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Election 2015: Sun Prairie School Board

Marta Hansen, David Hoekstra, Mike Krachey and Marilyn Ruffin 

Four candidates, including one incumbent, are seeking three open seats on the Sun Prairie School Board. The top two finishers will serve three-year terms, and the third-place winner will serve a one-year term. (I) indicates incumbent.

Marta Hansen

Age: 35

Address: 119 E. Kohler St., Sun Prairie

Family: Married, two children, ages 3 and 6

Job: Owner, The Piano Gal Shop; Piano Technician

Political experience: None

Other public service: Sun Prairie Chamber of Commerce, BID

Education: Bachelor’s of music in music education K-12 from UW-Madison in 2003

David Hoekstra

Age: 50

Address: 1077 Virdon Drive, Sun Prairie

Family: Married, two adult children

Job: Mechanical engineer, 26 years

Political experience: None

Public Service: member, school board planning committee, space planning committee; Sunday School teacher

Education: Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from UW-Madison in 1987

Mike Krachey (I)

Age: 38

Address: 6655 Tartan Trail, Sun Prairie

Family: Married, two children, ages 13 and 10

Job: Assistant portfolio manager, Northern Capital Management

Political experience: Serving first three-year term on the Sun Prairie School Board

Other public service: Chair of Community Engagement Committee, member of Town of Bristol Parks Committee, past treasurer of Westside OPTS parent group

Education: Bachelor’s degree in accounting from UW-Madison in 1999

Marilyn Ruffin

Age: 48

Address: 1555 Wild Iris St., Sun Prairie

Family: Husband, Jerry M. Ruffin, two teenage sons, one adult daughter, two grandsons

Job: Certified substitute teacher with 20+ years experience in professional engineering positions

Political experience: None

Other public service: Treasurer, Madison Links, a non-profit organization committed to educational, civic and intercultural programs and projects for K-12 students; chair of Madison Links’ “Service to Youth” facet, sponsoring eighth-grade Girls Conference (March 2) and African American Student Recognition Program (June 7); board member of the African American Ethnic Academy, a Saturday morning enrichment program for pre-K through fifth grade; past secretary for PTA/PTO for two Madison elementary schools

Education: Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology in 1991

Q&A

How can the district improve accountability to parents?

Hansen: Accountability is improved through finding a better way to measure student growth. It also involves educating parents on how to be and stay involved in their child’s education. It’s important for teachers, students and parents to work as a team. Communication is key and understanding what goes on in the classroom on a day-to-day basis will shed better light on what truly makes a district accountable.

Hoekstra: Ultimately, we need to get parents involved more. We need to invite them to be part of the decision-making process within the district. We need to give them access to all levels of the administration, as well as the school board.

Krachey: Our students and staff are doing great things in and out of the classroom and we need to showcase this to our parents. Recently we implemented community nights to educate our families on all of the amazing things happening. This is an opportunity for all those in the district to learn about what’s going on and create accountability.

Ruffin: Keep the lines of communication open by ensuring every parent has access, paper or on-line, to important data about each public school as a whole: demographics, school safety, academics, class sizes, curriculum, instruction, fiscal expenditures, etc. Additionally, the district must allocate time with parents to review so that they can make an informed decision regarding the education of their children.

Should the district continue to use tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards or another test?

Hansen: At this point, teachers and administration have worked incredibly hard to prepare and begin to implement the Common Core standards into their classrooms, which was a very big change with a tireless amount of work. To change the testing now would be detrimental to teachers, students and communities.

Hoekstra: I am OK with the Common Core standard tests. As a district we have invested a lot of money and the training of teachers and staff. I think near term we should stick with what we have. I am up for discussion down the road if we want (the testing) to be more of a local standard.

Krachey: After reviewing the Badger exam, I believe this test is not age appropriate for our younger children and will not provide a valid assessment of our student’s strengths and weaknesses. I would be in favor of using a different exam that can provide a better assessment to drive curriculum and instruction in our district.

Ruffin: Since preparation started in 2010 and $25 million has already been spent to implement these tests, it would seem fiscally irresponsible to start all over due to political nature versus educational policies. Not using tests aligned with the curriculum we already teach would be a disservice to our students.

How would you assess the superintendent’s performance?

Hansen: As a community member who is not currently on the board, nor am I working in district office, I do not think that I can fairly judge the superintendent’s performance on a very meaningful level. That being said, from an educated community member’s perspective, I believe that he has done good work, but perhaps improvement could be made with a clearer vision for the district.

Hoekstra: He is officially retiring as of June 30. I think he did a good job with this district, considering all the growth we’ve had. I think it is a good time for some fresh ideas, new personnel. The timing is good for some new eyes and new blood to take the district to the next level.

Krachey: The success of our superintendent is directly related to Sun Prairie becoming the district of choice in Dane County. When teachers and support staff desire to work within our district and when parents and students want to relocate here or choose to stay, then the superintendent is succeeding in the vision and mission of this school district.

Ruffin: Exiting Sun Prairie Superintendent Dr. Culver has led our district as it grew by nearly 4,000 students in 17 years with significant shifts in student demographics, built two new elementary schools and one new high school, remodeled all existing schools to meet equity standards, improved the district’s financial balance while operating below state revenue limits, and increased communication efforts.

— George Hesselberg

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