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Candidates throw verbal jabs at Nicolet forum

Gloves come off as three vie for two seats

March 30, 2011

Glendale — The three candidates seeking two seats on the Nicolet School Board touched on a number of topics - including the spring referendum and the future of the district - at a voters' forum Tuesday that was, at times, contentious.

Andrew Cegielski, Mort Grodsky and Joe Kasle are vying for the seats. Incumbents Laurel Bear and Kelly Herda chose not to seek re-election after six years each on the board.

Grodsky and Kasle favor going to referendum this spring, while Cegielski has advocated for a more conservative, wait-and-see approach. Voters in Bayside, Fox Point, Glendale and River Hills will be asked Tuesday if Nicolet can spend an additional $2.15 million annually, starting with the 2011-12 school year through 2015-16.

At the forum, Cegielski said he has concerns about the timing of the referendum as people throughout the Nicolet area continue to struggle financially.

"We have a responsibility to be role models," Cegielski said. "Believe me, these are tough times. Maybe more needs to be done (to the budget)."

Grodsky said he is backing the referendum so Nicolet's academic and athletic offerings remain in tact.

"If this referendum fails, we are in dire straits," he said. "We're going to be cutting and cutting and cutting."

Kasle said he is supporting the referendum because he wants students to enjoy the same offerings his children had.

"I consider what's in the best interest of the students," Kasle said. "At the same time, I believe in being good stewards of the community's money."

'No dire situation here'

A question about class sizes and how they affect education drew heated debate among the candidates.

Cegielski said Nicolet's class sizes of 24 to 28 students are not out of line and said he has faith current administrators are capable of making good decisions that should not affect the situation regardless of whether the referendum passes or fails.

"There's no dire situation here," Cegielski said.

Grodsky and Kasle took aim at Cegielski's assertion.

"I hate to burst your bubble, but do you really believe the crap you spew?" said Kasle, who noted that he would feel "sickened" if he had to cut any of the programs his children were able to enjoy while attending Nicolet.

Grodsky said he believes enough cutting has transpired and is advocating for a different approach to future shortfalls.

"In five or 10 years, there's not going to be a school here," Grodsky said in response to Cegielski's statement. "Mr. Cegielski does not understand this community."

Legal troubles discussed

Cegielski's past brush with the law also was a hot topic at the forum. All candidates were asked if they have a criminal history. Grodsky and Kasle indicated they do not - a fact backed up on the Wisconsin Circuit Court's Consolidated Court Automation Programs, or CCAP, website.

Cegielski in 2007 was convicted of his second offense involving drunken driving. Whitefish Bay Police arrested Cegielski on Sept. 12, 2007, after he struck a guard rail and damaged his vehicle. Cegielski registered a 0.188 blood alcohol content reading, according to police reports.

"It's not something I'm proud of," Cegielski said. "I've learned from it, and I've grown from it. I do expect people to hold me to a higher standard."

Responding to Cegielski's arrests, Grodsky and Kasle questioned whether he could be an effective role model on the School Board.

"We should question who we have associated with our School Board," Grodsky said. "We need to think about who we want serving this community."

Kasle said: "I don't understand why he's running. The thought of a School Board member who's been pulled over not once, but twice, is not a role model for my children."

Nicolet School Board members serve three-year terms and earn $1,000 annually.

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