Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely baby daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
HERE IS JANET EVANS' SUMMARY OF HER INTERVIEW WITH FRANKLIN SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATE EDWARD HOLPFER
Ed Holpfer and his wife Barbara have been residents of Franklin for 26 years.
They have a son and daughter who both graduated from Franklin High School.
Ed has run his own Building / Consulting business since 1998 and recently accepted the position of Sales Manager for a company specializing in Commercial and office interiors. He also has executive management experience, having served as Vice President of Administration for a thirty million dollar business with over 400 employees. He was also the President / Executive Director of the West Allis Chamber of Commerce.
Ed has been active in the community for well over twenty years and has served on the following Boards and Commissions:
Franklin Public School Board 2002-2003
Board and Commissions Review Task force
Franklin Board of Public Works
Franklin Storm water Management Task force
Franklin Facility Needs Study Task force
Franklin Civic Celebrations Commissions
Franklin Library Building Committee
Franklin Education Foundation - Charter member
Future Olympic Athletes Training Fund
Franklin Chamber of Commerce Board Member - Eight years on the Board/four as President
Board Member West Allis Business Incubator
West Allis School /business Partnership
West Allis Rotary Club
I can sum up Ed Holpfer this way, “What you see is what you get.” At least, that’s my take on him after my interview.
Ed is running for School Board because he is not happy with the direction the Board has taken over the past few years and he believes he has the knowledge, experience, leadership skills and vision to help the Board become more effective. There can be a large learning curve for new people coming in, making it difficult to be an active participant at first. Ed believes his previous experience as a Board member would allow him the opportunity to have an immediate impact. He has a good command of the process and how the district operates and he would be an active and contributing member immediately.
He believes a School Board member supports the functions of the Board by being well informed and active. While two major functions of a School Board are policy making and evaluation, they also serve as executive management for the district, and as such, provide strategic vision and direction to the Administration. They act as a liaison between the school district and the community to ensure that the community’s educational requirements and desires are met, as well as State and Federal requirements.
As a School Board member, Ed hopes that his experience and business background can help the board to function more effectively and more in tune with the citizens of Franklin. He hopes his perspective helps people see things in a different light and perhaps he can challenge the Board and the district to stretch beyond their comfort levels to reach higher and try harder. Ed also hopes he can help to foster a feeling of openness and trust, as well as communication and accountability.
I questioned Ed about what issues he felt were in the greatest need of being addressed by the Board. He responded that in the short term, the Board needs to regain the confidence of the community and get on with the business at hand. Obviously, at some point the district’s space needs will have to be addressed in both the short and long term. He believes there needs to be some discussion regarding the budget process and how that information is disseminated among the board and the greater community. Given his past experience and knowledge of the District, there are many issues that Ed would like to see addressed over the course of a three-year term.
I asked Ed what his vision is for the performance of the Franklin Public School District. He responded by saying his vision of the District's performance really only counts if it is a shared vision with the rest of the Board. He would like to establish a set of criteria by which to judge performance against the surrounding Milwaukee metro area districts on core competencies with an additional subset of criteria comparing only schools of same size and budget. Ed would work in conjunction with the Board, the staff and the community to establish what is important to be measured, how we would measure it and what percentile of proficiency we want to achieve. More importantly, what level would the community support financially? For example, if the goal is to be in the top 10% in all competencies, but in the lowest percent for salaries and benefits, then the goal of top 10% would probably be unrealistic.
Regarding achievement, Ed said he would rate our district at a “B.” He feels it is a little above average, but certainly not the best it could be. When asked how he would measure achievement, he said some of the benchmarks that he feels important are, in no particular order, grades, test scores, participation, graduation rates, extra curricular participation, community service, college acceptance, trade school acceptance, employability, attainment of district goals, and meeting Local, State, and Federal standards.
On taxes, while he does not agree with the Board on all budgetary issues, Ed believes the Franklin Public Schools have generally been fiscally responsible. He has first-hand knowledge as to the complexities and limitations of the budgeting process. He said there was a time when he was very vocal in his opposition to the way this district spent its money, but over the years, the district has done a much better job in how it has handles the budget. While there are some current concerns over how things were done in the last budget, publicly calling the board fiscally irresponsible would, in his opinion, be a misstatement.
I asked Ed if he saw any areas where cuts in spending might be made. He said, when you look at the large percentage of the budget that goes to cover mandated programs and costs, the percentage of discretionary spending is pretty small by comparison. He is not prepared, at this time, to name areas that he thinks could be cut without performing some due diligence and looking at a cost/benefit analysis.
When asked, if necessary, how he would convince others that cuts in spending needed to be made, Ed responded that to sit on a Board and just vote no to spending issues (especially if you’re the lone no vote) really won’t accomplish anything. The key to positive change is to come to some consensus on priorities and by defining the differences between wants and needs. When the due diligence is done and the facts are presented, you need to have an honest and open discussion of what the priorities are and what options are available, as well as a comparison of costs to benefits. All parties need to have an open mind and some room for compromise. Ed said, throughout his career, he has demonstrated an ability to build consensus and help to move things along.
Regarding reducing spending without adversely affecting student achievement, Ed said over the years he has heard candidates and the general public say, “we need to cut the fat” or “eliminate waste” and yet he has not really seen any major results. As he mentioned previously, the discretionary portion of the budget is relatively small. In his estimation, the way to reduce waste is to reduce or eliminate activities that provide little or no value. If they are mandated activities, how do you meet the needed requirements in less time with lower costs?
Whether you use Lean methodology, continuous quality improvement practices or some other performance enhancing discipline, these require a total commitment from the top to the bottom of the organization and should not be taken on half-heartedly, and without extensive research to find a process that fits our application and gives the most likely chance for success. By eliminating activities with little or no value you would not have a negative impact on student achievement.
On the issue of programs and extra-curriculars, Ed feels that as a candidate, and not an active member with current knowledge of the effectiveness of all the activities and programs available to students, he can’t say with certainty that a particular activity or program makes absolutely no contribution to student achievement and could or should be cut. He would prefer to look at how many students are involved and at what cost to achieve what benefits when reviewing potential activities to cut or reduce. Ed would also like to look at what could be combined with other schools to keep an activity available if it was providing a benefit.
Having put two children through the district, he remembers the fundraisers he participated in over the years. As inconvenient as it was at times, we did it because it was for our children. The district already has in place activity fees to help offset some of the costs of these activities. Ed said he would probably support some increase in these fees if it were necessary to keep these activities available. However, as an elected official, he would need to consider the impact of higher fees on families that may find those fees prohibitive. As a member of a public Board you have responsibilities to a very diverse constituency.
Ed feels the Superintendent is responsible for the operation and effectiveness of the district and serves to fulfill the goals and objectives of the district as determined by the Board (reflecting the desires of the community) the staff and all appropriate regulating bodies. He feels it is the hiring of a Superintendent with the same core values and philosophies that represent those of the Board and the community is essential in achieving success in the district. You need to have the right person in place and the last Superintendent was certainly not the right fit.
As a Board member, communicating with the public would be a priority for Ed. He feels there is currently room for improvement. He also believes that no matter how hard you try, there will always be someone that says “nobody told me.” You have to do the best job you are able to do and listen to the public and find out the best ways to share the information, documenting all of your efforts and making them public. Public input is critical in Ed’s decision making process because he believes the direction, standards and expectations of the district should reflect what the community expects from their school system. That input needs to come from all stakeholders in the district, including those residents that do not have students in the system, the businesses in the community that may employ our students, and the colleges that will continue their educations. That public input serves as a filter to help evaluate and prioritize information in conjunction with input from internal sources, as well as other external sources.
Ed closed by saying he has served on and worked directly for several Boards. He knows how to conduct Board business. He has a vision of how good this district could become and would be a good steward of citizen tax dollars. His desire is not to focus on the mistakes of the past. That won’t solve the issues we face. He would rather spend his time and energy making sure those mistakes are not repeated and that we are focused on making the best district possible given the resources available.
We need a school district that is open and completely transparent in its dealings.
We need a school district that reflects the standards and expectations of the residents of Franklin.
We need a school district that performs at a high level, achieving high results while operating as efficiently as possible.
If elected, those would be Ed Holpfer’s goals.