Board members Jill List and Susan Fox are up for re-election this spring. Fox, who is the board president, has already announced that she will run again. List, on the other hand, is reportedly not going to run.
With List out (or even if she is in), who else may be on board to run this year?
The first person to toss their hat into the ring is Monona resident Dean Bowles. Jessica Ace has posted on her blog that Bowles has filed his papers to run. Bowles brings a truckload of experience to the table. He has been a mayor of Monona, a Deputy State Superintendent of Schools, and a professor at the UW School of Education. He’s been active in Monona Grove school issues for decades.
Sharon Henes, who unsuccessfully ran in 2008 and 2009, is said to be considering a run again this year. Henes, from Cottage Grove, has been heavily involved with the school district for years. She’s a regular at school board meetings, and active on committees and task forces.
What is interesting about these three candidates is none are virulent pro-Monona or pro-Cottage Grove types. Fox and Bowles are from Monona. But Fox has voted to close Maywood (albeit a year later than many wanted) and sent 6th graders to GD, so it will be hard to cast her as a strict ‘Monona’ only candidate. Bowles has usually been a voice of compromise – check out this guest column at the HI for some more info on his views. He does – to his credit – say the district needs a referendum to keep operating. Bowles’ long history in the district means he may have annoyed some people here and there (some cite him as a key person in fashioning the last referendum to get GD built). But you can argue that history has brought him name recognition and support for his decisions.
While Sharon Henes may be from Cottage Grove, she has never been seen as ‘anti-Monona’ – a card that has worked well in CG over the past couple of elections. Her background may not be in education, like Fox (who was a teacher) or Bowles, but her involvement in the district is noteworthy.
I don’t see any of these three as ‘controversial’ or ‘adversarial’. I think the reason this type of person is going to run and win is that, for the most part, the big ‘local’ issues of the district are decided. The middle school has been built in Cottage Grove, the Monona 6th graders have been moved to GD, and Maywood has been closed. Monona can’t experience another school closing or shifting of kids to CG. The main issues that will arise that affect Monona directly will be what to do with Nichols and Maywood. But this issue isn’t an educational one – so no matter what happens – it won’t be a huge item on anyone’s agenda.
For Cottage Grove, the main issues will be overcrowding. Estimates put the schools in CG near or at capacity. Future estimates show the schools remaining at this level – and maybe even rising above capacity – but not by a lot. The district has said that the numbers in CG appear to be manageable – and thus, this will probably not be a large issue in the near future.
So what will be the issues and factors in this upcoming elections? The answers are Money and Mayor’s race.
The Monona Mayoral race figures to be hotly contested. That means you’ll see a lot of Monona voters hit the polls. This could be a boon to Fox and Bowles, as Monona voters know both contestants.
The next issue – and the most important – is money.
The district needs money. That means cuts and a referendum. The board will need to approve a budget for 2011-12, and that budget will feature upwards of $1 million in cuts. That will mean teachers and programming will be out. We will have to keep up these cuts in the future, unless a referendum is approved by the district. These two interrelated items will determine the futures of any candidates. Each person running for board will have to determine if they are for a referendum or not (and how much of one). And each candidate will have to say how they will cut costs in the future. Susan Fox has the handicap of having to actually vote on cuts this upcoming year. This will give her the chance to piss off someone.
I don’t know if teacher negotiations will be an issue – but please note that after this contract gets settled we immediately have to start negotiating a contract for the 2011-2013 school years!
In your comments, please post names of people you think would make good school board members, or people you think may run this year.
Also, note the major issues that the district is facing – issues that will be significant points of debate in the election.
Please keep comments about individuals polite and respectable. Thanks.