Thursday, March 13, 2008

Statement from John Lemberger, candidate for OASD Board of Education

Qualifications: I am the fifth generation of my family to live in Oshkosh. I have a background in education at the high school and university levels.
• 1969 graduate of Lourdes High School
• 1973 graduate of UWO
• Master’s degree and teaching license from UWO
• Several years experience as a high school science teacher
• Several more years experience as a substitute teacher at all grade levels
• A Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison that gives me a deep understanding of how children learn and how to teach effectively.
• Thirteen years experience as a faculty member in the College of Education and Human Services at UWO preparing students to be teachers and providing professional development opportunities for in-service teachers in the Oshkosh Area School District (OASD) and the surrounding area

Our neighborhood schools are one of Oshkosh's biggest assets. The October, 2006 PMP report rightly points out that Oshkosh has more schools than other communities of similar size around the state. Instead of thinking that's a bad thing and trying to conform to other communities by closing more schools, we should tout our greater number of schools as a commitment to our children and to our neighborhoods, and put that forward as the community asset it is.

Investing in our neighborhood schools is an investment in three important things. First it is an investment in our children. When children get a good education they get better jobs and can afford better houses. Their increased ability to better contribute to our tax base as adults is an important return on our initial investment in neighborhood schools. Second investing in our neighborhood schools is an investment in our neighborhoods. The presence of a school in a neighborhood increases home values and attracts young families. Increased home values returns our investment in the near term as property taxes. Finally, it is an investment in our community. A healthy neighborhood school system will attract young professionals and new businesses to Oshkosh. This will contribute not only to our tax base, but also to our general economy, and our quality of life. We must make Oshkosh an attractive place for people to want to live by investing in our city. I believe that investing in our neighborhood school system is one of the best ways to invest in Oshkosh.

There are two issues at the core of the OASD problems: a structural budget deficit and buildings in need of repair and remodeling. The solution has been difficult because I believe the current board has confounded these two issues, and because they have adopted a deficient definition of equity. The board has chosen to define equity largely in terms of building core space and square footage per student (as well as cost per student). I have never seen these criteria used as a measure of equity before. (A better definition of equity is provided by the Northwest Regional Equity Center and includes children’s access to learning facilities, quality teachers trained in equity issues like multicultural education, and how to confront bias and stereotypes in the classroom, etc.) Expanding buildings to bring equity to building core space will be extremely expensive and has inflated the cost of repairing our schools from $12-14 million to over $70 million. I would move this district forward by taking to referendum the $12-14 million to repair and remodel our neighborhood schools. Schools with real space issues that affect learning (like Oaklawn) would be given priority. The structural deficit problem I would solve by a separate referendum asking for $1.5 million per year (our approximate annual deficit). If we asked for enough to cover 5 years and added that to the approximately $13 million for building repairs, the total bill over the next 5 years would be $20.5 million. Approximately half of the money the board is asking for in phase one of their newest plan. Children should always go to the school they live closest to. My plan would minimize boundary shifts and allow children to go to their neighborhood school.

Make checks payable to John Lemberger for School Board.
Send checks to:
Paula Rouse,Treasurer
839 West 17th Avenue,
Oshkosh, WI 54902

[Editor's Note: This candidate incurred no cost for the publishing of his statement on this site, just as candidates appearing on "Eye on Oshkosh" to discuss their candidacy are not charged anything.]


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