Three compete for two seats on Mequon-Thiensville School Board
Two new faces guaranteed after April 1 election
Mequon — Newcomers Wendy Francour and Paul Buzzell are competing with unsuccessful 2011 candidate Sid Terry for two seats on the Meqon-Thiensville School Board.
The top two voter-getters in the April 1 spring election will claim the seats of Suzette Urbashich and James Liska, both of whom have decided not to seek re-election.
Buzzell, 43, is a Mequon native who has owned a home in the community for 13 years. He is a married father of two elementary school-age daughters and one middle school-age daughter. Buzzell has bachelor's degree in marketing and real estate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MBA in finance from DePaul University. He is the Chief Financial Officer of Johnson Level & Tool in Mequon.
Francour, 58, is a Whitefish Bay native and 25-year Mequon resident. She is married and has a daughter who graduated from Homestead in 2007. Francour has a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has been in the marketing and fund development business for 35 years.
Terry, 63, grew up in upstate New York, where he got bachelor's and master's degrees in education from the University of New York-Oswego; he also has an associate degree in mechanical technology. Terry is the married father of three daughters, one of whom graduated high school in New York while the other two graduated from Germantown High School. Terry lived in Germantown for 12 years before living in Mequon for the last eight. Terry has had a varied career and is currently a strategy and organizational development consultant. He ran an unsuccessful campaign against Urbasich and Liska in 2011.
Motivations and ideas
Terry is critical of the state and federal Common Core standards as well as the district's practice of deferred maintenance. He said the board needs to rethink its budgeting issues to get away from a "budget being cut, or tax more" mindset.
"There are some shifts in how you deliver content," Terry said. "Some of that, of course, is technology on an individual basis ...We need to think of more effective and continuous improvement kind of things."
Francour said the district "is my community, and I want to help out." She has served on a number of committees and task forces — including the one that shut down Range Line Elementary — as well as co-created and co-chaired a grassroots fundraising campaign for the district, among other roles.
"There isn't much I haven't done in the district, other than be on the School Board," Francour said.
As a Homestead graduate, Buzzell is appreciative of the leg up the district gave him and wants to give back. He also highlighted the fact that, if elected, he would be the only board member with a student in the elementary school and would soon be the only one with a student in the middle school.
Without him, Buzzell said, the board would have "no one on the ground knowing what's happening in the other two-thirds" of the district.
Budgeting and referendums
When the recently formed ad hoc committee delivers its recommendation on how to financially sustain the quality of the district, it will be the School Board that will decide if and what makes it into the budget.
Francour said the district needs to "get away from a cuts mentality" and should look into fund development and naming rights. She said the solution to the ongoing budgeting problems will be a combination of the revenue and expense sides idea.
"You have to be willing to ask tough questions and make tough, unemotional decisions," Francour said.
Francour said she can't yet comment on the possibility of a referendum coming from the committee, saying "I need to hear the why, the reasoning."
Buzzell said that in future budgeting he would have to look at the district's biggest budget item, salaries and benefits, as well as weigh programs by a "dollars you have per pupil in a program, versus a program" approach.
Buzzell said he wouldn't support a referendum that covers basic operating costs, but would consider a capital referendum to make the district more desirable, or a "bridge loan" referendum of sorts that could help a program in the short term before it becomes sustainable.
Terry said the district should be creative and leverage new technology to both deliver education and stay within its means.
"My contention is that the resource base is fairly predictable," Terry said. "So what do you do to make that work."
Terry opposes the idea of going to referendum.
"It's an attempt to kick the can down the road again," Terry said.
On the district's upcoming teacher merit pay system, Buzzell said the board should establish mostly quantitative but somewhat qualitative system that de-emphasizes test scores. Overall, he is a fan of the merit pay concept and says he rewards his own employees for doing extra things that fit in with strategic goals.
"Those are worth money to me," Buzzell said, "because they make us better."
Terry also said the focus shouldn't be on test scores, but rather the respect teachers have for kids, their professionalism and their willingness to go the extra mile. Terry said there needs to be understanding between the teachers and administration.
"If it's adversarial, you'll never get there," Terry said.
Francour also downplayed the role of test scores and emphasized the need to make the system less about competition among teachers and about student growth.
"The worst thing we can do is set up a system whereby collaboration is no longer the goal within the building," Francour said. "...Growth has to be the ultimate goal. How you measure growth has to be determined."
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