From the Horse’s Mouth: Candidates Opine on Common Core
Left, School Board Candidates Sam Levin (left) and Jeff Presley chat prior to a candidate forum last week.
*Editor’s Note: This is Part II in a series focusing on each question asked during the candidate forum, which pitted 7 candidates against each other for the four open seats on the School Board.
By Patrick Lynn
Seven of eight candidates for Stevens Point Public School Board on Thursday offered their ideas on school funding during a candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters (LOWV) of Stevens Point. Incumbent Bob Larson was not present.
The candidates with the top three vote tallies in the April 1 election will each earn three- year terms, while the fourth highest voter-earner serves out the remainder of John Zellmer’s term, who left the board when he moved out of the district last summer.
About 80 area residents were in attendance to hear the candidates answer questions.
League format allowed one minute for each candidate’s answer to a series of questions, some prepared by the LOWV, others posed by members of the audience.
Candidates had previously completed questionnaires from the LOWV, which the City-Times has been running all week, and were aware of at least some of the questions they’d be asked in advance. The men and women running for the Board picked their brains for details on school funding, board relations and their stance on renewing Superintendent Attila Weninger’s contract this summer.
Part II in our From the Horse’s Mouth series focuses on the first question each candidate answered in the entirety, which focuses on Common Core.
Question: What is your opinion about proposed legislation to replace Common Core Standards with the state board comprised of legislators, educators, and other citizens that would set standards for Wisconsin education?
Candidate Trish Baker: “I’ve had an opportunity to speak with a number of people about that issue. There was a big hearing in Madison on Thursday, and I believe there was 100 superintendents to testify on Common Core. Common Core is adopted by 45 states and it makes it so everybody is teaching- roughly- the same thing and roughly the same age level, grade-wise. So if someone moves from Wisconsin to Texas or New York, for example, as military families do, then their children are able to start in the same grade where ever they move to. They’re able to understand and are educated at roughly the same level so kids don’t have to bounce around so much. I have to say I’ve heard a lot of comments about Common Core, but overall what I’m hearing is people are glad the legislature did not vote to approve a change in the Common Core by the legislative oversight committee.”
Candidate Terri Fink: “Just like Trish said, we need to have the Common Core. I’ve seen examples of where a child moved and they had to go back a grade because one state was teaching at such a different level. I’m glad they didn’t adopt it, because, legislators shouldn’t involved. It needs to be people that understand what needs to be taught to people; unless they have background in the education field, then it would be okay, but probably a good majority of them do not; they could be lawyers or accountants, or that type of area. So it needs to be within the education field to set those.”
Candidate Pat Hetzel: “I think Common Core should stay Common Core. When you have children in the classroom and you’re working with children with disabilities, they have to be on an equal playing ground with other students, so they need that little extra help. And if you put a class way ahead, and you left (the other class) behind, how would that be? Since we’re not leaving any of our children behind, Common Core stays.”
Candidate Alex Kochanowski: “I believe as long as the educators, the teachers K-4 through 12 are involved in these decisions for mathematics and English for the Common Core, then it can be successful. If it’s not with an education base, there’s going to be a problem. Law enforcement was one of the things I was studying at the academy here, and all those core curriculum classes we were going through were thought through and developed by law enforcement people, they weren’t from administration outside of law enforcement. Myself, I was held back in fourth grade because I was at a different school and we moved; I see the damage when children aren’t reevaluated when they enter our system and move from school to school. It happened with me: I lost everything that anyone here who went through fourth grade go- I never experienced that. So I’m at a shortcoming there, but I’ve learned to compensate.”
Candidate Sam Levin: “Common Core has its good and its bad points. There’s a bunch of legislators in Madison making the decision for this school district. There’s only one person we send there: she’s sitting right there (point to Assemblywoman Katrina Shankland in the audience) that knows about the work in our community, not all the other ones. We need to have teachers involved, we need to have support staff involved, we need to have the people in our district involved- community members. Because they’re the ones who can set the standards. It shouldn’t be left to a group of people that don’t know anything about your district. It should be district- run.”
Candidate Jeff Presley: “Wisconsin has accepted the Common Core; it’s been years now. We have geared our district toward those practices as all districts in Wisconsin have. It’s almost a sense of buyer’s remorse and I question that, why we would have buyer’s remorse. It standardized moving state to state. It doesn’t mean we can’t enhance that Common Core and put enhanced standards within our own district or our own state. I liken this to our 4-K program we have in Stevens Point. Before that we had kids up here and down here when they were coming into kindergarten. Now with 4-K they’re coming in it a more even rate; same analogy with Common Core with the states around us where people are moving. At the end of the day, yeah, the DPI (Department of Public Instruction) can change that and add enhancements to Common Core.”
Candidate Chris Scott: “I think Common Core makes a lot of sense. Anyone who’s gone through any kind of reading of information about No Child Left Behind, and how different states have different standards, Wisconsin’s always had high standards when it comes to education. I think one of the fears is that this was going to be the top of heap. I think if they build on Common Core, if think one of the things we really need is building on the best, highest state standards in the U.S. and having a single- set, clear standard for 4-K to ensure students can move forward where ever they are. I think Common Core brings that to us. It doesn’t mean we can’t add to or improve on what’s there, but I really think it’s important, and I don’t understand why we haven’t had this before 4 years ago, so I’m glad it’s here.”