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Written by Steve Ostermann   
Wednesday, 23 March 2011 16:46

Grafton School Board ballot features four-way contest for three seats

With state-imposed budget constraints looming, the Grafton School Board faces tough challenges for the next school year and beyond.

Local voters will also face a critical task in the Tuesday, April 5, election when they choose three board members in a four-candidate race.

Vying for seats are incumbents Paul Lorge and Daniel McKelvey and challengers Terry Maxwell and Clayton Riddle.

Early projections show the Grafton School District confronted by a shortfall that could reach $1.3 million in preparing the 2011-12 budget, primarily because of a cut in state aid. 

All four candidates said they want to help guide the district through tough economic times without jeopardizing quality education or damaging the relationship between the School Board and the teachers union,
the Grafton Education Association.

“Having the right leadership on the board is more crucial than ever,” said Lorge, 47, a certified public accountant who serves as chairman of the board’s Finance and Negotiating Committee.

“We’re faced with having to cut more than $1 million from the budget, and there are going to be tough decisions made. I’m happy to be able to use my professional background to help the board in that process.”

A longtime board member, Lorge has  won three terms since first being elected in 2002.

McKelvey, 43, is seeking his second board term after first winning a seat in 2008. He is a self-employed financial advisor.

“My experience in the financial field brings some much-needed experience to the board,” McKelvey said.

He said he has a vested interest in serving on the board, with all four of his children attending Grafton public schools.

“I’m also a property owner here in the district, so any decisions we make have a direct effect on myself and my family,” he said. 

Maxwell and Riddle are both seeking their first elected offices.

Maxwell, 20, is a Grafton High School graduate and college student who ran unsuccessfully for a board seat last year.

Riddle, 48, is an attorney who has been active with the Grafton Education Foundation and served as a local youth sports coach and WIAA official.

Maxwell said he will have two major goals as a board member — working to make the board accountable to the public and stopping tax increases.

“We must restore the balance between the needs of our district and the desires of the teachers union,” he said.

“Our schools are well-funded and there is no need to put an even bigger burden on our taxpayers.”

Riddle said his background as an attorney, former teacher, coach and father of three gives him a well-rounded perspective on how board decisions impact everyone, especially families.

“I am a former teacher, and my dad was a teacher and a School Board member,” Riddle said. “I understand how important the jobs are and how much work goes into them.

“There are going to be some difficult cuts made in the budget. We all see them coming. We have to slough through all of the difficult choices.

“I’ve got an educational background that will help me make informed decisions.”

Riddle said he has been impressed with the relationships between the board, administration, teachers and students.

“The test scores and graduation rates are still going up, so they’re doing a good job,” he said. “Can we do better? Yes, and that will be a challenge because we will have to do more with less.”

Lorge said the board continues to work at improving communication by seeking feedback from residents through surveys and questionnaires.

“I think the board has been very responsive to the concerns of residents and will continue to be that way,” he said.

“I am extremely optimistic about our ability to maintain quality education in our schools. We’ve done it before, and we will continue to do it in the future.”

McKelvey said the board has worked hard to maintain a solid working relationship with the teachers union.

“We have a very positive, non-adversarial relationship,” he said. “This has been the status quo in Grafton for many years.

“I feel this relationship has helped us tremendously over the last several weeks during the turmoil in Madison.”

An outspoken critic of the teachers union in last year’s election, Maxwell praised Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill, which upon becoming law will require teachers to contribute more for pensions and health
insurance and limit their collective bargaining rights.

“I’m very happy with what Gov. Walker did because it gives school districts the tools to balance their budgets,” Maxwell said.

“But I also understand teachers’ concerns. I’m proud that our teachers didn’t leave their jobs to protest in Madison.”

Riddle said he is seeking office to help contribute to the district and not because of a single issue or concern.

“If there had not been an open seat on the board, I probably would not have run,” Riddle said.

“I’m not a single-issue candidate. I want to contribute and help the district maintain the quality of education it now has.”

The top three vote-getters in the race will win three-year terms.

At least one new face on the board is assured because incumbent Sue Mintner chose not to seek re-election.

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