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SCC School Board discusses events in Madison

During the public comment time at the Feb. 21 St. Croix Central School Board meeting, High School Guidance Counselor Bill Stuessel addressed the board on the events happening in Madison. He said he was hoping that Superintendent David Bradley and the school board could make a statement about what is happening at the Capitol.

"There are a lot of people that are concerned about what's happening in Madison and we were hoping to get your position," Stuessel said.

Board member Scott De Gross said the board as a whole has not had the chance to discuss the events in Madison since the news of Gov. Scott Walker's proposal broke.

The proposed budget repair bill would limit collective bargaining and require union members to contribute 5.8 percent toward their retirement/pensions and about 12.6 percent toward their health benefits. Currently, SCC teachers don't contribute anything toward their retirement or their health insurance.

It seemed that the board members needed more information before they could form a concrete opinion on which side they agreed with, but all board members seemed open-minded.

Board member Howard Kruschke said he believed it is "too early to make a decision one way or the other on what's actually going to happen down there. It's pretty heated down there right now."

Kruschke said it is his personal feeling that some of the goals Walker has achieved or is asking for "are things that probably needed to be discussed. I don't necessarily agree with the tactics that are being used."

He said it is too early for the board to form an opinion as a whole. "It's wait and see right now."

Bradley said he didn't have a formal statement at the time of the meeting but told Stuessel that he plans on addressing the teachers on Feb. 24 during the professional development time.

"I would say and share, that once again, I'm so proud of the staff, for the professionalism they've shown. I don't mean that people who call in sick aren't being professional. We wouldn't be talking about this if there weren't thousands of people in Madison. The only way there are thousands of people in Madison is if they go. We're thankful that we haven't had to cancel school. We're thankful that the students come first," Bradley said.

Kruschke stressed that the board as an organization "still wants the lines of communication open. We are here to listen."

Board member David Olsen said he is only 85 pages into reading Walker's bill. He said he wants to understand the bill itself to make better sense of where both sides are coming from.

"I want to find more out about the bill itself. I'm trying to listen to the opposition, but as I told Howard (Kruschke) before the meeting, it's hard to discern what's coming from both sides because everybody's screaming so loudly," he said.

Olsen said, at the moment he is just "trying to figure out what everybody's trying to say."

Board member John Hueg said he's learned that "do the right thing for the right reasons and everything else takes care of itself."

Hueg went on to say that, "We as a district, and I include everybody in on that, from the constituents that vote for us, to our teachers, to the union organization that our teachers are represented by, to us as a board, to us as administrators, we have a singular purpose, and that is to provide the best education to allow the highest level of student achievement possible."

He agreed with board member Jeff Redmon saying that "we have very difficult decisions to make." Hueg said, "I absolutely agree with that, and the only way we will do that is by coming together. It's in that coming together that we as a district have succeeded many times. I will stand firmly on us coming together. It's only in that open, candid, difficult dialogue that we will find the solutions."

Hueg said even if the district is faced with a budget cut, the district can live with it.

"But let us maintain our local control. Let us work together within our district to find the right solution for our district on how to accomplish that. To tell us what the end game is and then tell us all the rules, what we can and cannot do, that becomes difficult for me personally in being open to many different options," he said.

Hueg told Stuessel he feels that by working together, the district and teachers will find the best solution, "rather than going at each other."

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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