RUSD forum

Debating Unified - School Board candidates weigh in on at-risk kids, politics in class at JT forum

2013-03-23T21:00:00Z 2013-12-18T13:10:59Z Debating Unified - School Board candidates weigh in on at-risk kids, politics in class at JT forumLINDSAY FIORI Journal Times

RACINE — Racine Unified School Board candidates have a lot of ideas when it comes to supporting the city’s most at-risk kids.

Some see parental involvement as key, others say the community must step up and still others call for the aid of mentors.

Candidates discussed those suggestions, as well as other topics like political influence in schools, during a video forum hosted by The Journal Times last week.

All six Unified School Board candidates attended. They are running for three board seats. The election is April 2.

Aiding those at risk

Students “need to know that they’re valued and they need to know somebody cares about them,” incumbent Julie McKenna, a 51-year-old respiratory care practitioner of Racine, said in response to a forum question about ways to beef up help for students at risk of performing poorly in school.

McKenna suggested Unified increase volunteers and community partnerships and that everyone simply say, “Hi,” to any kid they see.

“Even if you get one person that smiles at you it gives you hope,” she said.

Select assets, like going to church or being part of an after-school club, also help, said Michael Frontier, 70, of Racine, a retired educator still working with students at the John XXIII Educational Center. Frontier mentioned a survey that assesses 40 possible youth assets; Racine students have only 16 on average, he said.

“We need to surround these kids with love and care and we should do this by embracing those assets and focusing on one a month or one a quarter,” he said.

The community must come together in other ways too, said incumbent Christopher Eperjesy, a 45-year-old Caledonia man who is Twin Disc’s CFO.

“I think the answer to this question is the community has to get involved: businesses, the city government, the county government, charitable organizations, foundations. We have to come together and find solutions for some pretty complex problems,” he said, mentioning poverty, unemployment and homelessness, “because we can’t expect teachers to be teachers, social workers, disciplinarians (and) safety specialists.”

Parents have a key role to play too and Unified should have more parent-centered programs, said Robert Wittke Jr., 55, of Wind Point, a software implementation specialist. He mentioned a Chicago study that showed school improvement efforts that target parents have better results than those that solely target students.

Kristie Formolo, of Mount Pleasant, a 52-year-old personal care worker for handicapped adults, suggested at-risk students could be helped by expanding support for school clubs and by having more peer mentors, especially in early grades.

“We have to catch these children young,” she said.

Roger Pfost, 81, of Racine, a retired real estate agent and insurance claims manager, said increased parent and teacher involvement in students’ lives would help but added, “I have to admit I’m totally unfamiliar with the (current Unified) programs so I don’t know what more can be done.”

Putting politics in its place

All six candidates agreed politics have no place in schools unless all views get presented equally. They disagreed on what that means in practice.

Eperjesy and Frontier said all viewpoints should be presented in open class discussions but teachers should not advocate certain sides.

Pfost and Formolo said they know of instances where teachers crossed lines, encouraging kids to protest Act 10. Pfost said it concerns him and Formolo called for better district policies about what is allowed and not allowed in schools.

McKenna said that parents can request their children not participate in certain activities or read certain books and that political class discussions should be tied to curriculum.

Wittke said those discussions should focus on respect.

“We need to work more at showing people how to respect someone else’s decision,” he said.

Copyright 2015 Journal Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(5) Comments

  1. ggodmuls
    Report Abuse
    ggodmuls - March 25, 2013 8:40 am
    Granny, I CARE for the children and don't want to see their minds and potential be destroyed by RUSD or the mindless idealogues who run DPI.

    How come you don't care for the children? Did you have a bad experience with children?
  2. granny grits
    Report Abuse
    granny grits - March 25, 2013 7:06 am
    Does your anger and hatred for public schools stem from your inability to successfully complete the automotive program at Gateway?
  3. ggodmuls
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    ggodmuls - March 25, 2013 6:46 am
    Ignorance : lack of knowledge, education, or awareness .

    RUSD teaches worse than merely Ignorance. It teaches lies and loots the Community with a budget of nearly $300,000,000 per year.

    Government schools are the problem, not the solution. They can't be fixed, and as evidenced, their failure only grown greater with time.

    Abolish RUSD, end the government schools, and let parents be responsible for teaching their children. Tony Evers with his campaign of "White Privilege" is hateful at it's core. End the hate. Abolish Wisconsin DPI.
  4. sizzlinginracine
    Report Abuse
    sizzlinginracine - March 24, 2013 10:41 pm
    "Politics in class"? Lets call it like it is JT.

    Union drones have ruined this county's school system and continue to do so.

    Watch Waiting For Superman on Netflix. It's an excellent documentary on the failures of the Public school system in the US. It even features that guy from MPS.

    It has an interesting point in that it believes that poor parenting is NOT the reason for student failures but rather poor parenting and societal problems are due to poor education.

    Who does it point out as the culprit? You guessed it, unions.

    The Department of Education fails worse than what we had before it, which was nothing.
  5. Concerned
    Report Abuse
    Concerned - March 23, 2013 9:25 pm
    What happened to the last superintendent? I think he just kinda disappeared in smoke. Did he make a bad decison about the Union contract restrictions to come with Walker? Not a bad decision on his very liberal front, but one the general Racine population didn't jive with. Did the taxpayers pay royal for a study about why a RUSD superintendent had no real power to run the district.

    I'd like the JT to ask Clobes and Hech (Heck) what they knew about serving on the school board. Both of them left. Why?
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