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Primary Election Preview: RUSD Candidates Outline Their Top Priorities

In our fourth story on the Feb. 19 primary election for the Racine Unified School District Board of Education, Patch asks the 10 candidates vying for three seats on the board what their top priorities would be, if elected.

Voters in the Racine Unified School District will head to the polls Tuesday to narrow down the field of candidates running for three seats on the School Board.

The top six vote-getters in the primary election will compete in the April 2 general election.

The candidates are: Cecilia Anguiano, Laura Betker, Tifene Brown, Randall Bryce, incumbent Christopher Eperjesy, Kristie Formolo, Michael Frontier, incumbent Julie McKenna, Roger Pfost and Robert Wittke Jr.

Leading up to the election, Patch is profiling the candidates and where they stand on the key issues facing the school district. All information is based on the candidates' responses to Patch's election questionnaire.

Related Coverage

  • Meet the RUSD School Board candidates

  • Candidates weigh in on biggest issue facing the district

  • Candidates speak out on the district's achievement gap

  • What will your biggest priorities be, if elected? Anguiano My number one priority is to get the community involved with the school board, administration and teachers in running our district in the most efficient way, while in the constraints of a diminishing budget.
    I will make it a priority to hold meetings in the community, to listen to the public, and increase the understanding of the governance of the school board. With my fresh perspective I will work to expanding the scope of where we get out ideas beyond our county, state, and even country. We need to research what is working in other places such as Maryland or as far as South Korea.
    Finally, I will ensure that members of the school board have an increased understanding of the challenges of poverty, cultural barriers, and language barriers experienced by members of the public and those teaching our children before votes are made. 
    I will make it a priority to do the research, be the voice of the public and its workers and be a true active member of the school board and district.
    Betker
    The priority for the district is to provide support to schools to prepare students to be ready and successful for a global society. RUSD students should be able to build the essential skills needed to face challenges in the future.
    Brown My priority would be to stay connected with the Administers, teachers, students and the community at large. We all have a stake in providing quality education for every student. 
    Bryce It is important to hold all schools accountable for educating our students. We need to watch where the money goes. Our buildings need to be repaired. We need to make Racine Unified a place where all succeed and thrive - from every child with "special needs" to every "gifted" student. We need to help them frow to be the best person that they are able to become.
    Education equals future.
    Eperjesy The top priority needs to be closing the achievement gap. If we don't do a better job with kids in poverty, it will continue to have a negative effect on our community. This is a community-wide issue that the board must take a leadership role in bringing various community groups together.
    Another top priority should be investing in repairs and modernizing aging school facilities. Critical maintenance projects have been delayed.
    The hiring of Dr. Laing's successor as Superintendent is the most important near-term priority. The board needs to hire a qualified candidate that will continue the journey to make sure we close the achievement gap. Formolo My priorities will be to work for the Racine community. I believe that children come first, and that getting a good education is an opportunity to succeed. Racine Unified has spent too many years at the bottom and it is time for an overhaul. It’s not because we don’t have good ideas or great teachers. We have many excellent teachers and principals who want to make a difference, but quite often their hands are tied with bureaucratic red tape. 
    We need to make Racine Unified a district that builds up instead of accepting the status quo. We need our classrooms to be a safe place for all students to learn. For too many years, Racine Unified has sat back while behavior problems have spiraled out of control. This needs to stop! Teachers can't teach if they have constant disruptions from children who have learned that there are zero consequences for bad behavior. 
    I believe in inclusion, but it needs to work for everyone. Children can learn kindness, caring, empathy and patience from a handicapped child, a child who is deaf or a child who struggles with reading. But, when negative behavior takes over a classroom, there is no benefit for any of the children. 
    I want to be a voice for the children, but it needs to be balanced with the ears and the eyes of the taxpayers. Neighborhood schools should be our goal and we also need to start implementing more schools with the Walden Philosophy. Another thing that we need to look into is the fact that our High Schools are too crowded. We might have to consider putting 6th grade back into the elementary school and 9th grade back into middle school. This would open up more room in our high schools, so we can start some new trade programs for students who might not be interested in going to college.

    Frontier I will work in concert with the board to identify ways to support the priorities of the new Superintendent. I will suggest focusing on 8th grade students who should have a career pathway to take advantage of the outstanding, yet under-enrolled, youth apprenticeship programs we currently have.

    This step especially could address the 67% drop out rate for RUSD. This is well below the national average of 80%. By helping students see career goals individual classes will take on more meaning.
    McKenna 1.Currently hiring a Superintendent need to make sure transition of the Superintendent is going well.
    2. Need to prepare the students for the future,achievement gap, skills gap, global gap.... students must succeed.
    3. To listen to students and the community which includes all that live in the district in order to help the system enable our students to succeed.
    Pfost

    I would like to see the District more school centered for both academic and financial control. Principles would be responsible for their schools performance based on their schools baseline performance. 

    Education is a product and no business can operate without product quality control. To do this regular checks must be made on progress unlike the current year later reports used.

    Wittke Performance. Improvement has to begin trending upward on a broad and consistent basis. It is the primary obstacle to elevating the quality of our educational system.

    Declining enrollment. We have to slow student flight. It adversely impacts our fiscal health, performance measures, and image. We need to accurately define why students are leaving and take steps to resolve these issues.

    Fiscal management. The Districts’ resources are a precious commodity. We need to make sound, results-driven investments that are in the best interests of our entire student population. We have to stop pushing difficult fiscal issues into future periods and find ways to resolve those that have accumulated to date. 

    Engage the community. Work diligently to improve the image of the District. Be visible, approachable, and responsive. Listen to the needs of all stakeholders in the District and translate them into action items that are in the best interests of the District. 
    Kristie Formolo February 18, 2013 at 04:08 AM
    Truth be told, RUSD does not have to go to South Korea for help. All this school board needs to do is drive 22 miles southwest to Paris (Paris Elementary). They are consistently in the top 10 schools in Wisconsin. In 2011/2012 Paris is one of six Elementary Schools that is ranked #1 in Wisconsin! Here is a link to school digger. http://www.schooldigger.com/go/WI/search.aspx
    Zigmond February 18, 2013 at 11:43 PM
    Thoughts from a conservative on how I see these candidates. RANDY BRYCE - Participated in the union rallies "Mad in Madison". endorsed by unions. Ran for Assm. Signed both recall petitions http://randybryce.com/endorsements/ LAURA BETKER - was a circulator of walker pertitions - was Treasurer of RANDY BRYCE election campain. Signed both petitions *** CHRISTOPHER EPERJESY - CFO of Twin Disk - Known to be Conservitive CECILIA ANGUIANO -Community Organizer, need I say more? *** ROBERT WITTKE JR - Not much info, but he did not respond to a local comunity organising group so he can't be in their camp http://www.turnupthevote.org/ TIFENE BROWN - signed both recall petitions MICHAEL FRONTIER - Signed both recall petitions. JULIE L MCKENNA - Egghed that has been on the board too long, time for a change *** ROGER PFOST - Active Member of the Racine Taxpayers. *** = my three votes
    skinnyDUDE February 19, 2013 at 12:27 AM
    Thanks ZIG ...helpful insight !
    Brian Dey February 19, 2013 at 03:57 AM
    I will be voting for Formolo, Wittke and Eperjesy. No offense to Roger, who ran with me last year, but I think these are the the best suited to representing the citizens in a fair and balanced approach.
    Kristie Formolo February 19, 2013 at 04:55 AM
    Thanks Brian! Zigmond... You forgot about me (Kristie Formolo) I have been actively involved in RUSD since 2003, and I'm not afraid to say that the taxpayers need to start holding this School Board accountable. If you need more information on where I stand, I'm including a link for you to read. I suggest that you read the comments. http://caledonia.patch.com/articles/primary-election-preview-what-biggest-issue-in-rusd#commentshttp://caledonia.patch.com/articles/primary-election-preview-what-biggest-issue-in-rusd#comments
    Ed Holladay February 19, 2013 at 03:20 PM
    Racine has a poverty rate roughly double that of Paris. Racine is also a massive district, versus Paris which is one school (I think). That does not mean RUSD can not do better. However, I would imagine the two districts service a much different clientele. We were thinking of putting our kids in a magnet school, which (as we were informed) largely feed into McKinley and Case. So, it is understandable that those schools do somewhat better than the other ones in the district. I see the school my kids currently attend. Some of those kids can be pretty wild. Our kids do great, but some of the others don't. You think the methods in Paris can get through to those behaviorally wild disadvantaged kids? That would be great.
    Kristie Formolo February 19, 2013 at 05:33 PM
    Ed - Gilbert K. Chesterton once wrote: “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another” Yes, I do think that good Principals and good Teachers can reach problem students, but they have to be allowed to discipline. Racine Unified is sweeping too many behavior problems under the rug and they are shifting these students around the district like a chess game. Unfortunately, teachers can't teach when they have constant disruptions from students. Ultimately, the other students pay the price by not being given a calm, safe learning environment. I believe that good behavior should be expected from day one, because education is an opportunity to succeed. This Administration and the School Board should go to visit schools like Paris, Yorkville and Union Grove. Yes, they are smaller schools, but maybe smaller is a better option? Look at Walden and the Real School. They are smaller and they seem to be working. What are these schools doing right and how can RUSD replicate it? We have to stop using poverty as an excuse and start accepting it as a challenge. Good behavior, respect and accountability should be expected!
    Ed Holladay February 19, 2013 at 06:10 PM
    I wonder if Unified were to send some a bunch of these supposedly bad kids out to Union Grove. Could the Grove get these kids on track? Maybe that is an option, and it would demonstrate to Unified that other schools are able to deal with these kids successfully.
    Ed Holladay February 20, 2013 at 02:11 PM
    McKenna and Pfost made it through. I really did not expect that.
    Brian Dey February 20, 2013 at 02:36 PM
    This shows that incumbency and the _______ for Progress mailings work. In my humble opinion, McKenna needs to go. She is a vry nice person but has been an ineffective board member. 6 terms is far too long for anyone to serve on a school board. I have no issue with Pfost. His heart is in the right place.
    iwouldbedreaming February 20, 2013 at 04:20 PM
    My children were at Schulte and are now at Paris. I never saw any meaningful consequences handed out at Schulte to children who misbehaved. At Paris they do not tolerate it. For starters a strict dress code is enforced. You will not see any child with droopy pants. If you misbehave you earn strikes. 2 warning strikes and the 3rd strike you are eating lunch with the principal and forfeit your recess for the week. If you persist then comes the out of school suspension for the day. They stay on them until they conform. They are provided no wiggle room. All consequences are given and explained with respect. No disrespect is tolerated by principal or staff. At schulte they make the kids sit in the hallway and "think" about what they have done. That doesn't work. At Paris if you miss homework or get a strike your name goes on the board for everyone to see. I have seen them turn kids around out there because they do what it takes....the hard work. The other reason their school succeeds is NO UNION. The teachers are paid well and are hand picked by the administrator. They are top notch teachers who LOVE working there. Bad principals and bad teachers and no discipline=failing schools. Open your eyes to the possibilities people. Please go out to Paris and learn something new for the sake of the kids in Racine.

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