By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – Despite expressing opposition to allowing beer and wine sales at Performing Arts Center events, the school board decided Wednesday, Oct. 30, to not decide until holding a joint meeting with the village board.
The PAC, which is located on school property and funded by both the district and the village, has not served alcohol at events since the auditorium was completed in 2016.
The issue was initially brought before the school board in July by PAC Executive Director Kate Green, who proposed allowing alcohol to be served at some community events as part of the PAC’s patron experience.
After Green said she would provide school board members with additional information related to other performing arts centers serving alcohol, the matter was back on their agenda in August for possible action.
However, school board members then also held off making a decision, which they wanted to do together with the village board.
Though that joint meeting hadn’t taken place, the issue was back on the school board’s agenda last week for possible action.
School board members spoke against changing the policy that prohibits alcohol on school property and planned to vote on the issue before Paul Trondson, who is a school board member and also the treasurer of the PAC Advisory Board, urged to delay a decision until after a joint meeting could be held.
Trondson said he didn’t disagree with the comments opposing the policy change, but favored getting community feedback before making the decision.
“I feel it’s unfortunate that (joint meeting with the village board) didn’t occur and we’re put in this situation,” he said.
Trondson made the motion after PAC Advisory Board Chair Lissa Marth, who was also present for the Oct. 30 school board meeting, objected to having only one board make the decision.
Marth said members of the PAC Advisory Board didn’t know until the day before the school board meeting the issue would be on the agenda.
“We weren’t looking for it to be on the agenda, because we were waiting for this joint meeting,” she said.
Marth said she found it “a little bit more than concerning that the facility is shared between two parties, but only one party is represented here tonight.”
“Is this now setting a precedent for how we are going to endeavor joint projects in the future?” she asked.
Trondson’s motion to delay a decision until holding a joint meeting passed on a 3-2 voice vote.
Objections to allowing alcohol
Ashwaubenon School District Superintendent Kurt Weyers said it would be up to him under state law as to whether to grant or deny an organization’s request to serve alcohol on school property, should there ever be a district policy change and the village board would agree to issue that group a license to do so.
Though Weyers recognized Green and the PAC Advisory Board for what he called an “outstanding job” with the facility, he said he was strongly opposed to allowing alcohol to be served on school property.
“Our school district needs to be a safe haven, for our 3,200 students, from tobacco, drugs and alcohol,” he said. “I feel like we are sending the wrong message for our students if we were to serve alcohol on school property.”
School board President Jay Van Laanen said he couldn’t support serving alcohol at the PAC because it is located on school property.
Van Laanen said allowing that would result in other groups asking to serve alcohol while using the district’s facilities.
School board Treasurer Michelle Garrigan said she disagreed with the idea of having alcohol available at the PAC to enhance the patron experience.
“To me, that’s just the wrong message to be sending to students that alcohol enhances the experience,” she said.
School board Clerk Jennifer Vyskocil said she would find it problematic to be modeling a behavior that alcohol is needed to have an enjoyable evening at the PAC.
“It would be nice to able to model the fact that we can just have an enjoyable evening spending time with friends, watching a performance and not necessarily have to have that (alcohol),” Vyskocil said. “I think that would be good modeling for the young people in the community.”
Mark Williams, a village trustee who is also on the PAC Advisory Board, said having the school board decide the issue on its own would be “a little bit strong-armed” with the PAC being a joint venture between the district and village.
Williams said people in the community had the impression the issue would be dealt with at a joint meeting so that they could show up to speak in favor or opposition.
He said he didn’t want how the matter would be handled to ruin the relationship between the village and school district.
Weyers said the district values its relationship with the village and doesn’t take that for granted.
He said he believes scheduling a joint meeting will show the opinions of both groups are valued in the PAC’s operation.
The joint meeting has been scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20, in the old auditorium in the high school.