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New Greenfield and Whitnall board members share their school thoughts

April 16, 2013

Greenfield - The spring election will bring changes to two local school boards.

Robert Hansen succeeds Don Carlson, who is stepping down from the Greenfield School Board, and LuAnn Bird succeeds Rick Kollauf, who stepped down after being appointed to fill a vacancy on the Whitnall School Board. Both ran unopposed in this month's general election.

Robert Hansen

Hansen, who has an 11-year-old daughter in the district, said he is looking forward to being on the board for several reasons.

"We're at a point where a lot of things Greenfield could and should be doing is not getting done," Hansen said.

For one thing, he sees the schools falling behind in technology in the classroom, he said, noting that districts all over the country are introducing tablet computers for use in school.

Technology is expensive, but he said there could be ways around spending a lot of money - such as letting students bring their own tablets to school, or structuring partnerships with businesses or organizations outside the schools to reduce the cost of technology or other school programs.

Also, not spending tens of thousands of dollars on things like the new concession stand at the high school would free up cash, he said.

The School Board itself was dismayed at the concession stand expenditure that was approved by a construction team that included administrators but not the School Board.

"I've seen reports of things that they spent money on and they might not have been the wisest use of money," Hansen said.

Hansen also questioned the emphasis on doing well on standardized tests, which don't show if students know how to apply that knowledge, he said.

On fiscal matters, Hansen views education as an investment in the future, but he said he would support spending more only if it leads to better outcomes for students.

Strengths that he believes he brings to the board include openness to ideas and a desire to work as a team. Part of that team effort involves bringing everyone to the table, even if the board and administration can unilaterally approve changes, he said.

And working at a body shop, Hansen said he understands the work ethic and how young people need to learn the social skills that will serve them well in the workforce.

Luann Bird

Making school boards work better to improve student achievement was what Bird did for a living as a consultant for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. She worked with boards all over Wisconsin and then was recruited by Alabama to do the same.

Part of her work involved seeing how quality school districts use their scarce resources. Bird said she has seen poverty-ridden schools with every child reading and writing at grade level, which is hard for even well-funded schools to do.

She listened as superintendents who visited those schools remarked that those places didn't have any more resources than their own schools did, yet had far better results.

A former six-year Oshkosh School Board member, Bird has found that the biggest bang for a buck is achieved with good teachers. That means professional development is an important place to put money, Bird said.

In the classroom, she favors encouraging student engagement through project-based education involving teams of students, especially at the high school. She said she wants students to be able to use video and Skype so that they can even talk directly to a professor in China, for example, instead of reading facts from books.

When students have control over their learning, they take ownership and the results are better, said Bird, who praised the schools for getting Apple iPads into classrooms.

Bird said school taxes are a sore spot for everyone, including her.

"We do pay a lot of taxes in Whitnall," she said. "I'm big on accountability on those taxes. … If we are going to get results, we want to have to look at where we're putting our resources."

Inevitably, the schools will need more money at some point, but if taxpayers are engaged and know that the money will be put to good use, they will support higher taxes, she said.

School boards usually only come to taxpayers when they want more money, and that's unfair, she said.

"All we have to do is find more effective ways to connect people with the schools," Bird said.

Then everyone will be pulling together around a shared vision, and things will get done, she said.

As to strengths she will bring to the board, Bird said that in addition to wide educational experience, "I'm accessible, available and here."

Acknowledging that she has only lived in the district since August, Bird said she is so thankful for the education her two children received that she wants to bring that to all children.

"I love serving the public in this way," she said.

GREENFIELD SCHOOL BOARD

ROBERT HANSEN

Age: 36

Address: 3328 W. Vogel Ave.

Years in community: 5

Employer/occupation: Lou's Auto Body-Carstar quality control technician

Education: Bay De Noc Community College in Escanaba, Mich.; Kalamazoo Community College in Kalamazoo, Mich.; Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich.

Political history: Progressive Democrats Of America in Milwaukee County, co-chair 2011-present; Peace Action Wisconsin, steering committee, elected December 2012

Community involvement: co-founder of Songs For The Soul annual fundraiser for Sojourner Family Peace Center, Milwaukee Women's Center, Hunger Task Force, and many others; annual performer at Linneman's Nod To Bob Hunger Task Force fundraiser which raises about $4,000 annually; also performed at Steel Bridge Song Fest to raise money for the National Historical Society to restore the iconic steel bridge that has long been the gateway to Door County; volunteered at various Elmdale PTO events in the last few years.

Family: Engaged to Karen Kirsch; daughter Abigail, age 11

Contact: (414) 828-7318; also awaiting assignment of district email

WHITNALL SCHOOL BOARD

LUANN BIRD

Age: 59

Address: 5155 Brandons Court, Hales Corners

Years in community: eight months

Employer/occupation: retired; former director of board development for the Alabama Association of School Boards; board governance consultant for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards; fund developer, ADVOCAP

Education: masters in public administration, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh 2010; bachelor's degree in community leadership and development, Alverno College 2001; associate degree in quality management, Fox Valley Technical College, 1998

Political history: elected Oshkosh School Board, 1995-2001, two years as president; appointed Wisconsin Legislative Council Study on Teacher Preparation, Licensing 1996-1997; appointed Sunset Point Sanitary District, secretary, 1993-1996;

Community involvement: League of Women Voters of Milwaukee County, vice president Alverno College Alumnae Board, co-chair governance committee Milwaukee Succeeds, member of Career and College Readiness Task Force

Family: husband, Phil; daughter Elizabeth, 28, and her husband Adam, both teachers in Milwaukee; son Tom, 24, is a doctor's degree student in plasma physics at the Max Planck Society in Greifswald, Germany; grandson is 11 months old.

Contact: (414) 235-8310; lbird@whitnall.com

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