By Tracy Ouellette
Editor in Chief
The East Troy Community School District Board of Education has a seat on the spring ballot and three candidates have thrown their hats into the ring, requiring a primary election on Tuesday. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
Incumbent School Board member Steve Lambrechts is facing challengers Kevin Bong and John Lightfield.
We asked the candidates to weigh in on some of the pressing issues facing the School District, including the operational referendum on the April 4 ballot.
Here are their reponses:
Do you support the School District’s operational referendum? Why or why not?
Bong: I am a strong supporter of the operational referendum. Operational referendums are not an “added tax” beyond what residents should expect to pay for their schools, they are the mechanism intended by our legislators in Madison to be used to fund the schools. Our school is not meant to or able to meet the needs of our students and community without passing periodic referendums. That is why every nearby school district has passed one or more funding referendums in the last seven years except East Troy and Palmyra Eagle.
Lambrechts: I absolutely Support the Schools District’s Operational Referendum. The funding provided by the State, to support schools, has not kept pace with inflation and most of the mandates required. The state has said that they provide a tool for districts to use in order to make up for the lack of funding – that tool is to go to referendum. No one likes their taxes to go up, but we as a community have a responsibility to fund the education of the next generation just like our parents and grandparents did for us. The funds from a referendum will help us try to maintain programming and help remain competitive as a district.
Lightfield: Yes. state law puts our community in the position that we either pass a referendum or our schools fire staff and cut programs.
If the referendum fails, what are your suggestions for the district to maintain programming and staffing levels?
Lambrechts: If the referendum does not pass, we as a board will likely be forced to make decisions as to where to reduce programming and services. This could make us less competitive as a district.
Lightfield: It is not possible. The state would have to completely change its approach to funding schools. Our whole community needs to correct our representatives’ approach.
Bong: If the referendum fails I don’t believe it is possible to maintain programming and staffing levels. If elected to the board, then without a referendum I would work to make thoughtful but necessary cuts focusing on changes that will have the least impact on our ability to attract students to and retain students in the district.
Books are being pulled/banned from school libraries across the country. What is your stance on this?
Lightfield: First, I trust our staff to make decisions about the books in our schools.
Bong: I am strongly opposed to book bans in schools and libraries. Pornography and erotica have no place in schools, but calling literature pornography because it deals with issues of sexuality, relationships, LGBTQ topics or similar content is wrong. Honest discussions about history and race may not always be comfortable for everyone in the classroom, but those are the experiences that help each student grow as a person. Too often book bans that claim to be protecting children are really driven by a desire to prevent people from learning about a point of view that the book banner disagrees with.
Lambrechts: I do not support a blanket policy of banning books. If there are particular book that someone feels do not belong in the District they are free to bring the concerns to the district and that book will be evaluated.
What do you think you can bring to the School Board?
Bong: With an adult son with special needs and a daughter that both recently graduated from East Troy, and two kids still in the district schools, I have many years of experience with the needs and challenges of students taking all different paths through their East Troy Schools experience. I am compassionate, analytical and apt to perform research from reliable and vetted sources before making decisions. I am proud of the character that I see in our East Troy students and staff every day and would work very hard to make sure the board makes the best decisions to support that character and culture.
Lambrechts: I feel I bring a unique perspective to the district. Living and owning a business in the district for over 30 years, coaching sports at various levels, having our our children educated in the district and now grandchildren in the schools. My business background also aids in understanding the challenges that the district faces and finding ways to work through those challenges.
Lightfield: I would bring a different skill set to the board. My day job has me sifting through statutes, regulations, and government policies – then talking about them with people who were wise enough to stay out of law school.