Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Candidacy statement from School Board candidate Stephen Dedow

[We have received the following candidacy statement from Oshkosh Area School District Board of Education candidate, Stephen Dedow and are pleased to publish it on his behalf.]

Here are a few words about me and why I am running for the Oshkosh Area School Board.

About me:

I am 54 years old and have lived in Oshkosh for 51 of those years. I am married to a wonderful woman (Ellen Kempf-Dedow) and we have three small children ages 7, 4, and 2. I am proud to say that all three children were born at home with the assistance of mid-wives. I will never forget the beauty of this experience as these little babies came into our lives.

I have served as the Business Representative for the stagehands local union IATSE #470 for a total of 12 years. I was president of the Winnebago County Labor Council for 8 years. I have been a sitting board member of a payroll corporation for 12 years. I am and have been very active in the local political arena and was instrumental in gaining the film tax credits in the state of Wisconsin which brought the film crews to Oshkosh in regards to “Public Enemies”. For better or worse…I am a product of the Oshkosh Public School System.

Some of the reasons that I am running for School Board:

• While I believe the OASD long range facilities plan has many good concepts within its framework, I also believe that the funding provisions which rely on successfully passing referendums totaling more than 39 million dollars to complete phase 1 of the plan are not achievable for the foreseeable future. Therefore the plan in and of itself has serious flaws.

• Perhaps a more viable option would be to redesign the referendums in regards to phase 1 to include increased maintenance and renovation expenditures on a smaller scale that stand a reasonable chance of success within the community. This past April one such referendum was successful in passing. A suggestion might be the inclusion of the phase 1 long range plan Merrill K-8 addition/renovation concept (which would permit Merrill K-5 to become a SAGE school), the South Park Middle School addition/renovation (which would achieve flexibility in future decisions and staffing efficiencies) plus the creation of a maintenance reserve fund to exploit times of economic downturns when maintenance and construction bidding is historically lower than normal. These should be placed on the November 2010 ballot individually for consideration. Total cost roughly 7 million dollars.

• I also believe that the plan does not include enough cost control initiatives. The closing of schools and a reduction in staff are the main areas being considered within the plan. While these reductions may become necessary (as a last resort), I believe there are other areas worthy of consideration. In my opinion the plan must aggressively address energy conservation programs and green technologies to reduce costs, conduct external audits to ensure financial accountability of the various departments of the OASD, look to increase efficiencies with existing departments such as purchasing and human resources, utilize modern technologies to reduce paper consumption and printing costs, seek corporate sponsorships to supplement athletic programs , conduct an inventory of current district assets, consummate the creation of a reserve fund, and other such fundamental considerations which will help truly build a stable foundation for our future generations to grow upon.

• I am against closing schools, especially elementary schools. In my opinion unless a facility is in dire need of maintenance based on safety concerns or enrollment has fallen to the point where the facility is operating at 70% or less of capacity, I believe closing a school should not be a consideration. This is not merely about budget, this is about community. In 2009, Business Week magazine voted Oshkosh the best place to raise a child in Wisconsin; this was partially because of our neighborhood school system.

• When Green Meadow Elementary was closed last year, four students were removed from the Oshkosh School System. As a result the district lost $36,932.00 ($9233.00 per kid) with state aid computed. How much was really saved here? No one seems to have an answer as of yet. The current School board is considering closing Smith School in the future when just a few years ago we poured 9 million dollars into the facilities. Where is the savings or the sanity in this reasoning? This will continue to happen as more schools are closed; more students will be pulled, thereby negating any savings generated by the closures.

• If consolidations are necessary how about closing the Oshkosh Area School District Administrative Office at 215 S. Eagle Street (relocating them back to Oshkosh West High School where they were) and using the entire building for academic purposes in conjunction with Perry Tipler Middle School…which is 150 feet away? It could save on renovation costs and we would not have to close a school to generate the savings. We all share in the pain right?

• I believe that the School Board should be presenting resolutions and concepts to the Superintendent in a clear and concise manner. In my opinion this is not occurring at the present time. The main function of the School Board is to lead, to give a direction in which to follow. This is our community and if we are to be in control of it, leadership at this level is crucial.

In conclusion I would like to say that educational funding should go to the kids first and those closest to the kids second. The rest of the funds should go down the chain incrementally until those farthest from the actual educational process receive the dollars that are remaining. That being said any cuts or reductions should occur in a reverse order, protecting the children to the last.

Steve Dedow for Oshkosh School Board
353 Old Oregon Road, Oshkosh, WI 54902


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