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Forum eyes Muskego School Board candidates' views

Voters will decide which of three candidates will serve short term

March 17, 2014

Muskego — Although all three candidates running for the Muskego-Norway School Board will be elected April 1, the top two vote-getters will get full terms while the third will serve just one year.

So, in a recent candidate forum, Robert Bohmann, Chris Buckmaster and Dean Strom at least had something at stake as they addressed the questions put to them.

The forum sponsored by the Muskego Woman's Club and the Muskego Area Chamber of Commerce was held March 6 at the Muskego City Hall.

Candidate references

Bohmann, appointed in September to fill the term of Michael Serdynski until the general election, and Strom are the incumbents. Buckmaster is a former Muskego alderman. All three were asked to present information about themselves and to explain their position on certain issues.

Bohmann emphasized that his background in commercial banking helps him make sound financial decisions. He said he also serves on boards where sound fiscal leadership is required. With one child in the schools plus a dozen nieces and nephews sprinkled throughout schools in the district, Bohmann also said he brings to the board a broad depth of knowledge.

"I have a vested interest in the success of our district," he said.

Bohmann also said he wants to continue the strong schools and sense of community that brought his family to the district. "We moved here to be an active part of the community and we believe giving back is important," he said.

Strom, who is a financial adviser, called himself a fiscal conservative, though one who doesn't favor the status quo.

"As a parent, one thing I try to stress to my 11-year-old daughter is judging people by their actions. I hope my actions over the last six years have given you the confidence to vote for me," he said to the audience at the forum.

Strom stressed his role in recent district achievements.

"I've been a part of a school board that has helped our schools and our students continue to excel," Strom said, noting, among other successes, Country Meadows Elementary School's status as a 2013 National Blue Ribbon School and the Washington Post naming Muskego High School one of "America's Most Challenging Schools."

Buckmaster called himself an out-of-the-box thinker with a passion for education. He said he will bring a fresh perspective and build relationships with leaders inside government and nonprofit organizations to solve problems, he said.

"These relationships will enable me to activate and engage our entire community to support our children," Buckmaster said, noting that his service as an alderman honed his ability to work with people on both sides of issues.

In his view, education is more than passing tests.

"A good education will instill curiosity and inquisitiveness in our kids. It will make them independent and critical thinkers as well as creative problem-solvers," he said.

Drug abuse and bullying

Concerns voiced by the forum audience included drug abuse and bullying. In response, the candidates said a concerted effort that includes parents is needed to confront both.

Currently, the district is making some efforts to educate parents that the danger is heroin abuse exists even in Muskego. The high school sent parents a link to a video featuring young people, some from Muskego, telling their stories of abuse.

Bohmann said students should be taught how to respond to bullying.

As to cyberbullying, Buckmaster said everything a child does on the web should be monitored. He even monitor's his son's text messages, he said. "There's no expectation of privacy."

Said Strom: "Bullying should not be tolerated."

At the educational Core

The day of the forum, about 100 superintendents of schools from all over the state converged on Madison to support the Common Core educational standards that Wisconsin is implementing. They spoke against a bill that would have derailed that implementation due to a number of criticisms of the standards.

Asked their opinions of Common Core, Bohmann responded that he likes the standards if they increase rigor, but is concerned about the one-size-fits-all approach. State and local educators should decide what fits their students best, he said, adding that he thinks Common Core standards take away the freedom to apply standards as local educators see fit.

Strom said that when the state embraced the Common Core, Muskego-Norway dutifully realigned its curriculum to meet "the law of the land," but now "it has become a political football."

Buckmaster said Common Core is supposed to help American students compete with their counterparts around the world, but, at the same time, colleges are looking for diversity and children with a broad range of skills with a broad curriculum base. "I'm not sure Common Core does that," he said.

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