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Wauwatosa School Board incumbents plan to run again

Nov. 28, 2012

The filing deadline for School Board candidates is over a month away, but already the three incumbents whose terms are expiring have said they will run again.

Anne Fee, Philip Kroner and Michael Meier, the current president of the board, plan to run for re-election in April.

The Wauwatosa School Board has seven members who serve three-year terms, and all are elected at-large to numbered seats. They serve without monetary compensation.

Filing to run opens Dec. 1, and the deadline for filing is Jan. 2. So far, no challengers have announced themselves, and, excepting Anne Fee, who ran once and lost before she served on the board, none of the three members seeking re-election have faced opposition in any of their elections.

Anne Fee

Fee, who occupies Seat 3, is ending her second term.

She said she was motivated to serve because of her "concern over the quality of our public schools - not that the Wauwatosa schools were bad, but that I wanted to continue to maintain the high quality of the schools that we have in our community."

The impact and aftermath of the state's Act 10, which took effect in 2011 and restricted union bargaining power, has presented challenges for all public school districts, but Fee said Wauwatosa has handled it well.

"I am … proud of how our district has weathered the upheaval of the past year or so, with Act 10, I think that that's a credit to the professionalism both of the teachers and our administration, and I like to think that the School (Board) played a part in creating an atmosphere where everyone can work together even in these difficult times."

Legal questions still surround Act 10, she noted.

"I think that's it important to continue working together - administration, board and teachers - to make sure that whatever happens … doesn't negatively affect the students."

Fee said she looks forward to the presentation of a scheduling proposal under formulation that may offer students more flexibility. As currently discussed, it would replace the seven-period day in the high schools with eight periods, and offer the same schedule at the middle schools. It has yet to come to the board.

The plan "would make it easier for (students) to achieve the classes that they want to complete in their high school years," she said. "I think that could help them achieve a better education."

Fee, who served two years as president of the board, is an attorney who for nearly a decade was a prosecutor in Racine County. She is currently a stay-at-home mom, she said.

Fee has three children in the school district, in sixth, eighth and 10th grades.

Philip Kroner

Phil Kroner, like Fee, is ending his second term. He occupies Seat 1.

He said he was motivated to run "just to try to increase the quality of the schools - to be a voice of a parent and a citizen."

Prior to serving on the board, Kroner said, about eight years ago, he was part of committees that put together a long-range plan for the district. As a member of the curriculum committees, "I got interested in those issues, and I guess at that point I decided to run because I wanted to make sure that the work we did on the long-range plan would be followed through on."

Curriculum continues to be an interest.

"We do a regular curriculum review now of all the different curriculums that we have, and we have brought in outside experts to help with that - and that wasn't really done before," he said.

In addition, a renewed focus on reading and improvements to the reading program are strong points in the district, he said.

Kroner is a proponent of data-driven decision making, which the district is pursuing.

"Like, just recently they issued more rigorous cutoffs for what determines whether a student is proficient or advanced or basic. They raised the bar on those, and so analyzing the data to see where we need to improve programs to meet those new, more rigorous standards," he said.

He favors a rigorous approach to meeting state standards, which are getting tougher, and strengthening programs to help struggling students.

Like Fee, he believes the district handled well the challenges presented by Act 10.

"When ACT 10 came through, the teachers were quite upset, and there were quite a few demonstrations, and our teachers stayed in their classrooms and stayed in our district, and I think we've worked hard, done a really good job of maintaining a really strong relationship with the teachers during this time," he said.

Kroner, trained as a research scientist, teaches at Milwaukee Area Technical College. He has two sons - one a freshman in college and the other a sophomore at Wauwatosa East High School.

Michael Meier

Michael Meier is ending his third term on the board, and is in his first year as president of the board. The president is chosen by the membership, and serves for a year. By practice, the president doesn't serve for longer than two years consecutively, Meier said.

Meier, who holds Seat 2, said he is motivated to serve by "a desire to give something back to the community. My children received an outstanding education in Wauwatosa schools."

He has two adult children who are graduates of the district.

Meier said he is excited about changing the secondary school schedules.

"That will open up tremendous opportunities for the students to get more of their class choices."

He also is looking ahead to considering a new "compensation paradigm" for teachers in the wake of Act 10. School districts and municipalities across the state are faced with the fresh challenge of how to structure pay for public employees - formerly a negotiated item. A School Board committee is meeting regularly to discuss possibilities.

A revamping of the district's science curriculum also is on his mind.

Meier said that in his nine years on the board, the hiring of Superintendent Phil Ertl in 2005 is one of the highlights. Another is reversing a decision, in 2005, by a previous board that would have closed Wilson School.

He said the closing of Wilson might have meant the eventual closure of a middle school as well. Wilson is an elementary school and is home to the STEM program.

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