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THE LANDMARK VIEW

Opinion

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Two elementary school districts serving Brookfield residents, District 103 and District 95, will have new superintendents when the 2006-07 school year dawns. This school year, District 96, which serves Riverside and part of Brookfield, also hired a new superintendent. In the span of two years three-fourths of Brookfield has experienced a change in school district leadership.

That, in itself, is not a bad thing. In District 96, the school board conducted a thorough search to replace longtime superintendent David Bonnette and wound up with Jonathan Lamberson, an experienced, proven (if expensive) educator.

It will be interesting to see what ends up happening in Districts 103 and 95, where the challenges facing a new superintendent are formidable in different ways.

District 95 is losing a superintendent who has improved curriculum and expanded program offerings. Dr. Douglas Rudig and the District 95 school board have had a respectful working relationship, and it appears as if both have come to the conclusion that a change is due.

The board faces a financial crunch over the next few years that will require it seeking a tax referendum for district residents and perhaps a second one to address building improvements. Those same residents may also face the same referendum prospects from the local high school district in the coming year or two.

A superintendent staring that in the face can't feel fantastic about that prospect, unless he's really geared up for a hard fought tax hike campaign. Rudig has decided he is not the person for that battle.

Rudig's announcement has opened up a world of possibilities for the board, which has been under some pressure to not only find sources of revenue, but contain costs. A high-priced superintendent was likely a liability in any tax hike question to voters. This gives the board the chance, as school board President James Landahl said, to look at even changing the structure of the two-school district to something that might prove more cost-effective.

It'll be interesting to see how the board approaches that challenge. But the board has shown itself to be fairly deliberate in its actions, and will probably discuss their options at length.

The same can't be said for District 103, whose board, despite claims to the contrary, has shown a tendency to shoot from the hip out of personal pique. Just what lies at the foundation of the board majority's problem with Dr. Raymond Lauk is subject to some speculation, since its discussion took place behind closed doors.

But egos and payback appear to have had at least something to do with the decision to not renew Lauk's contract. Given the political nature of the board and its willingness to let personal differences gain traction in making personnel decisions, we wonder just what kind of a superintendent District 103 is likely to get.

A strong personality with a strong personal educational philosophy who might ruffle some feathers? Let's hope board members can put aside their egos and work to continue the positive direction of recent years. With new revenue and a new lease on life, the district needs strong leadership, not a lapdog.

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