Maple School Board candidates sound off on budget cuts

Six candidates are vying for three seats on the Maple School Board.

Election Inspector Carol Fransen gets “I Voted” stickers ready for voters
Election Inspector Carol Fransen gets “I Voted” stickers ready for voters at Northwood Technical College in Superior on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Jed Carlson / 2022 File / Superior Telegram

MAPLE — Voters in the Maple School District will have the opportunity to fill three school board seats with new faces April 4.

None of the incumbents are running for reelection. What started out as eight candidates was narrowed down to six during the primary election. Of the six, one has previous experience on the Maple School Board.

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With budget shortfalls and proposed cuts making headlines, the candidates were asked how they would prioritize future budget deficits.

“A first step is to have transparency in the process. Literally we need to be working two years ahead on budgeting,” said Dan Diamon, of Poplar, a business owner. “We are losing great teachers to other districts where they can easily make a lot more money, so we can't reduce our budget there. We have fixed costs of heat, utilities, snow plowing that we can't control the costs of, so we can't reduce money there.”

The only choice, he said, is to get creative to find cuts that will have the least amount of impact.


“Now we have an opportunity to develop a plan that can change the future,” Diamon said.

Katherine Brunette, of Poplar, rehabilitation manager at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Hospital-Superior, said part of her reason for running for school board was to develop an understanding of the budgeting process and learn more about the decisions and how they impact students and staff.

“Every cut made has the potential for ripple effects, and school boards need input from our educators as well as families to ensure all viewpoints are considered,” she said.

Brunette said her priorities as a school board member would be “ensuring all children have access to a quality education, teachers have the supports they need to be successful, and parents/guardians/caregivers have opportunities to be a part of the solution as we need to be adaptive and creative to overcome the challenges we will continue to face as resources become harder to come by.”

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Steven Probst, of Iron River, who serves on the Iron River Town Board of Supervisors, has managed public sector budgets and made difficult cuts.

“Budgeting is one of my strengths, and if elected, I will dig deep and will understand the school budget,” Probst said.

Transparency is a necessary part of the process, he said, and if future cuts are needed his top priority would be to minimize the impact of cuts on the education of children. He would also seek alternatives.

“As one example, when I was the chair of the Town of Iron River we applied for and received nearly $2 million of grant money and used many outside the box solutions to maintain services while protecting our taxpayers. These are the kind of solutions that I would seek out and implement to protect our kids’ education,” Probst said.


James Streveler, of Cloverland, a retired educator and current beef farmer, said the district’s budget crunch is the result of not dotting all the I’s in the past decade. The best way to beat cuts in the future, he said, is by planning ahead.

Streveler, who has served five previous terms on the Maple School Board, said he would consider solutions such as student apprenticeships to aid in transportation, janitorial, office and other areas for credit. If teaching cuts were necessary, he would favor eliminating positions where multiple educators teach the same subject instead of situations where removing a teacher would eliminate a subject or culminating class.

Vince Hursh, of Maple, a senior quality engineer with Cirrus Aircraft, said the total student enrollment in the district has dropped by more than 7% since the 2014-2015 school year, while costs have gone up.

“Sometimes it’s necessary to right size our spend,” he said. “I applaud the efforts for creative ways to generate additional revenue. This should be encouraged community wide.”

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How would he prioritize future budget cuts?

“I would focus on areas that are big wins with the least amount of impact to students,” Hursh said. “For example, employee benefits are the second largest expense behind salaries. Perhaps we could save by renegotiating contracts with providers. I’m not suggesting all the savings should come at the expense of teachers. It’s important that our teachers are rewarded for excellence.”

The Maple man said budgets should be developed to address the near term needs through the lens of a long-term strategic plan.

Dan Cowley, of Lake Nebagamon, taught science in the Maple School District for 34 years before retiring in 2022. He said he would prioritize future cuts based on the short-term and long-term effects they would have on student learning and class retention.


“Any cuts that would increase class size, reduce student opportunities, or otherwise disrupt a normal experience for students would be last on my list of cuts,” he said. “What’s best for students and staff in the Maple School District will always be my top priority.”

Cowley said he’s frustrated to be facing cuts again and said something needs to change in the way the district is funded in the future

“It’s hard to keep track of the number of times in the last 12-13 years that our district has been short on money and had to make drastic cuts to balance the budget,” Cowley said. “Wage freezes, cutting staff, cutting benefits, and increasing class sizes has become the norm rather than the exception. Teachers, custodians, and support staff are all expected to do more with less. These constant shortfalls have created an unstable and unpredictable work environment in our district that has led to many good educators and support staff leaving our district. Keeping and retaining quality staff should be our number one priority because a quality staff is the single most important factor for high level student achievement.”

The South Shore School District has adopted a recurring referendum which makes money available, if necessary, when there is a shortfall.

“If we had such a referendum, our school board would be assured they could pay the bills for the following school year and would be able to determine cost savings decisions after the state budget is finalized,” Cowley said.

State budget boost

The candidates were asked about Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed state budget, which would make a $2.6 billion investment in schools.

“I think the proposed state budget is a great investment in education for our children,” Brunette said. “I appreciate the inclusion of access to meals at school, as well as addressing student mental health as these are crucial building blocks to ensure children are set up to be successful in the classroom. An investment in our education systems is an investment in the future of our communities and state.”

“Although I’m a huge advocate in investing in our children’s education, we should be careful and ask lots of important questions,” Hursh said, as one key element includes an increase of revenue limits for school districts. “In essence I support some, but not all his proposed budget.”


There has not been an increase in school funding over the last two biennial budgets while the cost of living has increased 14%, according to Diamon.

“What Gov. Evers has done in asking for a 16% increase in funding for districts, plus additional dollars for programs like special education, will be beneficial to our district, to our bottom line,” Diamon said. “I also believe that parents should be working with their legislators to change the rule to adequately address future biennial increases.”

Streveler said he supports Evers’ education budget, and appreciates that the governor has emphasized the need for more youth apprentice programs and job training in the community.

“His support for schools has moved Wisconsin from 17th to eighth place in education,” Streveler said.

“We do not know how much, if any of the governor’s proposal will be passed into law,” Probst said. “If it is passed into law, it would have major benefits for Maple School District.”

Particularly, he said, in the area of special education.

“Our district spends over $2.5 million on special education. The state only reimburses approximately $460,000 of this cost,” Probst said. “The governor’s budget would nearly double this. That alone would nearly close the budget gap that the district is currently struggling with.”

Cowley fully supports Evers’ proposed budget for schools, which would provide a needed revenue increase on a per pupil basis.


“Tightly controlled revenue limits of the last 12-13 years along with increasing inflation have made it very difficult for schools to make ends meet without drastic cuts that negatively affect education. In addition, the changes that school districts were forced to make because of COVID have only made the budgeting challenges greater, especially since the special COVID funding has ended,” Cowley said.

Katherine Brunette

Age: 40

Residence: Poplar

Katherine Brunette.jpg
Katherine Brunette
Contributed / Katherine Brunette

Family: I have been married for 15 years to my husband, Lenny Brunette. We have three children in the Maple School District: Olivia, Ethan and Emily; and a dog named, Ivy. We moved to the Maple School District from Superior in 2014 as we wanted our children to go to school out here.

Current Employment: I have worked as a physical therapist for Essentia Health for 15 years, with the last five years being in the rehab manager role at St. Mary’s Hospital-Superior.

Civic and community engagement: Participated in Superior Days by traveling to Madison to meet with legislators advocating for increased funding for behavioral health services; assisted with opening a partial hospitalization program to support patients with behavioral health needs, treasurer for AYSO soccer board and have coached youth sports teams in the past, Superior/Douglas county leadership program participant.


Dan Cowley

Age: 58


Residence: Lake Nebagamon

Dan Cowley
Contributed / Dan Cowley

Family: I’ve been married to Judy Cowley for 37 years and we’ve lived in Lake Nebagamon since 1988. I have one son, Joseph, who graduated from Northwestern in 2004; and three grandchildren, Landon, 7; Benji, 6; and Hudson, 6 months, who also live in Lake Nebagamon.

Occupation: I retired in 2022 from teaching science in the Maple School District for 34 years. During my time as a teacher, I also coached track, volleyball and boys basketball. I served as the Science Department Chairperson at Northwestern High School from 2011-2022. I also served as a member of the school district's Teacher Compensation Committee made up of teachers, administration and school board members from 2015-2022.

Civic and community engagement: I organized and supervised the boy’s fifth and sixth grade basketball Hoop League, as well as traveling basketball teams for grades 5-8 for 15 years. I organized and supervised basketball leagues, camps and open gyms for over 20 years. I served as a volunteer member of the Northwestern High School Scholarship Committee and the National Honor Society Committee for several years.

Dan Diamon

Age: 62

Residence: Poplar

Dan Diamon
Contributed / Dan Diamon

Family: Married my college sweetheart 42 years ago; three adult children; and four grandchildren, with a fifth on the way.

Occupation: I own a promotional marketing company that works with businesses in aviation around the nation.

Civic and community engagement: Past president of Superior Rotary, board member Voyageurs Area Council Boy Scouts of America, youth coach at Mission Covenant Church, numerous boards around the area.


Vince Hursh

Vince Hursh
Contributed / Vince Hursh

Age: 49

Residence: Maple

Family: Wife of 25 years, three daughters

Occupation: Senior quality engineer, Cirrus Aircraft

Civic and community engagement: Graduate of Northwestern. Moved back to this community to raise my family in 2004. Active member of a local church, having served with a variety of ministries for men, youth and families. Currently serving on the finance board.

Steve Probst

Age: 49

Residence: Iron River

Family: I’ve been married to my wife, Beth, since 2008. We have one son, Jake, who is in fourth grade at Iron River Elementary.

Steve Probst
Contributed / Steve Probst

Occupation: I’ve worked in the Bayfield County Forestry Department for 24 years as the assistant forest administrator.

Civic and community engagement: I was a member of the Iron River Town Board for four years and was the chairman of the Town of Iron River for five years. I have been a member of the Iron River Planning Commission for the last six years. I am also currently the president of the Iron River Cooperative’s Board of Directors. I have coached youth baseball and an RBA youth basketball team. I assist with the local Parent Teacher Organization and chaperone school field trips.


James Streveler

Age: 76

Residence: Cloverland

Family: Married to my wife, Carol, for 54 of my 76 years; we have six children, all graduates of Northwestern High School.

James Streveler
Contributed / James Streveler

Occupation: Retired Northwestern High School agriculture and industrial education teacher; adult Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College vocational instructor at Northwestern High School; and substitute school bus driver for the Maple School District. Currently operate a small beef farm.

Civic and community engagement: I have been active on town and county comprehensive planning committees, an active church member, a volunteer firefighter and involved in area agriculture. Served five terms on the Maple School Board, from 2003-2009 and 2011-2020.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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