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Three Incumbents Return to Racine Unified Board

But the District's purse strings are tied.

Racine Unified School District voters returned three School Board members and resoundingly rejected $128.5 million in referendum spending Tuesday.

Pastor Melvin Hargrove, Dennis Wiser and Pamala Handrow were all re-elected to three-year terms on the School Board. They outpolled challengers Patrick Flynn and Roger Pfost.

All three school board referendum questions were rejected by wide margins. District officials had hoped that voters would approve referendum questions, which would have created smaller class sizes in 10 elementary schools and paid for staff and programming.

The unofficial referendum outcomes were:

  • Question 1—an $83.5 million bond issue to construct five new schools and remodel five other buildings (20,622 no, 12,702 yes.)
  • Question 2—increase spending by $35 million over seven years to pay for additional teachers and continue some existing programming (20,556 no, 12,567 yes.)
  • Question 3—add $1 million annually for 10 years to the district’s reserve fund (20,033 no, 11,729 yes.)

The defeat of the three referendum questions means that RUSD administrators will have to overcome a $7.5 million deficit in the 2011-12 budget, said Superintendent Dr. Jim Shaw. The shortfall would have been about $3.5 million if the referendum had been approved.

Shaw said district officials will continue with ongoing plans to address student achievement, but the vote outcome “just makes it harder.”

“It’s going to be more difficult to keep it (budget cuts) away from the classroom now. It’s a big number we’re dealing with,” added David Hazen, RUSD’s chief financial officer.

Voter response was uniform throughout the district. Voters in the Village of Wind Point and the City of Racine, which have supported the vast majority of RUSD referenda since 2000, overwhelmingly turned down this year’s questions.

Slightly more than 68,000 votes were cast in the school elections—well above the 49,605 votes in the 2008 RUSD election when voters approved a $16.5 million facilities maintenance referendum.

Brian Dey April 06, 2011 at 12:52 PM
A message has been sent to you, RUSD. We are tired of a failing school district and tired of poor finacial decisions. We are tired of the excuses, and we sent three of your own back with a mandate. Fix it now. At least in Caledonia, this may have been our referendum on RUSD continuing to provide education to our children and interesting times lie ahead.
Patrick Flynn April 06, 2011 at 01:05 PM
I didn't think I would be too bothered by losing, but reality is... I'm pretty bummed out. I was really looking forward to redefining our school district and getting things in financial shape. Thank you for all who supported me in my run for School Board. I would like to encourage everyone to get involved in our public education system. Perhaps you could consider running for School Board, mentor a child, assist a teacher for the day, chaperon a field trip or donate to your school's PTA. Embrace our youth and invest some time and energy to make our schools better. I'll be back next year for another attempt.
Chris Larsen April 06, 2011 at 01:31 PM
What doesn't make any sense is the voters strongly said no to the referendums, but then proceeded to reinstate three of the members who made up the board that tried to ram this down our throats during the worst recession since the 1920's. Makes you scratch your head and wonder why. Also, Shaw and Hazen are flat wrong about the reasoning. I think if RUSD would have put the kids first instead of a 10 million dollar shell game and money scam called a new Central Office, I would almost bet that one or two of these would have passed. Maybe you will now listen to the public, but I wont hold my breath.
Heather in Caledonia April 06, 2011 at 02:15 PM
Patrick, I'm so sorry you and Pfost lost. I was hoping to see some changes in the way things were done at Unified. I'll look for you next year! rwwackostu, I am also very puzzled by the results. I'm guessing what happened was people went to the polls to vote for another race, saw the referendums and knew they couldn't afford them, but had no idea who to vote for on school board and just skipped that section.
Sandy April 06, 2011 at 02:41 PM
Patrick - sorry you lost! I was hoping we would see some change for the better, especially in our school board. I too am at a loss as to why people voted the referendum down but kept on the current board members. The only thing I can think of is that very few know what the relationship between the school board of RUSD and the RUSD District Heads is. It would bring our district a huge boost in positive progress if we had board members that understand business finance as well as how to be shrewd and successful in spending money in the right way at the right time and not getting bowled over like the current board has been.
Brian Dey April 06, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Sandy-You are absolutely right. The power of incumbancy is what perpetuates the board. The biggest key to winning a school board election in Racine requires huge name recognition, and despite the odds, Patrick fared pretty well his first time out. I applaud anybody's courage and conviction to actually want to try and step in and help this district. If you had numbered seats, where candidates face off against each other, rather than running in a block, coud change this but the board is the only one that can change that and has been unwilling to do so. I only hope this doesn't stop Patrick from trying again. There are some really bad board members up for election next year.
Chris Larsen April 06, 2011 at 02:58 PM
I hope we can get Sue "The Censor" Kutz out!
Brian Dey April 06, 2011 at 03:46 PM
As being the board member she tried to censor, I couldn't agree more!
Lee Beth April 07, 2011 at 12:53 AM
rwwackostu, you are absolutely correct about the paradox demonstrated when voters returned the incumbants, yet defeated the referendums. I believe that is simply because the voters are uninformed, by their own choice. They understood the referendums, but had no understanding of the candidates and their positions. Patrick, I am very pleased to hear you will try again! I really do not know how to solve the problem of the ignorant voter. Even several of my friends that were very knowledgeable about other races admitted to me that they had no clue about the school board candidates.

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