The North Crawford School District will have two open positions and four candidates on the April 1 ballot.
One incumbent, Aaron Fortney, is seeking re-election. Also running for the two positions are Wade Dull, Jim Dworschack and Jorn Bansberg. Dull is currently serving by board appointment in the seat recently vacated by Mike Bedessem, who has moved out of the district.
All four candidates have children attending North Crawford.
Meet the candidates--
Bansberg, 52, lives at 42990 Sleepy Hollow Road, Gays Mills, with his wife Jill Stefanok. They have one daughter, seven year-old Gabriela.
He has a Bachelor in Science in Biochemistry from UW-Madison and a Bachelors of Science in Medical Technology from UW-LaCrosse.
Bansberg works for Vernon Memorial Hospital as a Medical Technologist. He also teaches laboratory science at Western Technical College in Viroqua and skiing at Mt. LaCrosse.
Dworschack, 60, lives at 48244 Norwegian Hollow Road, Soldiers Grove, with his wife Linda. They have three children: Jessica, 30; Mattias, 19; and Willa, 16.
He has a Chemical Engineering degree from Iowa State University.
Dworschack works with a variety of companies as an independent engineer, designing systems and solutions specific to their needs.
He serves on the board of directors for Mayan Hope, a free special education school in Nebaj, Guatemala, where Dworschack and his family have volunteered and for whom they continue to fundraise.
Dworschack and his wife homeschooled their youngest two children through middle school and enrolled them in North Crawford for high school.
Dull lives at 15625 Highway 61, Soldiers Grove, with his wife Colleen. They have eleven children: Jesse, 34; Ahren, 33; Bailey, 29; Codie, 26; Brittany, 25; Amberlea, 24; Katie, 21; Keionna, 18; Ethan, 16; Liam, 15; and Caleb, 13.
He is a graduate of North Crawford High School and received certification in Ag Equipment from Southwest Technical College in Fennimore.
Dull is a retired farmer.
He has served as a supervisor on the Crawford County Board of Supervisors for the last eight years.
Fortney, 44, lives with his wife Nicole at 16703 Highway 131, Gays Mills. They have two children: Kayla, 20, and Hunter, 17.
He is a graduate of North Crawford High School and attended the University of Minnesota-Waseca for one year.
Fortney is a full-time employee at Sunrise Orchards and works part-time as a Rural Carrier Associate (substitute) mail carrier for the United States Postal Service in Gays Mills.
He has served on the Franklin Lutheran Church Council, as secretary of the Gays Mills Fire Department, and with the Gays Mills Lions Club. Fortney currently sits on the North Crawford School Board and is finishing a term on the Village of Gays Mills Board.
Common Core Standards
All four candidates are leery of attempts to rewrite educational standards, ending the use of the recently implemented, federally developed Common Core standard.
“I know it’s not perfect,” Dull said. “There was a lot of money spent implementing this, and now the state is looking to get rid of it. This will just cost taxpayers more.”
“Common Core is an excellent idea and it’s already implemented,” Bansberg said. “This is a completely political move.”
The move could only increase costs without improving achievement, given the implementation had not had time to prove it’s effectiveness or lack of it, according to Bansberg.
“The school has put a huge amount of money and effort into implementation,” Dworschack said. “This seems like a political play for a (Governor Scott) Walker presidential bid and not in the interest of schools from whom they have already cut funding.”
“My concern is the fact that not just our school, but every school in the state has put in effort to get this up and working,” Fortney said. “Just when it’s beginning to work well, they are talking about basically taking the wheels off the bus.”
Fitness center referendum
All four candidates agree that fitness is an important goal, but Bansberg expressed some reservations about the North Crawford Fitness Center proposal.
“I think fitness is a good idea,” Bansberg said. “I have some reservations about the cost and what affect it will have on the tax rate.”
Saying that movement and nutrition are important goals to instill in children, Bansberg stressed that he felt it was important to make sure the proposed fitness center would be able to pay for itself before making the investment.
Fortney sees the proposed fitness center as an excellent opportunity for helping the entire community become healthier.
“It will raise my taxes too, but it is not that much - $45 per $100,000 of equalized value,” Fortney said. “I hope the community can keep an open mind and get the facts from the school before they make up their mind.”
Rumors have been rampant about the project, Fortney said, and he wants to see the community well informed before they cast their votes in the referendum.
Dull sees community involvement as key to the project’s success.
“It’s a very good project if you can get the community involved and more fit, but we still have details to work out,” Dull said.
“I only know what I have read in the papers and I have more to learn, but that said, I think it sounds like a great idea,” Dworschack said. “The goal of better health is an admirable goal.”
He needed to learn what information has been gathered before he would be ready to make up his mind as both a voter and possible school board member, Dworschack noted.
A new track?
The school board has been discussing issues about the current track and possibly resurfacing it.
“There was money previously set aside,” said Dull. “But it wasn’t done. It’s being discussed, but it’s not clear yet how it can be paid for. It’s very expensive.”
“I haven’t analyzed the options,” Bansberg said. “It is a huge cost, so I am leery at this time, since I am not sure where the money to pay for it is.”
“Anyone on the track team would want this, obviously, but it is a budget issue, you have to be able to pay for it first,” Dworschack said.
“I don’t know if we can pair this with the fitness center project, but the fact is we do need a new track,” Fortney said. “We have a ground squirrel problem you wouldn’t believe. The damage they have caused has left portions of the track eroding and washing away.”
“This is possibly a good way to do everything at once,” Fortney added, saying it was an issue of what kind of funding could be found and what kind of surface type the board and school administration wanted.
Food and nutrition
North Crawford, like all other public schools, has had to implement the federally mandated nutrition guideline changes for the school lunch program designed to help fight rising obesity rates. At the same time, the school has been working to implement more farm-to-school projects to bring fresh, local produce into the classroom and onto student plates.
“I don’t really know the background on the school nutrition issue,” Dworschack admitted. “In general, I would support not offering the foods that contribute to obesity and support increasing consumption of locally produced food.”
“I think we are doing better health-wise, and certainly the food is far better than it used to be,” Fortney said. “This is also the first time in awhile that the food service has operated in the black.”
Bansberg saw keeping the cost under control as important, referencing the high percentage of students eligible for the free and reduced lunch program.
“I support focusing on food that is better in terms of less processed with more prepared on site,” Bansberg said.
Dull was more cautious in his praise, recognizing the school’s positive response to the federal mandate.
“I am not sure the government should be deciding how much kids are being fed at school,” Dull said. “Every kid is different, they have different needs, and the mandate doesn’t account for that.”
Dull, Fortney, and Dworschack were hesitant to take a stand on the school mil rate.
Bansberg was unequivocal in his stance.
“I am against raising our local taxes,” Bansberg said. “What I am for is equality in funding of all school districts. Every school should be funded the same. Our students should receive the same funding as students in a wealthy district.”
Bansberg sees equalized state funding as the means for ensuring fair play in school funding.
“I don’t like the cuts that have been implemented by the state and the freeze on revenue limits,” Dull said. “It’s also happening at the county. Schools have been operating with these constraints for years, but I don’t know enough about the school budget yet to see the full impact.”
“I view the future of our country as the kids, and schools are a priority in ensuring their success,” Dworschack said. “But I have not had the opportunity to learn enough about the taxes and school budget yet to make an assessment on the mil rate.”
Fortney noted that the mil rate has been a relatively stable number for some years and that legislative effort over the last few years was helping to keep it stable.
Bullying is a perennial problem for every school.
“Bullying is very hard to address because every situation is different,” Fortney said.
Fortney noted that the definition of bullying has changed over the years, as have the means in which it can be carried out, pointing to the use of social media to harass or intimidate.
“Perhaps, the biggest problem is getting people to come forward, to bring it out in public,” Fortney said. “Perhaps they are embarrassed, but we can’t respond unless it is brought to the board.”
Dull feels the school is handling the issue the best they legally can, and that participation by parents is the key to improving it further.
“You have to get the parents involved,” Dull said. “Getting them to admit when their kid is bullying or being bullied—you can’t help the kids when the problem isn’t being recognized.”
Bansberg is a believer that bullying is not to be tolerated.
“I am not sure exactly what all the policies are,” Bansberg said. “I am interested in making sure the athletic standards are clearer about the expectations of student conduct and sportsmanship and what the coaches responsibilities are in respect to poor behavior.”
Dworschack said he had not reviewed the school’s policies about bullying, nor had direct experience with the issue as a parent, so it would be a topic he would need to learn more about should he be elected to the board.
The reason for serving
It’s all about the kids.
“It is about serving the kids’ interests the best I can,” Bansberg said. “I have an interest in not raising taxes. But I am here to learn, to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of the district’s kids and their future.”
“I have been thinking that I would be interested in some form of community service,” Dworschack said. “I had a board member tell me about Mike Bedessem leaving and that position being open. It felt like my interest and the needs of the community were coming together. It feels important. I don’t have an agenda to fulfill. I view myself as being able to look at a situation, to take in input, and to work on creating an answer that best meets the needs of the school and the kids.”
“This is something I have been thinking about for years, but with a conflict of interest due to my wife being a teacher, I didn’t pursue it,” Dull said. “But now that she has retired... My father served on the school board for many years, so I had that example before me. As to accomplishing anything, well one board member can’t accomplish much. You are one vote. But you can work with the others to make the best decisions you are able.”
“I grew up in the country, so to me the school was all about community, it is where I got to see people I might not otherwise know,” Fortney said. “It is every community’s mixing pot. My concern now is that we need to continue to make it a safer place. I want to make sure we continue to make sure the kids have the opportunity to participate in school athletics and to learn in an environment that is healthy in an overall kind of way.”