Where do you live? 3546 Emmertsen Road, Racine, WI
How long have you lived there? 15 years
Spouse or partner’s name? Dean Barbian
If you have children, please include their ages? Joshua, 38. Rebekah, 35. Hannah, 31.
What is your current profession? Retired
What position are you applying for? Racine Unified School Board, District #5
What motivated you to seek out this seat? I am a lifelong resident of Racine. I attended RUSD, as did my three children. I taught for Unified for 35 years, my sister currently works for RUSD as the vocal director at Case HS. My father also taught instrumental music for RUSD until he retired. Our family is invested in the success of our local public school system. I ran for school board in 2018 because I want to be a part of making RUSD the best school district in the state. We have fabulous teachers, a great curriculum, and now, the ability to provide first-class facilities for our students. I want a school district the community can all be proud of and protect the great investment we have made.
Why do you think you are a good candidate for the job? I have extensive experience as an educator, a taxpaying homeowner, and as a parent. I have seen what is provided for our teachers and students. I have dialogued with my neighbors, fellow teachers, and parents in our community. I believe I have an understanding of what needs to be done to make our school district a great place to educate our children. And, the understanding of school finance to make it happen in a fiscally responsible way.
Name three things you would like to see change with how things are being done. I have three priorities for the district that I have communicated to the superintendent: 1. Increase student achievement by focusing on getting all students to grade level in reading, writing, and math. This is especially needed with our youngest students by the end of grade two. We can prevent achievement gaps by not letting them start. 2. Provide an authentic, researched-based curriculum for our students. This is necessary to prepare our students for competing in a global society. 3. Adapt school facilities to enhance the learning environment. This means schools that fit the needs of our students. For instance, smaller middle schools to minimize disruptions, classrooms that support small group and individualized learning, and facilities to enhance the talents of our students – arts, athletics, and technical skills. Meanwhile, supporting the talents of our students who might struggle in some areas and shine in others benefits them and our community. It increases their mental health and daily attendance.
What resources would you need to have to accomplish that? The support of the community and our area legislators is critical in developing a school environment that our students can thrive in. The community stepped up by providing a referendum that will enable the district to update our school facilities which are badly needed and ignored for a long time. Now our area legislators need to support our district by passing a budget that provides increased funding for low-income and special education students. The WI state budget for special education reimbursement to districts is one of the lowest in the nation.
What would success look like and how would you measure that success? To me, it’s all about student achievement. Knowledgeable, competent graduates from RUSD will provide a fabulous workforce for our community. Also, the taxpayer would not need the additional burden of cost to provide an alternate funding source for non-public schools because RUSD will offer everything the children in our community need to be successful. I think it does now!
How would you seek buy-in from either the community and/or your colleagues to accomplish those tasks? I have already made steps toward this goal. One of my first steps as a board member was to ask the board to include more oversight in student achievement at every board meeting. We now hear from at least two schools at every board meeting and have an opportunity to speak with the school administrator about recent test data showing student achievement. We ask them to explain their yearly goals and how we can help them achieve them. I also reached out to the community to support the recent referendum. Although controversial, I saw the need once I analyzed the facility master plan put together by the district. I never felt a band-aid approach to facility issues was fiscally responsible. Let’s fix the problem so it doesn’t continue to drain money. Like an old car. Sometimes you just can’t continue to put any more money into it. It’s time to let it go.
What characteristics do you bring to the table to accomplish those tasks? I am data-driven. I want the proof before I can support a topic. I want to see the numbers. That is why I supported the referendum. Once I saw the data in the facility master plan is was difficult to find an alternative solution. I must say that learning about state school funding was challenging. I stuck with it and made myself as knowledgeable as possible. I’m still learning about the state funding formula. Finally, I care about the children in our community and helping them be successful. This has been my life’s work. I want the Racine Unified School District to a credit to all of us. Anyone wanting to be a board member should love the school district and everything it does and can provide to the students in the community.