Candidates have ideas to solve school problemsVoters will cut the field of candidates Tuesday in the Superior School Board race from five to four.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Voters will cut the field of candidates Tuesday in the Superior School Board race from five to four.
The four candidates with the most votes in Tuesday’s primary election will be on the ballot for the two School Board seats available in the April 2 spring election.
Incumbents Patrick Dorin and Christina Kintop are running with challengers James Farkas, Michael Raunio and Steve Stupak.
Patrick Dorin has served on the Superior School Board since 2004, but his credentials in education run deeper.
Dorin has 37 years of experience in education, beginning as a teacher and moving up to the position of principal. Within the Superior school district, Dorin served as an elementary school principal and an assistant principal at Superior High School. He worked in the district for 20 years.
“My No. 1 objective as an administrator was to support the teachers and build a personal relationship with parents, and that worked,” Dorin said.
He said one of his priorities is improving the relationship between administration and teaching staff.
“We need a working relationship between the administration and the staff where the administration is open to the suggestions that the staff has,” Dorin said. “These are the people that are on the front line, and they can see what is actually happening.”
Dorin said he has great concerns about Act 10, and some of the changes brought about by that legislation.
“I think that there has to be an open environment for discussion and negotiations,” Dorin said. “If there need to be negotiations, you have to have that opportunity and availability so that you can have feedback in both directions.”
Dorin also has reservations about Wisconsin’s new school and educator evaluation systems, which rely on test scores for about 50 percent of the final ratings. Test scores sometimes fail to paint an accurate picture of achievement, Dorin said.
“It’s almost as if they’re looking at students as products rather than human beings, and they’re only looking at test scores to determine what is going on in a school district,” Dorin said. “And you can’t look at just test scores to see what is going on.”
James Farkas’ interest in running for a seat on the Superior School Board stems from volunteer work he has done in the district. He teaches chess and acts as a rolling reader at Great Lakes Elementary School, and serves as the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards liaison with Superior High School.
“I’ve seen some of the impact of the community in the classroom,” Farkas said.
Through his volunteer work Farkas, general manager of Northern Engineering in Superior, has become well-known at Great Lakes Elementary School.
He was asked by community members to run for a seat on the board and was hesitant at first because he’d never considered it before.
If elected, Farkas said he would focus on ensuring all students receive the attention they deserve in the classroom.
“I tend to think there is a focus on the top and a focus on the bottom and the 70 percent in the middle have to fend for themselves,” Farkas said.
Farkas said he’s come to understand that children learn in different ways, and that what works for one child may not work for another.
When it comes to Act 10, Farkas said the board has little power to make changes.
“That’s the law, so the issue there is how do we take the constraints and work with it,” Farkas said.
He does believe; however, the board has a responsibility to communicate honestly and keep teachers in a good working environment. Act 10 has strained the relationship between the board and the teaching staff, Farkas said, but he believes the board can repair damage by responding earnestly to questions and concerns raised by teachers.
Christina Kintop has served on the board since 2003, and in that time school districts have faced large budget cuts and mandates handed down from the state.
More challenges are likely in the next three years, but Kintop is prepared to face them.
“It’s not going to be fun, but I feel like I still have a lot to offer,” Kintop said. “There’s so much that needs to be done.”
Kintop said she has not been pleased with the direction the state has taken on public education. She said the current administration’s policy is “just the opposite” of what she would prefer.
“I personally am pretty nervous about what is coming out here with the next budget,” Kintop said. “They’ve already been warning us that he (Walker) is going to shift more money into the voucher system.”
Kintop is the chairwoman of the legislative committee, and she said she can be “passionate, boisterous and opinionated” during board discussions.
“But I think you need that on the board,” Kintop said. Those qualities help bring out new ideas and new perspectives when the board debates policies.
Kintop said the last two years have been difficult for the board. Back-to-back years of budget cuts and the long process of drafting and employee handbook have forced members to make difficult decisions.
Through it all Kintop said the board worked well together, and she knows the seven members will continue to do their best regardless of who is elected in April.
Michael Raunio enters the School Board race with a sense of urgency. He was disappointed by the budget cuts to education in the past two years and worries about what the future might bring.
“We’re at a crossroads,” Raunio said. “Wisconsin has always been a place that’s been looked upon highly in education, K-12. I think that’s in jeopardy.”
Raunio’s decision to run for a seat on the School Board came after Act 10 was introduced and the Superior school district faced a $2.7 million cut for the 2011-12 school year.
He works as a community organizer and is a co-founder of People First Superior, an organization geared at raising citizen action against Act 10.
“It blows my mind that the people that are on the front lines teaching our kids, we took all their rights away and they have no say in what goes on in the schools,” Raunio said.
Teachers are working doubly hard to make sure their students have the instruction they need, Raunio said, but they are being cut out of the education process.
Raunio is also concerned about the future of Superior’s children. He credits the Superior school system with providing him a quality education, and he worries that children growing up today may be denied the same.
“I’ve lived in Superior my whole life,” Raunio said. “Especially at this time, I think it’s important in our district to protect some things that are great.”
Steve Stupak spent more than 30 years working in the Superior school district as chief engineer. Now retired, he sees a seat on the Superior School Board as an opportunity to serve the district once more.
“Now that I am retired, I believe that this is the only position where I can make a positive difference in our community by making balanced decisions for the students, teachers and support staff — within state guidelines — and of course, the tax payers,” Stupak said.
Stupak said the board should take on a “watchdog” role, keeping schools on track and holding the district accountable for results. If elected, Stupak would work to curb excess spending and identify areas the district can make cuts to save taxpayers money.
“I believe that the state of Wisconsin is moving in the right direction to transform education through improved programs that help build a productive future for the students,” Stupak said. “However, since the teachers play such a key role in the education of our children, we need to support teachers by decreasing the student-to-teacher ratio, which will in turn give teachers the opportunity to have more time with each student.”
Stupak also said he would work to rebuild positive communication between the teaching staff, administration and the School Board.