Four strive for three seats on Maple school board
Voters in the School District of Maple will fill three seats on the school board Tuesday. All three incumbents — Brian Lind, Gail Saari and James Streveler — are seeking re-election. Challenger Danna Livingston-Matherly of Lake Nebagamon joins them on the ballot.
The newcomer is a Northwestern High School alumna who feels strongly the success and future of the community depends heavily on how well schools prepare students.
“I work for a technical college that ranks fourth in the nation, meeting the needs of our students and community,” Livingston-Matherly said. “That is what I also hope to achieve on the school board — helping to lead our students into the 21st Century.”
The Lake Nebagamon woman said her broad experience and personal investment in the district would make her an excellent board member.
“I’m proud to be a Northwestern Tiger, and my children are too,” she said.
The top issues facing the district, Livingston-Matherly said, include “finding creative ways to stay within budget while providing students with an optimal learning environment, emerging technologies, striving to have the most up-to-date curriculum to give our students an edge in the competitive employment world and working together as a team for healthy progress and collaboration.”
In her seven years as an instructor, the Lake Nebagamon woman has researched and developed curriculum that incorporates technology, soft skills and service learning projects.
“I would be fully dedicated to completing my responsibilities as a board member to help move our district forward, and advocate that our students learn the seven survival skills covered in ‘The Global Achievement Gap,’” she said.
Lind threw his hat into the ring again for the same reason he ran the first time.
“I care about kids,” said the Lake Nebagamon man. “To be a board member, you have to have in your thoughts, ‘What’s best for our kids?’” That sentiment is backed by six years of experience, most recently as board vice president.
State cuts make balancing the budget a challenge every year, he said.
“I think we’re constantly looking at ways of saving, ways of making cuts that don’t harm the district or kids,” Lind said.
Another challenge is the implementation, or not, of the new Common Core state education standards.
“We’re ready to implement it,” Lind said. “The state is dragging its heels.” The standards, adopted in 2010, are supposed to be implemented in the 2014-15 school year. But face opposition as members of the Legislature lofted a bill to undercut them. The district has put a lot of effort into preparing for the new standards.
“If they don’t pass, we have to go back to the drawing board,” Lind said. “We’ll see what the state decides.”
Saari offers voters 15 years of school board experience.
“It all helps with knowing how to deal with finances, curriculum,” she said. “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
In addition to serving on the school board, the Maple woman has put her fingers to the pulse of state education, attending the Rural Schools Association conferences, Wisconsin School Board Association seminars and actively advocating for the district with state legislators.
She, too, spoke about the Common Core challenge.
“The Legislature wants to form a committee to look at curriculum for schools,” Saari said. “We’re already supposed to be implementing this in 2015. All of a sudden they want to go back to the drawing board.” It would be a waste of time, effort and money to stall the standards, she said, when the district is poised to implement them.
“If it’s going to be benefiting students we should go ahead with it instead of waiting,” Saari said.
Another challenge is filling the district’s technology needs.
“Technology has advanced so much we’ve fallen behind,” Saari said. “Now we need smart boards and laser boards.”
She said the state needs to start fully funding the cost of special needs education. Other financial issues include the rising cost of fuel and transportation and the need to find and retain quality teachers, staff and bus drivers with a tight budget.
“Teachers don’t feel they’re valued,” Saari said. “They’re with our kids every day and they do make a difference.”
She’d like to tackle those issues for another three-year term.
James Streveler, a retired teacher and beef farmer, has served on the board for six years.
“I decided to run again because it is a challenging time in education, we have some local issues,” he said. “I feel my experience will be a plus for our community.”
The district is doing better with early testing in preschool and elementary school and the district Response to Intervention seems to be providing positive outcomes for students, the Cloverland man said.
Streveler, too, is concerned about the changing curriculum.
“We are adopting new standards,” he said. “We have to keep things that were working. Implementing new staff evaluations; these take from the time teacher have to effectively educate.”
Connecting kids to their future careers is one of his goals as a board member.
“I want to see more on career information in the middle school and exploration of those skills in the high school, with community advisory committees,” he said. “I would like more collaboration with post-secondary institutions for youth options and transcripted credits.”