Over the next several weeks, leading up to the April 7 elections for Marshfield Common Council and School Board, Hub City Times will interview the candidates running for those offices so that readers may learn more about who is running and what they stand for. This week we interviewed Marshfield School Board candidate Steven Okonek.
Hub City Times: What in your view is the duty of a school board member?
Steven Okonek: Our duty as a school board member is to be the community’s voice in the school system. As we are chosen by the voters, it is our responsibility to ensure the investment they make with their time and tax dollars are put to good use. We need to be ever vigilant that as much of the district’s budget as possible is being spent on the education of our children.
HCT: What is the biggest challenge that the school board will face in the near future?
SO: There are many huge challenges facing the school board in the next three years, the most pressing of which is the upcoming cuts in state aid. If the projections hold, we are looking at significant cuts that are going to reach to every part of the district. We as a school board need to (ensure) that we can still provide the highest quality education that everyone in Marshfield has become accustomed to. We are going to need to be creative if we are going to fill this hole in our budget.
The second challenge is passing the next referendum. Between the state budget cuts and the cuts that would have to come if the referendum would fail, we are looking at close to a 10 percent cut in the funding for the school district, and we cannot afford to cripple the education system we have here. We need to (ensure) the referendum passes.
The final challenge is going to be oversight of the district. It is the school board’s job to ensure that everyone’s tax dollars are properly spent on educating our children. We need to be careful with the funds the citizens entrust us with and make sure that we are finding a balance between the cost of administrating the district and educating our children.
HCT: What qualifies you to be a member of the Marshfield School Board?
SO: I have lived in the Marshfield area most of my life, I am a graduate of Marshfield High School, and I volunteer as a coach for the Mock Trial team at the high school, so I have seen the district from both the view of a student, a member of the community, and as a volunteer working inside the schools. I also have held elected office in the past as a Clark County Board Supervisor.
I bring a new and unique perspective to the school board. I bring the views of a younger generation that is not currently represented on the school board, a generation that has the most interest in the future of our district.