petermann Kelton


Age: 57


Address: 402 S. 6th St., Delavan.


Job: Retired Delavan-Darien teacher.


Education: Master's degree in math education from UW-Whitewater and 30 additional credits.


Community service: Serves on the school district's Action Plan Committee of the strategic planning process.


Elected posts: None


***


Joe Peyer


Age: 50


Address: 127 W. Geneva St., Delavan.


Job: Executive director, Lake Geneva YMCA.


Community service: Past chairman of Delavan and Lake Geneva United Way campaigns, current co-agency manager of Walworth County Special Olympics 2011, coach for Delavan-Darien High School junior varsity girl basketball team, assistant coach of the Delavan-Darien High School varsity softball team, past president of the Delavan-Darien High School Booster Club.


Elected posts: None


***


Dr. Jeffery G. Scherer


Age: 59


Address: 1080 Phoenix St., Delavan.


Job: Physician at Lakeland Hospital, retired from U.S. Naval reserves.


Education: Kettle Moraine High School; bachelor's degree from UW-Madison; graduate of University of Wisconsin Medical School, residency with St. Joseph's Hospital, Milwaukee.


Community service: St. Andrew's School Committee, Lakeland Medical Center Medical Executive Committee.


Elected posts: Appointed to the school board in August 2007, elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2009.


***


Luis A. Solis


Age: 31


Address: 1015 Whispering Pines Drive, Delavan.


Job: Painting contractor


Education: One year of college


Community services: Member of Una Voce, a Hispanic community group, member of the district's strategic planning team.


Elected posts: None


***


Seat representing Delavan Township

Steve Logterman (I)


Age: 45


Address: 7968 Summit Drive, Delavan.


Job: Account manager for Thyssen Krupp Materials


Education: Attended UW-Whitewater and Carthage College


Community service: Involved in youth sports programs in Delavan


Elected posts: Appointed to Delavan-Darien School Board


***


Larry Palmer


Age: 61


Address: 2502 S. Shore Drive, Delavan.


Job: Musician, retired teacher.


Education: University of Illinois


Community service: Helps with Delavan-Darien musical every year


Elected posts: None


***


Seat representing Darien, Bradford, Sugar Creek and Richmond townships

Sharon Gonzalez


Age: 42


Address: N4794 Ridge Prairie School Road, Darien Township.


Job: Human resource director at SPX


Education: Bachelor's degree in business administration from UW-La Crosse.


Community service: Former board member of United Way, St. Andrew School Committee, organizer Delavan Youth Wrestling, organizer for Darien Fusion Softball Club.


Elected posts: None


***


Lori Hintz (I)


Age: 39


Address: N5261 County M, Richmond Township.


Job: Day care provider, freelance artist.


Education: Associate degree in art from MATC


Community service: Served as the vice president of the PTO at Turtle Creek Elementary, volunteered in the classrooms, planned and fundraised for new playground equipment, chaperoned field trips and dances, organized "Souper Art Extravaganza" at Turtle Creek and worked at book fair, helped organize, fundraise and chaperone youth gathering to New Orleans.


Elected posts: Appointed to the school board



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