Wisconsin State Journal questionnaire

Recently the Wisconsin State Journal contacted me about participating in their candidate preview. They provided three questions in which to respond and those answers will run sometime in a future edition of the paper. My initial answers went well beyond the allocated space. So I pared down my answers to fit what was allowed. While brevity is often appreciated, 360 characters does not provide a whole lot of opportunity to indicate why you are a good fit for the board, how you would address issues the school district is facing, and how you would approach changing collective bargaining?

Since I took the time to develop longer answers than the space provided, I will share with you the questions and my corresponding answers. The abbreviated answers that will run in the paper try to capture the intent of the lengthier responses below. I welcome feedback and I am always willing to discuss the topic of education.

Question 1: Why should you be elected to the school board?

I have been a substitute teacher, a classroom volunteer, and a youth sports coach. With that experience, I will bring to the board a willingness to listen, a passion for education, and a commitment to always keep students first when making difficult decisions. After all, students are ultimately the ones most impacted. I will attend each meeting with a positive attitude and devote my fullest attention to it. I have experience with budgeting, negotiating, and working collaboratively. As a parent of three young children just beginning their educational journey through Verona Area schools, I am committed to seeing our schools maintain their excellence for the long term.

My background in education includes a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from UW-La Crosse, Master of Science degrees in Higher Education Administration (UW-L) and Community Counseling (UW-Platteville), and I recently completed a Master’s Certificate in Project Management from UW-Madison. I have worked for more than 10 years in the University of Wisconsin system supporting students as they achieve their educational goals. I have worked closely with administrators, parents and of course students. I am confident this combination of experience positions me well to serve effectively on the Verona Area school board.

Question 2: What are the main challenges facing your district, and how would you resolve them?

Maintaining the reputation of academic excellence in the Verona Area schools will be difficult. School funding has been under attack for years. Teachers are great resources and we need to respect the contributions they make to our district. We recently lost and are continuing to lose valuable resources and assets in our retirees. We must work with veteran staff and new staff to ensure seamless transitions and fill the voids left by these departures. We also need to improve our employer-employee relationship(s).

A diverse student body presents new challenges and forces us to rethink the methods we use to educate students. It requires an increase in support services so all students have an opportunity to succeed. Charter schools provide options to families but potentially create a strain on traditional school budgets. We need to have more open dialogue about the impacts of Charter schools and how they affect the long term viability of our district. Every child that leaves a neighborhood site for a charter school directly reduces funding to that neighborhood school. More work needs to be done to integrate the Charter schools and to share best teaching practices across all of our schools.

Integrating technology wisely into the educational process may spur innovation but it may create deficits for those without access. Technology is such a large part of our world today; we need to utilize our teachers and tap their expertise in how we can implement more technology for students. We also have to address how we serve students who may not have access to specific types of technology.

These are all complex issues that need input from families, students, and staff to develop plans to move our district forward. I will work for more transparency with the actions the board takes and I will engage people from the entire community to help set district priorities. I will encourage more democracy based leadership at our individual school sites and ask that administrators be sensitive to micromanagement of our professional staff just like I, as a board member, will want to be sensitive to micromanaging the great administrative staff we have. I will attend PTO meetings, site council meetings, and civic organizations to seek input about our great schools and how we can make them even better and more sustainable. Finally, I will use technology to share what is happening in our school district and promote the Verona Area school district as one of the best in the state.

Question 3: What changes, if any, should the district make to its collective bargaining agreement with teachers as it develops a new employee handbook?

No changes. I support workers rights and their right to collectively bargain in the work place. Collective bargaining requires give and take and it requires good faith negotiation along with mutual trust. Collective bargaining brings both sides of an agreement to the table to discuss issues and work toward mutually beneficial solutions. I believe employees should have a voice when discussing issues that impact their work environment. Collective bargaining has worked in the Verona Area school district. We have a good district, with excellent programs, and successful students. Administrators, school board members, teachers, and support professionals have worked together through collective bargaining to bring educational excellence to the Verona Area school district. As a good employer, any changes sought should be done so collectively with the people who are affected by those changes.

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About johnmmcculley

Father of three, currently serving in my first term on the Verona Area School Board. Hoping to help foster more open discussions about the future of education in my community.
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