Bart Williams has been vocal in opposing merger
By Miranda Paikowski, Current Staff
At least one board member hasn’t been happy with the process used to consider merging East and West.
“There is no harm in taking an advisory referendum, letting the community voice its opinion,” said Bart Williams, the vice president of the West Bend School Board.
Williams believes that had the issue been brought up at a board meeting in June, while school was still in session, the timeline for the issue would have allowed more to be done regarding the debate. Bringing the issue up in June would have allotted the summer to work through the topic and get community feedback, he said.
“Possibly four board members decide this huge thing for tens of thousands of people in our community. Just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean it is right to do it,” Williams said about the obligation of board members to represent the community.
The board has not scheduled a referendum. Instead, an online survey and a series of listening sessions were used to gather community feedback.
Williams has also very publicly stated his opposition to the merger. He has done a number of things to express this opinion, leaving no room for confusion.
Williams said that he became a board member in the hopes of improving the school district. He feels like merging the schools is not what this community needs. “There are no proven net advantages of combining,” Williams said.
“Just because you have the right to do something, doesn’t mean it is right to do it.”
– Bart Williams
According to Williams, a major concern is the fact that the outcome of combining schools is unknown. There are no other schools in the nation that have or have had the same setup as West Bend. With no other schools to compare the West Bend High Schools’ situation to, the mere idea of merging seems more worrisome, he said.
Williams recently submitted an article to the local newspaper The Daily News, which listed many points arguing against combining the high schools. With the headline, “Support keeping West Bend’s two fine high schools,” it is evident what opinion Williams holds on this issue.
A key argument Williams brought up in the article was that education would not benefit from combining. There would be twice as many students in each year-class. “Studies show that smaller schools do that better,” wrote Williams. He also mentioned the loss of over $10,000 per year in scholarships, which would be detrimental to a number of students.
A major argument for merging is that if sports teams are combined, the school’s athletics will be far more successful overall. Williams argues that there is no definite proof that basketball and football will have more success. Also, approximately half the students currently involved in athletics will lose their spots due to one team instead of two teams.
Williams also said that the costs to change the schools into one cannot be overlooked. The school would have to purchase new uniforms, signs, etc. The interior of the school would also have to be rearranged, with all same-subject teachers in close proximity to one another.
Williams does not want to break the unique traditions of the West Bend High Schools. In his newspaper article, he addresses the fact that thousands of alumni would be angered by the change.
With the school board vote approaching rapidly, Williams said it’s important to make the risks of merging known to the West Bend community.
The board plans to vote on the high school configuration on Oct. 6.
Additional reporting by Lauren Sorensen, Current Staff.