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3 open seats on the Portage School Board; Brown won’t run for re-election

January 4, 2019
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A ballot is shown in a test of voting equipment in February 2018.

The Portage School Board likely will have at least one new member following the April 2 election.

Dan Brown filed his non-candidacy papers for the city seat he’s held since 2013 — one of three open seats on the spring ballot. Matt Foster is running for re-election for the city seat he’s held since 2010 and Chad Edwards is running for the rural seat he’s held since 2013.

Residents Mark Fahey and Michael O’Grady filed paperwork to run for the open city seats prior to Wednesday’s deadline.

The school district will randomly draw the ballot order at 5:15 p.m. Monday.

The school board holds four city seats and three rural seats. Rural candidates must reside within the Portage Community School District but outside city limits, while city candidates must reside within city limits. The term length is three years.

Brown, 69, is a retired teacher who worked in the Portage Community School District for 31 years. Over his career, he taught English, German, directed plays and led the school’s debate program and forensics.

“Overall, I’ve had a very good experience on the board and I’m retiring with good feelings toward the whole process and everybody involved,” said Brown, who cited among his top achievements his involvement in the school district’s planning in the aftermath of the state’s Act 10 — Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011 bill that sharply curtailed most public employees’ collective bargaining rights.

The board’s work included the development of a teacher compensation plan — “a living document” that is reviewed annually by staff and board members alike, Brown said.

“We put together a system that works,” he said.

During his tenure, Brown could not sway the other board members to establish a theater program in the school district, which stands as his “only regret” in his six years on the board, he said. “I hope to someday see more progress there,” he said.

Brown earned a reputation in the school district as a frequent world traveler who provided the school district with a unique perspective during his time as teacher and board member, said Superintendent Margaret Rudolph.

The late German teacher Laura Freitag started the German Exchange program in 1975, but then Brown, along with the now-retired teacher Gloria Carter, helped nurture the program into one that has lasted more than four decades.

“We really appreciate everything he’s given to the district both as a teacher and school board member,” Rudolph said. “It’s about providing opportunities for students and he’s done that.”

Foster, 61, is finishing his third term and works for the Portage collection agency, Bonded Collectors of Wisconsin. Edwards, 44, works in sales for the educational software company, Renaissance Learning.

O’Grady in recent years has filed numerous civil lawsuits and John Doe complaints against public bodies, including the Portage Area School District, the Portage Police Department and Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

In August, Portage City Administrator Shawn Murphy said responding to matters brought forth by O’Grady since 2014 cost the city nearly $15,000 in legal fees and $6,000 in labor.

In September, the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation and attorney general’s office filed a complaint against O’Grady, accusing him of felony stalking, making false statements while under oath and simulation of a legal process.

In the felony stalking case, O’Grady has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Feb. 1 in the Dane County Courthouse.

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