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School board candidate seeks consensus

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River Falls, 54022

River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Editor's note: The Star-Observer will publish interviews with all school board candidates over the next three weeks. Their responses to four questions posed by the HSO will appear in the March 30 issue just before the April 4 election.

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David Hadlich says one of the reasons he decided to run for school board is the letters to the editor he's read in this newspaper in recent years.

"The contentiousness of them, their incivility, the rancor and all the name calling - I just don't think it needs to be that way, and I don't think it serves anyone's purpose," said Hadlich.

Hadlich said he sees the role of the school board as different from other political offices. "I despise partisan politics, the whole idea of being on one side or the other. What you get with that is about 51 percent of the people happy and the other 49 percent unhappy, depending on which of two sides you take. In general, I think we can do better than that."

Hadlich believes the school board needs to be answerable to the community, not the other way around. He also believes the board should offer the community more options when it comes to dealing with new buildings and the other issues facing the school district.

Hadlich said he agreed with the community's no vote to the last referendum and he believes the price tag for a new high school as proposed by the district's facilities task force was too high for voters.

"We need to keep asking for public input into how we can solve this problem of space without overburdening the taxpayers."

Hadlich said he does support the construction of a new elementary school south of I-94 since most of the current residential development is in that part of the district. "That is our clearest, closest need right now."

Hadlich said he likes the idea of a grade 8-9 building as an alternative to the construction of a high school. "By taking one grade out of both the middle and high schools, we could have more space in both locations and build a secondary school that wouldn't cost as much as a high school. I think that plan gives us the most flexibility."

Hadlich does not favor the construction of a district administration building. He would rather see the district lease offices from existing space in the community as an alternative to building a new facility.

Hadlich says he realizes the district faces some difficult issues in the near future but doesn't believe "throwing rocks or finger pointing" does much good when it comes to problem solving.

"That's what I think I could bring to the board. I am a problem-solver. I don't believe people in this community are comfortable with that approach."

Hadlich believes some of the problems between the school board and district critics boil down to issues of belief vs. facts. "Some of the arguments just don't make sense, and people ignore some of the realities the district is facing. We have gotten very polarized. Remember the old bell curve. I think what's happened in Hudson is that the focus is trained on the few at either end of that curve. Most of us are in the middle of it, and that's where we need to refocus our energies. That's where my decisions on the board will be directed - to the majority."

Hadlich said he would not come to the school board if elected with a set agenda, but believes he has a set of skills that will help bring people together on the issues. He cites the district's general fund as an example where he believes the board and the community could find consensus.

"We definitely need a cushion, but maybe the balance was too big. The fact is that we can figure out pretty closely how much we need to manage cash flow, pay our bills and keep our high bond rating. It isn't something we need to get so angry about. We can talk about it and come to a reasonable compromise."

Hadlich and his wife moved to Hudson from the west side of the metro area in 2000 to escape not only a long commute but also auto tabs that cost too much and the politics of Jesse Ventura. Having grown up in the St. Croix River Valley, Hadlich wanted back here and found Hudson to have the right mix of progressiveness and tradition that made it a "natural attraction" for his family of five.

The Hadlichs have three children, Sara, 16, Alex, 8, and Gracie, 5. The children all attend Hudson public schools. Gracie, who was born with spina bifida, is enrolled in the Willow River Elementary Early Childhood program. Hadlich works in sales and marketing for Access Press, a Minnesota publication aimed at the disability community.

While Hadlich has both personal and professional connections to the disability community, he said that isn't the reason he is running for school board. The family moved to Hudson before Gracie was born, and one of the reasons they came was the quality of the district's schools.

"We saw this as a developing district that had a reputation for working for all students including those with special needs. The Hudson district is a leader in regular education as well as special education. We can attest to that."

Hadlich describes the Hudson School District as being in a good place when it comes to needs of its students whether in regular education or in special needs programs. "We're already there, but do we want to do better? Absolutely. We owe that to every student in the district regardless of their needs."

Hadlich says it is a mixed blessing being the least known of the six school board candidates. "People want to know what side you are on. It isn't about being on one side or the other. There shouldn't be sides when it comes to education. It's about doing our best efficiently and effectively for the kids in this community."

Hadlich's opponents in the April 4 election are James Baker, Brian Bell, Tracy Habisch-Ahlin, Tom Holland and incumbent Priscilla Wyeth. The top three vote-getters will make it on the board.

School Board Candidate Forum

Thursday, March 23, 7 p.m. at Willow River Elementary School Auditorium, 1118 Fourth St.

Sponsored by Hudson public school parent groups and The League of Women Voters of Pierce-St. Croix Counties.

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