My name is Laurie B. Kontney and I am running for the Muskego-Norway School Board. My husband grew up in Muskego and I grew up on the border of Muskego and New Berlin on the New Berlin side and spent many summer days riding my bike down winding Muskego Drive on route to Dandelion Park. My husband and daughter are graduates of Muskego High School. I graduated from New Berlin Eisenhower High School. I obtained my Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy at UW-Madison in 1986 and have subsequently obtained a Master of Science with an emphasis in Neurological PT and a Clinical Doctorate in PT with an emphasis in ethics. I have taught in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at Marquette University for over 28 years and have been a practicing PT for over 35 years.
I have always believed in the importance of service and for decades have wanted to be more active within my community. Over the course of my professional career I have held numerous leadership positions at the local, state, and national levels. I most recently completed a term as member and former chair of the Education Leadership Partnership, a national committee focusing on excellence in Physical Therapy Education. Now that I have completed my service on this important committee, I decided it was time to get back to my roots and look for opportunities for community service.
Why school board, you might ask? I have always had an interest in education and the importance of assuring the success of each student according to their ability and their life’s path. I chaired the Home and School committee at St. Martin of Tours (SMOT) while my daughter was there (we live on the east side of Muskego and are annexed for SMOT) and have served on the Marquette University Department of Physical Therapy’s Academic Standards Committee for 27 years. After spending over a quarter of a century focusing on higher education, I would now like to have an impact on education at the primary and secondary levels. Primary and secondary education are key to preparing our children for any path they choose to pursue in life.
Regardless of the life path our children will decide on, each needs to be prepared for that path and ready to face the challenges of working in the real world. I want to be a part of their success in any way possible and would love this opportunity.
The Guide for Candidates for School Board members in Wisconsin lists several qualities that a candidate for this critical position should possess. At the top of the list is a commitment to the belief that all children of the school district are entitled to have available to them a beneficial educational program. This expressed quality is the driving force behind my decision to run for the Muskego-Norway School Board. Two other qualities listed for a school board member are “having an open mind and readiness to learn” and “listening carefully to the criticisms offered by people with differing views”. I believe I possess these qualities and can use them to be an effective member on the School Board team.
As a faculty member in a professional graduate program, I can speak to the gradual decline in the quality of formative education our children are receiving to prepare them for real life. I regularly talk with undergraduate faculty and colleaguesaround our state and country, and I hear common themes across the board, regardless of the field of study. Students are struggling with grammar, spelling, problem solving, and overall critical thinking. They also struggle with study habits and beingself directed. These are important foundational skills for any career path, however, are critical for success in a technical or college venue. How did our educational systems not adequately prepare them with the skills needed to succeed? Unfortunately, many also develop stress and anxiety when they face struggles and don’t know how to resolve the struggles they are facing.
Regardless of what any young adult chooses for their calling in life, it is our responsibility as an educational community to assure that they possess the requisite skill set to be successful. Whether they choose to enlist in the armed services, choose to be a mechanic, a chef, a nurse, a stay-at-home parent, an entrepreneur, a welder, a physicist, or any other life work that speaks to them, they should be poised for success based on their primary and secondary education. It is unconscionable to me that students are coming to post-secondary educational institutions without the basic academic skills they need to be successful. Many need to take remedial classes to catch up before they can take coursework needed for their degrees; subsequently increasing their time in school and student debt.
I believe we need to get back to assuring the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, along with science and history as it is, and not as some would desire it to be. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are the foundation from which all other subjects build. Our teachers collectively should be required to address these subjects and prepare each student to be able to function in our current society, the most critical being the ability to self-discover and think for oneself. Mark Van Doren wrote “The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery”. While this quote may be old, it is still relevant, and a school board should consistently review curriculum and staff to assure this is occurring. No individual school board member, administrator, or teacher should be allowed to use their platform to push personal views which do not contribute to the subject matter at hand. We also need to assure that our students have access to the many classes and programs that allow them to investigate what speaks to them. Music, arts, mechanics, home economics, health, wood working, athletics, technology, languages, debate, clubs, and many others that allow students to diversify their skill sets and express themselves.
We are fortunate in Muskego-Norway in that we have a strong tax base to support our school system. That does not mean we can be frivolous, rather, we should be intentional in how we invest in programs that allow the greatest diversity in student opportunities and leveraging of community partnerships. This does not mean we sacrifice our basic subjects, nor does it mean that we push agendas that do not develop our children’s personal ability to be successful in life. Our children should not be told what to think, they should be taught HOW to think to become productive and contributing members of society.
I want to be involved in assuring our resources are used wisely to optimize each student’s learning and achievement. I too am a teacher, and I will serve this community with the mindset of best practices in teaching, learning and curricular design.
Please donate to my mission for our Children and Country!