My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Please note that there is a factual error in the column. I identified Kris Beaver as the treasurer for Tiffany Larson when, in fact, he is the treasurer for Jenn Donath. I rearranged the column a couple of times before sending it in and that fact got mixed up. That’s the explanation, but it’s no excuse. I apologize to Tiffany Larson for the error.
There are five candidates running for two seats on the West Bend School Board this spring. On Feb. 16, the voters will narrow the field to four candidates, with the two winners being elected April 5. Voters in the school district are fortunate to have a relatively varied group of candidates.
Before we whittle down our choices, each of the candidates deserves a hearty “thank you” for being willing to serve on the school board. Though not without rewards, serving on a school board is a time-consuming, frustrating and often thankless job. Those who are willing to step up in service to their community are to be commended, even if they do not win the opportunity to do so. I enjoyed meeting with each of the candidates and hearing their passion for our school district.
As the only incumbent on the ballot, Randy Marquardt knows full well what public service entails. Marquardt has been a member of the School Board since 2010 and currently serves as the board president. Marquardt’s leadership has been commendable. Under his leadership, the West Bend School District has opened an on-site clinic for staff and teachers that has helped control the district’s health care costs while providing a popular service for the district’s employees.
During Marquardt’s tenure, the district has also opened the Pathways Charter School, started a 4K program, expanded Silverbrook Intermediate School, expanded vocational offerings and much more. Perhaps most impressive is the news we no longer hear. When Marquardt first ran for School Board, the district’s facilities were in a constant state of crisis due to previous board decisions to defer major maintenance needs. These recurring crises prompted multiple referendum requests that drove community division. Marquardt ran on a promise to address the district’s facilities issues and has delivered on that promise. Maintenance is no longer being deferred and the district is even setting aside money every year for the eventual replacement of Jackson Elementary without need for another referendum.
Marquardt’s consistent conservative leadership has earned him another term on the school board.
The remaining four candidates are running for School Board for the first time. Jenn Donath is a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and frequent parent volunteer at McLane Elementary. Donath is a member of the steering committee for the recently formed Benders for Better Public Education group. She considers teacher morale and poor communication to be some of the biggest issues in the district. Donath proudly defends her decision to sign the petition to recall Gov. Scott Walker and ardently opposes School Choice. Donath’s views on education and the district’s priorities stray too far from my own to earn my vote.
Tiffany Larson was compelled to run for the School Board after her husband, Ron Larson, was not selected for the East girls basketball varsity coaching job he wanted last year. In the wake of that decision, Ron Larson resigned as West Bend East’s junior varsity boys basketball coach and Booster Club president — presumably in protest. Tiffany Larson considers the hiring process to be a symptom of a flawed decision-making process by the district’s administration that opened a crack in the door for her School Board candidacy.
Like Donath, Larson considers the most pressing issues in the district to be teacher morale and a failure of the district’s leadership to address that morale. She is heavily supported by the Benders for Better Public Education group and other prominent liberals in the community — including the liberal former board member Kris Beaver, who serves as her campaign’s treasurer. As with Donath, Larson is too liberal to earn my vote.
The final two candidates offer a conservative choice for voters but come from different perspectives. Bob Miller is a 1995 graduate of West Bend West with kids in the district. As selfprofessed band geek who loves driving the bus for West Bend’s band, Miller’s priority is to keep the district moving in the positive direction of the past few years. He supports a diversified educational offering, including technical and mechanical opportunities, and wants to bring social workers back into the district by reprioritizing spending.
Ken Schmidt is a 36-year resident of the district and husband of a public school teacher. With a Masters in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and 27 years as a member of the Board of Regents for Bethany Lutheran College, Schmidt’s priorities are to improve educational outcomes through a systematic review of the curriculum programs and testing regimens utilized by the district, continue to put away money for future building needs, and encourage parent and employee input. Schmidt believes in being a good steward of the taxpayers’ dollars and first became active with the school district because of concerns for the financial management of the district.
While Miller and Schmidt are both solid conservative choices, my second vote will go to Schmidt. His greater experience with oversight of an educational institution and focus on fiscal discipline tipped the scale for me.
The only other election on the ballot for most people in the West Bend School District is the primary for Supreme Court Justice, in which incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley is the clear conservative choice. In-person absentee voting is available until Friday. Please take a few minutes and vote to keep the West Bend School Board moving in the right direction.
It appears you were not paying that close of attention when you interviewed Tiffany Larson as there are some blatantly false statements made in your article. First of all her Treasurer is Tonnie Schmidt of Delta Defense. She does not qualify as prominent liberal in the community. I strongly support Tiffany as well and am a conservative business owner at Excel Engineering. Just because her platform is pro teacher does not mean she is pro spending. The attrition of our school district due to significant loss of quality employees will not be good for the bottom line as reputation suffers. Many other strong conservatives in the community will be supporting Tiffany and pushing for significant changes on the current school board.
Ms Larson would have us judge her by her intentions . I prefer to judge her by her actions.
Her husband was not chosen to be the East Girls Basketball coach . The reasons were many .
His disloyalty to his head coaches as a JV coach , his direct involvement with the now discredited East AD in spreading rumors about Don Grubers firing . ( For those out of town – Gruber , the parents and players were apologized to and Gruber was given back his job )
After he was not chosen , he immediately resigned as JV coach and Booster Club president and began a campaign of character assassination against the new coach questioning his employment , his past as a minister and questioning players about anything that happened in summer Bball that could show some incompetence
In that most unenlightened setting to learn anything about not years team ..
Mr Larson also intended to hire the coach who got East GBB Players declared ineligible ( incorrectly ) and a second coach with 2 suspensions ( the only coach in west history who served any )
Maybe Ms Larson knew non of this .If so , her next actions might be explained somehow .
But since the facts are public knowledge , it’s hard to imagine how she missed them
At this point Ms Larson organizes a Facebook campaign citing her husbands sainthood and the villainy of the new coach and his hiring . She and he organize a group of incoming freshman parents who want the hiring overturned and Ron Larson installed as coach by fiat . Her note to the paper is fact free when it comes to the role her husband played in the matters of both the old coach and the new . This request also means he will be coaching his daughter for 4 years .
Her actions in support of her husband were self serving, callow in their treatment of the new coach ,and a stark reminder that when over protective parents don’t get what they want, in West Bend they run for the school board .
WOW! I’m prominent! Who knew. You are still such an unadulterated sack of poo and a hypocrite. You support Randy after you said you would never vote for him again. A majority of what you give him credit for started before he was on the board. Randy is a wishy washy leader and bad for employee morale.
You will likely take that comment as me being pro union. In fact I am not. i have not been a union member since given the choice and its not a matter of money. Its a matter of principle. Not that you would understand principles since yours seem to change.
Exactly why you were ousted in a previous election. You are a crybaby and you frame arguments as a child would. No business being anywhere near making decisions for school board. Based on your answer above, you have no principles or character for that matter. Just go away
Even though I disagree with the positions of the winners, congrats to them. Hope they do a good job and improve education while keeping tax payers cost under control
James in Jackson