Board members disagree about the speed of the process leading to next week’s vote on the high school configuration
By Miranda Paikowski and Lauren Sorensen, Current Staff
The clock is ticking.
Next Monday the school board will vote whether or not to combine East and West. Two months were given to community members to make the case for keeping the tradition of two schools going or becoming the biggest single high school in the state. If the board votes to merge the schools, there will be less than a year to implement all of the changes before the 2015-16 school year.
“It’s all been really fast track,” said Bart Williams, a member of the school board for 3 1/2 years.
Why the rush?
The two-month window for community members and students to debate is the appropriate amount of time, according to superintendent Neitzke. The current uproar and community debate is “taking us away from the normal mission of the West Bend School District. I believe that if this were to be extended for a long period of time, it would just lead to greater frustration,” Neitzke said.
Neitzke also said that a longer time frame for the vote would lead to the community questioning why a decision cannot be made.
According to Williams, three school board members brought up combining the high schools at a board work session in August. The issue was again discussed later that month.
In the state of Wisconsin, a notice of 70 days is mandatory for a referendum. By late August, time was running out for all of the legal legwork required for the referendum to occur as part of the November 4 elections.
“The decision was always meant to be in the hands of the school board.”
– Randy Marquardt, school board president
Williams said the vote could have been pushed to next election cycle. He favors a referendum rather than a speedy process. “There is no harm in taking an advisory referendum, letting the community voice its opinion,” Williams said.
Randy Marquardt, the board president, has explained his reasoning for the lack of a referendum. “The decision was always meant to be in the hands of the school board,” he said.
According to Marquardt, a referendum would definitely give more public feedback, but that is already being collected through emails, an online survey, and phone calls.
Board member Ryan Gieryn said that completing this project in two years makes sense, due to the fact that this year the middle schools have been rearranged. Instead of having Badger Middle School and Silverbrook Middle School each educating grades six through eight, now Silverbrook is responsible for grades five and six while Badger educates seventh and eighth graders.
Combining the high schools by next September would ensure that current eighth graders would not be separated in high school, Gieryn said.
“We really want to base our decision on what’s right for the school. We want people to take the online survey, attend feedback sessions, and send in emails,” Gieryn said.
“I’m not really allowed to have an opinion, because it’s not my decision,” said Neitzke. He wants to represent what is in the best interest of the students. “We should limit the amount of life changes as they go through,” Neitzke said.
The school board will decide the fate of East and West on Oct. 6.
(Photo by Lauren Sorensen, Current Staff.)