Kim Shirek Runs for School Board Reelection
Questions by Brandi Makuski
Kim Shirek currently serves as a member of the Stevens Point School Board Member. She works as a customer service representative for Farmer’s Insurance in Marshfield. Shirek recently moved from Junction City to Whiting.
BM: Tell me why you’re running again for the school board.
KS: “I still think that we need some change without our school district. It’s exciting to be on the board and to help the community out, to try and keep the communication and transparency open with the school board.”
BM: When you reflect on your first term, what do you think you’ve helped the board accomplish?
KS: “I thought, in the beginning of my term we were able to get some of the trust and transparency opened, however, unfortunately by the end of my term I think it’s back to where it was in the beginning. I also think I brought in a different perspective more from a parent and someone who’s been in the community long term, because I’ve lived here all my life, my children went through the Stevens Point School District and I think there’s possibly only, maybe, three of us on the school board that have been here all of our lives.”
BM: How important do you think it is, to have board members who have always lived in the community they’re serving?
KS: “I think it could be; it all depends how you take your rule. I’ve been involved in my community ever since I was a kid, a child, raising my children. I always volunteered and did what I could, yes it was always in the Junction City Area, but I think having that tradition and that history here you can fall back on that. It was odd going back to the high school (SPASH) and see some of the teachers that taught me, now teach my kids and are still there and we can reminisce about how things have changed for better and worse. I’m not saying you can’t be a good board member when you are, I’ll use the word ‘transplant’, because some people can move into this district, and they treat it as if it is their tradition and their history.”
BM: How do you think it has helped your job on the board when you do run into some of those teachers from way back when, and you have that common history?
KS: “I think help me see both sides of the issue- the old way and the new way- and they can, I’m hoping, they can trust the information I’m giving them, they know I’m not lying to them. That I’m either giving them my full opinion or what I have learned from our administration, and I’m not sugar- coating anything. That’s not the kind of person I am.”
BM: You have spent a good deal of time discussing the superintendent’s role during your time of the board. How do you view the board’s relationship with the superintendent today?
KS: “This might not be what you’re looking for, but I want to say there’s controversy with him and the school board.”
BM: It’s not about what I’m looking for, Kim, this is about what you think and say. So why would you say there’s controversy?
KS: “I want to say there’s controversy- and maybe that’s not the right word- because there’s certain board members, where if you look in the records of the last two years, they’ve never voted no on any of his opinions or suggestions. They don’t ask enough questions to get the correct information, so in the long run we’re not looking like fools like we have on a couple of occasions because we’re getting the wrong information and they’re just voting yes. They’re bobble- head voters, as I call them. And it’s the majority that do that, and there’s 3 to 4, possibly 5 of us that do that. And I’ll give that person leeway because if they’re just voting on the issue that’s great. But there are people who vote just to get their yes vote on there and be done.”
BM: If that’s the case how can we make the board more effective?
KS: “I would say new board members, but not this term, next term.” (laughs)
BM: Tell me something unique to yourself that you contribute to this board.
KS: “I would say because I do customer service, and I’ve always done customer service all my life, is I feel I can read very good body language. I can tell a person even if it’s bad news. But I can do it respectfully enough where they won’t be crushed or question why we’re doing it because I have enough information or resources to say, okay, this is why we’re doing this, this is how we can work together and get to where we need to be. I don’t get a chance to do that very much because of the role I’m at and we need to vote as a whole, but I think I bring that to the table by bringing what the community is looking for than what the administration wants.”
BM: What is something the board has not done you would like to see happen?
KS: “Hold the superintendent accountable for his errs.”
BM: What errs?
KS: “Instead of using ‘errs’, let’s use ‘misinformation’. Because there’s misinformation on, let’s say this life skills building, I’m sure you’re up to date on that. This has gone, to me, so haywire, this whole new building because they started off, to me secretively, trying to get this to go through. And the misinformation that has been given to us, such as we don’t own a home over by the school. We hired Samuels Group, and if you look at the records, I asked if this was for design- build. And they informed me over and over it was only for the design. And by the time the next contract came out, no it’s design and build. So it’s misinformation that he’d giving us- and his cabinet, as he calls it- and then we have to vote with that information.”
BM: Would you say as a board member it’s partly your job to do your homework before these votes? One of your three tasks is to be the boss; the superintendent is your only employee. As such, shouldn’t each board member have done their homework before said vote?
KS: “Yes. However, I have a 40- hour a week job that I have to do. And that is his only job, to have that information ready. Did I know the answer that night? That’s for me to know, I guess, and maybe I did that on purpose to see what he was going to answer. However, should I have known? I want to say yes. Did I remember at that time? No. And that’s why I addressed it at that point. I did feel bad about not knowing, but by the time I got home and we looked into it, the first thing I did the next morning was say, ‘hey, we’ve got this property right here- we need to stop this contract,’ but it was too late.”
BM: Do you feel like your comments, ideas and suggestions are equitably considered by other board members?
KS: “No. Because I don’t follow their same train of thought. I come from a different cut of cloth, and I don’t sugar- coat things, so maybe I’m not involved in the school system the way I should because I don’t have children in there right now. All my kids are in college now. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to do it anymore. I would love to have time to visit the schools, but they just closed my department at Sentry and I’ve just started a new job. I don’t have the extra time to get off and go to the schools and these forums early in the morning.”
BM: How would you respond to someone who says maybe you don’t have the time necessary to really serve in this position?
KS: “Right now I would agree with them. However, when you get stable in that job and then you can get back into it. There’s certain changes in life- everybody has those; personal, medical, whatever. And so to me, other board members have to allow you that time to heal and help you along when those things happen in your family. Do I feel there are days I’m not as prepared as I want to? Yes, I do have that guilt because of the miles I have to run for work. I’m missing meetings, they won’t change meetings for me because I can’t get back into town until 6 o’clock. I’ve asked the committee meetings to do that. I feel bad, but I’m not going to lose my job. Give me time to get back on track; I’ve been there before and I’ll be there again.”
BM: There have been a lot of discussions over the past year and a half about implementing respectful communication between board members and the public who came to meetings. Do you feel that was a waste or time, or was it necessary?
KS: “To me, that’s common sense and common courtesy. However, I think certain board members only use it with certain people.”
BM: How important is it to start a discussion about charter schools in our community?
KS: “I don’t much know about the charter school. I think they came up in brief conversation, you hear about it in the news once in a while. If it’s going to benefit our students, I’m all for it. Is it a top priority now, with all the other stuff going on? I would say not unless it’s really going to help our students.”
BM: Tell me one thing the board has accomplished to help students since you’ve been on the board.
KS: “I think it was just because we got on the board they cut the music program. With a couple of teachers that really put their heads together, they brought some of the new music programs back into our elementary. I think music is a strong part of school; it’s a different learning process for kids. Helping the students get back to six classes. I heard complaints from students that teachers didn’t have time for the one- on- one, they were losing that connection with their teachers, and if they needed that extra help they couldn’t because teachers were working class to class.”
BM: What should happen to Jackson Elementary?
KS: “There’s a lot of different things that have been thrown up in the air. There’s no good answer. One good thing that has come up- our Jefferson is a good school, but there are safety issues there. Could we not move everybody around and open Jackson back up and close Jefferson? I know we talked about it for years. Could we not use Jackson, move Bliss over there, move our alternative school over there, empty two buildings and sell those? I brought up, and I understand why we can’t, is set up the skills center at Jackson, but we would have to bus the kids out there.”
BM: If this is your last term on the board, what is one thing you’ve like people to remember about you?
KS: “My openness; I’m willing to talk to anyone, willing to listen to anyone. I get phone calls right and left. Some people in the community, when I worked at Sentry, I would have two, three thousand people come and talk to me, walking down the hall or at my desk- good and bad. How they can work with a teacher, how they can get an issue across. I was there for the community and the family ot learn it’s really their choice to get the kids to learn to enjoy school.”
BM: How much influence do you believe the teacher’s union should have over what the board does?
KS: “I don’t know if influence is the right word I would use; I would like to work as a unit together. I know they did in the past, but that was with the union where they had to follow guidelines and rules, and most of them got thrown out the door. I still think we could work as a unit. Should they influence them? No. Do they? Yes, because they’re the staff, they’re direct people who work with our students. They know what’s going on in the school better than anyone.”
BM: Why were you not in attendance at the candidate forum at the Portage Co. Business Council?
KS: “Because I couldn’t get off of work, plain and simple. I started my new job less than 90 days ago and it’s in Marshfield. I asked off, but I can’t get off. They won’t allow me.”