Reflecting on hard-fought effort

After voter decision on Election Day rejected a referendum promising much needed improvements to the Peshtigo School District, the aging building will remain as is, for now, while the district shifts away from the election and begins to focus current operational needs of the building and possible future solutions.

EagleHerald staff writer

PESHTIGO—Wednesday morning, amid confusion over various media reports concerning Referendum 2021 for the Peshtigo School District, Superintendent Patrick Rau confirmed to district families and later in a press release that, contrary to some media reports, the referendum failed.

“I wish I could say that the media reports were correct,” began an email from Rau to the families. “However they are not.”

According to the Marinette County website and confirmed by County Clerk Kathy Brandt, voters denied two ballot school district ballot questions.

The first question asked voters’ approval for a $33.2 million building upgrade and classroom expansion that sought to improve both infrastructure and programming at the Middle/High School. By a vote of 894 to 907 the request failed to pass.

In addition, voters also turned down a second and separate component to the referendum.

By a vote of 796 to 997, a $1.825 million development of a large “green space” west of the Peshtigo Elementary Learning Center also failed. The development would have accommodated physical education, athletic and extracurricular programs for the district as well as the creation of green space for the public.

“I want to thank you all for the support that you have given us,” continued Rau’s email. “Not (just) through this referendum process but through my almost three years working for you.”

In a separate district press release, Rau reiterated disappointment over the failure of both referendum questions but he offered his gratitude to those voters who turned out in support.

“It is disheartening, but the educational needs of the students and operational needs of the current building remain,” he said in the release. “We will get back to work and continue until we find a solution that provides the educational programming space our students need and the community supports.”

Peshtigo School Board Mariel Carter, reiterated the that now that the election is over, and the referendum failed, the district issues related to infrastructure, space and programming still exist and must be addressed.

“The problems haven’t vanished just because we don’t have the funding,” she said. “But we need to find a viable solution that the community will support.”

At present, Carter told the EagleHerald that no alternative options await as a fallback to the referendum.

“This (referendum) was the plan,” she said. “The vote was so close ... And now we have to hear from more citizens and help to engage them to find where we go from here.”

In his email to families, Rau closed by further emphasizing the district’s unceasing mission to meet the needs of all students.

“A building does not define us,” he wrote. “We promise to continue to provide the best learning opportunities for your children that we possibly can.”

In a statement to the EagleHerald, Rau affirmed school board members’ commitment to utilizing what they learned to continue moving forward and searching for options that address the district’s challenges.

“From here, the board will discuss the results and our process at our (Wednesday) meeting,” he said. “It will be an important time to reflect on the process and provided solution.”

According to (unofficial results) posted Wednesday, while a majority of City and Town of Peshtigo residents voted in support of the 33.2 million Middle/High School renovation question (746 to 676), voters from the Town of Grover tipped the scales to vote the referendum down, casting 148 “yes” votes to 231 “no” votes.

Until the district performs canvassing of the election results, all tallies remain unofficial.

The Peshtigo School Board will meet Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Peshtigo Elementary School to discuss future options.