Moe and Brunner Seek Open Elmbrook Seat

The candidates for Elmbrook School Board differ on whether to close an elementary school to address budget gaps and excess building capacity.

  • Residents can watch an Elmbrook School Board election forum on the school district's cable channels (Time Warner 13 and 96) at 7 a.m., 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. Monday. The candidates' answers to two forum questions are included in a Brookfield Patch video attached to this story.

Voters have a choice Tuesday between a former education administrator and a former finance manager for an open seat on the Elmbrook School Board.

Ken Moe, who spent 17 years as superintendent of the Brown Deer School District before leading other southeastern Wisconsin school districts, is vying with Richard Brunner, who worked 17 years in Waukesha County's finance department before serving as assistant bursar at the University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee.

The two men are vying for the board seat being vacated by Gary Jones, who chose not to run for re-election. The top vote-getter Tuesday will serve a three-year term with an annual $3,600 salary.

Brunner is retired and after serving eight years as city alderman lost bids in 2006 and 2010 to regain his seat on the Common Council.

Moe is a partner in a superintendent search firm called Administrator Search Consultants Inc. and teaches school administration courses as an adjunct professor at Concordia University.

Both men have been around budgets for years and believe Elmbrook will be focused on addressing a larger than usual budget gap for the 2011-12 school year, should the governor's proposed 5.5 percent cut in revenue caps be adopted by the state Legislature.

Moe said he believes a projected $11 million deficit over the next five years for Elmbrook is based on invalid assumptions and actually will be much lower. 

That may negate the need to close an elementary school — a move Moe strongly opposes. Of the two schools eyed for closure — Tonawanda and Hillside — Moe said Tonawanda is a "tremendous benefit" to Elm Grove residents as the only Elmbook elementary school located in the village, and Hillside families also want their school saved.

Moe said he believed Elmbrook could lease excess school space to private day cares and other uses, to make revenue and save neighborhood schools.

Brunner, on the other hand, believes it may be fiscally prudent to close a school, due to declining enrollment and budget deficits in order to save money.

"I would go ahead and vote to close a school because I think from now on the school board and school administration is going to have to sharpen its pencils a lot more and not have any excess capacity," Brunner said.

Both Moe and Brunner said they support adding a four-year-old kindergarten program to boost revenues and remain competitive with surrounding districts that offer it.

Moe said the district also should look to tap its $20 million fund balance, which he said exceeded recommended levels. 

Brunner said his main focus was improving the curriculum and standardized test scores that he said have "slipped." He said he also was interested in adding more foreign language, including possibly Chinese.

Moe said his budget priorities would be "protecting the programs that are closest to instruction for the children." Expenses to cut or defer would include transportation, maintenance and capital outlays — "as many areas as we could find that would be further away from instruction," he said.

Brunner said he chose to run for School Board to give voters a choice but said shortly after filing his nomination papers he had second thoughts.

"I wasn’t particularly enthused about running," Brunner said. "As a matter of fact it was four days before the nomination papers had to be in, one morning I woke up and I thought to myself, 'I’m going to run for school board.' Then within two days I got my 100-some signatures. About three days later I was wondering why I was doing it."

Brunner said, however, that he has a renewed interest in serving and enjoyed debating issues at a recent election forum.

Moe said he chose to run in large part because he wanted to offer assistance to the Elmbrook School Board as it seeks a successor for Superintendent Matt Gibson when he retires. Moe said he can train the board to do its own search without having to spend about $20,000 on consultants.

Moe said he also was required by term limits to end his time as a School Board member at Zion Lutheran Church in Menomonee Falls, where he and others have worked to increase that church school's enrollment from a low of 43 students to 142 last fall. 

Age: 71
Address, years in district: 16035 Raven Rock Road, Brookfield, 17
Education: bachelor in science in elementary education, masters in educational administration, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Occupation: adjunct professor of educational administration, Concordia University; partner, Administrator Search Consultants Inc. (school superintendent search firm); manager, Swanson Pheasant Farm, Woodstock, Ill., previously superintendent for various school districts including 17 years at Brown Deer school district
Elective experience: none  
Activities: member, Brookfield Reserve Police; member, Elmbrook Curriculum Planning Committee; member, Zion Lutheran School Board, Menomonee Falls
Family: married, three children

Age: 71
Address, years in district: 2940 Princeton Road, Brookfield, 26  
Education: bachelors in public administration, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee; graduate studies at Marquette School of Business Administration 
Occupation: retired; formerly assistant bursar from University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and 17 years in Waukesha County's finance department (1976-92)
Elective experience: Brookfield alderman, 1998 - 2006, unsuccessful bids for alderman in 2006 and 2010
Activities: member, Elmbrook High School Facilities Next Steps Steering Team, 2007
Family: married, two children 


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