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Spring 2014 Election

Three seek two seats on Milton School Board

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Nick Crow
March 26, 2014

MILTON—Spearheading a technology initiative, obeying budgetary limits and examining space needs will be the job of the Milton School Board as two incumbents and one newcomer vie for two open seats.

Jon Cruzan has been on the board for two terms and has six years experience on the board. Tom Westrick has served one year. Shelly Crull-Hanke is looking for her first term holding public office.

A preview of the Milton School Board race was not included in the Election 2014 section of The Gazette on Wednesday because a list from the Rock County Clerk's Office did not indicate it was a contested election.

The candidates answered the following questions:

Q: There has been $600,000 committed toward technology spending but a potential budget gap of $230,000 for the district. How do you feel about the spending with that potential gap?

Crull-Hanke: It is my understanding that the $600,000 committed toward the K-12 technology initiative is money that has already been included from various district budgets, so there is not any new money being directed toward the plan. The district is able to move forward with their plan due to the lease agreement with Apple. The budget gap will vary depending on next year's enrollment and revenue from local and state aid, staffing/benefits, and other budget items that may still need to be determined.

Cruzan: Revenue & spending will be a constant balancing act for any school board in the state. There may be a potential budget gap now, but … that situation is fluid at this point. Budget gaps are serious issues, but we can't allow them to freeze us into inactivity in needed areas of advancement like technology. Milton's technology initiative is “best in class” and is creating an outstanding platform from which to launch Milton students into the post school world.

Westrick: Although there is a projected budget deficit of $230,000, which is less than two-thirds of 1 percent of our total budget, historically there has been savings within the budget from several areas with surpluses realized at the end of the year. This budget cycle, the board decided to utilize the projected savings on educational initiatives beginning at the start of the school year so students can benefit the entire academic year instead of just adding the surplus to an already healthy fund balance.

Q: What do you think of a referendum for a new high school? Talk about facilities and if you see improvements needed.

Crull-Hanke: As a member of the 2007-08 high school design team, we examined the needs and plans of a new high school and facility upgrades and space needs at all of the other buildings. Valuable input was given from high school staff and district administrators, as well as committee members and the architect firm.

I feel that there needs to be a new discussion brought forward in regards to a new high school since the facility needs have increased and there is a true space crunch with the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grade classes coming up. Future capital improvement projects are being budgeted for that could be impacted by the possibility of a new school. Also building a new school could be a focus center for the community that could bring in new businesses as well as new families and school choice students electing to choose Milton School District as their home.

Cruzan: Milton's physical facilities do need addressing and updating. We have both space and technology issues that do need to be addressed. Exactly what the most pressing needs are is yet to be determined.

We have started the preliminary process of directing administration to prepare a study with recommendations for board review. That will be a starting point. This process may involve a citizens committee at some point as we work to develop the best approach for our students and the community.

Westrick: It is time to start the conversation about the inadequacies of our almost 50-year-old high school. Several areas of this facility have not changed or ever been upgraded and are sub-standard by educational and conference athletic standards. Some academic areas no longer provide the educational environment conducive to the expanded use of technology.

The very costly repairs required just to keep the pool operational for the next couple of years still will not allow hosting meets and tournaments because it would still lack a minimum number of swimming lanes. The gymnasium is also inadequate in size for athletic teams to practice as well as lacks enough seating to host tournaments or post-season playoffs.

Q: Why are you seeking a seat on the school board?

Crull-Hanke: I am interested in becoming an active participant on the school board and helping in the decision-making process that affects Milton families. I am interested in becoming more involved while I have children in the district and am aware of needs of students, families and staff of the district.

As a parent and educator, I feel that I have the knowledge and experience to give valued input into the decisions made by the Milton School District.

Cruzan: I am seeking re-election because I firmly believe that we must all give back to our communities if society is to flourish. Milton has been an outstanding community in which to live, work and raise children and grandchildren. I am committed to Milton and want to help ensure its continued success.

I enjoy my school board activity and believe that I bring a great bank of experience and skill sets to the job. The scope of board activity is huge with a large learning curve. I now have six years of experience, which I believe is an advantage. I believe I have served well in those six years and would like the opportunity to continue this service.

Our kids are our future. I want to help them meet success as they grow and mature.

Westrick: I am a lifelong resident of Milton and have three children who have graduated from Milton with very strong educational foundations. The never-ending assault on public education jeopardizes a school district like Milton's ability to continue to provide first-class educational opportunities for our current and future students.

I feel I bring common sense and non-traditional solutions to the educational problems that our school district must face. I strive to make decisions that will provide positive educational opportunities for our students so they, too, can be prepared for a lifetime of learning.



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