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Primary Election Preview: What is the Biggest Issue in RUSD?

In the second of five stories this week on the Feb. 19 primary election for the Racine Unified School District Board of Education, Patch asks the 10 candidates vying for three seats on the board what they think is the biggest issue facing the district.

Voters in the Racine Unified School District will head to the polls on Feb. 19 to narrow down the field of candidates running for three seats on the School Board.

The top six vote-getters in the primary election will earn a trip to the April 2 general election.

The candidates are:

  • Cecilia Anguiano, 2818 Loraine Ave., a lifelong Racine resident.
  • Laura Betker, 2320 Gilson St., a lifelong Racine resident with no children in the district.
  • Tifene Brown, 5420 Athens Ave., who has lived at her current address for 18 months. Her two oldest daughters graduated from William Horlick High School, and she has another daughter who is a student at Gifford Elementary School.
  • Randall Bryce, 1718 Wind Dale Dr., who has lived in the district for seven years and has a child at North Park Elementary School.
  • Incumbent board member Christopher Eperjesy, 830 Waters Edge Rd., who is a 10-year resident of the district and has a stepdaughter who attends Prairie School.
  • Kristie Formolo, a 19-year Mount Pleasant resident whose two teenage children have attended various schools throughout the community.
  • Michael Frontier, 1127 Lake Ave., a former alderman and 28-year resident whose three children have attended several private and public schools.
  • Incumbent board member Julie McKenna, 724 Crab Tree Lane, who has lived in the district 22 years and has one child who attended several district schools, including Washington Park High School.
  • Roger Pfost, 3114 Caledonia St., a retiree and the school liaison for theRacine County Taxpayers Association. He has seven children who attended various district schools.
  • Robert Wittke Jr., 11 Sandalwood Ct., a lifelong Racine area residents whose four children all went through RUSD.

Each day this week, Patch will profile the candidates and where they stand on the key issues facing the school district. All information is based on the candidates' responses to Patch's election questionnaire.

Related Coverage

  • Meet the RUSD School Board candidates
What is the biggest issue facing the district, and how would you address it, if elected? Anguiano The biggest issue facing the district beyond vouchers and state budget cuts is the general public’s opinion of the district’s poor reputation for the integrity of academics.We can not change state law but we can control how well we adapt to it.
In order for our school district to succeed it needs increased support from all community groups such as churches, synagogues, Latino and African American based communities and family owned businesses that know the diversity of challenges that face every student. If the district isn’t accessible for a variety of reasons the community can’t understand the constraints of the district and will view its choices negatively or lack an interest in it. In turn, having a community that is apathetic towards its school system or views it negatively is detrimental to everyone. We will continue to lose families to alternative forms of education and through the voucher program if the community doesn’t feel like it is a part of its future generation’s education. 
We need to evolve by looking into what programs work at top public school districts. For example, having a retreat with administrators and teachers from the number one public school system of Maryland and from the diverse public school system of New York that can show progressive strategies not yet used in Racine.
Betker
Educational achievement for all students is the biggest issue facing the district. The district should expand successful programs that work such as Fine Arts, Red Apple and IB programs.
Brown I believe one of biggest issues facing the district is the effect of ACT 10. Teachers don’t teach because they make a huge wage, but because they enjoy their profession. If we were to switch to a merit based pay system then we possible risk losing teaching professionals to other states. This will ultimately affect students as well as our community. 
I suggest that if there is a merit base pay system it is based on student’s assessed ability at the beginning of the year and their progress made at the end of the year. If a teacher has a student that enters into kindergarten not knowing his or her alphabets from A to Z, but is able to get that student to learn them as well as basic reading concepts (sounding out letters) then that teacher has made an improvement with that student. If the teacher is able to get them further then that is great, but the reality is all students do not enter their grade level on the same level as their classmates. 
Bryce The biggest issue is funding. We need to be sure that every penny is spent responsibly.
Eperjesy Poverty. This isn't only the biggest issue facing our district; it is the biggest issue facing our entire community. Over 60% of the students in the district qualify for free or reduced lunch. The school board, administrators and teachers alone cannot solve the problem of poverty and the effects it has on education. In order to make real progress, the board of education needs to work with parents, community leaders, public officials, employers and concerned citizens to make real, lasting progress. As a school board member, I will continue to work to engage as many people as possible to work with us to find solutions to the effects of poverty on our community and the district. Some of my specific suggestions are in response to the question concerning addressing the district's racial achievement gap below.
Formolo I think one of the biggest issues facing Racine Unified is that so many people have lost faith in our district. Our taxes go up, but we are not seeing enough positive change happening within the majority of our schools. People are leaving the district!
In 2008/2009 RUSD lost 526 students through Open Enrollment.
In 2011/2012 RUSD lost 1053 students through Open Enrollment. 
An exit survey needs to be created and should have been done 3 years ago. Not only that, but in 2011/2012 RUSD only gained 24 students through Open Enrollment. Compare that number to Paris Elementary in Kenosha County. In 2012/2013 Paris had 265 students and 95 of them were Open Enrollment students. Their revenue from Open Enrollment was $515,600.00 while Racine Unified lost over 5 million dollars! What is the Racine Unified School District doing wrong and how can it be fixed? These are two very important questions that have to be addressed if we want to keep families in this district. Frontier Vouchers pose a great challenge to the district. The district elementary schools are viewed as very strong by famiies. However, middle schools are less attractively perceived. 
We cannot afford to lose students. We must create exciting, engaging learning environments, that counter this tendency.
Additionally, older facilities (average age 77 years) and the need for updated technology call for intervention beyond the district's budget. McKenna The biggest issue facing the district our system of education is the changing needs and expectations of our global society... for the future in technology, careers, communication....Racine Unified needs to be competive on a local and global level to prepare our students to succced. Students must succeed.
Pfost The District has rated last or close to it in its peer group for teachers salaries for the last 15 years. I will do my best to recognize the good teachers and reward them in their pay scales.
Wittke Performance. I believe it is the common thread that links every challenge the District faces. Student flight, fiscal stress, and substandard image can all be traced to the inability to trend achievement levels upward over a sustained period. This is going to be further complicated by the Federal and State mandates that will be required by the waiver granted to the No Child Left Behind law. I wish I had the magic formula to resolve all our challenges once elected but I don’t. I will bring the personal attributes I described above to work within the parameters of the Board and make contributions to its policy making, fiscal management, and governance which focus on improving the performance of all our students.
Edward Willing February 16, 2013 at 02:39 PM
Some teachers are proactive enough to reach out sooner, but that's difficult with 19, 25, 30 kids and multiple classes.
mau February 17, 2013 at 02:06 PM
Thank you Brian for answering my question instead of criticizing it. I was thinking along the same lines as you but just couldn't get a sense of where Wittke stood. I have been trying to find this "5 part series". As far as the questions I have asked, I think they are very basic. I don't have time to read every Patch articles and every comment so I am not able to keep up with everything. I voted absentee because it will be inconvenient for me to vote on Tuesday and I needed the information last week. There was a post card in Saturday's mail from Racinians for Academic Progress endorsing Eperjesy and Frontier. I read somewhere that this group is a progressive organization but I will try to find out for sure. Your answer for the general election will be very helpful. Thank you again.
Brian Dey February 17, 2013 at 03:05 PM
Randy Bryce- Yet Racine Unified still received more revenues. And I'm sure you are praising Govrnor Walker for restoring $256 million to K-12 publlic education in his new budget.
Brian Dey February 17, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Mau- Racinians for Academic Progress is a shelter group that doesn't exist but to put out these fliers every school board election. They have changed their name every year. They have been Partnership for Progress and a host of other names, and when I confronted them in 2007, I found out at this was, according to a Racine Journal Times interview, primarily one guy with a few other donors. I would be caustious of this so-called group because it it is the same group with yet another name, it is actually Jeff Neubauer, former Democratic State Chair and legislator. He also owns Kranz, Inc, which is the sole supplier of cleaning goods to RUSD. Others that have worked with these so-called groups have been former Board President Bill Schalk and former Board member David Isaacson. Both were key to abdicating the legallly defined work of the board and giving it to then Supt. Tom Hicks. Schalk was instrumental in leading a board that was riddled with division, ineffective performance and the hiring of PBCG. Ask yourself this; Why do you only hear of these groups at election time? Where are there meetings? Who can I talk to about their agenda? And last, what information of value are these fliers producing? They are generic in nature because they never actually talk to all the candidates. The latest flier claims that two candidates will bring the community together. And the others won't? Don't buy into this BS.
iwouldbedreaming February 18, 2013 at 04:03 AM
Edward, the teachers at Paris do have 30 kids per class and intervention has nothing to do with the main teacher. The kids go with a different teacher for the brain booster sessions and the main teacher keeps teaching her regular class. How hard is that? It is actually easier because they are not teaching at different levels. Once the child gets caught up and returned to the class it is ultimately easier for the teacher. The brain boosters keep the kids working at the same level. This is what I would call "no child left behind"!!!

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