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Incumbents hold on to Janesville School Board posts

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
April 6, 2011
— Tuesday’s vote for Janesville School Board sets up a race for president of the board and might shift the board to the right.

Voters chose the two incumbents and a newcomer. Kevin Murray and board President Bill Sodemann were re-elected to their third three-year terms.


Scott Feldt, a former Rock County Board member, defeated John Burt, Kirk Henry and Fred Shahlapour to take the third seat.


Feldt will replace Peggy Sheridan, who did not run for re-election.


The shift of one member on a nine-member board can make a difference. The current teachers contract, for example, was approved on a 5-4 vote. Sheridan and Murray were among those voting to approve it.


It’s sometimes hard to use conservative and liberal labels when it comes to the school board, Sodemann said, but it would appear that Feldt could shift the nonpartisan board at least slightly to the right.


Sodemann noted that Feldt is former chairman of the Rock County Republican Party, as is Sodemann. Sodemann said he encouraged Feldt to run.


Murray said he will run for president of the board, while Sodemann said he planned to seek another year as president. Board members choose their president.


Sodemann said he offers continuity and experience in the president’s chair.


Murray said people have told him they wish the board would act more quickly.


“We’ve got some tough choices to make, and I think my agenda would be to make sure we take action—more action than what I see going on,” Murray said.


Atop the board’s agenda is its $13.4 million projected budget deficit for 2011-12.


Murray said he and Sodemann don’t always agree, but they get along very well personally and respect each other. Sodemann is honest, sincere and you always know where he stands, Murray said.


“Bill has done a great job, and I hope I can do as well as he has done,” Murray said.


The president’s vote counts the same as those of the other nine members. The biggest power is to run the meetings as he or she sees fit.


Sodemann hopes to work on a merit-pay system for teachers, and he wants the teachers involved because they know best what makes an effective teacher, he said.


Sodemann said merit pay is unlikely to be implemented before the current teachers contract runs out in 2013, but that gives the district time to devise an equitable system.


Murray said building a fair system will be a challenge.


Feldt said Job 1 is to listen to other board members and learn as much as he can, although he said he would voice his opinions.


After the budget is dealt with, Feldt said, he’d like to focus on getting more communications technologies integrated into classrooms. He sees technology as key to capturing students’ interest in learning.



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