Beloit district needs deep focus on achievement and discipline.
In the April 6 election, voters will choose between four candidates for two positions on the Beloit School Board.
Spencer Anderson is the only incumbent seeking reelection challenged by newcomers Gregg Schneider, Sean Leavy and Christine Raleigh. Kyle Larsen previously held the other open position.
Done right, a position on this school board may be the toughest public service job in the city because of the litany of problems facing the district. History supports considerable skepticism. For many years, the Beloit district has suffered through failed administrative performance and chaotic, ineffective boards. A sharp turn is required.
Unfortunately, we don’t see it here in the list of candidates seeking office. That’s not to say the four candidates running are undeserving of the community’s respect. Anybody willing to seek office deserves a nod of gratitude for volunteering to get involved.
Challenger Gregg Schneider may represent some possibility for change. He’s a former educator, spending about 40 years working in the field. He’s relatively impatient to get kids back in classrooms. He says the Beloit district must face its problems and recognize students and staff are leaving for the same reasons, which are inconsistent leadership, poor communication and failure to listen to stakeholders. An additional reason, he says, involves parents pulling children in order to get them into in-person classrooms elsewhere as the Beloit district has lagged others. He’s open, as enrollment continues to decline, to the idea of eventually needing to reduce the number of school buildings and possibly staff in the district to properly manage budgets.
Incumbent Spencer Anderson, at just age 24, is completing his first term on the board. He’s an earnest young man with good intentions but is simply too inexperienced to contribute much for a district beset by deep challenges. While there’s something to be said for involving youthful voices in public service, the Beloit district clearly is not best represented by what amounts to entry-level experience.
Sean Leavy is another candidate with an educational background, including an earlier stint in the Beloit district, with more than 20 years in the field. He has a solid understanding of education and brings some other attractive attributes. Leavy recognizes that inconsistent leadership, board politics, staff turnover and other issues threaten the future of Beloit’s kids. But there’s an elephant in Leavy’s room. He is the husband of current school board member Amiee Leavy. There doesn’t seem to be any law against spouses serving on the same elected board. Just because something may be legal, though, doesn’t mean it is advisable. Seven people, elected at-large, represent the entire city’s population on the board. Making a case for two of the seven being from the same nuclear family is a stretch.
Christine Raleigh, likewise, brings some positive points to the race. A full-time mother, she has been closely following board meetings and is adamant about getting kids back in classrooms. She’s outspoken about improving safety in the schools and holding leadership accountable for academic improvement and better discipline. Raleigh says there are too many distractions getting in the way of good teachers, and until such matters are fixed the district will struggle to raise scores. All true. Raleigh, however, has been in town just two years, and she and her husband—Dayetoven Raleigh, who is running for Beloit City Council—have chosen to enroll their children in private school, not the School District of Beloit. Voters understandably may be hesitant to elect a person whose decisions will apply to residents’ children but not to her own.
Considering pluses and minuses among the full slate of candidates, the Beloit Daily News endorses only Gregg Schneider. The three others—Anderson, Leavy and Raleigh—all seem to be good people with good intentions, despite the issues previously mentioned, as voters consider their choices.
This is reality in the School District of Beloit. It is a deeply troubled institution facing enormous challenges and serious competition. Hundreds of students each year leave for other educational opportunities, draining big dollars from the Beloit district’s budget. With the opening this fall of the Lincoln Academy that competition only gets stronger.
The environment calls for exceptional leadership and bold creative solutions to address and reform the public school system. Instead, it’s been years of administrative churn and board chaos, infighting and ineptitude. Sadly, the April election cycle is not promising for the kind of deep change required.
The status quo should not be acceptable for anybody. The new board, whoever holds the seats, needs to be much more accountable for addressing the reality of the situation while there’s still time for the School District of Beloit to up its game in an increasingly competitive climate.