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OPINION: Blowing Smoke

by | Jan 30, 2016 | 16 comments

It won’t be long now before the proverbial white smoke is curling from a chimney atop the Greendale Schools’ district office announcing the selection of a new superintendent.

Before that happens, there will likely be private interviews with stakeholders, school tours, Q&A sessions with teacher leaders and administrators, community meet-and-greets, “off the record” phone calls between board members and intimate dinners with the candidates and school board members at undisclosed locations.

It can be a grueling and tough process for the candidates. We should all thank them for being willing to stand up for Greendale kids and go through the process. Too many good school leaders aren’t willing to work as a superintendent these days. I wish them good luck.

This school board has a proven track record of poor and inward judgements and decisions. When it comes to choosing the next superintendent, these five community decision-makers will hold their own counsel (and perhaps that of a small, hand-picked circle of long-time district cheerleaders and usual suspects).

They don’t seem interested in reaching out to others — perhaps out of paranoia and fear. Maybe our newest board member is willing to break this mold. I hear he is asking increasingly uncomfortable questions of other board members and the administration.

What we don’t know is who else was in the candidate mix and was missed by the board. As one experienced board watcher told me, “There is always at least one great candidate that the interview team misses. Good teams will go back and double check. Bad teams ignore the critics and make excuses. The one they missed may have been the best candidate.”

And, let’s hope they go further than simple, cursory checks on the candidates this time around. The board needs to go beyond listed references and probe for possible problem areas in backgrounds. That is just best practice and common sense. I am hearing that some parents and community members are taking it upon themselves to vet the candidates themselves. That is probably not a good thing.

The board will also give lip service to the idea that they are truly listening to the feedback of a wide-range of community leaders, parents, students, faculty and staff. This bunch simply isn’t inclined to reach out. When was the last time a school board member called or emailed you out of the blue? Heck, some of them are known — and take pride in — not returning an email or phone call.

However, we must support our board members through this decision-making process because Greendale can’t afford a second, colossal hiring mistake on the single most important choice a school board has to make — the next superintendent.

Hopefully, there is a strong and authentic leader in the mix. We will find out. I’m keeping my fingers crossed because the schools’ new superintendent will be tasked with uniting a community and school leadership divided and damaged by their predecessor and the decisions and inactions of the current school board. Rest assured, the district’s search firm has made the candidates aware of this fact already.

Equally as important, there is much in-house work to be done to retool for the future ensuring Greendale’s kids have the flagship education the community has come to expect for 75 years.

Hopefully, the Greendale Schools is still a destination of choice for a great leader. Lord knows we need one desperately, and so does the Greendale school board.

A Parting Gif…


About The Author

Bill Attewell

Bill Attewell is the editor and publisher of Everything Greendale. He has over 20 years experience as an award-winning newspaper editor, writer and publisher. His work has been read in in over 50 publications across the U.S. and abroad. Bill is a long-time resident of Greendale and a Greendale High School alum. Go Panthers!


  1. Concerned

    Has anyone else googled Cory Hirsbrunner? Looks like there are some red flags regarding her time in Monroe, and I’m not sure why the board has chosen to overlook them. After all the controversy we’ve had in the past few years, I hope they choose a candidate with a squeaky clean record. We don’t need anymore drama!

    • Greendale Observer

      Concerned: This school board is going to do what is in their best interests, not the interests of the kids and community. It is all about them. So, if they like Hirsbrunner and that candidate strokes their egos appropriately, bingo! We’ve got our new superintendent.

    • wi mother

      You are SO correct, Concerned.. Hirshbrunner should have not made the list. Greendale does NOT need any further drama!

    • John

      The whole Village is watching!

      There appears to be “issues” with each of the candidates. Or so the word is coming out of the interviews. Each of these have something that isn’t just “right.”

      Will the school board swallow hard and pick one of the three they emerged to the public and then wait for the “issues” to emerge or will they go back to the drawing board?

      This is one of those times they have to get this right or they will pay big time.

      Better get this one right school board. You have already paid out 200k and an unreported funds to the consultants you hired.

      We have two rookies and an administrator that all have “issues.”

      • wi mother

        Back to the “drawing board” is definitely needed and a “MUST” for this, i.e., School Board!!!

    • Dinkfester

      Stay out of the Board of Education’s business People. They are doing the people’s work.

      Stop hassling them!!!!

  2. Barb

    You want to hear something really scary? The school board is running two new candidates for Village Trustee!!!! They want to spread that school board crazy to Village Hall.

    • Pumping Iron

      Barb, and others are so correct. This is the same school board that paid $200,000.00 of YOUR tax money to buy out the last superintendent and created lots of bad publicity regarding their mishandling of the Veterans Memorial site. Remember, the statement from one school board member that the Veterans Memorial had no educational value. This is also the same school board which created even more bad publicity for their misguided attempt to move voting out of the schools, but still has not solved the pick-up and drop-off problems for parents and students at the middle school. So much for student safety!

      So the question is: Do you really want the school district, and their two candidates, meddling in village business?? Probably not!

      • Dinkfester

        There are many of us working every day and night to unseat the incumbents. It is time so way past time for these has-beens to check out of their jobs. The challengers are much better qualified and ready to bring Greendale into modern times. Our school district and village are going to see a change in boards.

        Enough of this living in the past.

        We vote. We work hard and we are the future.

        Say good by to your pet projects like the Veterans Memorial and the Hoooose Tower.

        • The conservative voter

          Conflating the Village Board election, where the incumbents (Barbian, Kewan, Genz) are rather thoughtful community leaders, with the School Board elections where the incumbents have demonstrated numerous times their incompetence, is exactly what the Troll wants. In conclusion, Village Board=common sense; School Board=nonsense. Vote accordingly.

          • Greg H.

            I respectfully disagree. When the Village Board won’t even consider changing voting locations out of schools it shows trustees do not understand the safety concerns of parents. For things to change we need new trustees, simple as that. That’s why I support the two school board candidates for Village board. The school board understands what the village does not. We need progress!

          • John

            Well spoken Conservtive Voter and Greg H. Each of you represent one side or the other.

            Now the people will decide and it will be joyous to watch each incumbent explain their stand on voting in the schools, guns in the schools, why the middle school pick up has been allowed to on so long after they spent $200,000 on a mistake, they can’t explain. Village can explain their Hose Tower and the Veterans Memorial, the new Fire Station and the economic boom zone at Southridge at 76th and Sendix and the new medical building.

            We have an election and as President Obama said in 2009. Elections decide things and I won. Maybe in April, the winners will say, elections decide things and I won. You lost. Be gone runner-ups.

            Challengers and Incumbents will be explaining why they do or do not want to have the Greendale voters voting in they school buildings. That will be especially enjoyable to monitor Parents may back it. About 47% of the parents including all the non resident parents.

            Challengers, come out and say you will change the pick up at the middle school, stop funding the hose tower and the veterans memorial. Don’t say you are for a veterans memorial. It has been picked. Vote for the money or vote no. Fascinating to watch each candidate, especially the incumbents on each board, take real stands and take the blow back.

            This is going to be fun to watch the incumbents explain their positions.

            School Board and Village Board.

            Maybe this election will be the decider on where Greendale Voters will vote once and for all.

            The whole village is watching. The whole village is watching each of you. The whole village is watching.

          • Pumping Iron

            Greg H. has some of his “facts” wrong. The Village Board has discussed moving the voting stations at a special joint meeting with the school board on May 6, 2014. Former Clerk-Treasurer Kathy Kasza delivered a long report regarding the federal and state requirements for all voting stations. Wisconsin Statutes, Chapters 5-12 states, “The places chosen shall be public buildings, unless the use of a public building for this purpose is impracticable or the use of a non-public building better serves the needs of the electorate.” Such things as handicapped access, parking and room size are a few factors for establishing new voting locations.
            If someone can find new and better voting locations, which meets all the federal and state requirements, they should make that information known. Remember, the federal and state laws are the ruling authority, not the village trustees.

  3. Ann

    I know this school board and I know you can’t trust they will make a good decision. These people are dysfunctional, delusional, and worse, dumb. Joe C disregarded the input of many in the last superintendent race and we ended up in the spring of 2015 with a mess. What happened to Steve Lodes as principal?


      If you REALLY know lodes, you know he not the person to be superintendent.

  4. Conservative Voter

    Make one think. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

    This looks like the last interview process with the same school board, same process, different headhunter, and different candidates.

    A look back at the record shows better candidates the last time with more experience.


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