Homeward, Denmark

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by Charles Collier, The Denmark News

DENMARK – Room 211 at Denmark High School was unusually filled with audience members Monday night for the Board of Education’s monthly meeting. Several issues of longstanding implication were up for discussion, none more impactful than the hiring of Luke Goral as District Administrator.

The Board began its search for a new executive at the start of January, utilizing multiple focus groups of community members and District staff for outside input on what to look consider in a candidate. With the aid of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards, candidates were brought before a 25-member interview committee who chose finalists to appear before the full Board of Education.

“I feel like I’m at home and I’m excited to really have an impact,” Goral told The Denmark News after the announcement.

Goral grew up on farmland near Poland, WI before graduating from Denmark High School in 1997. In the following two decades he has acquired a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and education certification from UW-Parkside, a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science from UW-LaCrosse, Educational Leadership certification through a UW-Madison/Oshkosh cooperative program, and earned Superintendent’s certification from St. Mary’s University in Winona, MN.

His first job in public education was in southern Arizona—San Luis, where he taught, is split by the U.S.-Mexican border—with a majority Hispanic population. He then retruned to Wisconsin and served as Athletic Director and a social studies teacher for Southern Door. The new Denmark superintendent will be leaving Sheboygan Falls High School after ten years, seven of which were in the principal’s office.

Goral says he’s learned from the differences of each position and with experience as the years have worn on. True to the values of an educator, he says his most powerful tools have been the knowledge of those around him.

“I think really what has prepared me for this position the most is that I’ve had a lot of really good mentors—from the principals and my current superintendent and my current [school] Board,” who he says have invariably encouraged his continued study of finance and budgeting, and professional development for staff,” while providing opportunities for him to be involved with valuable leadership decisions.

Goral has two sons; one already attends Denmark Elementary while the other is gearing up to begin schooling this fall during his father’s first year as Superintendent. Goral said he aims to build relationships with families and the community to find what is best liked throughout the District.

Sure, he’s taking over after Tony Klaubauf’s fourteen-year stint, but “change” is not a term he thinks fits well.

“I’m not about change; I’m about growth. I want to come in here and learn all the great things, because there are a lot of great things here, and just keep moving,” he said. “I want to get to know everybody, figure out what their passions are, support those passions, and keep moving in the right direction.”

The new Superintendent will be salaried $125,000, including a 2.13% pay raise for District employees next year.

Full-Time SRO Approved; District, Village Done With Old Agreement

There was more than one long-term staffing change made in Monday’s meeting. The Board unanimously approved adding a full-time School Resource Officer position for next year and the foreseeable future.

All members of the administration held current SRO Jonathon Dzekute in high esteem and believe the position helps students, teachers, and parents in valuable ways.

Dzekute is a trained Direct Enforcement Officer with additional training for in-school practices through the Brown County Sheriff’s Office. District representatives were present during interviews when the Village of Denmark began its transition to County officers from the Denmark Police Department toward the end of 2015.

An agreement existed between the two bodies in which salary costs were split for part-time school coverage. Early on, Dzekute said being in those dual-roles left his time stretched and compromised positive relationships with students.

Negotiations between the District and the Village last year were drawn out until the start of this school year before a one-year agreement was reached for Officer Dzekute to work in the schools full-time, again with the Village and District splitting costs.

Village officials offered cost-sharing this year with a guarantee that no further assistance for the SRO would be extended thereafter. Dzekute is one of two DEOs contracted by the Village, and his move to the schools left DEO Dan Delebreau the lone dedicated Denmark officer. Additional coverage has been requested to account for the vacancy, funded in part by the SRO agreement’s half-salary savings.

Nancy VanElzen, who has been the District’s representative in discussions with the Village administration leading up to Monday night’s decision. She emphasized that approval by no means indicated that Dzekute would be next year’s officer.

“The feedback that I’ve gotten in participating in those meetings is that [Dzekute] feels comfortable with the role at the school. It doesn’t mean that [he] is going to apply for it, it doesn’t mean that he’s going to get it,” VanElzen said.

Both bodies will undertake separate interview processes to fill the respective gaps ahead of the 2018-19 school year, after which the Village will have two full-time DEOs for municipal law enforcement.

“What I’ve heard from the community is that there’s no greater need than now, based on the world that we live in to make this a priority for our students,” VanElzen said before moving to approve the position.

More Security

Options?

In light of the school shooting in Parkland, FL last month and the national discussion it has sparked about school safety, outgoing District Administrator Tony Klaubauf said further security measures were under consideration than just the SRO.

Among security enhancements being mulled, which Klaubauf said should be left to incoming DA Luke Goral to implement or not, include monitoring software which would alert school administration or law enforcement of alarming behavior on the school’s network.

Different software would require visitors to scan their identification to conduct an instant background check before being admitted into school facilities. An architect is also consulting further alternative approaches.

Klaubauf did not dismiss utilizing new state legislation offering grant money to cover the costs of armed guards throughout school districts. ν

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