Prairie du Chien School Board election

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Cassie Hubanks

Susie Myers

Nick Gilberts

Todd Myers

Bethany Iverson

Christine Panka

Duane Rogers


Seven candidates vie for Prairie du Chien School Board

There are seven candidates for the Prairie du Chien Board of Education election on April 7.

Candidates will vie for four seats on the board. The term of office for three of the seats will be three years beginning April 2015 and going through April 2018. The term of office for the completion of the unfilled term for Tracy Morovits-Feye is one year beginning April 2015 and running through April 2016. The top four vote-getters will be elected. The fourth-place candidate will be elected to the one-year term.

The candidates include incumbent School Board President Christine Panka and newcomers Nicholas Gilberts, Cassie Hubanks, Bethany Iverson, Susan Myers, Todd Myers and Duane Rogers.

The Courier Press asked each candidate to give a brief profile of themselves, along with a description of what each feels are the top challenges facing the school district and what they would do to face those challenges. The following are the responses from each candidate in the order in which the candidates will appear on the ballot.

Cassie Hubanks

Hello, my name is Cassie Hubanks. I am a lifetime resident of Crawford County. I have been a probation and parole agent for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections for more than three years. I have a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Upper Iowa University, with a state of Wisconsin Social Work Certification and have been employed in case management for more than eight years. Continued opportunities for learning and growth are important to me. Therefore, in addition to participating on specialized committees for my employment, I also volunteer on several local committees in our community. My family, community, friends, and health are my greatest passions. My 12-year-old step-daughter is a student at Bluff View Intermediate and I look forward to my 3-year-old daughter’s school enrollment in the fall. My husband and I enjoy watching our children participate in extra-curricular activities, family dinners, and fitness!

As a school board member, I will strive to develop improvements in the Prairie du Chien School District’s communication between staff, parents, and the community by demonstrating my own integrity and facilitating opportunities for positive change. My professional background, as a mediator, will help foster a school board that prides itself on collaboration, professionalism and innovation. It will be an honor to be a part of that team, as your new school board member.

Susie Myers

Married to Todd Myers.  We have one daughter, who attends Bluff View Middle School. I am a graduate of Seneca High School, later attended UW-La Crosse, where I obtained a bachelor of science degree in psychology. I have lived in the Prairie du Chien School District for 11 years.

I have been an active member with the Chamber of Commerce in the past, and currently am a member of the city of Prairie du Chien Parks and Recreation Board. 

Much of my work experience has been working with adults with disabilities, elderly and mentally ill populations to assist them with obtaining long term care services and support. In addition, I have been a business owner in Prairie du Chien. With this human service and business experience, I could be a valuable asset to the Prairie du Chien School Board by bringing real life examples that may aid in making crucial decisions that impact the betterment of the education and lives of the students of this district. 

I have been attending school board meetings for the past few years, where I have listened, learned, asked questions, and been educated on many of the challenges that face our district and the stakeholders.  

I believe that one of the top challenges that faces our school district is the ability to provide the best individualized educational experience for our students with the continued threats of cuts in state aid and the implementation of unfunded mandates being imposed by our state. I believe the solution to this challenge would be for this district to use our stakeholders – our students, our staff and our community, to evaluate and assess our current curriculum, staffing, and support programs. I believe this will to help identify and prioritize the most crucial needs of our students to help them prepare for their future endeavors, yet challenge ourselves to assure we are effectively and efficiently using tax dollars wisely! I believe that in order to execute this task, the board may consider having public hearings where the stakeholders can attend meetings with input to our district and develop solutions on these specific topics. Another idea for this challenge may include the board developing planning groups with the stakeholders to have organized discussions to help advance a plan of action for specific outcomes, or help develop groups to advocate for public education in legislative hearings. A solution to getting stakeholders involved would be to ensure that their voice is being heard and that they feel their concerns are valid and respected by our district administration and the board. 

Another challenge that faces our district is the recruiting and maintaining of qualified staff to teach and support our children. I believe that the solution to this would be for the board to honor and value the hard work and opinions of our staff. A solution may include working to improve staff morale, to improve the communication process with staff, board and administration, and to try to provide good strong benefits to staff to help obtain new staff and maintain longevity of our current staff.   Our children deserve it. 

Lastly, one of the top challenges that faces our district, and other public school districts in Wisconsin, is the potential expansion of the school voucher system statewide. It is my belief that a solution for our school district to stay competitive with expansion of this voucher system is the need for our district to offer a variety of strong curriculum that is flexible. We need to be willing to meet individual student’s educational needs. It is my belief that the district should offer choices to students and variety, but also amplify their learning potential by inspiring students to explore educational options that are of interest to them. We need to prepare them for a future that best meets their abilities and strengths so that they can find success in the future with the ever changing workforce trends. 

With these challenges, our district, along with the stakeholders, need to create clear, concise policies and programs that are successfully implemented and followed through in a fair and transparent fashion. 

Enthusiasm, creativity, perseverance and passion are all qualities that I could bring to this board to help work toward the continued challenges that our district faces to help meet our district’s mission.

Nick Gilberts

My name is Nick Gilberts and I have lived in Prairie du Chien most of my life. My wife Andrea and I have been married nearly 13 years and have a daughter who is 8 and attends Bluff View School and a son who is 1 1/2. I have been employed by the city of Prairie du Chien for more than 12 years and am involved in various organizations including the Prairie du Chien Jaycees, Droppin’ of the Carp and am an Eagles Club member. I recently got appointed to the city’s Health Insurance Committee and have been a Prairie du Chien Park Board member for the last six years. I also am vice president of Scream Xtreme, a non profit group that puts on the annual haunted house in Prairie du Chien. 

There are a few reasons why I am running for school board. I want to make sure that our students continue to get a quality education. To achieve this, I want to be a voice for the students, parents and teachers. These are the people who are affected most when changes to curriculum are made, not the administration. I would like to see the school day be shortened like the rest of the school districts in our area. I would also like to explore the idea of providing some sort of in school day care for students before and after school as well as late starts or early dismissals because of weather. 

The school district is currently pushing forward with another building referendum. While I am not opposed to upgrading our current facilities, I do not think we need to build a gymnasium which may have up to six basketball courts. I understand the need for more gym space, especially with a wrestling team and gymnastics team competing for space, but I do not think we need a large arena. I do not know if the school could afford the extra expenses associated with a large arena as well. I do know that we need to keep up on technology and expand classroom space to offer more opportunities for our students. 

Another reason that I am running is I do not agree on how the school board committee meetings (finance, building and grounds, and policy) are run. Currently, any member of the school board can attend and make a motion or vote in a committee meeting. Only members of that specific committee should be allowed to make motions and vote on their agenda items and then the entire school board can weigh in on the topics at the next board meeting. 

I believe the biggest challenge facing our school district is the cuts in state funding to the school. If the state continues to make cuts to the district, either the school tax is going to have to go up even more or there may need to be cuts made. I think the school district can keep taxes from going up by being financially responsible. This means the board approves a budget and it is the administrator’s duty to follow it. Instead of a building referendum, the school may be faced with an operating referendum to keep the current level of education and services.

Todd Myers

Married to Susie Myers for 23 years. We have a daughter who is in eighth grade at Bluff View Intermediate School. I have been employed with the Crawford County Highway Department for 26 years. I am currently serving as a council member for the city of Prairie du Chien, where I also am on the public works and personnel committees. I have lived in the Prairie du Chien School District for 11 years. 

The reason I would like to be on the school board is to help address and find solutions for the ever increasing budget shortfalls. We need to find creative solutions to continue to fund our school academics, staffing and maintenance needs. 

Academically our school needs to offer courses that appeal to a diverse student population. An area that I believe our district needs to focus on is offering curriculum that challenges our students, but also offers choice and variety. I think this would also help attract new students. I believe that traditional math courses (algebra and geometry) should be offered (at no additional costs) as an option for students who would like to opt out of the integrated math curriculum at the high school level. This is a concern I have heard from many parents for years.  

I feel that our staff is our most important resource and they need to be compensated appropriately in order to keep them at our school, in addition, this would aid in attracting new qualified staff to our district.  

Lastly, our current infrastructure needs to continue to be maintained vigilantly for the safety of our students and faculty, which should help to keep operating cost to a minimum. I firmly believe that being proactive is a lot less expensive than being reactive.  

Thanks for your consideration on April 7.

Bethany Iverson 

As a resident of Prairie du Chien for the past 20 years and a mother of three teenage children, I understand that, perhaps, this is the most important daily civic commitment I can make to my community and our children.

As a member of the school board, I intend to listen to the community and understand your values and concerns.

I will bring sharp questions, innovative ideas and fresh energy to the team. I’ll look at established routines with new eyes and challenge old assumptions.

You can expect a positive difference and lasting change for our school staff and children.

Christine Panka

Christine Panka has been serving on the Prairie du Chien Area School District Board of Education for the past three years and is the current president of the board of education. She has served for the past two years on the Wisconsin State School Board Association-Policy and Resolutions Committee. In January, the resolution she authored, by behalf of the board, in support of school district calendar flexibility was overwhelming passed at the State School Board Convention. The resolution has recently been taken up as legislation by Senator Alberta Darling. Christine believes it is imperative for our local board to be very aware of the legislative happenings in Madison. Since the district is subject to the rules and laws created there, it is important to remind legislators of the impact they are making locally.

During Christine’s current board tenure, she has worked to support and establish the “Mighty River Academy” which is a virtual charter under the Prairie du Chien Area School District educational offering umbrella. Many students and their families desire choice in the manner in which their education is obtained. The establishment of a virtual charter was critical to the school district. It provides options to district families who chose to home school full time or desire some type of integrated curriculum to meet their individual student’s needs. Virtual school programming ranges from full time students to students who take one class to address programming that may not be available within the district. Since her election three years ago, she has chaired the local policy committee and has worked to create policies and procedures that reflect the most current practices and keep pace with legislative changes. She strongly encouraged the development of the newly-established school site leadership teams and believes they will bring about improved communication between staff, administration and the school board.

With a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Christine recently completed her education as a mediator at the University of Wisconsin. She has been married to Jeff Panka for 28 years. Together, they have three sons: Jacob, who is currently a medical student; Josh, who is a recent graduate of Marquette University with a degree in computer engineering, and Justin, who is completing his second year at the University of Minnesota majoring in chemistry. A self-described “professional volunteer,” Christine has been an active and engaged community member. Her activities included: Prairie du Chien Main Street Board of Directors, Crossing Rivers Hospital Foundation Soiree Committee and Crawford County Master Gardeners as well as church and school activities as her family grew.

Making the time to listen to stakeholders and keeping lines of communication open is a source of pride for Christine. As new initiatives come to the school district, she takes time to research and learn in order to make informed decisions and provide accurate responses. Overall, Christine is proud of the things that the Prairie du Chien School District is doing for students, looks forward to conversations about what we can do better, and firmly believes that it truly “takes a village to raise a child.”

Duane Rogers

My name is Duane Rogers and I’m running for one of the open school board seats in the Prairie du Chien School District. I currently am the Senior Vice President and Head of Lending for Peoples State Bank. For the past five plus years, I have been a County Board Supervisor for Crawford County serving as chairman of the finance and personal property committees as well as a member of the insurance committee. I am also treasurer of the Crawford County Economic Development Corporation.  Most recently, I have been appointed to be a member of the Redevelopment Authority Board for the city of Prairie du Chien. I received my master of science degree from Purdue University. I am married to Dr. Misty Lemon-Rogers, a business professor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.  We have one daughter who will be entering eighth grade next year. My wife and I have always been civically minded and strive to raise our daughter in an environment where it is better to be part of the solution than to perpetuate the problem.

I’m running as a candidate for the school board because I feel my past experience on the Crawford County Board of Supervisors and in particular my experience on the finance committee can be beneficial to the school district. Working to make the best financial decisions for the district can continue to allow the district to remain strong financially.

Another one of my goals will be to search for ways our school district can continue to be efficient and effective at improving student achievement results and closing achievement gaps. I’m also excited about the possibilities that technology can provide in the learning process for our district. In closing, I hope you will consider voting for me on April 7.

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