School Board Race: Candidate Barb Portzen
City Times Staff
Barb Portzen is running for one of four available seats on the Stevens Point School Board. She previously served as the board secretary.
Why are you running for office?
BP: “I think I have a lot to give. I’ve been in education my whole life. I can think logically and professionally. I want to be sure this educational system is strong from my grand-kids. I want to be a part of a board that works cooperatively, and I think this board has has started to work a little more cooperatively. I’m hoping the community agrees with me. I never thought in a million years I’d run for anything. It’s kind of exciting, and scary.”
Do you feel the district should move ahead with grade realignment and move ninth graders into the high school?
BP: “Our educational services committee has been talking about moving it forward, and just the very basics of what we want to do. We can’t throw it out there right now; we don’t have one percent of the answers we need.”
We are one of the few districts in the state that has not asked voters for an operational referendum. Do you think it’s coming?
BP: “I think we’re very close to that. We already know we’re going to have a shortfall of about $2 million for operational expenses. If we’re going to make a change, I think the board has done a pretty good job of gaining back some trust. Once it’s been regained I think we can try a referendum.”
The board has changed its tone over the past year; what are you thoughts on how the the current school board functions?
BP: “In my opinion, just from watching I think Meg [Elerl, board president] has done a fabulous job as president. She keeps the board on task and she’s a very good communicator. I think the board has seen that a lot more being done and we don’t have to meet until two in the morning anymore. But I still hear an awful lot of concerns about transparency from staff, that they don’t get enough infromation. Because I can’t do anything about that yet, I listen to their concerns. But I would like to look into things more; are they even asking for more information or they just crabbing?
How much influence does the union and worker groups have over the board?
BP: “They have some influence because their members get out and vote; we’ve seen that time and time again in recent years. I know they don’t have the backing as strongly as they once did. I think they should be somewhat influental but only if they’re going in the right direction
Didn’t you participate in a union-backed candidate forum this year?
BP: “Oh, the Grassroots thing [Central Wisconsin Grassroots Coalition]. I thought it was unusual that we all didn’t get asked the same questions. They asked me a lot of questions about the recall, and I’m certainly willing to talk about that. They did not endorse me. And I think a lot of that was because I did the recall.”
Since you brought it up, what are you thoughts on the 2012 effort to recall two school board members?
BP: “At the time I was very disappointed, but I felt our group really worked well in getting the word out, and about information the public about things that shouldn’t get going on. I no longer think it was unsuccessful, because I feel somewhat that that recall helped them make a decision not to run. Small victory where you can get it. I don’t have any regrets.”
What are some priorities the board should focus on in the near future?
BP: “I have so many priorities in my head. The teacher compensation plan, because apparently they rolled the plan out to all the staff members and then [Interim Superintendent] Lee Bush sent out a survey, so we have to go back to the drawing board. I would like to see the school board have officer hours, maybe at Bliss [Educational Services Center], so people can talk about concerns, or set up times for people to meet.”