NEW ULM - Denny Waloch, one of eight candidates for four seats on the District 88 School Board, wants to be "part of a board that leads our district into the future."
"We tend to dwell on the past too much, and the time is now to move forward and make our schools attractive to prospective citizens," says Waloch, 38. "We cannot isolate ourselves. We are educating students that will be competing in a global environment and shielding them is not the way to educate our students. I feel it is our responsibility to make sure that it happens."
Waloch grew up in Lisbon, N.D. and Page, N.D. He graduated from Lisbon High School in 1992 and from Valley City State University in North Dakota in 1997, with a bachelor of science degree in business administration. He moved to New Ulm with his family in 2006 when he opened the Walgreens Drugstore, where he is store manager. He has been with Walgreens since 1998.
Waloch is married, with three children: a second-grader and a kindergartner at Jefferson Elementary School and a two-year-old.
Waloch has served on the New Ulm Park and Recreation Commission and Christ the King Church Council, and recently finished serving as the board chair for the New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce.
"I feel being on several different boards of a different variety in the past has given me the experience necessary for the school board," says Waloch. "I feel I have the understanding of the issues facing our district and I hope to be part of the solution."
"I don't believe in sitting on the sidelines."
Waloch believes his work experience plays positively into his ability to contribute to the school board.
"I work in a job where I deal with budgets and staff every day, and I feel equipped to deal with district finances and the opinions of the community," says Waloch.
Asked what he needs to learn more about, he identifies the need to "gain an understanding of the union structure" in the district.
Waloch identifies staff as the main strength of the district.
"Every teacher that our children have had are a great influence in their lives," he says.
In the "opportunity" side, he sees a need "to reduce class sizes in lower level grades, and increase class offerings for college bound students."
"We can improve District 88 by improving communication with students and parents," adds Waloch. "Making parents feeling engaged with what their children are learning, and feeling part of the process, will go a long ways in improving District 88."
Waloch see finances as the main issue in the district.
"Plain and simple, the school district cannot continue to cut," he says. "Class sizes are too big, students are sharing textbooks, class offerings are reduced, and student fees are constantly on the rise. The Friends of ISD 88 is a nice addition to our school district but it is by no means what will supplement it. Passage of [a proposed new local levy] is essential to the vitality of District 88."
Waloch says the district needs to "get creative" in addressing the budget challenge. "'What we have always done in the past' does not cut it anymore," the candidate says.
To optimize learning, and the entire school experience, to diverse students, the district can "continue to add foreign languages and introducing culture to our students," the candidate says.
"Our children will be entering a global workforce and they need to be prepared for that. Unfortunately programs like CRIC [the Cottonwood River Integration Collaborative, a group seeking cultural integration, previously through teaching Spanish and now through focusing on cultural literacy] have been cut in the past few years. For example, when our oldest child was in kindergarten two years ago, he was able to take Spanish and loved it; however, with budget cuts, this is an option my kindergarten student does not have this year."
"Without passage of [the new levy] the district will not have a way of enriching school offerings," the candidate continues. "What I would like to see is that our students have the opportunities that students in other districts have. For example, better technology, opportunities to expose our students to the arts and the sciences."
Asked how the district could counteract diminishing choice resulting from declining enrollment, the candidate notes the district should market itself as a desirable destination.
"We need to realize that parents have choices, and we need to market District 88 as the school they want to send their children to. While the district will never regain the enrollment losses of the past ten years, we can find ways to make small gains."
Other views shared by the candidate:
More on the upcoming new levy:
"The passage of [the levy] is essential to District 88. I will be voting 'yes.' I challenge every resident of this district how they cannot justify spending on average an extra $11 per month to fund the youth of this community. What are we saying to them about ever moving back here, if we cannot support them when they are young? I realize times are not the greatest, but we need to prioritize what is important, and I feel educating our youth should be on the top of most everyone's list. These students are potentially the ones that will replace us when we retire, they might be the one that buys your house. Do we continue to watch our students move onto different school districts because we did not want to spend an extra $11 a month? I feel confident in passage of the referendum because I think residents have seen the pain of the cuts and the damage it is doing.
"When it passes, I think the board will need to work with administration and staff and see where the needs are, but class sizes and increased class offerings are on the top of my priority list."
On plans to sell the former middle school and addressing the resulting space needs of the district:
"Selling the former middle school building is a positive move. While the district [would have] the opportunity to use the auditorium and gymnasium for a specific amount of time, the board needs to come to a long-term solution. Office space is also needed. Do we continue to rent the portable classrooms at the high school and rent another space for school administration? I would like to see the school build an addition onto the high school that addresses these issues, instead of throwing away money at rent, and it is also showing an investment in the future of our district."
On paid parking:
"Paid parking is a common practice for many schools, one that I was in favor of. It also lessens the burden for when future repairs are needed for the parking lot."
On a six-period day at the high school:
"I would have to learn about the pros and cons of the six period day at the high school, but my initial leaning is towards not being in favor of it."
On a four-day week, cutting the kindergarten program to half days:
"I am not in favor of either, and I feel these are steps in the wrong direction."
On issues of special personal interest:
"I want our students and parents to be passionate about our school. I want them to be proud of where they are from, and know that the community cares about them."