I have a daughter who is a sophomore at Riverside-Brookfield High School, a sixth-grader and a first-grader. It’s critical for all the children in our community to have access to excellent education. I am seeking a position on the District 208 school board to help maintain excellence in education while re-establishing financial stability.
I believe the school board has a responsibility to ensure voices are heard from all district “stakeholders” including students, teachers, administrators, parents, taxpayers, vendors and community members. The board should work collaboratively and should be transparent with all decisions.
Despite recent cuts, the district is running a budget deficit, which is the most pressing concern because long-term budget deficits are unsustainable and negatively impact the quality of education.
We need to work together to resolve this problem before it becomes a crisis. If expense cuts are needed, they should be made in areas with the smallest impact on the quality of education.
The single largest expense item is teacher pay. As we negotiate the upcoming expiring teacher’s contract, we must work toward a contract which fits within our budget while providing competitive terms to attract and retain excellent teachers.
High-quality teachers are needed to provide high-quality education. The bottom line is the teachers will have to compromise, and they appear willing to do it. It’s important to draft a contract that is fair for everyone and fits within our budget.
It’s equally important to negotiate respectfully with the teachers. At the end of the process, they have to teach our children. They want to teach and we want them to teach — education needs to be the focus and with that common ground we should be able to make it work.
I believe smaller classes generally provide a better educational experience; however, we should be strategic in how we look at class size. We should evaluate class size in collaboration with faculty and administrators to determine where we can allow increased class size without affecting the overall learning experience and where we should keep classes small, all with a goal of maximizing our limited financial resources.
At this time, it’s unclear whether a tax referendum is needed to resolve the current fiscal difficulties. I am not opposed to a tax referendum in principle, but I would not recommend one lightly. If the district needs a referendum to maintain financial health and quality education, I will work to ensure it is appropriately constructed and communicated.
Maximizing our resources to provide high-quality education for our children while solving our current fiscal problems should be a unifying mission. I believe that we should work together as a community to achieve these goals.
I believe that RBHS should be a focal point for our community, and the school should bring us together as a community. If you share these beliefs, please consider voting for me on April 9.
Joe Wanner is a Riverside resident and candidate for the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 school board.