Three seek seat on Rio school board

February 27, 2019

RIO — Four candidates will be on the spring ballot for two open seats on the Rio School Board, but only three of them want the job.

Candidate Travis Heiman said Thursday that for personal reasons, he no longer will pursue a seat on the board. His name will be on the April 2 ballot because candidates cannot remove their names from the ballot once they’ve filed the paperwork to run for an election, said Columbia County Clerk Susan Moll.

Incumbent Doug Shippert is running for a fourth three-year term. Andrea Becker is also vying to remain on the board after she was appointed in January following Susan Ferriter’s resignation due to health concerns, said the school district’s business manager, Lois Sunde. Ferriter had served on the board since 2013. Challenger Beth Laufenberg is also on the ballot.

“I’m running,” Shippert said, “because I feel that I have a really good understanding of this community and what its needs in education are.”

Shippert has served on the board since 2007, non-consecutively. He has 43 years of education experience, including 20 as the principal of Rio High School before he retired from the position in 2005.

“I just think it’s so important for people to keep themselves informed (about education) and to make good decisions at the local level,” he said of his service on the board. “We’re seeking another referendum in the spring because we need to (in order to survive). School districts like ours face this repetitive need for extra funds, and we just wouldn’t last for very long without the community’s support.”

In the April election, Rio Community School District seeks a three-year operational referendum that would allow it to exceed the revenue limit by $1 million in 2019-2020, $1.18 million in 2020-2021 and $1.25 million in the third year. Three years ago, voters approved a three-year referendum for Rio — with 897 voting yes and 447 no — allowing it to exceed the revenue limit by $825,000 in 2016-17, $900,000 the next year and $975,000 for this school year.

Becker is the senior vice president of DMB Community Bank in DeForest and a 2002 Rio High School graduate with two children attending Rio Elementary.

“For a very long time, I’ve had an interest in running for the school board, in part, because my father-in-law had served on it for so many years,” Becker said in reference to Paul Becker, who she estimated to have served on the board for about 20 years, including during the time she attended school in Rio. Paul Becker retired from the board more than a decade ago, she noted.

“I’m very passionate about making sure the small schools can continue, in making sure this school district remains viable,” Becker said. “My family lives in this community, and we’re active in it and we know what it stands for. I believe the heart of this community is its school, and I want my kids to have the same experiences I did growing up.”

Laufenberg is an internal auditor at Summit Credit Union in Madison who’s also a trustee for the village of Rio. She will be on the April ballot for that role as well. She’s a 1997 Rio High School graduate whose two children mark her family’s fourth generation to attend school in Rio.

“I want to help make sure everybody gets a quality education in Rio,” she said. “We need our students to be well-rounded individuals, whether they’re planning to go to college or directly into the workforce.

“I like the fact that we’re a small community yet we still have our own school district. So my question is, how do we continue to provide a quality education under the financial constraints that we have?

“I believe Rio has a great sense of community, and the school district is key to that.”