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Two candidates vie for open School Board seat

Jan. 15, 2014

Four of the seven members of the Wauwatosa School Board have terms expiring in the spring, but just one open seat has two candidates.

Candidates run at-large for numbered seats, and incumbent Mary Jo Randall in Seat 4, incumbent Sharon Muehlfeld in Seat 6, and newcomer Kristy Casey in Seat 5 are all running unopposed. Casey is seeking the seat occupied by Thomas Jarosz, who is not seeking re-election.

But Carmela Rios' decision not to run for re-election in Seat 7 has drawn two candidates: Brian Bawden, a retired teacher, and Michael Huitink, an attorney with Godfrey & Kahn. Huitink, like Casey, sought appointment to Seat 7 after the resignation of the late Lois Weber in May. Rios was appointed.

School Board seats hold three-year terms. The spring election is April 1.

Brian Bawden

Bawden, 63, said he has lived in Wauwatosa for more than 40 years, and was a teacher for the Wauwatosa School District for 36 years, mostly at the middle school level. He also served as a summer school administrator for 16 years. His two grown children were educated in the system.

After retiring in 2008, he took on substitute teaching for a few years, he said. While he was primarily a U.S. history teacher, "I've taught almost all the subjects."

"I've always enjoyed being part of a team," said Bawden, a former coach of seventh-grade boys and girls basketball.

"I've got a servant's heart. I just love to give back to the community. I've always lived in Wauwatosa, so this is a cycle for me as far as giving back to the community."

Bawden said improving student performance is a priority for him. The board should study past and current practices, and what other successful school organizations are doing, "and then see if we need to make adjustments."

Bawden said his classroom experience would serve him well on the board.

"I'm not there in the classroom any more, but I'm interested in what's taking place in the classroom," he said.

Another priority for Bawden is helping to create a culture in which "administrators, teachers and support staff want to stay and improve their craft."

The loss of teachers is an issue that needs addressing, he said. "I know what they put into hiring people, and making sure they're a fit for Tosa schools, and I would like to at least help investigate, or improve, the overall culture and communication that ... should take place between administrators, staff, et cetera."

Bawden said his experience as a teacher has taught him the importance of cooperation.

"It can't be a me-ism … it has to be us, we," he said. "It's kind of like you're caretakers, you're concerned with making wise use of tax dollars and you want to help the students progress in their educational experience within their classroom situation."

Having been in the classroom, he said, he brings real-life experience.

Michael Huitink

Huitink, 40, a native of Iowa, is a graduate of Georgetown University Law School, and is a partner at Godfrey & Kahn, S.C. He and his wife, Sandy, have a sixth-grade son at Whitman Middle School, and a third-grade daughter at McKinley Elementary School.

"I view the schools as an economical development tool," he said. In his work, he's been interviewing people for employment at the law firm for years, "and pitching Wauwatosa because of the schools. I view it as an absolute need to keep quality schools."

He sees the board as a body that sets policy "and hires good administrators and lets them do their job. That is a core policy of mine, so that's my number one. If I'm on the School Board, I'm there, actively engaged in policy setting, holding the administration accountable, but allowing administration to do their jobs."

Huitink said he feels strongly about holding the line on taxes. "I'm not opposed to good (spending) on the budget — I was a big advocate of the baseball fields (built last year at Breitlow Field), but the taxpayers put us there for a reason, too, and that's to make sure the money that's being spent is in fact giving us quality schools."

Huitink said the role of a board member is to help make sure "we're all pulling in the same direction. We can have disagreements, but there ought to be a sense of community or togetherness on that board, and I think I bring that to the table."

He said he sees the board right now doing the right things, and "one of the reasons I'm running is to keep the board going in the direction it's going."

He supports the new teacher review policies, part of the board's new compensation structure; wise upgrading of facilities to stay competitive with surrounding communities, drawing families and students; and keeping class sizes as small as possible.

Huitink likes some of the current district initiatives, particularly the STEM program, emphasizing science, technology, engineering and math.

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