Smith Supports Johann and Monroe for Belleville School Board
April 1, 2021
I have been a community member and a teacher at Belleville High School since 2003. During my time teaching there have been some good years, some not so good years, some great years, and some years I would never want to repeat again. This year is one of those years that I never want to repeat again.
I’m hoping to shed some light on the upcoming school board election, which I believe has the potential to either divide our community even more than it is already divided or bring it closer together; I’m hoping for the latter. The last time there was this much interest in a school board election was probably around 2012 or 2013. A little over 10 years ago marked the beginning of a very tumultuous time in public education and in the public sector. Protests surrounding ACT 10 were in the early months of 2011 and the subsequent recall election for Scott Walker post ACT 10 occurred in June 2012. Teacher morale was low and the community was divided. I am not exactly sure if there was interest for this “community service” in the spring of 2012 or 2013, but I am pretty confident that the sudden interest was due to ACT 10. This seems eerily similar to what is currently happening in our community. Trevor Johann has been a board member and is our current board president. I believe Trevor has done an excellent job during an impossible situation. Honestly, there is not a magical solution that will make everyone involved happy. William Monroe began entertaining the idea of a run for the position in mid-November after having thought about it in the past. He did his research before filling out the paperwork, because he truly wanted to know that he was the best one for the job and that he could fully commit to this position. After listening to the various forums and reading what he has put out in various interviews, it is evident that William is committed to the position.
Wendy Fahey and Tierney Keyes seem to only talk about COVID, mental health, failing students, and how behind our students are. There seems to be little to no focus beyond COVID, which concerns me. School is much larger than COVID and, generally speaking, students are not behind. As staff and professionals we have worked really hard to identify the most important skills, strategies, and content each student will need to feel and be successful in the coming years. The whole world is “behind” and in talking with my colleagues from around the country, our students have had so much more contact time (virtual and in person) than many other students. I worry that constantly focusing on how “behind” students are will only help to magnify any anxiety/mental health issues our students and staff are experiencing. I am a glass half full instead of a glass half empty type of person, and it is apparent that Wendy and Tierney are looking at this current situation through a pessimistic point of view and focusing on the negative. Trevor and William continue to talk about the future and focus on positive outcomes for our school district even though we are in a dark year. They have latched on to the idea that our students and staff have acquired so many new skills throughout this past year, which can provide us all an opportunity to improve our already great school district.
I want to address some comments/concerns that have been brought up during various Q&A sessions/forums and that seem to be the backbone of Wendy and Tierney’s campaign.
1. Our physical school lies in Dane County, but serves students in Dane and Green Counties. The rules for Dane County were, and continue to be, much stricter than Green County’s rules. I would assume that from a liability standpoint the district needed to air on the side of caution and follow the stricter set of rules.
2. Although we serve students in both counties, in terms of standardized test scores, the School District of Belleville is always compared against the schools in Dane County. This means we really should be looking to Dane County for comparables.
3. I’ve heard complaints about a “three minute rule” for public comments at the school board meetings. I remember a time (pre ACT 10) when anybody could basically step in and speak anytime they wanted to speak, and I also remember the board creating a time for public comments at the beginning of a meeting. If I remember correctly, those comments had a time limit. I know that the current board policy was adopted in 2019, which was pre-COVID. Belleville School District is not alone in this type of policy.
4. During the most recent forum, Lisa Bowers asked the panel about an operating referendum and being fiscally responsible. It was very clear that neither Tierney nor Wendy knew what an operating referendum is or were prepared to discuss being fiscally responsible board members. Tierney’s response mentioned “tough decisions” and “ESSER funding”. Wendy Fahey stated that, “An operational referendum means that the budget that the school was operating on was not managed effectively.” This is not what an operational referendum is, and I would like to add that in approximately 25 years Belleville has passed only two referendums (one was to build a new school and one was to remodel and renovate our current buildings) all while working with the same revenue for about the past 10 years. I would argue that the community should be proud of how well the district has managed their resources.
I guess I would like to state that nobody is perfect, but I do believe everyone is trying their best to get through this year. We should all have a little bit of grace and understanding for one another’s situations. In closing, I am hopeful that you can put politics aside, your personal feelings aside, names and friendships aside, and vote for Trevor Johann and William Monroe, who will be better for our students, better for our school, and better for our community.