School Board newcomers talk teacher retention, budget

Feb. 18, 2013

Germantown - Two newcomers - business owner Brian Medved and hand therapist Jill North - are vying to take over Germantown School Board member Diana Kline's seat come spring.

North, an active Girl Scouts leader, four-year high school Parent Teacher Association president, post prom chairman and previous member of Leadership Germantown, is trying to take her participation in the school district a step further. With her third daughter graduating from Germantown High School this year and firsthand knowledge of school district financing, becoming a school board member, she said, is an extension of the work she has already done.

Medved, who is an assistant scout master, Little League coach and fundraising chair for the Potowatami Area Council, first became interested in the School Board when the district attempted to pass referendums for a new pool and school building. There is a need for better planning, he said, and felt it was his time to give back to his community. Medved currently has four children in the district.

North said it is a passion for education that led her to run.

"It's something that without education, young people don't have a chance and if they get a good education, they can rise," she said.

Medved said as a taxpayer and a wife who is an adjunct professor, he understands the teacher's perspective.

"I have good listening skills, which I think is lacking in society now, and I think I'd make a good candidate," he said.

Retaining teachers

Medved is an advocate of pay-for-performance, saying the board needs to find a way to increase pay for top performing teachers while being equitable and fair.

"That's part of reality we need to face and going forward I think it's possible," he said. "It's not going be to easy, but with collaboration from teachers, administration, the board and everyone, I think it can be done."

Germantown is a high-testing district and North said they need to retain educators to keep it that way. Recently, the School Board voted to increase pay for new hires for specific fields, such as English as a Second Language teachers; however, North said the debate is also whether current teachers are paid enough.

"There is a relationship with teachers and students, and with Act 10 and collective bargaining, it could be looked at with individual merit," she said.

Medved suggested supplementing staff with people who have real-world experience, not necessarily an education degree.

"We have a successful school district and we have alumni who have been successful in their careers and they can come in and teach a class and share how they made that happen," he said.

Keeping class sizes steady

Historically, Germantown School District buildings are full and elementary school enrollment continues to increase.

North said the district has been in need of an additional building for a long time. To do so, however, would require a referendum and "I don't think the timing is right for voters." To keep class sizes from increasing in the past, music rooms or art rooms have been used as temporary classrooms.

In 2000, North was part of a parent advocate group that addressed class sizes to change the policy guidelines to lower the number of children allowed in a classroom. When her first daughter started kindergarten, she said the class had 27 students. Policy said 30 were allowed. The group worked to change the policy and lower that cap.

Medved said it appears enrollment is tapering off and it is his hope that class sizes can be maintained since the level of growth is not where it used to be.

The first step to solving the problem, North said, is to bridge the gap between the board and administration and the community "to make the community love their schools so they want to invest in their schools."

North also suggested finding ways to make it "more fashionable to give to your schools like you give to charity."

Medved said Act 10 has helped the district come along way in paying its debt and closing the budget gap, particularly with teachers paying more for retirement and health benefits. He said he supports the School Board's wellness program as it keeps staff healthy and insurance costs down

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