Debbink seeks second term on Falls School Board

by Jeff Pederson Sheboygan Falls News Editor

MARK DEBBINK MARK DEBBINK With two years of experience under his belt, incumbent Mark Debbink is among a group of three candidates vying for two open seats on the Sheboygan Falls School Board in the upcoming spring general election on Tuesday, April 7.

Debbink, who was elected to the board in 2013 as a write-in candidate, will appear on the ballot along with newcomers Adam Arnhoelter and Jami Shircel.

The 1985 Sheboygan Falls High School graduate is eager to continue the work he has done on the board over the past two years, especially in regard to the Middle School project.

“The first two years have been a learning process for me,” Debbink said. “Now I have some experience that makes running for another term an easier decision to make.

“I have been heavily involved in the middle school project, first as a member of the Facilities Task Force and then as a School Board member,” he said. “I would like to have the opportunity to see the middle school project through to a successful conclusion.”

Debbink, who is a 13-year veteran of the Sheboygan Falls Public Works Department’s water utility division, says finding a solution to the mounting problems associated with the maintenance needs at the aging middle school remains at the top of the board’s priority list.

“Right now the middle school is operating on an as-fail basis, which means if something fails, we replace it,” Debbink said. “The building has many maintenance needs, The roofs are at the end of their lives as is much of the key infrastructure in the building.

“I would say that another referendum for the middle school is likely in the near future,” he said. “I’m hoping to be able to see one pass while I’m still on the board. If we have another middle school referendum and it fails, I think the board will have no choice but to go to referendum just to address all of the maintenance needs.”

Debbink is also concerned about the recently released state budget, which proposes cuts in per pupil spending while maintaing a strict revenue cap for public school districts.

“I am very concerned about what the state budget proposals will mean for our district,” Debbink said. “The budget proposes to cut spending per pupil by $150 and at the same time we are not allowed to increase the tax levy.

“This year we offered early retirement and there were several teachers that accepted that,” he said. “We have to fill some of those positions, but it looks like three or four of them will not be filled. That will allow us to save some money, but outside of that we really don’t have a whole lot of extras to cut. If it stays as it is, it will be a major challenge. Hopefully, there will be some adjustments to the budget that will give us some breathing room to operate.”

Debbink currently has two children currently attending Sheboygan Falls High School. Grace is a freshman and Sam is senior.

He says recent state-mandated changes involving testing, standards and private school vouchers have made the job of being a School Board member increasingly difficult.

“I am concerned that the state keeps changing our standardized tests,” Debbink said. “Doing that makes it hard for us to get a baseline of how are students are actually doing because the method of evaluation keeps changing. We can’t compare one year to the next because we aren’t using the same test.

“Also, there is talk about going away from the Common Core standards, which also makes it difficult on us,” he said. “We spent money to adopt and train teachers to use Common Core and now they might take it away? It will just cost more money and time to develop a different standard. That doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of school districts to keep making these major changes. Another thing that bothers me is the voucher system and the lack of accountability for private schools. The private schools are getting state money, but yet they are not held to any achievement standards like public schools are. That doesn’t seem fair to me.”

Debbink feels that his two years of service on the School Board have given him the skills and confidence to represent the public for another three years.

“I have two kids at the high school, so I am very interested in doing what’s best for the students and staff members of this district,” Debbink said. “Over the past two years, I have learned a lot and I feel that I have a much better idea of what to expect as a member of the board. I hope to have the opportunity to serve another term and help to make this district the best it can be.”

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