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Trust in leadership, spending decisions addressed by La Crosse school board hopefuls at community forum



Some candidates running for school board in La Crosse think public trust in the district has gone down.

That came up during a candidate forum Wednesday night at Lincoln Middle School, where eight are running for four open seats on the La Crosse School Board in the spring election, in which voting concludes April 4.

Attending the event were candidates Tim Alberts, Kathi Blanchard, Jeff Jackson, Deb Suchla, Jerry Wacek, as well as Trevor Sprague online because he’s quarantined at home.

Scott Neumeister and Kimberly Krejchik did not participate in the forum.

Suchla, a former board member, said relations between the district and the community were better a few years ago, when she was still on the board.

“They had a good connection with the community, we had good staff, we had good board members,” Suchla told an audience of about 60 in the auditorium. “But, it’s very clear based on conversations I have with other people in the community right now that that is not the case, that people do not feel that the trust that used to be there even five years ago is there.”

The four open seats and election comes just a few months after voters easily defeated a $194.7 million referendum for a new high school. Some were also upset that the school board recently voted with little advance warning to close Lincoln, after this school year.

Also this election cycle, residents in the school district are being asked to approve a six-year, $60-million operating budget that’s on the ballot.

Wacek, who will be on La Crosse Talk PM on Thursday at 5 p.m., wants to be sure that some priorities are kept in the budget, if spending cuts need to be made.

“It’s going to be very important for this referendum to keep the things that we really want to keep — arts, music, mental health supports for kids,” Wacek said. “Those usually tend to be the first things that go when you do have to start making cuts.”

The future of the School Resource Officer (SRO) program also came up during the forum, with candidates divided between keeping the current number of police at schools or reducing the number.

“I think decreasing the numbers is not a great idea,” said Blanchard, who noted the SRO program existed when she was attending La Crosse schools. “I understand that some students are uncomfortable” with having officers in the school, but, she added, “I think we need to have a better approach to how the SROs interact with the students, so that all students feel safe.”

Also attending the Lincoln event were candidates Tim Alberts and Jeff Jackson, while Trevor Sprague took part online because he’s quarantined at home. Scott Neumeister and Kimberly Krejchik did not participate in the forum. The top four persons in the balloting will be elected to the school board on April 4th.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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