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Newcomer, two incumbents seek Evansville School Board seats

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GINA R. HEINE
March 30, 2012
— A teacher inspired to run for Evansville School Board in part by legislative changes in Madison over the last year is challenging the two incumbents in the April 3 election.

Marshall Reese, a teacher at Beloit Turner Middle School, is running against incumbents Tina Rossmiller and Sharon Skinner.


Voters will choose two board members for three-year terms.


Reese said the changes in Madison first got him interested in running, and he's also helping his niece through high school in Evansville after she recently moved in with him. He said he's proud of being an Evansville graduate.


"I want to make sure despite all the budget cuts that can happen and will happen, we make good decisions and we make these decisions based on what the kids' needs are," he said.


He said he would bring fresh ideas and a background in education.


"I think it's helpful for the board to have the perspective of an educator," he said.


Skinner said she loves kids and believes education is important. She said a board member's first term is a learning process, and she's ready to accomplish more in her second term. Her first priority is the students.


"I always felt that we, who serve on the board, are the advocates and the voice for these children to make sure their needs are hopefully being met," she said.


Skinner said she is a good listener, is open minded, has the time and commitment to serve and values open communication between the board and the public.


Rossmiller said in an email she wants to continue "being an active participant in providing each student the best education possible."


She said she has the attributes, skills and experience to continue as an effective board member, and she's committed to spending the time and energy "to stay connected with the needs of the families I serve.


"I am willing to listen to all viewpoints with an open mind. My education and work experience provide the board with a better understanding of financial matters," she wrote. "I have the strength to hold ourselves accountable in these difficult financial times."


District direction

The district has worked through a strategic planning process, and the board recently hired Jerry Roth to serve as its new superintendent starting July 1.


Rossmiller said her vision "is a collaborative partnership with our new superintendent, which will allow us to take our district to the next level of excellence."


She would like to provide more opportunities for students who are not focused on post-secondary education.


"Our association with the Stateline Career and Technical Education Academy is one way to achieve this. Technology will continue to drive our students and curriculum," she wrote. "In order to stay competitive, the district must allocate sufficient resources to 21st century learning."


Skinner said Roth's hiring was a positive move, and it will take time for a new administration to get to know everyone and how the schools run.


"I think everybody will be fine, it just takes time," she said.


She believes the Evansville teachers do a "really good job," step outside the box and do more than what they should, she said.


People need to be positive as the district works through challenges, she said.


"We need to bring everybody together, as a team. I feel the board and future board members should be reachable and open to new ideas," she said.


Reese said the board needs to be student-focused and do what's best for kids.


"That's not necessarily going to be easy, but we have a lot of different things we can look at … just because we have to make cuts doesn't mean our education system has to get hurt," he said.


The board needs to make smart cuts and get rid of waste, Reese said.


"Everyone talks about cutting teachers. I'm not saying no to that," he said, adding people might think he's there to protect teachers. "But I don't think cutting a teacher is going to (help students, either)."


Budget challenges

As the district faces cuts, Skinner said she wants to protect children.


"I hate to see programs cut. If we can avoid it, let's avoid it," she said. "I don't want to see teachers laid off anymore, but we just have to wait and see."


The district has a wonderful Advanced Placement course selection at the high school, Skinner said, but she would like to see more students enroll to be prepared for college.


The district is running out of ways to cut expenses and increase revenues, Rossmiller wrote, and "the cuts we are currently faced with are hitting our staff and students significantly."


She wants to change the approach from traditional budgeting to zero-based budgeting to "align the budget with our newly adopted strategic goals and vision for the district," she wrote.


Reese said the board could look at cutting administration, the highest-paid employees. The district has five principals or assistant principals for three buildings, he said.


"Looking at administration (is) definitely something where you can save a lot of money," he said.


The board also could look at programming, class sizes and the high school's block schedule, he said. He wonders if the district could save money by going to a traditional seven- or eight-period day.


The district has explored starting 4-year-old kindergarten but held off because of start-up costs. Reese supports starting the program.


"If the money can be scraped together, I think we need to go for it," he said. "I don't know the answer on how to get the money for it."


Skinner agreed, saying she believes in the 4K program, but "right now we just can't afford it. … Eventually the budget will get under control—when, I don't know. When we have the money, I would love to see it."


Rossmiller said she will continue to favor starting 4K.


"Unfortunately, when the district was in a position to financially support the start-up costs of 4K, it did not have the community and board support to get it off the ground. Now, the funds are just simply not available," she wrote.


EVANSVILLE SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES

Marshall Reese


Age: 37


Address: 12219 W. Townsend Road, Janesville.


Job: Seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Beloit Turner Middle School


Education: Bachelor's degree from UW-Parkside in 1997; master's degree in integrated marketing communications from Emerson College, Boston, in 1999; teaching certification from Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, in 2004.


Community service: None


Elected posts: None


On Facebook: facebook.com/reeseforevansvilleschoolboard


***


Tina Rossmiller (I)


Age: 41


Address: 413 S. Madison St., Evansville.


Job: Accounting assistant at Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, Madison.


Education: Three years in business administration and accounting at UW-Madison, Mesa State College-Colorado, UW-Platteville.


Community service: Parent volunteer at Evansville High School, Evansville Community Youth Center, JC McKenna PTSO, K-5 PTO, Evansville Youth Wrestling, Evansville Youth Soccer, Evansville Scouts Pack 514; economic development committee; human growth and development committee, Cooperative Educational Service Agency No. 2 Board of Control.


Elected posts: Completing her second term on the Evansville School Board


***


Sharon Skinner (I)


Address: 424 S. First St., Evansville


Job: Homemaker


Education: High school graduate


Community service: Member of Building A Safer Evansville, provided foster care for five years.


Elected posts: Appointed to the Evansville School Board in late 2008 and elected in spring 2009 to the term she is completing; elected to a Local School Council on the Chicago Board of Education from 1990-92.



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