Budgets, cuts on school candidates' agendas
The district has cut programs and positions in the last two years' budgets, and the administration has said another round of cuts is on the way for 2008-09.
Four men and one woman appear to have qualified to have their names placed on the ballot for the April school-board elections.
Voters will decide who fills three seats on the nine-member board.
Filing their papers by Wednesday's deadline were incumbents Kevin Murray and Bill Sodemann as well as Tom Lemmer, Peggy Sheridan and Peter D. Severson.
A third incumbent, Todd Bailey, did not run for re-election.
A rundown on the candidates:
Tom Lemmer, 324 Linn St., Janesville, is an assistant manager at Family Dollar Store, 1820 W. Court St.
Lemmer first ran for public office last year, when he didn't win a seat on the Janesville City Council. He said his involvement with the PTA at his children's school got him thinking about school board.
"My main issue is, I want to see our education system even get better," Lemmer said. "I don't want to see budget problems get in the way. They're going to affect it in some way, but I want every kid to have a chance to learn to their full potential."
Lemmer talks about partnering with businesses to help with funding. Specifically, he said there's potential for a business to sponsor the All-City Sing, which was dropped this year because of the loss of music teachers in that last round of budget cuts.
"I believe the educational system affects the whole community," Lemmer said. "If you don't have properly educated children, you're not going to have properly educated employees."
Kevin Murray, 35 S. Randall Ave., Janesville, is a firefighter lieutenant with the Janesville Fire Department. Murray is running for a second term on the board.
With three years under his belt, "now I feel like I'm challenged to try to find where we can save some money," Murray said.
Murray criticizes the administration calling for cuts in recent budgets but then being able to find money as needs arise, such as the money for startup costs for 4-year-old kindergarten.
"So now I've made it my mission to look harder and to be more vocal ... about saving some money."
Murray also is interested in finding efficiencies in how the district buys supplies and has them delivered.
He said he's seen a lot of spending programs in three years but never a directive from the board that tells the administration to find ways to save money.
Peter D. Severson, 1817 Wesley Ave., Janesville, is a business process analyst for the Supreme Court of Wisconsin's Consolidated Courts Automation Programs, known as CCAP.
Severson ran unsuccessfully for school board last year. He said the experience taught him more about how the district is run, "so I'm not going into this quite as blindly as I did last year."
Severson said he expects most of the board's decisions to revolve around money.
"I don't know what all the answers are, but I'll be there to do what I can," he said.
Severson said he'd rather not cut any sports, but it's something the board should examine.
"You have to look at what you can afford, and if it comes down to cutting more teachers and dropping an athletics program, I'd have to side with dropping an athletics program," he said. "I know that's not going to make me popular," but whether it's teachers, sports or other cuts, somebody is bound to be upset about it."
Severson said the administration does a good job with its limited staff.
Severson has set up a Web site about his candidacy, www.seversonforboard.org.
Peggy Sheridan, 3214 Westminster Road, Janesville, is secretary of the Jeffris Family Foundation.
I want to make a difference, and it seems like too much is focused on money, and I just want to be an advocate for the kids," Sheridan said. "I know money is a big issue, but it seems like there's too many cuts to student programs."
Sheridan said she has some ideas to address financial problems, but she didn't want to discuss them right away.
Sheridan wants to eliminate bullying. She applauds the recent door-security upgrades at the elementary schools, but she wants procedures tightened.
While the doors are monitored during school hours, anyone could walk in during after-school activities or during elections when many of the schools are used as polling places, she said.
Bill Sodemann, 4625 W. Highway 11, Janesville, is founder and president of Phones Plus, 123 W. Milwaukee St., Janesville.
Sodemann has been a watchdog on issues that affect taxes in his first term. He hopes that computer technology could be one way to save costs. For instance, he sees the day when textbooks are replaced by DVDs or other electronic media, and he wonders if online courses could be used more extensively, possibly saving on staffing costs.
Sodemann said he hopes to convince the administration to conduct surveys to learn how well students and parents are served, much as businesses do with their customers.
"You don't want to just wait for people to have a complaint; you want to proactively seek out information," he said. "… It's not just to catch the problems; it's to captilalize on the good things as well."
Sodemann also is working with the administration to improve the district's character-education efforts. He wants all the schools to coordinate with the community—businesses, churches and other organizations—to work on one character trait all at the same time.