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Elmbrook incumbents face challenges

Newcomers want to guide district in new era

March 7, 2012

Amid a landscape of sweeping state reforms, a school closing and the anticipation of a new superintendent, both members of the Elmbrook School Board up for re-election on April 3 face a challenge from newcomers who say they want to help guide the district into a new era.

Jean Lambert, who since 2009 has represented Area IV, roughly the district's southeast quadrant, is challenged by Paul Byrne.

Meg Wartman, who has served in an at-large capacity since 2003, will face off against Lynne Thomas.

All four will participate in a candidate forum at 7 p.m. March 22 at the district headquarters, 13780 W. Hope St. The event is sponsored by the Elmbrook Parent Leadership Council.

Here is a brief look at the candidates:

Area IV seat

Jean Lambert, 55, is a senior financial analyst for Froedtert Health.

"I'm running because we have, for the past couple of years, done a lot of heavy lifting with regards to Act 10 and decisions about Open Enrollment and the closing of Hillside," Lambert said. "Now we can concentrate on student achievement, acclimating the new superintendent and building our school communities as we have needed to redistrict."

Lambert said she feels her experience in the private sector and working for an organization that has been named a top place to work has given her good experience to continue her board work.

"I am a fiscal conservative and we are going to need to balance our budget," she said.

Paul Byrne, 55, is the director of business planning and development at Modine Manufacturing in Racine.

"I became increasingly aware of the issues after the state reform concerns about budgeting," Byrne said. "Having managed and me budgets and being involved on the strategic planning level I think are great assets.

"I think going forward the board needs solid, clear goals and they need to communicate that to all their constituencies," he added. "Without that, all decision making is short term and I worry about that."

Byrne called neighborhood schools "quintessential," noting that aggressive budget decisions should take place instead of school closings.

"We need better communication with the community," he said. "Transparency."

At-large seat

Meg Wartman, 49, is a homemaker and community volunteer.

"We have gone through lot of change," Wartman said. "We have our finances in order and now we can refocus with a solid curriculum in place in working on those curricular issues. Now that have been given new capabilities and flexibilities, we can move forward in looking at critical areas of the district.

"We need to know how we are going to evaluate our administrators and our teachers. Those are just some of the issues that we need to focus on."

Wartman pointed to her nine years of board experience, her prior business experience in the insurance industry and extensive school and community volunteerism.

Lynne Thomas, 36, is a homemaker and former teacher.

"I believe that my knowledge and experience could help guide the board in making informed, responsible, proactive decisions that build positive momentum for our district while putting the needs of students first," Thomas said.

Thomas noted that the board faces its biggest challenges in budgeting, enrollment management, merging elementary school populations and cultures, hiring key administrators, adopting common core standards and subsequent alignment of K-12 instruction.

She said this will require "collaboration, creative thinking and a comprehensive focus on the district's long-term goals."

Next step

WHAT: Candidate Forum, Sponsored by Elmbrook Parent Leadership Council

WHERE: Elmbrook School District, 13780 W. Hope St.

WHEN: 7 p.m. March 22

ONLINE: elmbrookschools.org/elmbrook-school-district/board-of-education-election.html

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