Three candidates are seeking two seats on the Mount Horeb School Board on April 4. The district has aging facilities and is experiencing continued growth that have combined to lead to an April 4 referendum. The $38.5 million question asks for security improvements and other upgrades, additions and renovations for new classroom and academic space and an expanded cafeteria at the high school. (I) indicates incumbent.
Address: 650 Perry Center Road, Mount Horeb
Family: Married to Kelly; two daughters, Johanna and Katerina
Job: President/CEO of Thermo/Dynamics in Spring Green
Political experience: Served on Mount Horeb School Board 2013-2014
Other public service: Registrar/board member for Mount Horeb Soccer Club, treasurer/board member for Madison Area Youth Soccer Association, chair of Experimental Aircraft Association standards committee for light sport aircraft, referee for youth and high school soccer, coach for youth soccer
Education: Bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D. in nuclear engineering and engineering physics from UW-Madison
Email or website: firstname.lastname@example.org
Damon Piscitelli (I)
Address: 509 Lucky Trail, Mount Horeb
Family: Married with two sons (6th and 9th grade)
Job: Teacher in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District
Political experience: Three years as president of a local teachers union
Other public service: One-year term on the Mount Horeb School Board, 2016-present
Education: Bachelor’s degree in mathematics, master’s degree in education, both from UW-Platteville
Email or website: www.facebook.com/damon4sb
Diana Rothamer (I)
Address: 633 S. 1st St.
Family: Husband, Daryl; sons Owen, 15, George, 11, and Ben, 8
Job: Contracting specialist at Dean Health Plan
Political experience: Three years on the Mount Horeb School Board
Other public service: Board of directors, Agape Christian Preschool
Education: Bachelor’s degree with a major in psychology and minor in human resources
Email or website: email@example.com
What is the main challenge facing the district and how would you address it?
Meassick: We need to allocate resources and spend money wisely in order to maximize the educational opportunities for our students. In particular, we need better long-range planning in order to understand upcoming needs and to have options to address budget uncertainties resulting from the state budget process. We need a school board that understands budgeting and long-range planning. Poor planning for growth in the district and for maintenance requirements have resulted in the need for the large April 4 referendum, which will still not cover all our needs.
Piscitelli: We are attempting to address our biggest challenge through a referendum on April 4th. The challenge is how to pay for much-needed repairs and improvements to our facilities. We have been delaying major projects, or attempting temporary fixes, for quite some time due to budget constraints. A dedicated group of citizens has identified needed work and created a plan that our community can hopefully support. If the referendum does not pass, our main challenge will be in budgeting for these projects some other way. My role will be to work with the Finance Committee, Administration and School Board to create an alternate funding plan.
Rothamer: Facilities is the main challenge currently facing the district. We are facing aging buildings with multiple concerns. No matter what the community decides on the referendum question, the board of education, along with the administration and community, will be planning the next steps. As a member of the facilities committee over the past 18 months, I have listened to the community provide a road map for the board to follow. They have identified the needs of the district, and it is very important to me that the board listens to and regularly solicits such input from stakeholders.
In what ways can the district improve, and how would you do that?
Meassick: We need highly rigorous academic preparedness for all students but also strong educational opportunities for students going into the skilled trades. A cohesive strategic path needs to be decided on at the school district level and not at the individual building level. This plan needs to focus on the desired educational outcomes and not on specific skills. Currently there is too much focus on specific technological skills that may become obsolete instead of emphasizing patterns of thinking and problem-solving skills that will serve students well as they pursue future goals.
Piscitelli: Community members and School Board members have expressed an interest in revisiting the district’s strategic plan and developing short- and long-range plans for the district including budgeting, transportation, facilities and other elements. The current School Board wants everyone to know where the district is, and where it is heading. The analogy is a roadmap that staff, administration, community members, and future board members can refer to in order to keep the district moving in the right direction.
Rothamer: One of the ways that our schools could improve is to address the rising mental health needs that we have seen over the past two years. With over 10 years of experience in the health care industry focusing in the area of mental health, I can provide thoughtful insight into solutions for these current needs. Through a partnership with local mental health professionals we could increase our students’ access to mental health services as well as providing professional development for staff regarding identifying the signs of depression and anxiety in all age groups.
On April 4, the Mount Horeb School District will ask voters for an additional $38.5 million for a series of major capital improvements. Do you support the referendum?
Meassick: Yes, but we need to spend the money responsibly and wisely. If the referendum passes, we need to make sure that the ensuing process results in projects that meet their desired objectives within the cost constraints imposed by the referendum. Historically, the school district has not been able to properly plan to accomplish projects within the available budget. A crucial aspect of the upcoming referendum is the secure entries to the various schools. Lack of planning and failure to make plans become reality has resulted in our school district being behind most other districts in our area in the implementation of these crucial safety measures. The safety of our students must be priority one.
Piscitelli: I support the upcoming referendum but understand that not everyone is in my position. A large part of our community has no current connection to the school district. It is understandable that people in this demographic would be more reluctant to support a referendum, and the accompanying tax increase. I believe the district has done an excellent job of making information available, holding open houses, visiting local community organizations and seeking community input. My hope is that voters feel having safe, efficient, updated facilities is a benefit to the community as a whole.
Rothamer: As a member of the facilities committee I have been a part of the process that brought us to this referendum question. The process involved over 40 community members. We walked through all of the buildings in the district to assess the condition and needs of the district. In addition, the board, along with the committee, developed a community survey which provided further insight into our community’s vision for our district. Once the survey results were complete, the committee made a recommendation to the board which was adopted. I know we are asking a lot of our community, but I believe that we have provided a solution that supports both the findings of the facilities committee as well as the results of the community survey.