2013 Cudahy School Board Election – Questions and Answers from the Candidates

March 14, 2013

Cudahy School Board Candidates:

Linda Kutka (I), Joan Haske (I), Bob Grams (I), Megan O'Keefe, John Lopez

Cudahy School Board Elections: April 2, 2013

Questions and Answers
(Bob Grams did not participate in these questions.)

Question 1: Why are you running for Cudahy School Board?

Linda Kutka -

Our children are our most valuable asset here in Cudahy. By working together with our families and all of our staff, I really have a passion for education and helping the children fulfill their dreams of their future.

Joan Haske -

First and foremost, I want to give back and be of service. I have served 2 terms now and would like to have a 3rd term. I believe in continuity on the board and also, I would like to be part of and be able to oversee the initiatives that have been started for our students, faculty and employees.

Megan O’Keefe -

As a social worker and Cudahy resident, I care about our children’s future. Every child deserves a quality education which begins in the classroom with quality teachers, 21st century technology and a comprehensive curriculum. I want our students to take pride in their past and to prepare them for their future.

John Lopez -

I see a need for greater community/parent involvement in the Cudahy schools. I’ve had prior experience working within a school district with parents as well as finding ways to involve community businesses in the schools. After several years of volunteering at the school level as well as serving on some district committees, I feel it’s time to get more involved in a way that can impact the decision making.

Question 2: What experience do you bring to the table?

Linda Kutka -

For the past eighteen years, I have had the honor to serve on all the committees along with holding all the positions of Board leadership. During this time I have also been honored as a level 4 out of 5 potential at the Wisconsin Association of School boards for participation of continuing education at the board level. My current profession is a registered nurse, mom of six adult children and grandmother of eight in which five grandchildren are currently students in the Cudahy School District.

Joan Haske -

My work experience: 15 years as Operation Manager of New England Financial, Met Life; 5 years as Substitute Teacher in the Cudahy School District; Education, MBA (Master of Business Administration) Accounting Major; for the past 5 years, I have been Treasurer for the School Board.

Megan O’Keefe -

My background is in child and family social work and I have been serving the youth and families in Milwaukee County for many years. I have previous experience working with youth with disabilities and I currently work in a leadership role at an agency serving at-risk youth in an educational setting. I have a working knowledge of educational policy and I have my Master’s Degree in Social Work with a Graduate Certificate in School Social Work. I am licensed by the state of Wisconsin as a CAPSW (Certified Advanced Practice Social Worker) and am a DPI licensed School Social Worker.

John Lopez -

For 15 years I was a community liaison at a junior high school in Texas. In that capacity I worked closely with at-risk students and their parents serving as a contact person between the home and the school administration and teachers. Part of my job was also finding ways to connect the community businesses with the schools in our district. This lead to the local businesses providing mentors for our students. I’ve also been an active volunteer for many years in schools and church.

Question 3: Cudahy High School gives students the option to take certain classes online. What is your position with online classes and other similar uses of technology?

Linda Kutka -

On-line education is yet another option to reach the varied learner in what format works best for the child. Technology when used along with support from a qualified teacher has the opportunity to enrich a child’s education.

Joan Haske -

My position on the classes that are offered at the “Cudahy Virtual Academy” which are Advance Placement English, Pre-Calculus, Astronomy, and Personal Finance. We are able to offer alternative methods for credit / high school and college. I am in favor of higher standards and high level subjects for our students using the online method. A faculty member is present and in charge of the virtual program.

Megan O’Keefe -

I applaud the recent efforts of our current school board to increase access to technology for our students in their learning environment. By learning how to utilize technology in the classroom, our youth will be better prepared to enter post-secondary education as well as the work force. That being said, technology is only one piece of the puzzle. I’m sure we can all remember valuable life lessons that we learned in school growing up; how to get along with others on the playground, how to handle success without gloating, and how to express our needs to our teachers, among others. These social skills are important for child and adolescent development and cannot be easily replicated by technological advances. While online classes may be a great alternative for some youth and a valuable learning opportunity for others, they are best used as a supplement to a strong core curriculum.

John Lopez -

Technology is here to stay and we need to use it to our advantage. In the past when students found it necessary to help support their family, their only option was to quit school and go to work. Online classes make it easier for a student to work when needed and still continue their education and better their own chances for meaningful employment. Other students who find it difficult to adapt to a traditional structured classroom environment would also benefit from online classes. That being said, however, I do believe there should also be a component built in to online curriculum that requires the students to be monitored by a teacher.

Question 4: Do you feel that Cudahy has effective programs in place that addresses issues like bullying? If so, explain. If not, what can be improved?

Linda Kutka -

Cudahy School District does have programs in the schools to address bullying which are at all levels of education for the child.

Joan Haske-

We have the “Second Step” program in place for K4-8. It is classroom based that teaches social-emotional and self-regulation skills to all students. Some highlights are: Understanding feelings, managing feelings and staying in control, and coping with stress. The Senior High has a mentoring program with trained mentors that lead discussion on social, emotional and academic skills.

Megan O’Keefe -

As was the rest of the community, I was greatly saddened to hear about the number of recent deaths of students at Cudahy High School and my heart goes out to the families and friends of these students. I have learned that the district has taken the initiative to address the issues facing our youth head on as a result of these recent events. I applaud these efforts and, if elected, would support these efforts as well as recommend implementing a district task force to see what support the school district can provide to students experiencing emotional difficulties. As a school social worker, I have knowledge and experience in implementing evidence-based strategies to combat bullying and address other issues that affect student achievement. Examples include the implementation of restorative practices, making connections between home, school, and the community, and teaching peers to stand up to bullying when it occurs (which is widely recognized as the most effective approach).

John Lopez -

I do know that the district has an anti-bullying program in place. Effectiveness can be hard to measure, however. What works in some schools, may not be as effective in other schools. One improvement I would like to see is more effort made in educating the parents as well as the students on issues like bullying. Lessons being taught at school need to be shared with the parents so that everyone is on the same page when it comes to how we treat others.

Question 5: Is there anything that would preclude you from fully executing your duties as a Board member? Do you have sufficient time to devote to this position?

Linda Kutka -

I have no conflicts of interest as I can fully vote on all issues as opposed to several candidates who would benefit financially as they have an employee living in their home would not be able to do so. My current work schedule is scheduled to have the board meetings off. Time spent serving is not an issue as I enjoy it.

Joan Haske -

As a board member, I have to be cognizant of the contracts that we offer and accept. Some of them are: Maintenance contacts such as snow plowing, Computer repair; Administration, Faculty, and Employee contracts; Food service contracts. If for any reason I have an interest in the party getting the contract, I recluse myself from that determination. If I have a vested interested, I am not allowed to vote. Time invested by Board Members: Meeting times for the Board Members are the second and forth Monday of each month. In addition, there are conventions, seminars, and school activities. Each week we receive a packet of material that has to be read. Board Members must be prepared for the meetings. I have not missed more than four board meetings in six years of service. I love being of service and look forward to each board meeting.

Megan O’Keefe -

Prior to declaring my candidacy, I had a chance to talk with Dr. Heiden, Superintendent, about the responsibilities of board members, including the time commitment. I am confident that I would be able to fulfill or exceed the time commitment required of all members.

John Lopez -

The decision to run for School Board was not made lightly. I see no reason why I cannot be an effective member of the Board.

Question 6: If budget cuts were to occur, what would be the top 3-5 things that you will fight for to retain for the students in Cudahy?

Linda Kutka -

Small classroom sizes at the elementary level, having a full music program that encompasses choir, band and orchestra at all levels of education, Gifted and Talented program that includes AP classes and honor classes.

Joan Haske -

First and foremost, I am determined to retain the required curriculum. We now have rule 15 which means we need 15 or more students to make up a class. If not 15, classes are combined. Second thing I am determined to increase Technology. We have made great strides in securing Computers, Notebooks, IPods, and Smart Boards for our teachers and students. Our students need to be technology efficient in order to continue on with higher education or in the work force The Third is our Art programs. Music, Theatre, Drama, Forensic, etc. Forth, is Athletics. We have about 750 students in one or more than one sport. Exercise is great for the mind and body!! We do not want any of our Student programs to be cut. We want to support our Teachers and Students and maintain a balanced budget.

Megan O’Keefe -

During a time of job losses and funding cuts, the district faces a great challenge of how to provide a meaningful, quality education to students without burdening tax payers. I believe that applying a focused, strategic approach to addressing key school issues is the best way to streamline costs. There are low-cost and no-cost ways to improve education and increase student achievement by using existing school reform systems, such as PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Support) or PLC’s (Professional Learning Communities) to implement new initiatives. This is in contrast to the cost of paying a consultant fee and start-up costs for new initiatives that we cannot afford to keep going past the start-up phase, which is money wasted. Specifically, I would support improving our athletic program, keeping and attracting quality teachers and increasing student supports for youth who are considering suicide. Cudahy is a close-knit community full of good people who have varying opinions. Regardless of our views, I feel strongly that we need to put differences aside, find common ground and come together to educate our youth so that they can be prepared for their futures.

John Lopez -

Fine arts – music, art, drama, etc. – are often the first items cut when money gets tight. I feel these are all necessary to make a well-rounded human being. The discipline involved in these activities help students in all areas of their life. So I’d work to keep these in as much as possible.
Technology is involved in every aspect of life, so we need to keep our students as current as possible in the latest advancements. We need to turn out students who are well-prepared to take their place in the workforce.

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