Stoughton Area School Board
Three 3-year terms
One 1-year term
Yolibeth FitzGibbon, incumbent
Allison Sorg, incumbent
Francis X. Sullivan, incumbent
1. What in your professional and community background qualifies you for this elective office? Professionally I have served as a substitute in a Deaf Education program in IL. Community wise I have been the Parent Liaison for a metropolitan school board in IL, a PTO Vice President, a tutor, and have volunteered in schools since 1988. I am also the mother of 8 kids, who have given me the chance to fulfill many roles in many different education systems. I have used my belief in public schools to guide my voting and volunteerism for political candidates for over 30 years.
2. How should the district address disparities in student achievement? In order to close the gaps in student achievement I believe several things have to be embraced. These include understanding student’s cultures; screening students for needs in medical and mental health care, and involving the community in meeting those needs; making sure all of our schools welcome and include the entire family; extending before and after care programs; supporting our teachers in classroom learning and measurements; safe school environment with emphasis on academics; strong district support; qualified staff; and adequate resources and funding.
3. Are there additional steps the district should take to effectively recruit and retain an outstanding and diverse workforce? Additional steps I believe our school district needs to take to recruit and retain an outstanding and diverse workforce include “growing our own” staff by supporting the education of not only educators but also those who wish to become teachers; expanding the use of the internet in recruitment efforts; asking for and rewarding referrals; recruitment stipends; training HR in how to interview diverse individuals, including those with disabilities; clearly advertising and communicating our district’s “brand” to both hiring of staff and appealing to incoming students and their families; and continuing to work with businesses and community leaders in school efforts.
4. In this time of uncertain state and federal support for public education, what are your top three spending priorities for the district? I believe our school district does a very good job with an ever reducing amount of money, but I do have three spending priorities I see as vital. These are also supported by data. I see the best use of our dollars in working for the smallest possible class sizes, longer school years and better paid teachers.
Stoughton, WI 53589
1. What in your professional and community background qualifies you for this elective office? Working in agricultural research overseas and in USA gave me experience in understanding different cultures and working as a member of a team.
I have many years of experience working with communities of different cultural and socio economic background. As Program Director for an After-school program in Madison 10 years, I helped minority students to achieve their max potential in school. I’ve served on the BOE for the past three years, which helped me gain experience in local governance. I have always been involved with the Stoughton community where I live with my 2 children and husband since 2004.
2. How should the district address disparities in student achievement? The only way to eliminate disparities is by eliminating the inequities for ALL students, creating all inclusive environment in the classroom while supporting personalized learning. Sounds crazy, but the more we create “groups” to address the “problem student” the more we isolate and the bigger the disparity. We need to make sure that all students have access to all the resources and that all our teaching staff are prepared to teach all students. I believe Stoughton is moving to that direction although more needs to be done.
3. Are there additional steps the district should take to effectively recruit and retain an outstanding and diverse workforce? Creating an environment where staff feel truly valued!
The after-act-10 era increased the competition for workforce but also created resentment and lower morale among educators. Nationwide also the teachers are leaving the profession creating a bigger problem of shortage of educators. Stoughton is still in the process of creating a sustainable and affordable teacher’s compensation plan that would attract and retain outstanding teachers, but we also need to create a nurturing work environment for staff. And the State should work along with colleges to attract more people to the profession and increase the diversity of teachers.
4. In this time of uncertain state and federal support for public education, what are your top three spending priorities for the district? HIghly qualified educators and support Staff
After-school support for all Students
1. What in your professional and community background qualifies you for this elective office? For the past three years, I have had the honor of serving the Stoughton Area School District as a Board Member. While serving on the Facilities, Finance, and Employee Relations Committees, I have had the chance to learn about and find solutions to many of the important issues facing our District as we strive to provide a college, community, and career ready education for our youth. As a volunteer for the youth in our community and in my career as a nurse, I am able to listen to the needs of our citizens.
2. How should the district address disparities in student achievement? Our district has already identified some gaps that affect student achievement and are working with community groups and coordinating student services that address these such as Lunches for Vikings and bringing adult role models to the classrooms in the Watchdog program. There are still barriers to some groups of students to fully participate in academic and extracurricular activities. As a district, we need to continue to foster a broader dialogue with underrepresented groups to discover effective ways to meet their needs.
3. Are there additional steps the district should take to effectively recruit and retain an outstanding and diverse workforce? Recruiting and retaining quality staff is more important than ever in the current climate where fewer candidates are entering teaching programs. We must seek input from our staff on how to retain them as dedicated and capable professionals., what will keep them in our district, and how we can support our staff in a meaningful career. Our staff need to feel valued and be given every opportunity to make a contribution to the future of our students and education as a whole.
4. In this time of uncertain state and federal support for public education, what are your top three spending priorities for the district? We must work to retain our dedicated and capable staff, continue to provide inclusive, relevant education to our students, and budget our resources wisely to maintain our safe facilities and transportation services.
Francis X. Sullivan
1. What in your professional and community background qualifies you for this elective office? Sheila and I moved to Stoughton in 1995. 27 years later, two of our children have graduated from the Stoughton schools, one is in high school, and the last is in middle school. I served on the school board from 2013-15 and returned to fill a vacant term last year. Our whole family worked to pass the 2014 recurring referendum, bringing our district long term financial stability.
I coach the SHS mock trial team (which the students call “Fake Court”). I’ve volunteered for community organizations, including Stoughton’s free health clinic. In my day job, I’m a Department of Justice lawyer.
2. How should the district address disparities in student achievement? The 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress found Wisconsin has the worst black/white achievement gap in fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math. The Department of Education says Wisconsin has the worst black/white disparity in graduation rates. Although Stoughton’s latest DPI district report card says we are doing better than the state as a whole, we must keep improving.
DPI’s “Promoting Excellence for All” initiative is a good start. It recommends four research-based strategies – effective, culturally sensitive instruction for everyone; strong student-teacher relationships; comprehensive family and community engagement; and empowerment of all students to become actively engaged in their own learning.
3. Are there additional steps the district should take to effectively recruit and retain an outstanding and diverse workforce? School board members don’t interview, hire, or evaluate teachers. We set policy and work to implement a strategic plan that directs us to “use best practices to hire, develop, and retain a skilled, empowered, and engaged workforce.”
Our students thrive only if we attract and retain a skilled, diverse workforce. We must fix our compensation structure to fairly reward educators for their classroom work, and ensure they have adequate resources, including prep time. We should encourage professional growth for everyone. And we must demand a culture of mutual respect and trust among all the members of the educational community.
4. In this time of uncertain state and federal support for public education, what are your top three spending priorities for the district? Thanks to community support of the 2014 referendum and a history of prudent management, SASD is financially solid. Still we face the challenges of unpredictable state support, open enrollment losses, and declining enrollment.
We will remain financially stable by continuing city and community partnerships to encourage development that will attract young families. We must resist the impulse to respond to declining enrollment by cutting programs, recognizing instead that wise investment in areas such as STEM and the arts will make us a district of choice. And we must find a fiscally responsible compensation plan to retain and attract quality educators.