Candidate Q&A: McFarland School District
An educational researcher at UW-Madison is challenging two incumbents for two seats on the McFarland School Board in the April 2 election. The terms are for three years. (I) indicates incumbent.
Arlyn Halvorson (I)
Address: 4128 Mahoney Road
Family: Married with four children and four grandchildren
Job: Dane County Highway, farmer
Prior elected office: 24 years on McFarland School Board, current president, former vice president and treasurer
Other public service: Eight years on Madison College District Board of Trustees, current vice-chairperson, former treasurer and secretary; 14 years on American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, current president and former vice president; Dane County Yahara Watershed Committee
Education: McFarland High School
Craig Howery (I)
Address: 5307 Timber Lane
Family: Married with two children and two grandchildren
Job: Retired IT consultant
Prior elected office: Vice president, McFarland School Board, nine years in office
Other public service: Charter member and former president, McFarland Education Foundation; McFarland Youth Center Board of Directors; former president, McFarland Organized Boosters; Ad Hoc Committee for McFarland Senior Center development; mentor for at-risk third- and fourth-grade students
Education: Associate degrees in electrical engineering and network design from the Wisconsin School of Electronics
Address: 5103 Black Walnut Drive
Family: Single with three children
Job: Educational researcher and scientist at UW-Madison
Prior elected office: None
Other public service: Member, Superintendent’s Equity Roundtable for McFarland School District; president/member, McFarland Boys Basketball Association; chairwoman/board member, Child Life Ministries at McFarland Lutheran Church; volunteer, evaluation consultant for community initiatives; facilitator, New Perspectives Book Group; volunteer coordinator, McFarland Family Festival
Education: Master’s degree in psychology and sociology from Carroll College; master’s degree in counselor education from Northern Illinois University; Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy analysis from UW-Madison
What makes you better qualified than your opponents for this position?
Halvorson: Demonstrated proven track record of successful Board of Education (BOE) experience: Served on the BOE for the past 23 years (the past 15+ years as president). Demonstrated ability to work together with BOE members, and the school community in moving forward the district’s mission. Current and past leadership experience: vice-chair of Madison College Board and president of AFSCME Local 65.
Howery: I’ve been a McFarland resident since 1966, graduated from MHS in 1971, and my children graduated in 2003 and 2004. I have two grandchildren in the district also. This gives me an historical perspective that serves me well as a candidate. I find that being retired allows me the opportunity to properly prepare for board meetings and associated committee meetings.
Pribbenow: I have over 20 years of professional experience studying K-12 and post-secondary education, evaluating policies and educational interventions, and being accountable for large-scale budgets and projects. I also have two children in district schools and a third who recently graduated, which is unlike the other candidates. I would bring current, relevant knowledge and experience to the School Board.
What’s one new way the school district could keep property taxes in check?
Halvorson: Nothing is “new” about being fiscally responsible. It is not only about keeping property taxes in check, but looking at return on investment. We need to continue efforts to collaborate with other educational institutions and service providers. For example, in the future we hope to be graduating students with two years of college transferable credits, an associate degree, or apprenticeship program.
Howery: Our district searches for opportunities that provide relief to our taxpayers. An example of that is the unique partnership the district sought out and established with the Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA). This partnership provides revenue that allows the district to pass along less expense to our residents. Also, the district and village must work together to attract more commercial development.
Pribbenow: A referendum was passed in 2016 that impacts property taxes through 2019-20. During this time, alternative sources of funding to support student learning and professional development for teachers and staff could be sought through the submission of grant proposals to federal agencies and foundations that fund educational initiatives. These are sources of revenue that our district has not fully explored.
How would you help raise student achievement?
Halvorson: Approximately 80 to 85 percent of the district’s budget is invested in personnel. It is critically important to: A) Hire the best people, and provide them the support that they need to address the students’ diverse needs and interests. B) Have a personnel evaluation process that ensures everyone is “carrying their weight.” C) Establish a nurturing and welcoming school climate.
Howery: The district is just over two years into transitioning to a standards-based grading system with an eye toward improved student achievement. The district offers many learning opportunities, both curricular and co-curricular, to our students. Historically, students that participate in co-curricular activities achieve across-the-board success to a higher degree than those who choose not to.
Pribbenow: I would first identify the areas of student achievement that need attention through a careful review of student data and other evidence of student learning/outcomes. Once identified, we need to identify the factors that are contributing to lack of achievement by getting input from teachers, administrators and parents. It’s through focused, collective action that student achievement can be increased.