Jim Stewart

Jim Stewart

Brian Brunner

Brian Brunner

By Heather Ruenz


There are two seats on the April 5 ballot in the Whitewater Unified School District, and two candidates – incumbent Brian Brunner and former, longtime board member Jim Stewart.

The candidates shared their view on the strengths of the district, what they see as upcoming challenges the district will face and what the most important responsibilities of board members are.


Brian Brunner

Political experience: Three terms on the WUSD board

Organizations: School district

Brunner said the district has many strengths including, “good staff, a great administration and a board that functions well.”

The biggest challenge the district will face in the future, according to Brunner, is financial.

“If we want to maintain services we’ll have to go to referendum. We’ve got a fairly stable population which should help referendums in that respect. Some districts that are in declining population are going to face even tougher battles in the near future,” Brunner said.

He said the most important responsibilities for him are to “spend the time to think about the issues and see things from both the taxpayer perspective as well as the teachers. My wife is a teacher so it may be a bit easier for me,” Brunner said.

“It’s important to be open minded and see both perspectives before making a decision. I like to think of myself as a fiscal conservative but we’re going to be facing a referendum so it’s a matter of deciding what I feel about an issue and then conveying that to the public,” he added.

Brunner said that’s part of the reason he ran for the board to begin with.

“I did it to see what really takes place. It’s easy to think decisions being made are not responsible but when you get in there and see all that goes into it, it gives you a very different view. We’re lucky to have a board that works well together, we really are,” Brunner said.


Jim Stewart

Political experience: Former school board member (21 years); former Common Council member (10 years); former State Assembly (two years)

Organizations: League of Women Voters; Whitewater Historical Society; Whitewater Arts Alliance; American Legion; VFW; WUSD financial committee

Stewart said one of the great strengths of the district is the support the community offers.

“They’ve passed several operational referendums with a lot of support,” he said, also noting other qualities that stand out.

“Other strengths are the quality staff and the work they do with the students in both curricular and non-curricular activities. Also, the assessments of students and the academics leading toward pretty good assessments for achievements,” Stewart said.

According to Stewart, financial concerns also top his list of upcoming challenges.

“Facility maintenance is a big one. The amount of money is very preliminary but the rough estimate is $20 million and that’s probably on the high side. And as of now will that even go to referendum?” he said.

“Another challenge is student assessment. The word coming from the state is usually muddled because they change it every year and there’s no continuity. We try to apply the standards but when they change so often it’s a challenge, not to mention the money that gets spent in advance, in preparation for it and then it gets changed,” Stewart said.

The most important responsibilities for school board members, according to Stewart include “a philosophy of transparency in all we do is important, whether it’s policy or staff or referendum. That transparency is being done now and it’s important to continue.”

Another priority, Stewart said, is for the district to continue to attract and retain quality teachers.

“That’s important so I think we need to be able to maintain that and look at a lot of things that play into including housing and other things that may help attract them, to not only the school district, but also the community,” Stewart said.


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