Seeing as this will be released in a day or so, I wanted to post it here as well. As always, please feel free to contact me if you have questions.
What makes you qualified to serve on the school board? What stake do you have in Verona schools?
My qualifications for serving on school board come from my diverse background in education which includes a 6-12 teaching licensure, experience as a substitute teacher, experience as a classroom volunteer, working in higher education with high school seniors and incoming freshmen, working with developing new educational programs through the UW System that involves working with many different stakeholders and serving in roles as an employee and as a supervisor. I have three young children just beginning their educational journey through the Verona Area schools. We, like many families picked Verona as a place to live based on the quality of the schools. Due to the slowing pace of growth in Verona and reductions of state support, schools are making due with less and less. I hope that as a board member I can work with the rest of the board and our administrative team to ensure that the long term viability and sustainability of our schools is intact.
Thirty percent of VASD students are now from low-income homes. How should the district address these students’ educational needs?
The diversification of our district presents a number of challenges. As I have gone out and met with administrators and PTO groups, it is very clear that we have a fair number of students who struggle to get their basic needs met outside of school. This then creates a challenge within our schools. This is not just a free and reduced lunch issue though. A number of research studies show that the most successful students are students who have actively engaged parents. Active engagement can be a parent active in school events or it could be assisting students with homework and role modeling the importance of education. Families living in poverty, struggling to make ends meet may find that engagement harder to achieve. I think the district needs to seek out new ways in which it can engage families in order to assist students who need it most regardless of economic status.
School budgets have been squeezed for years in Verona. How can the district ensure schools remain strong despite limited funding?
School funding is a hot topic and a very challenging one. For years Verona benefitted from rapid community growth and strong open enrollment numbers. Budgeting while at times difficult has been less tenuous than other districts and communities have faced. Some steps we need to take to ensure long term success include increasing parental involvement, ensuring curriculum is structured in a way that presents seamless transitions, and supporting and promoting all of our schools as quality choices for families. We also need to be more open to feedback in order to find best practices that can be shared throughout our district. I think it is important that as an employer we ensure that Verona Area schools maintain the quality of instruction and support provided by its many professional staff. We need to work collaboratively with our teachers and support staff to continually improve our district and maintain our reputation for academic achievement.
Besides budgeting, what’s another top issue facing Verona schools, and how would you address it?
Core Knowledge Charter School (CKCS) has requested to exceed their enrollment caps, VAIS has had challenges maintaining required enrollment, and New Century had a severe drop in enrollment last year due to a number of families relocating and now they are being asked to grow to stay viable. The charter schools in our district serve a number of students and provide their families with alternatives to the area elementary schools. Charter schools will demand more attention in the years to come as the expansion of Charters is considered. If expansion is allowed, what impacts will that have on other schools in the district? How would the expansion be paid for? Would the expansion lead to contraction in other parts of our district? The Verona Area school district will need to wrestle with these issues. I would insist on meetings with all stakeholders to discuss the long term sustainability of our district and look for options to promote all of our schools positively.