Wisconsin school boards operate independently, but a Baraboo board member thinks there might be value to networking among his area counterparts.
Clerk Tim Heilman told the school board Monday he recently contacted members of the Portage, Wisconsin Dells, Reedsburg and Sauk Prairie boards of education to see if they would be willing to get together roughly once a month to talk about what’s happening in the area, “and they were very receptive to it.”
“We just started it. We’ll see where it goes and where it grows to,” Heilman said in a phone interview Friday. The meetings, which have so far been virtual, are a chance to get to know each other and collaborate, he added. “We have common issues, and so it’s interesting to talk about maybe where are some solutions that are coming up, what are they doing.”
To comply with open meetings law, he’s limiting participation to one member per board at each meeting. Board members can take turns if there’s a particular topic they want to discuss. He also asked the Baraboo board for input on what the group should address.
Communications Director Sheri Krause of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards said the organization isn’t aware of any similar collaborations between boards, but added that it also hasn’t asked. WASB does “host numerous events to try to give them an opportunity to network in a similar way,” Krause said. Those include the annual State Education Convention, which area boards typically attend and Heilman referenced when describing his idea Monday.
There are currently no plans for what the consortium will do, though former Baraboo board member Doug Mering suggested using it to lobby legislators for public school funding, Heilman said. If things seem to be going well once the group is more established, he said they could consider expanding it to more districts.
In Portage, Connie Shlimovitz is serving as liaison for the group. She was unavailable for comment Friday. Portage President Steve Pate said “it certainly is a good idea,” but emphasized Shlimovitz would have more information.
Reedsburg School Board President Gary Woolever said he’s participated in the two or three meetings organized so far, which have focused on getting to know the other participants.
Asked what he hopes the group might accomplish, Woolever said, “we’ve been so busy here in Reedsburg, I really haven’t had time to really think about it.”
“Down the road, I don’t know, maybe there’d be some benefit to understanding what policies and procedures other districts are using that may help all of us,” he said, “but at this point, no, I really don’t have any insight on what we hope to accomplish, if anything, other than, you know, let’s just talk once in a while to see what’s going on.”
The participants from Wisconsin Dells and Sauk Prairie, Jennifer Gavinski and Richard Judge, respectively, didn’t respond to phone calls Friday morning.
They plan to meet next at 7 p.m. March 9, Heilman said.
Heilman’s peers thanked him Monday for taking initiative.
“I think it’s a worthy idea,” Baraboo President Kevin Vodak said. “I think it’s great that you have it in motion.”
Follow Susan Endres on Twitter @EndresSusan or call her at 745-3506.