Krizan talking with public on school issues

Superintendent seeking good, bad about district in hopes of making changes
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

Parents and community members spent about an hour June 4 talking with Shawano School District Superintendent Kurt Krizan about the good and the bad things regarding the public schools and what their thoughts are about making things better.

It was the first of four summer superintendent chats planned by the district where Krizan plans to get input on what can be done to ensure students are getting a good education. Krizan said he had planned on holding these public input meetings even before the district’s $54.5 million referendum failed in April, but the public might take them as meetings specifically to address the referendum.

“I want to go out and find out how we’re doing,” Krizan said. “Also, we’re going to have a connection with local clergy in July, as well, to have the same conversations.”

Craig Carroll spoke on several topics but started with the referendum itself. He said he cast a favorable vote “tentatively,” because there wasn’t a lot of detailed information on the referendum.

“The information I got, again not knowing what I didn’t get, were from the major topic areas, and it didn’t really answer a lot of questions,” Carroll said. “With the pool, I heard from other people that the pool was not the right size for competitions, and there were three options to rework the current one or closing it down entirely. The general principle is that I had questions that I couldn’t find answers to. It wasn’t granular enough with costs and benefits to really make an informed decision.”

Carroll acknowledged that most people probably don’t want the level of details he’s seeking, but he would like an option in some form so that he can make a more calculated decision in the voting booth in November.

Parents also questioned why the district was pushing for a referendum when the district was looking in 2022 at closing one of its four schools due to continuous declines in enrollment. The possible closure was in response to a $2 million budget shortfall in the 2022-23 budget, which wound up becoming a $2.6 million surplus.

Krizan noted that he was part of the district when the announcement of a potential school closure came up, but he wasn’t the superintendent at that time.

“I think it was an extreme that was being looked out,” Krizan said. “We don’t have a good understanding of where our enrollment is going. Hoffman, the planning group we’re working with, has given us some more detail that we haven’t had.”

Carroll also addressed the incident over a year ago when a Shawano Community Middle School student was assaulted, and the incident was caught on video and posted on social media. He referred to the video as “the sucker punch video.”

Carroll is in the process of opening a martial arts studio in Shawano, but he noted that he is worried some of his students might be punished for defending themselves due to the ambiguity of the district’s zero tolerance policy on bullying.

“Generally, the way people think of it is nonsensical,” Carroll said. “Zero tolerance is two people get in a fight, and they’re both suspended.”

He noted there is some discretion about punishment in zero tolerance policies for bullying, but parents are afraid their children might be punished for defending themselves, and he urged Krizan to make sure there’s written documentation of all student reports about bullying before doling out consequences.

“How do I teach an 8-year-old who is getting bullied all the time to defend themselves — even with a process of escalation with words and informing teachers and eventually defending themselves — if they’re getting punished for that?” Carroll said. “We know that physical fights happen, and if there’s no documentation of that process, then both kids have to be held equally responsible, but that’s not ideal. Bullies aren’t going to care, but it’s really going to crush the victims.”

One parent addressed concerns about discrimination against students of different ethnicities, something she said she’s heard off and on for several years. She said one parent has expressed concerns to school officials on more than one occasion, and then the issue seems resolved for a couple of days before the discrimination resurfaces again.

Krizan agreed to talk to the parent after the meeting to get specific details on what was happening.

Parent Michelle Frechette said she appreciates that Shawano Community High School has an early college credit program, but it’s been a stumbling process when she’s had concerns about protocols. She said her son missed out on three college classes, because he supposedly did not turn in the appropriate paperwork.

Krizan noted the district is very supportive of early college credits for high school students, and he pointed out that it was a priority for him once he was hired by the district to expand those opportunities to all subjects.

“Our next iteration is, how do we make sure there is a college option at each grade level, as well?” Krizan said. “I think we could do a lot better job of talking through that process.”