Yu and Smith face off in Area 4 school board race

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There will be two contested Middleton-Cross Plains Area School Board races on the April 7 ballot. In Area 4, which includes the towns of Middleton and Westport, newcomers Todd Smith and Linda Yu will square off. In Area 5, the school board’s central district, incumbent Anne Bauer will be challenged by Tia Eady. In Area 1, newcomer Kelly Kalscheur filed to run unopposed. In Area 2, which includes Cross Plains, newcomer Sean Hyland filed to run unopposed.

Area 4 candidate Linda Yu currently serves as the Chair for the Finance and Business Law Department at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She has also worked at the State University of New York Institute of Technology. She earned an undergraduate degree in British Literature, a master’s degree in Business Administration, and a Ph.D in Finance. She holds chartered financial analyst (CFA) designation.

Yu called herself “a strong advocate for experience-based learning and enhancing student critical thinking skills.” She is also actively involved with various community organizations. She currently serves on the Friends of Middleton Public Library Board. She is also a member and Treasurer of the Whitewater Rotary Club. During 2012-2014, she served on the Governance Council of Lincoln Inquiry Charter School. 

Todd G. Smith, who is also running for the Area 4 school board seat, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for both his undergraduate work and law school.  Since graduation, he has been practicing law in Madison, with clients throughout Wisconsin, including businesses and residents in Middleton.  

“When not working, I spend most of my time standing on the sideline of my children’s sporting events,” Smith said. “I have also had the pleasure of coaching my kids in baseball and girls’ lacrosse.”

Smith is on the board of directors of both Middleton Outreach Ministry and the UW Badger Basketball Booster Club, and is active in the Middleton Chamber of Commerce. 

Yu said she is running for office because she enjoys being part of the community.

“My daughters are attending the Middleton Schools and I’m very interested in assisting our school district move to a higher level,” Yu explained. “As an educator, I’m fully aware of the difficulties and challenges facing today’s education. I enjoy reading reports that our students perform top in the state and the nation, and I worry when I see the achievement gap still exists. My unique background and experience are complementary to the existing board membership, and I believe I can make a contribution.”

Smith said he wants to “give back” and help the district faces challenges on the horizon.

“I’m running because I am committed to public education and believe service on the school board is a great way to give back to my community,” said Smith. “I also believe the district faces many significant challenges in the coming years and I want to be part of the team that addresses those challenges.”

According to Yu, the biggest of those challenges will be tracking and retaining well-qualified faculty and staff.

“Human resource is the most important element in education,” said Yu. “My 4th grade daughter told me that she loves math because she loves her teacher. I think we can all identify multiple important individuals in our lives and career who help shape us into the person we are today – I bet many of these individuals are teachers. We need to keep our existing talent and acquire more talent in order to accomplish the mission of the district.”

Smith believes the greatest challenge for the district will be financial in nature.

“Without question, the biggest issue the district faces is the budgetary challenge presented by declining state aid revenue,” Smith said. “Our district has seen significant reduction in the amount of aid it receives and by all accounts that trend will only continue.  Declining aid causes greater pressure on local taxpayers and threatens the district’s ability to maintain the existing programs that make our district great. The board’s challenge will be to find creative solutions to meet its budgetary issues while maintaining educational excellence.”

He agreed with Yu about the need to find and keep good educators in the district. “Our district needs to support the excellent teachers we already have, and attract a new generation of teachers for our future,” he said.

Smith also pointed to the district’s well-documented achievement gap.

“I don’t pretend to have all the answers on how to solve this complex problem, but it is an issue that should concern us all,” he said. “Our district must strive to help all its students succeed, without sacrificing existing programs that have made our district a high-performing one.”

Yu praised current district leadership for coping with an increasingly difficult budget process. “The district leadership maintained a balanced budget in spite of declining state support and other fiscal challenges,” she explained. “A balanced and healthy budget allows the district to pursue its strategic goals. I can foresee more challenges in the future, and that’s why I feel my finance background can really help the district to achieve its goals with limited resources.”

Smith believes the district has “much to be proud of.”

“Our schools are uniformly recognized as high performing and all of us – parents, teachers and administration – should be proud of that,” he said. “We also have been successful in attracting outstanding teachers and staff.  The construction of the new Kromrey Middle School and addition to Glacier Creek have been successes, both from an educational and budgetary perspective.”

 When asked in what areas the district needs to improve, Yu pointed to the sometimes-difficult relationship between teachers and the school board.

“[Much]] progress has been made to improve the communication between administration and teachers in the district,” she said. “It’s a continuous process and all stakeholders need to be involved. Certainly more could be accomplished in this area moving forward.”

Smith also expressed concerns about the issue.

“While I believe the school board and the administration genuinely care about the well-being of our teachers, we must ensure that we listen to and support them and address morale issues where they exist,” he said. “Some of the best ideas for innovation and advancement come from the teachers and staff that work with our children every day.  The district should seek out and implement their ideas, along with ideas from parents and families.”

 

 

 

 

 

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