Two candidates question referendum timing

Nicolet high school, feeder district proposals could go head to head

Feb. 9, 2011

A former school board president, a parent inspired by his sons' education, and a young man who believes technology offers solutions to challenges faced by the school district will vie for two open seats on the Nicolet School Board on April 5. Members Laurel Bear and Kelly Herda are not seeking re-election.

The candidates are Joe Kasle, former president of the Maple Dale-Indian Hill School Board; Mort Grodsky, a passionate believer in public education partly because of the education his sons had at Nicolet; and Andrew Cegielski, who dropped out of high school but later earned an associate degree online.

Kasle, who was an unsuccessful candidate for a seat on the Nicolet School Board a year ago, was part of a turn around in the Maple Dale-Indian Hill District.

"I entered that board at a time of declining enrollment," he said. "We were successful at getting a referendum passed."

The Maple Dale board streamlined its way of doing business and was transparent in its work.

Kasle thinks his experience at Maple Dale, the fact that he is a good listener and that he respects all stakeholders are attributes voters should consider.

"I also let administrators do their job," he said. "I don't micromanage. If people can't do the job, then you find people who can."

Referendum too hasty?

Kasle has three sons, one now in college and two at Nicolet, and believes the district has much to offer but he is concerned about the plan to go to referendum. He believes the district needs additional operating funds but questions the timing.

"I don't believe the preparation is there for a referendum," he said. At Maple Dale, the board spent 18 months in preparation. "I think you have to have a long-term plan that you give to the community. You have to tell the community how you have trimmed costs and how you plan to spend its money."

Kasle also believes a Glendale-River Hills School District referendum, voted on after press deadline this week, could make it very difficult for one district or the other to gain voters' support. Glendale and River Hills voters would face increased taxes for both.

Grodsky wants other children, including two young nephews who live in the district, to have the experience his three adult sons had at Nicolet High School.

"For my sons, Nicolet was a wonderful experience, socially, academically and athletically," he said. "I believe public schools are the backbone of this country and are important to the country."

Grodsky helped as a volunteer with the Maple Dale referendum and strongly favors the Nicolet referendum proposal.

"If we don't do it now, the school will never be the same," he said. "All the children in the feeder districts will never have the experience my sons had."

Grodsky said with the additional funds available from the referendum the district would be able to maintain all its programs and courses.

"I don't want to be in the position of legislating the decline of the school," he said. "Education is the future. Without it, where are we going?"

Grodsky said he is a good listener, joking that even his wife tells him that.

Belief in power of education

Cegielski dropped out of high school two credits shy of a diploma in his senior year. He later earned his GED, but his experiences make him a believer in alternate forms of education as well as traditional ones.

The cost of a car, college and housing seemed overwhelming to him.

"I didn't want to struggle with debt," he said. Instead he found a job and worked for 18 months.

He spent a lot of time reading at the library in Waukesha where he lived and stumbled onto the water industry, touring the Waukesha water treatment plant.

He then earned an associate degree in water treatment online at Moraine Park Technical College, secured an internship at the North Shore water treatment plant and is a relief operator technician at the plant.

Cegielski said the economy is shifting and there are few unskilled jobs for people without an education.

Supports arts, science classes

Cegielski wants to see math, science and engineering programs stressed to help students prepare for the jobs that will be available. He also sees the need for the arts.

"I wouldn't cut music or the arts," he said. "They are important to spark creativity, but if English is a four-year requirement, science should be, too."

Cegielski said Nicolet should consider offering an online charter school and use technology in creative ways to aid instruction and cut costs.

He believes having a second concurrent referendum in the Glendale-River Hills district will be too expensive for taxpayers.

"I don't like the idea they are pitting themselves against each other," he said.

He believes Nicolet needs to find a way to reduce costs without cutting programs. He has reviewed the budget and said only half of it goes to instruction.

Members serve three-year terms and earn $1,000 a year.

Joe Kasle

AGE: 52

FAMILY: married, three sons

ADDRESS: 2510 West Dean Court, River Hills

EDUCATION: bachelor's degree in business management from the University of Cincinnati

OCCUPATION: president of Robertson Ryan & Associates

Mort Grodsky

AGE: 65

FAMILY: married, three sons

ADDRESS: 559 W. Luebbe Lane, Glendale

EDUCATION: bachelor's degree from the

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law

OCCUPATION: self-employed attorney

Andrew Cegielski

AGE: 27

FAMILY: single

ADDRESS: 1600 W. Good Hope Road, Glendale

EDUCATION: online associate degree in water treatment from Moraine Park Technical College

OCCUPATION: North Shore water treatment plant relief operator technician

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