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Primary Election Preview: RUSD Candidates Share Their Experience

In the first of five stories this week on the Feb. 19 primary election for the Racine Unified School District Board of Education, Patch tells you everything you need to know about the 10 candidates vying for three seats on the board.

Voters in the Racine Unified School District will head to the polls on Feb. 19 to narrow down the filed of candidates running for three seats on the School Board.

The top six vote-getters in the primary election will earn a trip to the April 2 general election.

The candidates are:

  • Cecilia Anguiano, 2818 Loraine Ave., a lifelong Racine resident.
  • Laura Betker, 2320 Gilson St., a lifelong Racine resident.
  • Tifene Brown, 5420 Athens Ave., who has lived at her current address for 18 months. Her two oldest daughters graduated from William Horlick High School, and she has another daughter who is a student at Gifford Elementary School.
  • Randall Bryce, 1718 Wind Dale Dr., who has lived in the district for seven years and has a child at North Park Elementary School.
  • Incumbent board member Christopher Eperjesy, 830 Waters Edge Rd., who is a 10-year resident of the district and has a stepdaughter who attends Prairie School.
  • Kristie Formolo, a 19-year Mount Pleasant resident whose two teenage children have attended various schools throughout the community.
  • Michael Frontier, 1127 Lake Ave., a former alderman and 28-year resident whose three children have attended several private and public schools.
  • Incumbent board member Julie McKenna, 724 Crab Tree Lane, who has lived in the district 22 years and has one child who attended several district schools, including Washington Park High School.
  • Roger Pfost, 3114 Caledonia St., a retiree and the school liaison for theRacine County Taxpayers Association. He has seven children who attended various district schools.
  • Robert Wittke Jr., 11 Sandalwood Ct., a lifelong Racine area residents whose four children all went through RUSD.

Each day this week, Patch will profile the candidates and where they stand on the key issues facing the school district. All information is based on the candidates; responses to Patch's election questionnaire. The first installment of this series looks at the candidates' background and experience.

Why are you running for School Board? Anguiano After graduating from UW-Madison and moving back home, I wanted to put my education and experiences to work in Racine. I understand here in Racine we are not doing as well as our peer districts. Although we have seen progress in some areas, we fall short overall and our low graduation rate is testament to this. I was gravely concerned that massive budget cuts to education were deteriorating the progress of my hometown. I am also concerned that our largest minority populations, Latinos and African Americans still aren't achieving at the rate they should be. Furthermore, I became aware of the now proposed limitless voucher program that allows taxpayer public education funds to be invested into private schools with no accountability despite negligent results. If we don't develop new strategies, the voucher program will increase our racial disparities due to the fact that minority and low SES students make up the majority of public school children. I know Racine’s public education system will continue to lag if we don’t adapt to the changes we are seeing. I want to be on the school board to ensure that we preserve our public education by running it as efficiently as possible and by increasing minority and all graduation rates to make our district more alluring to parents.
Betker
I am running for school board because I believe in free and appropriate public education for all children. I would like to provide quality education for students in the community.
Brown There should be a cross section of every race, economic and educational level on the board to have a true representation of our community. In addition, I have a strong belief in public school education and would like to help make the system a stronger one.
Bryce I am concerned about the recent budget cuts to public education, and, the current trend that will be trying to take more money out of our schools. If any schools are to receive public funds, those schools need to have the same accountability as the public schools.
Eperjesy Giving back and being a part of the community I live and work in are very important to me. Having lived in Racine for over 10 years, I understand that there are many factors involved in improving the quality of life for all of us in the community. There are probably no more important activities than those undertaken by RUSD, to educate our children. With poverty, federal, state and local budget cuts, high unemployment, achievement gaps and many more obstacles, the Racine school system plays a critical role in making our community a better place to live for all us. It also faces some of the greatest challenges and obstacles. I want to get involved to make sure we are doing everything we can to support our schools and teachers in providing them all the necessary tools to succeed.
Formolo Our children are 15 and soon to be 18 years old and I have been actively involved in RUSD for almost 10 years. In the past year I have attended approximately 10 PTA meetings, 6 Parent Key Communicator meetings, 2 middle school focus groups, and 4 School Board meetings. I have also volunteered for an out of state field trip, 3 overnights at a band camp, 3 honor roll assemblies, 2 middle school picture days, Prom, and Homecoming. I do this because I care about children and I enjoy being actively involved in our district. But, like many taxpayers in our district I'm also frustrated by wasteful spending, lack of accountability, and low test scores. We can do better, and I would like to be part of a School Board who is willing to move forward and be fiscally responsible.
Frontier This is a very unique community. It's diversity, coastal beauty, and history of innovation are compelling. We face enormous challenges that put at risk our future vitality.  I have worked extensively, with our often isolated, underserved students. There are steps we can take to reduce the drop out rate, and lack of engagement. These efforts to reconnect are disconnected youth are doable and critical if we are to become a district that attracts students and families McKenna I care about public education and want to continue my work as a school board member to work towards the North Star Vision and meet the challenges to enable students to succeed for College and Career Ready.
Pfost The RUSD has some very good teachers and has shown some leadership with programs for high schoolers bound for college, but the District has 21,000 students to educate and small groups of special students doesn't do it. The District has rated last or close to it in its peer group for the last 15 years. I will do my best to recognize the good teachers and reward them in their pay scales. Wittke The opportunity to improve the public education system for all twenty one thousand students the District currently serves. My employment situation has changed over the past two years so I am not traveling 100% of my work week. That has allowed me to get more involved in the District than I had been previously. As I become more involved I seek opportunities that will positively impact the broadest base of our student population. I look at the results of the District, its perception inside/outside the community, and the makeup of the Board over the same timeframe. What we are doing – the approach, the governance, and the delivery are not working. I see the mounting challenges ahead; declining enrollment, implementation of new state mandated standards/legislation, and increased competition from school choice programs. We need to change. That change has to come in the form of a different set of eyes, a different voice, different perspective and ideas. It is my primary motivation in seeking this seat. I am a parent of children currently in the District. I believe the Board can benefit from my experiences. My professional background is in finance & accounting, specifically corporate taxation, another asset at the Board level in these trying fiscal times. The most important contribution I have to offer is the ability to work in a team framework toward a common goal that is in the best interests of the organization. The past ten plus years my job involved delivering client service. On a daily basis I work in diverse groups of people to achieve successful end-results. I believe this is a critical trait for an individual one considers electing to the Board.
Have you ever held political office before? Anguiano No. Betker
No. Brown No. Bryce No. Eperjesy I am currently on the RUSD Board of Education. I was appointed by the board to finish the term of a board member who resigned. My terms ends in April 2013.
Formolo No. Frontier I was alderman of the 14th District in Racine. 1974 -1975
McKenna Elected to the Racine Unified School Board 1998,2001, 2003, 2007, 2010,served on all committees at one timer ot another,served as clerk twice, Delegate To Wisconsin School Board Association, Achieved Level 4 on Wisconsin School Board Leadership, Current Chair of BOE Communications Committee, Member of RUSD District Wide School Improvement Council, Member of the First Congressional Distric Education Advisory Committee.
Pfost No. Wittke No. What civic/school groups have you been involved in? Anguiano I am not formally involved with civic groups other than Voces de la Frontera where I help parents navigate their kid's education, mentor, and translate and interpret for people. I have always I have always participated in and advocated for serving my community. To this day I have volunteered in a diverse amount of programs. Some examples are: Racine Unified School District Budget Committee representing the Latino community; assisting headstart teachers over the years; mentoring at San Juan Diego Middle School; volunteering at the retreat program at Siena Center; teaching elementary school kids about their environment at River Bend through Earth Keepers; helping parents and students transition into college life through UW Madison’s Badger Buddy program; serving as an interpreter and translator in my community; participating in Get Out the Vote; mentoring high school students and their parents on college admittance.
Betker
Beautify America. Brown I am currently a member of AFSCME.
Bryce I am a Trustee with the Southeast Wisconsin Building Trades. I am also helping raise funds/donations for the Homeless Veterans Initiative. (a homeless vet advocacy group) I have also volunteered hundreds of hours with the Hunger Task Force.
Eperjesy Racine Unified School District, Board of Education (appointed in November 2012); Racine Zoo, Chairman of the Board; City of Racine, Uptown Business Improvement District, Chairman of the Board;Racine Community Foundation, Investment Committee; Racine Economic Development Advisory Committee, member (RCEDC); United Way Campaign Cabinet (past member); Racine Founders Rotary Club, member
Formolo PTA President at Schulte Elementary; PTA Vice President at Schulte Elementary; PTA Fundraiser coordinator at Schulte Elementary; PTSA President at Mitchell Middle School; PTSA Vice President at Mitchell Middle School; PTSA Fundraising coordinator at Mitchell Middle School; Special Olympics Coach; Racine Boy Scouts Troop Leader; Racine Girl Scouts Troop Co-Leader; Volunteer for Kindred Kitties; Organized Sweets for the Seniors and helped deliver Kringles on Valentine's Day to two local nursing homes.
Frontier I am currently chairman of the Racine County Youth Coalition. I am a member of the Racine Parks, Recreational and Cultural Services Board. I am contributor to the John XXIII Development Committee. I am member of the Mentor Kenosha Racine Advisory Board.
McKenna Member of Racine Affirmative Action and Human Services one term 1996; Member of the Racine Interfaith Coalition Education Committee off and on; Member of Lutheran Church of Reserection
Member of Coming Together Racine; Member of Washington Park PTSA; and member of other groups or volunteered for other groups such as Preservation Racine, American Lung Association.
Pfost School liasion for the Racine County Taxpayers Association. Wittke I am not a member of a specific civic group. I volunteer and devote my time primarily to groups my children participate in.

Coming Monday: Candidates talk about the biggest issues facing the district

Zigmond February 19, 2013 at 12:44 AM
One Conservatives view of these candidates. RANDY BRYCE - Participated in the union rallies "Mad in Madison". indorsed by unions. Ran for Assm. Signed both recall pititions http://randybryce.com/endorsements/ LAURA BETKER - was a circulator of walker pertitions - was Treasurer of RANDY BRYCE election campain. Signed both petitions *** CHRISTOPHER EPERJESY - CFO of Twin Disk - Known to be Conservitive CECILIA ANGUIANO -Community Organizer, need I say more? *** ROBERT WITTKE JR - Not much info, but he did not respond to a local comunity organising group so he can't be in their camp http://www.turnupthevote.org/ TIFENE BROWN - signed both recall petitions MICHAEL FRONTIER - Signed both recall petitions. JULIE L MCKENNA - Egghed that has been on the board too long, time for a change *** ROGER PFOST - Active Member of the Racine Taxpayers. *** = my three votes
windywinter February 19, 2013 at 01:58 PM
Zigmond........truly your commentary on these candidates are politically charged - the primary ballot for RUSD is not only supposed to be nonpartisan? Not one word on How will the children in the unified schools benefit overall ........very narrow minded approach to candidate selection. No debate here............just another view...........
Brian Dey February 19, 2013 at 02:27 PM
windywinter- Actually his commentary is spot on. It IS supposed to be a non-partisan election, but several of these candidates appear to be hyper-partisan and one of the issues they are hyper-partisan on benefits a special interest group, namely the REA and the affiliated unions.
Mike February 19, 2013 at 10:14 PM
I like your candidate assessment, Zigmond, but how do you see Kristie Formolo. She is the only one to comment on the need for addressing the incredible wasteful spending practices and lack of accountability, instead of moaning about how budgeted cuts are hurting the district. I worked at a school and saw how wasteful spending practices can be. Managers are given budget money for the years. If they don't need all the money in their budget they will spend it all anyway or budget the budget committee will reduce funds for the next fiscal year. I don't know how many times I've seen managers scramble to spend a healthy remainder of their budget money wastefully just to show they used it so they don't have to take a cut for the next year. It's shameful. You stop the waste, you solve the budget problem, period.
Terry Van Parys February 19, 2013 at 11:17 PM
Thank You Zigmond - very helpful information

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