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Closing schools, taking heat from public, makes running for La Crosse School Board no fun



FILE - Teachers flood the June 6 La Crosse School Board meeting, asking for a pay increase higher than the 2.7% offer. (PHOTO: John Havlicek)

You could call it the ‘no fun board.”

When it comes to local government, on La Crosse’s city council and county board, members there have a tough job but there generally seems to be some emotional reward to the position — such as voting to create an intergenerational daycare like the county is doing or ending the old alternate-side parking rules, like the city council has done.

As for the La Crosse School Board, the optics aren’t good and finding candidates this past election was clearly difficult.

Even the La Crosse Education Association (LEA) — the teachers’ union — couldn’t find anyone to get on the ballot.

“Unfortunately at the time, there was a lot of toxicity surrounding the school board,” LEA president Jesse Martinez said Wednesday on La Crosse Talk PM. “People were feeling like, ‘No matter what, if I got elected to the school board and I got on and we had to make a lot of these hard decisions, that job would entail me having to sit up there and take a lot of heat from the community.’

“And there was a lot of people who were not interested in that.”

La Crosse Talk PM airs weekdays at 5:06 p.m. Listen on the WIZM app, online here, or on 92.3 FM / 1410 AM / 106.7 FM (north of Onalaska). Find all the podcasts here or subscribe to La Crosse Talk PM wherever you get your podcasts.

Martinez added that things like voting to close schools aren’t exactly what many would willingly want to sign up for.

“And it became very clear that there were some very hard decisions that needed to be made and none of them really looked like fun, winning decisions,” Martinez said on the lack of candidates running for La Crosse School Board. “So, I think that contributed to a lot of people’s hesitancy to run because they were like, ‘Well, I don’t like anything that needs to be decided. And I want to be on the end of advocating for what I want but I don’t want to be the one that has to make those decisions.’”

The board is currently setting in motion a plan Monday to close three elementary schools, build a new one in place of the to-be demolished 104-year-old the Hogan Administrative Center, and revamp State Road Elementary with eight new classrooms and a new gym.

The $53.5-million plan would be put up for referendum on November’s ballot.

The wording for that referendum question could be finalized Monday, which will come before three new school board members take their seats.

The spring La Crosse School Board elections saw only two candidates on the ballot for three seats — Tim Alberts and Adam Manka, who both won.

LEA endorsed three write-in candidates — Jim Bagniewski being one of them, and he won the third spot on the board.

Martinez said, come next year, they may start asking around earlier for people to potentially run for school board.

And if political groups are going to pay people before they’re on the ballot for school board, like what happened this spring election, perhaps LEA may have to be more aggressive in recruiting as well.

Martinez said he believes the more candidates that run, the better, but so many factors detered people from wanting to be on the board, so it was hard to recruit.

Host of WIZM's La Crosse Talk PM | University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point graduate | Hometown: Greenville, Wis | Avid noonball basketball player and sand volleyballer in La Crosse

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Walden

    April 15, 2024 at 1:55 am

    The Teachers Union (LEA) and school district administration are both corrupt and working in lockstep to shut out dissenting members of the school board and keep the public in the dark. The La Crosse School District is rotten from the inside out.

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