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School board candidates give their views on the issues

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news River Falls, 54022
Hudson Star Observer
715-386-9891 customer support
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

There are three candidates for the two seats on the Hudson Board of Education – incumbent Lynn Robson, and challengers April Simmons and Carrie Whitacre -- on the ballot in the April 1 election. They recently responded to questions from the Star-Observer. Those questions were:

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1. Why are you running for the Hudson Board of Education?

2. Which option, if any, do you support to address the need for secondary school space in the Hudson School District? Please explain your answer.

3. With the economic challenges facing the school district and the community, what should the district's priorities be in the upcoming budget?

The candidates were limited to no more than 150 words per response. They also provided biographical information.

Terms on the Hudson School Board are three years in length.

Carrie Whitacre

Address: 431 Wren Lane

Years of residency in the Hudson School District: 10

Occupation: Homemaker.

Education: Bachelor’s in business management, Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa, 1989.

Prior elected offices: No prior elected office.

Family: Husband Lance; daughters Maggie, 22, HHS class of 2009, Ellie, 19, HHS class of 2013.

Clubs and organizations: Coach, Hudson Boosters Softball, 2004-2006; Saint Patrick School, co-athletic director and coach, 2007-2009; Hudson Basketball Association coach 2008-2009; treasurer, Hudson Back Court Club (supporting HHS basketball) 2009-2013; Saint Patrick’s Capital Campaign co-chair, 2012-13; Saint Patrick’s Parish Pastoral Council, member and chair, 2006-2011; Saint Patrick’s Church, music ministry, 2004-current; River City Chorale (community choir), 2011-current.

Contact info: CarrieSWhitacre@gmail.com, (715) 222-5734

1. I am running for Hudson School Board because our community is at a critical juncture. We have - and have had for a number of years - increasingly serious secondary space issues.

Hudson Middle School is currently over capacity by 177 students and has spilled into classrooms at the adjacent Hudson Prairie Elementary School. Hudson High School is over capacity by 70 students, and though additions and remodels have been effective stopgap measures, the common areas simply can’t support additional students or expansion.

I want to be a part of addressing this increasingly urgent situation. I want to be a part of a School Board that responds to the community’s desire for resolving the space issues thoughtfully and responsibly. I want to always push for educational excellence and responsible governance.

2. I have reviewed and given considerable thought to the three options developed by the School Board as part of the decision process. It appears the best option for the long-term future of Hudson is Option #1, a 6/7 school at the existing middle school, an 8/9 school at the current high school (with the administrative offices moved back to this location and the district property on Brakke Drive sold), and the construction of a new 10-12 high school.

This would make best use of our existing buildings and avoid having two 6-8 middle schools (which the community expressed they did not want for a number of very valid reasons). This is the option that makes the greatest fiscal sense for our growing Hudson community.

3. For our community to continue to grow and flourish economically, we must address our secondary space needs on a long-term basis. If we do not act in a timely fashion, we will drive families out, which harms property values and ultimately raises the tax burden for those who remain (e.g. Prescott).

Hudson School District has demonstrated its fiscal responsibility by having the lowest cost per student ratio in the state of Wisconsin, yet we are one of the top ten districts in student performance. Due to the district’s sound financial position, we have an excellent credit score, which lowers our interest rates for borrowing funds.

Additionally, our community will soon be having $40 million drop off the tax burden in the coming years, so this would drastically mitigate the costs of building a new high school.

Lynn Robson

Address: 1274 Hwy. 35

Years of residence in the Hudson School District: 19 years

Occupation: CFO Morries Automotive Group/independent small business owner

Education: University of St. Thomas

Prior elected offices: Two terms on the Hudson Board of Education

Clubs and organizations: Rotary Member, Y Partners Chair, Bethel Finance Committee, Houlton Parent Association

Family information: Married, husband David and five children, Kyle, Jenna, Paige, Danielle and Camryn

Email and contact information: lrobson@comm-mgmt.com (612) 968-0429

1. My name is Lynn Robson and I am seeking re-election for my third term to the Hudson School Board. I am committed to community service and feel that the School Board is the most important way I can contribute.

My approach to School Board service is premised on the belief that a quality education is the foundation for success in life. Furthermore, I believe that it is the responsibility for citizens to ensure that opportunity to all its children.

As a School Board member, my priority is to provide our students with the quality of education they need to become successful and productive members of our community, while representing the Hudson taxpayer in a fiscally responsible manner.

2. I support Option 1 because it is what our community supported in the survey and throughout the community engagement process. In reviewing all the options, I believe Option 1 best utilizes the other district assets and also allows the district to dispose of the Administrative Services Center building and relocate the administration back to the current high school. I believe that Option 1 balances fiscal responsibility with meeting community needs.

3. The district needs to continue the implementation of the strategic plan HSD 2025 with the requirements of multiple state mandated programs and accountability changes that will culminate in 2014-15.

Solving the secondary space issue remains a high priority of the district and the community. The community has made their priorities known in the community survey and with that specific direction, secondary space needs to have a high focus of the Board of Education.

Equally important in the district priorities is advancing the multi-year plan for High School Learning for the Future. This year the Freshman Academies were implemented which allowed the ninth-grade students to have their core studies in an area designated for freshmen. Next year, Career Partnership Academies will continue the personalized learning that will help students explore potential careers and help identify their future learning and career goals.

Lastly, the district needs to focus on the multiyear implementation of the strategic compensation and educator effectiveness.

April Simmons

Address: 1031 Second St.

Years of residence in the Hudson School District: 12

Occupation: Prior to receiving my real estate license I was a substitute teacher in the Hudson School district where I subbed at all of the elementary schools and the high school. I am now currently a licensed real estate agent serving the St Croix Valley area.

Education: Graduated from St Cloud State University with a degree in elementary education   

Prior elected offices: Willow River Parent Group president for four years; vice president for two years; secretary for two years.

Clubs and organizations: Hudson Middle School fundraiser coordinator for three years; Willow River Elementary School fundraiser coordinator for six years; Miss Hudson candidate co-coordinator two years.

Family information: I have five children; two in college that graduated from Hudson High School, one in eighth grade, one in sixth grade at Hudson Middle School and one in third grade at Willow River Elementary.

Email and contact information: randasimmons@aol.com (715)377-6945

1.I value education, children and our teachers. I feel our district has become top heavy with a large focus on what the administration wants rather than on the success of teachers and students. I think that the administration demands being placed on our teachers are monopolizing their time taking the focus and energy our teachers would rather spend working to assure success for each student.

I also am aware of the fear that there is in the district in regard to the administrators. I have seen it personally and hear it frequently. We should allow our teachers to use the creativity that brought them to working with kids as a career, or for most teachers, a lifestyle. They are the ones that are working one on one with students. The administration should support what our teachers need to succeed with students rather than making more demands.

2. I chose option number one when presented those three options. That had a price tag of approximately $62 million. In order to get everything they want the price tag is closer to $90 million.

I hear people talk about “the secondary space issue” it amazes me at how the need of athletic fields comes into the conversation. Yes, clearly we have a space issue in the middle and high school. But I think many of us get caught up in keeping up with the Jones’ and always wanting more, more, more. Most importantly to me is the education our kids are receiving. That is not dependent upon athletics. That is a luxury many of us have come to assume. I think we could spend a fraction of the money, do some shifting of grade levels and updating to our current schools and still produce very well educated students.

3. It is an interesting question because our school and community are facing tough economic times, but yet the district is very eager to spend $90 million. So the priorities should be finding another less expensive solution to the secondary space issue, paying our teachers’ competitive wages to keep the good teachers here in Hudson, repair of our current buildings and updating technology.

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Meg Heaton
Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
(715) 808-8604
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