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Friday, 18 March 2016 11:05

Janesville School Board candidates urge improved communication, transparency

Written by 
 Dan Plutchak/staff Candidates for Janesville School Board prepare for a forum March 16, 2016, at the Educational Services Center. From the left, Karl Dommershausen, Michelle Haworth, Stephanie Kortyna-Rapach, Jim Millard and Cathy Myers. Dan Plutchak/staff Candidates for Janesville School Board prepare for a forum March 16, 2016, at the Educational Services Center. From the left, Karl Dommershausen, Michelle Haworth, Stephanie Kortyna-Rapach, Jim Millard and Cathy Myers. Dan Plutchak/staff

JANESVILLE -- Increased communication and improved transparency have been the overriding theme of this spring’s campaign for Janesville School Board.

Candidates returned to the issue time and again during a candidate forum March 16, 2016 at the Janesville Educational Services Center moderated by Laura Boettcher of the Janesville League of Women Voters and co-sponsored by the Janesville Area Council Parent Teacher Association.

Voters will select three school board commissioners from the group of five candidates on the April 5 ballot.

The candidates are:

Karl Dommershausen, incumbent and owner of 27 West Appraisal and Estate Services

Michelle Haworth, marketing manager at W.W. Grainger

Stephanie Kortyna-Rapach, former Janesville teacher who teaches in the school district of Beloit

Jim Millard, retired school district employee

Cathy Myers, incumbent and teacher at Hononegah High School, Rockton, Illinois.

Among the questions that received the most discussion:

How would you improve transparency?

Kortyna-Rapach said that the first step is making sure that everyone is informed about what’s going on and what’s happening. She said she also would invite more input from the public. "I also would like to see more of the public giving their input to the school board commissioners."

Millard said that when he talks to voters, transparency is the biggest issue on their plate. He says they are concerned about where the money comes from for certain programs, where it goes. "If you don’t share as much information with the public as you can, they’ll make it up," he said. "That’s how rumors start."

Myers said board decisions should be made in the open. "For the most part, everything needs to be done in front of everyone," she said. "When we get into closed session, it should be for limited reasons."

Dommershausen said commissioners need to be more informed earlier in the process, not after decisions are made. "We don’t have a lack of transparency when it comes to us ... at the very end and then we have to put it in place, that’s a weak spot," he said.  He also would like to see a return to televised meetings. He said many people he talks to don’t have Internet, but they do have TV.

Haworth said there are a lot of myths because people are uninformed. She said she would inform people earlier, helping make sure the district staff has the decisions earlier and would provide input along the way so nothing is a surprise. "You have my commitment that I will be in the classroom listening and seeing what’s going on," she said.

Pay for performance

Haworth supported the idea of pay for performance. "I think it’s a step in the right direction. I don’t think it’s fair to pay someone on tenure or credits," she said. Haworth said that is a way to give teachers the incentive to keep doing better and to ensure students get the best education. It’s not a perfect system and she said she would like to see more feedback with teachers.

Kortyna-Rapach said she has concerns with some of the language in pay for performance and believes it is subject in how teachers are judged and who is making the decision. She said that if this is something they’re going to require of educators, then administrators also should be held up to the same standards, and their performance should be based on the same types of criteria.

Millard doesn’t agree with the pay for performance system and is against linking it to state-designed educator effectiveness evaluation system. "If you’re in the private sector it’s easier to evaluate than to evaluate on a child," he said. "The step and lane seemed fair across the board."

Myers, who teachers in Illinois, said she still is paid using the step and lane system, which she says is fair. "What some people regard as being paid more for having a birthday, I regard as being loyal to my district." She did, however, vote for pay for performance because teachers had been without a pay structure for a long time and "something was better than nothing."

Dommershausen said it doesn’t matter how long you work on it, "We don’t have the money." He said. He would like to see a system that takes he best of pay for performance and step and lane and let the teachers be part of the process.

International Education Program

Kortyna-Rapach said that the program was developed with good ideas in mind, however she has some concerns about how it is being run. "There have been some issues with transparency of the program." Despite that, she would like to see it go forward.

Millard would like to spend more time evaluating the program as it moves forward. "I would like to look into how it started, how it’s going along and how it will end up," he said. He also wasn’t convinced that the program would make other students internationally ready just because international students are coming in.

Myers has supported the program not only because of the potential revenue, but also to put more emphasis on global education, diversity and foreign language studies. However, she has expectations. "It has to spread its wings this year or we have to think about doing something else or canning the program."

Dommershausen, an early supporter of the program, remains supportive for now. "Transparency issues have plagued it for a number of reasons, but I’m not sure why," he said. He also said the program shouldn’t be measured by funding alone, however, the district shouldn’t lose money on it. "I’d like to give it a little more time," he said.

Haworth supports the program. She and her husband hosted two students the first year. She did outline two stipulations: "We need to have a solid and sound revenue plan, which I think we do," she said. "Secondly, not only are students coming to our districts benefiting, but I want all of our students to benefit."



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