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Primary likely in Janesville School Board race

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Frank Schultz
January 3, 2013

— It appears a primary election will be required to narrow the field for Janesville School Board.

Seven candidates—including all three incumbents—turned in their nominating petitions Wednesday to run for three seats on the board. State law requires a primary in such cases, Rock County Clerk Lori Stottler said.

Wednesday was the deadline for filing papers. Candidates still have to undergo a verification

of the signatures on their petitions.

Voters would be able to vote for three candidates in a Feb. 19 primary with six moving on to the April 2 general election, Stottler said.

The candidates running for the three three-year terms are:

-- Karl Dommershausen, 70, of 2419 Plymouth Ave. He runs 27 West Appraisals & Estate Services with his wife, Renee.

Dommershausen said he has earned a second term and is a productive board member.

Dommershausen said he wants to make sure the board keeps focused on students, and he said he has remained nonpartisan in a highly charged political atmosphere.

"I think the real goal of the board is the child, and we sometimes get that mixed up with money and other things," including the highly charged political atmosphere of recent years, he said.

"I think the two extremes need to work together much more strongly, and I think I can be a part of that," Dommershausen said.

Dommershausen said he wants "standardized clothing" for students, at least at the grade school level. He believes that would improve student achievement.

-- Diane Eyers, 44, of 3320 LaMancha Drive. Eyers is a 1987 graduate of Parker High School and has a two-year accounting degree.

Eyers said she could use her background in accounting and in insurance to help with fiscal and benefits issues.

"I'm a single mom, and I just feel that I need to continue to ensure the kids in our district are getting the best education they can get," she said.

Eyers said she has the abilities to keep lines of communication open among the administration, staff and the board.

Eyers said she has followed the school board, "so I think I have a pretty good knowledge of what the decisions are and why they're being made."

-- Kristin Hesselbacher, 44, of 1210 N. Martin Road. Hesselbacher is a freelance grant writer who has done some work for the school district.

Hesselbacher said she is running for a second term because she wants to be a part of current and upcoming projects. A strong school district is important to Janesville's future.

"I really do believe that the Janesville School District is in the middle of lot of changes, and I want to see them through," she said, listing the high school "redesign" project, upcoming changes to the K-12 curriculum, the state's new school report cards and the state teacher-evaluation process.

Hesselbacher agreed that others could work on these initiatives, but she noted that the learning curve for a board member is steep, especially in the areas of finance, curriculum, negotiations and contracts.

"I feel like I've spent the last three years learning a lot, and hopefully I can keep on applying what I have learned," Hesselbacher said.

Hesselbacher accompanied Superintendent Karen Schulte on a trip to China last fall, part of an effort to forge relationships with Chinese schools.

-- Fred Jackson, 39, of 217 S. Pontiac Drive. Jackson works as an analyst for Eaton Corp. in Watertown.

Jackson said he was concerned about the staff dress code issue, cuts to sports programs and his belief that politics are becoming a problem on the board.

"I believe we are starting to get away from what truly matters, which is giving kids the opportunity to grow into well-rounded individuals," Jackson said.

There's a place for politics, Jackson said, but the focus needs to be about children and their development.

Jackson said the recent focus on a staff dress code was unnecessary.

"I don't see where that particular policy addresses what's best for the kids," he said.

-- JT Lichtfuss, 34, of 1216 N. Randall Ave., describes himself as an author, speaker and behavior expert who advises individuals, companies and non-profits in conflict resolution.

Lichtfuss said he would use his background in education, leadership, bullying, and conflict resolution to focus on safety.

Lichtfuss said he wants to ensure "a safe learning atmosphere where children are excited to attend school and parents know that their children are safe."

Lichtfuss told The Gazette before the shootings in Newtown, Conn., that he believes "that our schools need to be a safe environment where our children do not have to fear being bullied by other students or worried that outside violence will enter the school doors."

The Craig High School graduate said he holds a Ph.D. but declined to say what it is in or what institution awarded it. Voters should be more interested in the fact that he has an educational specialist degree, which he said would qualify him to be a school psychologist, although he has not worked in that capacity, he said.

Lichtfuss also did not divulge the source of his education specialist degree. He said the reason he would not divulge other details about his education is that The Gazette does not have a policy regarding verification of candidates' information and that anything a candidate says might be false.

The Gazette has the option to verify anything a candidate says.

Lichtfuss said he holds a master's degree in criminal justice and several certificates and degrees through his military service. He announced in a March 2011 Gazette article that he had opened First Light Solutions, "a boutique life coach agency that provides individualized programs for its clients."

On his First Light website, Lichtfuss says he was an Army "intelligence collector/interrogator."

-- Cathy Myers, 50, of 515 St. Lawrence Ave. Myers said she has taught English at Hononegah High School in Rockton, Ill., for 19 years. Voters might remember that she ran for the Rock County Board in 2011.

Myers holds a master's degrees in arts teaching from the University of Iowa and in technology in the classroom from Walden University.

Myers said she understands better than most how school districts are run and that safety of students should be a top priority.

"Discussions about safety and children are not theoretical to me at all. I think I would add a voice to the board that I don't think is present at the moment," Myers said, citing the recent shootings in Connecticut.

-- Peter Severson, 43, of 1817 Wesley Ave. Severson has served on the board for four years. He is a business process analyst for the state court system.

Severson said his former job in social services focused on children and families, and his current job gives him expertise in computer technology "and to a certain extent the legal process. Both have been used in my time on the board."

Severson said he also wants to help guide the district's financial issues, development of the employee handbook, where he sees the challenge as making the district a great place to work while establishing work rules that make the district as efficient as possible.

"I very much want to continue on the Journey to Excellence that Quint Studer has laid out for us," Severson added.

"The School District is one of the foundations of community and will continue to make Janesville a great place to live and work," he said.



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