Conservative Group Takes Control of KUSD Annual Meeting

Sept. 21, 2021 11:15p; Updated 9-22 8p

Update: KUSD Chief Financial Officer Tarik Hamdan says the annual meeting vote on the levy was advisory, but the changes to school board member compensation take effect immediately. The school board is scheduled to adopt next year's budget Oct. 26th. 

(WGTD)---An organized group of conservatives caught the Kenosha School Board off-guard at its annual meeting Tuesday night, leading a charge to trim school board members' salaries and reduce the tax levy.

Normally, such annual meetings are highly-scripted and staid affairs that are only held to comply with a referendum that was passed decades ago by a group of disgruntled taxpayers. Those who show up--usually people who see mostly eye-to-eye with the school board-- are given the ability to set the salaries of school board members and approve the tax levy. 

With rage still apparently simmering from a recent school board vote to require face masks in schools, a different crowd outnumbered the regulars Tuesday night. 

The first thing that happened was unsuccessful school board candidate Eric Meadows was elected to chair the meeting--a duty that usually is filled by the school board president.

Then the audience voted to cut the proposed $87.6 million tax levy by $1.4 million. The electors also voted to reduce board members' $6,500 annual stipend to $100 per meeting. Currently, the board meets once a month. 

"I don't always agree with this board and I make that known," said Kenosha Education Association President Tanya Kitts-Lewinski. "But really what a thankless job for such a nominal amount of money...what a very sad day," she said.

The motion to cut board member stipends was made by Amanda Nedweski. "In the many years of service of some members of the current Kenosha Unified School Board, the academic and social outcomes of KUSD students have declined while the board of education has consistently voted to increase district spending amid a significantly declining enrollment. They have repeatedly ignored the input and will of electors," she said. 

Current school board members and administrators stayed in their seats and let the storm pass rather than speak during the public hearing portions of the meeting. 

Former board member Joyce Behlke disputed the notion that achievement levels have been declining, noting for one thing that the graduation rate has improved in recent years. 

In regard to spending, district officials have acknowledged lower enrollments, but said certain fixed costs can't be trimmed. 

The school district had no immediate reaction to Tuesday night's votes. 

It's unclear whether some of the lost revenue could be made up by federal COVID recovery dollars.