WFB School Board candidate Debbie Frensz Taran has submitted the below piece for the blog .. it's from the questionnaire the Journal Sentinel asks of all candidates.
Looking for info on local candidates? Blog links:
- Kathy Rogers - School Board Candidate
- Joe Martinelli - School Board Candidate
- Gerry Steele - School Board Candidate
- Debbie Frensz Taran (this article)
- Sean Finnigan - Village Board Candidate Campaign Website
From Debbie Frensz Taran:
Question 1: What are the major issues facing your school district and how do you plan to address them?
- Meeting mandates while containing costs
- Identifying inherent dangers in high achievement expectations and confronting them honestly with consideration of our students and taxpayers
- Moving decisively on whether a referendum will be initiated with the Whitefish Bay public
- Negotiating employment terms, conditions, and incentives with the unions
- Evaluating our financial situation in reference to the CDO investment and how that will affect budgets
I would address the first issue by encouraging our administration and community advocates to be proactive in addressing mandates that are not relevant to our local
schools. We must get off the bandwagon of grabbing tax revenue just because it is out there. Money is a scarce resource and should be allocated by careful priority setting.
A danger of high achievement expectations is wanting to give too much to our students or do too much for them without allowing them to do for themselves. We have talented and resourceful students in need of opportunities to exercise those gifts. Genuine self-esteem will come from allowing students to grow on their own. New technology tools like Family Access are only worth the financial investment if they complement and do not replace communicating directly with students and developing trust in them.
The facilities study was time consuming and had many dedicated volunteers participating. That study was reinvented, delayed and became dated by the current board with no timely choice put before the community. I question passing off the decision to a new board to again reinvent the process. I trust the collective intelligence of Whitefish Bay and think the politicking adds unnecessary cost to decisions. This community knows the value of our schools to students and property owners and the community should be trusted to protect that tradition with or without spending more money.
Teacher's salary and benefits are what drives the budget. Applicant pools suggest we do not need to pay top dollars to attract employees to our village. Once those employees are proven to be a best choice for the district following positive performance, it then is time to be competitive with other districts. The current benched pay steps seem arbitrary and not in line with bonafide occupational qualifications or performance standards. The contracts need to be negotiated in line with private sector wages and benefits.
There are many after the fact quarterbacks on the CDO investments. As a school board member I would favor conservative financial risks with taxpayer investments. The school board is responsible for the vote on recommendations brought forth by the administration. The board must be willing to advocate on behalf of the taxpayer and not just be promoters of the administration.
Question 2: Why do you think you would be a better school board member than your opponents?
We are fortunate to have a choice in WFB during this election cycle of having four qualified candidates vying for three open seats. This shows a strong community interest in continuing the excellence of our schools. I believe I stand out with a level of professional and personal experience that shows a commitment to reaching goals with scarce resources. An example of this philosophy was my managerial position running the Kenosha County 911 Emergency Center. This was the first civilian position assigned for the consolidation of all county dispatch centers into one entity. This precedent setting measure was initiated to provide tax relief by managing new technologies and working with personnel, unions, and multi governmental agencies, to facilitate this transition. This experience will serve me well in presiding on a board that will be going through significant decision-making processes with the current issues that are on the table.
In addition, I have a passion and vested interest in the hundreds of village children for whom I was a first teacher. Hands on experience at the Lydell building for nearly 15 years allowed me many insights to our community. I was able to run revenue-generating programs with minimal administrative guidance or expense.
My gift to the board is my unique perspective that does not echo sameness. It takes more than high academic achievement to prepare students to leave our village and make a positive difference in our diverse world. It is the obligation of our school board to provide every child with a preparatory education. I am unafraid to stand-alone and ask tough questions on behalf of students, taxpayers, teachers, and the administration in that order.
Question 3: When it comes to program preservation and staffing decisions, what are your priorities under current revenue-cap restraints?
The question assumes that the revenue caps are restrictive to the budgets of this district. We have done a good job in the past in living within our means but may need to find ways to tighten budgets even further given the economic climate this world is experiencing. Creative and fair cost cutting measures, such as simplifying and or reducing administrative costs, consolidating services, and opening state legislation to allow local revenue generation need to be studied. Our recent turnover of experienced teachers may also point to other issues that require discussion. The bottom line, however, is that in this current economic environment I believe public agencies need to approach there budgets like private entities have had to for many years. Benefits and compensation need to fall more into equivalency with the private sector.
Question 4: What do you think your school district can do to improve education for its students?
We have great schools and excellent teachers, but I believe, more importantly, that WFB parents are dedicated to their children's learning. Parents are well educated and highly involved, and many have the resources to supplement educational needs for their children, which raises the bar for all our students. By any performance standard WFB students are performing at very high levels both nationally and statewide. One area I feel we do fall short in, however, is the student that may not have a comfort level in the college-tracking curriculum. Technical study and career counseling for non-college bound students is sorely lacking and needs to be addressed.
Question 5: How, if at all, does the country's current economic situation affect the district, specifically the state's use of temporary stimulus dollars to provide aid to public schools?
As I have stated in previous answers I consider the current economic environment a very difficult challenge for the board. However, it also presents the wonderful opportunity of having a community that will be very engaged in this election. This will provide for many ideas and opinions that will be used to guide decisions as we plan for the future and better economic times. If stimulus money were available to districts in the state I would think there are a number of other schools in critical need of funds more than our own. Tax dollars whether paid federally, statewide, or locally still need to be used wisely and efficiently.
Debbie Frensz Taran