Two candidates are vying for the Area 1 seat representing the village of Arena on the River Valley School Board on April 4. The terms are for three years. (I) indicates incumbent.
Kathy Jennings (I)
Address: 302 Christina St., Arena
Family: Married, three children
Job: Civil engineer
Political experience: River Valley School Board for three years, School Board president since last spring.
Other public service: Several Arena village committees, including Plan Commission and Community Development Authority.
Education: Bachelor of science, civil engineering, UW-Platteville
Email or website: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sierra Gilbertson Stafford
Address: 133 Reimann Road, Arena
Job: Human services field
Political experience: None
Other public service: Arena Community Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization member.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in sociology, with minor in human services.
What is the main challenge facing the district and how would you address it?
Jennings: The River Valley School District is in the process of consolidating its elementary schools. There was a referendum in November (it failed) which would have provided funds to keep the schools open. However, with declining enrollment (which is directly linked to school funding) and a failed referendum, the School Board made the decision to consolidate rather than make deep cuts into programs currently offered in the district.
Gilbertson Stafford: The main challenge facing the River Valley School District is the financial deficit we are currently facing. It’s an issue that has been projected for 10 years and the current administrative plan requires the closure of two community elementary schools. If elected, I intend to maintain the community elementary schools and embrace multi-aged classrooms.
In what ways can the school district improve, and how would you do that?
Jennings: The school can be improved by realizing an efficiency in consolidation. It is so important that the School Board continue to make fiscally responsible decisions for all the students in the district. The School Board and administration have made, and will continue to make, difficult decisions in order to maintain the quality of education the district currently provides its students. I support the consolidation of the elementary schools.
Gilbertson Stafford: If elected, I intend to bring a high level of critical thinking to the table that will challenge the administration. Secondly, we need to invest in a business analysis to highlight efficiencies the School Board needs to make to be fiscally responsible. Currently, these efficiencies are difficult to see due to administration connections with the board members. We need to elect board members who will openly meet in communities to discuss challenges facing the district and obtain community input.
Please rate the district administrator’s performance and list any additional performance criteria you’d like to see.
Jennings: The district administrator for River Valley (Tom Wermuth) has been a very passionate leader in our district. He has assembled a top-tier leadership team. He uses goal setting effectively in the district and has increased the use of data to drive decisions. Tom Wermuth has excellent communication skills with both students and families, and continues to move our district forward.
Gilbertson Stafford: I hold a level of respect for Tom Wermuth. He is connected to his community and is invested in the successes of Spring Green. Overall, my grade for Mr. Wermuth’s performance is middle range. His success is built on the direction he receives from the School Board. If the board does not provide him with a clearly defined job description, resources and a high level of accountability, his position will always be challenging.