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School Board Candidates Want More Communication, Accountability

Four of six candidates for the Greenfield School Board shared their thoughts on the issues facing the district at a candidate forum at the Performing Arts Center on Thursday.

The Greenfield School District is in dire need of improved communication from the administration all the way down to the citizens, and those who make tough decisions need to be held accountable regularly.

That’s the message school board candidates shared at a forum hosted by the Greenfield Parents for Education at the at the high school Thursday.

“Instead of being a more inclusive district and opening up the board to public comments and discussions, we’re becoming more closed off,” said Cathy Walsh, a former board member and the .

Only about two-dozen people attended the forum, which will be broadcast on public access television. And only two-thirds of the candidates participated. Incumbent Rick Moze was joined by Paul Palama, Russ Spahn and Walsh, while Len Cich and Brad Sponholz were absent.

All four participating candidates, who are vying for three open seats in the April 3 election, stressed the importance of open lines of communication and the dissemination of information to the public.

Palama said more information regarding topics to be discussed at board meetings should be available to the public before those meetings take place, specifically by posting it on the district’s website.

“We need to be more open so we can get the big idea of what everyone wants, not just a small picture of what some people want,” Palama said.

All of the candidates feel the district needs a strategic plan to keep it moving forward with defined short- and long-term goals.

“I don’t know if administration has totally bought into that idea,” of strategic planning, Moze said. “You have to get everyone involved from the community: business people, parents, students, teachers, administration.”

Spahn, the city’s former fire chief, said it’s unusual for leadership not to have a plan. He referenced a five-year plan he put in place with the fire department and said general components of it could be carried over to the district.

“Without those components, you have no idea if you’re going in the right direction,” Spahn said.

Palama posed the idea of a district report card.

“Now, if we do this, it’s gone. It’s done,” he said. “Somewhere down the line, we have to held accountable for what we did.”

In conjunction with improved communication and more accountability, all four candidates expressed their desire to increase board meetings to two per month.  Walsh said the decision to reduced some of the board’s power.

“The public must hold the board accountable and in turn the board must hold the superintendent accountable and the superintendent must hold the teachers accountable,” Walsh said. “It’s not a time to cut back on our meetings. We probably need more, and agendas have to reflect the needs of the community.

“(The board) needs to do a little more micromanaging.”

Moze admitted he and his fellow board members made a mistake with the reduction and agreed going back to two meetings is the right move.

The candidates said the district has many things to be proud of. Walsh praised the facilities and the continuously improving curriculum and programming. Palama echoed Walsh in regards to the facilities and said the district’s teachers are great. Moze singled out the high school’s ROTC program and , while Spahn highlighted the district’s sense of community.

“I think our culture and our sense of community is very strong and I guess that’s why some of us are here,” he said. “We have never left.”

Moze said the biggest challenges facing the district are the balance between a world-class education and what taxpayers can afford and a lack of community involvement.

“There are a lot of knowledgeable people in Greenfield,” Moze said. “We need to tap those resources and the people willing to help the district.”

Editor’s note: Greenfield Patch will run another story about the forum soon. Stay tuned!

Russ Spahn March 19, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Current and past school board members have had children in the District while they were in office, were they not allowed to run for school board, or were their ethics challenged because they were only going to be concerned with the school their children were attending? Is it unethical for a school board member who has school age children in our district to send them to a private school? I have lived in Greenfield since 1967, graduated from Greenfield High School in 1972. I married a Greenfield graduate, we’ve been married 37 years, and have two sons who also graduated from Greenfield High School. After working with the city for 39 years, I retired as the Fire Chief for the Greenfield Fire Department last June and my wife has worked for the school district for over 20 years. If you wish to challenge my personal and professional ethics I invite you to do so because I am proud of my family, work experience, and education that I have acquired in my lifetime. (continued on next post)
Russ Spahn March 19, 2012 at 06:12 PM
If elected to the Greenfield School Board, I will take an oath as I did for fire chief. I will foremost protect the interests and education of our students. I will also protect the interest of the district staff, as well as those of the taxpayers. I plan to do it in a fiscally productive manner and to be accountable to all those involved. Although I believe discussion about these matters is important, I will not respond any further with this issue, but simply wanted to provide my viewpoint. I also provided this information up front and honest as Russ Spahn and did not use an alias as many people on this forum do. Thank you, Russ Spahn
David Pettersen March 19, 2012 at 09:15 PM
That was a great post! After reading this post, you made me think! I'm a high school student at GHS, and I think you'd be great for school board! Mr. Spahn led the Greenfield Fire Dept. with honesty and now I think everyone should give him a chance to help lead the School District of Greenfield with honesty! Part of electing a leader is actually trusting the person, and I think that people in Greenfield should have trust in Russ Spahn to not have conflict of interest! Mr. Spahn seems like a leader we can trust (on school board, even though I can't vote yet).
David Pettersen March 19, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Mr. Spahn seems like he's an honest person--after all, he would have to have the power to work with others effectively as fire chief...I think he is someone that Greenfield can trust!
OldKnight March 26, 2012 at 09:12 PM
And now Mr. Spahn and Mr. Moze, why did you sign the recall petition against Gov. Walker? And don't you think it's ironic that you're running for a board that you want to give control of, back to the teacher's union? If you 2 get on the board and Gov. Walker is recalled, who watches out for the tax-payers? Feels like a double slap in the face.

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