Spring Election 2019: Bristol School Board candidate Q&A

Voters in the Bristol School District will be able to vote in a contested election for school board in the April 2 election.

Incumbents Andrew Boncher and Justin Miller are being challenged by David Blair, Stephanie Butenhoff, Sue Kratowicz and Lauren Woolard. Four at large seats will be filled.

The same questionnaire was submitted by westofthei.com to each candidate by email.

Here is their biographical information followed by their question responses, presented in alphabetical order:

David Blair — Age: 48. Education: Bachelor of Science Strategic Management Information Systems , Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, WI 2008. Occupation: IT Security Analyst. Previous elected offices: None.

Andrew Boncher — Age: 41. Education: BA Carthage College (Biology, Education); MA University of Illinois-Springfield (Teacher Leadership). Occupation: Educator; Previous elected offices: Bristol Board member since 2015.

Stephanie Butenhoff — Age: 32. Education: BA in Biology, Society, & Environment with a Philosophy minor, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Occupation: Stay-at-Home Mom & Bristol School Volunteer. Previous elected offices: None.

Sue Kratowicz — Age: 54. Education: UW Parkside, Bachelor of Science Degree. Occupation: Deposit Services Specialist. Previous elected offices:  None.

Justin Miller — Age: 42. Education: B.A. Criminal Justice from Carthage College, Badger State Sheriff’s Association Ethical Leadership graduate, Leadership in Police Organizations graduate. Occupation: Captain of Administrative Services Division-Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department. Previous elected offices: None

Lauren Woolard — Age: 36. Office Sought: Bristol School Board Member. Education: Bachelor of Science Degree, Illinois State University. Occupation: Office Manager. Previous elected offices: Illinois State University, Student Government Association – Off-Campus Student Senator.

1.) Why are you the best choice for a school board seat?

Blair — As a father of a 2nd & 5th grader I have a vested interest in making Bristol the best school possible. I have board experience as a past President & current Vice President of the Heritage Heights Home Owners Association. I have project management  & team work experience from my work as a IT Security Analyst at Case New Holland & my time in the US Navy.

Boncher — I am running because I care about education and realize the important role it plays in our children’s lives. I have dedicated over half of my life to the field of education. I have served as a teacher, a coach, an adviser to clubs, a chaperone, a mentor for students and new teachers, and have worked on dozens of professional committees in various capacities. I have been sought out for advice by staff, students, and community members. Through my years, I have interacted with thousands of students and hundreds of colleagues. I have fostered numerous positive relationships with parents and community members. I feel this experience provides me with invaluable insight and credibility to serve as a Board member in our community. Furthermore, I possess the ability to think critically and draw from the various perspectives these experiences have provided me. When considering a candidate, I believe voters should look closely at the skill set, experience, and insight the candidate can bring to the Board. Experience: – 20 years working in the field of education. – BA in Biology & Education from Carthage College with minors in Chemistry & Spanish. – M.A. Ed. Teacher Leadership from UI Springfield. – Professional Committee/Council Experience. – Serving on the Bristol School Board since 2015. – Member of Village of Bristol Planning Commission . – Board member of Matthias Academy. – Current President of the Carthage Alumni Council. – Carthage Noyce Scholarship Advisory Board. – Participant in Carthage College Mentor Program.  Applicable Skill Sets: – Objective listener. – Informed decision maker. – Fiscal responsibility. – Effective communicator. – Collaborative. – Understand how a school operates including confidentiality laws, policies, and obligations, FOIA, and a comprehensive understanding of school finances. – Versed in educational best practices. Furthermore, as a board member, I have addressed concerns that have been brought forth and have seen them to the end. When hearing concerns from the Bristol community, I give due diligence to these matters, investigate, find answers, and follow-up accordingly. When hearing concerns or faced with a decision, I focus on hearing all the various sides to a situation along with any data to ensure I have all the facts. As an educator I understand the importance and value of teachers and support staff and ensuring they feel supported. Will there be decisions that won’t make everyone happy? Yes, of course. Making a comprehensive decision that factors in all perspectives and variables is just one of the many challenges a board member faces.

Butenhoff — My family has been invested in Bristol for generations, as farmers and serving the community. As an involved parent of three children who are starting their education at Bristol School, I am fully invested in our district and care deeply for its success. As a School Board member, I would like to continue Bristol’s tradition of excellence and provide more transparency and openness for community concerns. In my previous experience as a sales manager, I learned that public relations, creating budgets, and working alongside the board of directors were my strongest skills. I will use my life experiences, resources from experts, and input from our district to make informed decisions. I will continue to keep a positive outlook as I work alongside other Board Members and members of the community. Trust is earned, and I will work hard for our district.

Kratowicz — I would be a great choice because I’m a parent who really cares about our kids, the teachers & staff at Bristol School and our community.  I will work hard to advocate for the education of all children in our community. My promise and commitment is to work together with the other members of the board to build and maintain a future of academic excellence with great teachers and strong community values that will last for generations to come. To me, it’s about learning from the past and building on today, while looking ahead for the future needs of our school.

Miller — I feel that I am the best choice based primarily on my professional background and work history. I have been a law enforcement professional for 17 years. I have been tasked and trusted with increased authority and responsibility with several promotional advancements.  As a result, I have been in both a supervisory and command role for the past eight (8) years. These positions are very responsible assignments which rely heavily upon organizational and leadership abilities.  I will bring these same components to this very important elected office. While there are many characteristics that are critical to holding this position, those of; ethics, transparency and accountability are perhaps the most critical. I possess a very wide breadth of knowledge in school safety practices, which will allow me to assist the district in maintaining the most current and relevant advancements and best practices in this arena. I have proven history as an excellent and effective communicator. This skill set when combined with being an instructor for higher education will allow me to assist those at the school in improving our overall communications. Additionally, I have a vested interest in participating in the school district’s success as I have two children who attend Bristol and family members whom are educators in our system which serves to galvanize my efforts in this greater good of the school district.

Woolard — I am the best choice for a school board seat because I will actively listen to concerns, face issues head on and will always communicate effectively and honestly. I will be an advocate and a voice for our children, school staff and community members. I will continually seek improvement in academic achievement, leadership development and fiscal responsibility. Even though the school board is not responsible for the day to day operations, it does have the ability to ensure that there is accountability in providing a quality education and fair working environment for Bristol students and staff. I currently help operate my family’s heating and air conditioning business, which my mom & dad started 38 years ago. My family and I understand the value of working hard and treating people right. I am a caring parent who will listen and research topics in education that are important for student success. During difficult situations, I will work in partnership with others towards a mutually agreeable solution. I will roll up my sleeves to work hard for Bristol School and our community.

2.) What do you see as the chief challenges that Bristol School faces?

Blair — Too many Board resignations in the past 6 months.  Board has lost touch with Administration & Teachers. Communication issues with parents & the Community.

Boncher — Growth and School Culture. When going through our future planning process, it became apparent based on the population studies that were conducted that Bristol will be experiencing significant growth in the coming years. As a District, we need to continue to monitor this growth and be proactive to not only address the capacity constraints of the current building, but also ensure we are cognizant of the changing educational landscape. When creating any new spaces, they need to meet the needs of students and staff, facilitate the Ends Policies (outcomes we as a District and community value), and be flexible and adaptable to the inevitable changes in education. School culture and communication are intimately tied to one another and are always something that can be improved upon, and I think like many organizations, Bristol is not immune to those challenges. In order to improve the communication we need to first identify the type of information communicated. Given the state of education, the expectations can vary from individual to individual so it is important to make sure the District’s communications are applicable, valuable, and consistent. School culture also encompasses the aspect of safety. While Bristol School is a safe school, we need to continue with the building upgrades, reviewing and updating policies and procedures related to safety, and most importantly make sure they are utilized and enforced consistently when in place.

Butenhoff — Currently, I am both an active member of the school’s safety team, working directly with Administration, and a PTA Classroom Coordinator for Kindergarten. These roles have reiterated the importance of strong leadership and constant interaction between the School Board, Administration, and Bristol Staff. We should foster a collaborative school culture with cooperation and transparency. I will work to facilitate strong working relationships on all sides. Our community has also voiced spatial, as well as several safety concerns with our school. With a referendum on hold, we should look for creative solutions to answer these. Our teachers that understand our school’s footprint and scheduling will be the biggest asset in advising as we move forward. We should exhaust any possible answers that utilize our current facilities. I will actively focus on looking for solutions to issues we face.

Kratowicz — One collective responsibility of the Bristol School Board is to listen and provide open communication with the administration, teachers & staff and community.  This currently is lacking which has led to low morale and minimal trust. When there is mutual trust, our children, teachers and staff can thrive. Currently, there is inconsistency in curriculum and support. We have great teachers, we need to support them with the best resources and programs for our children so that they can be academically and socially successful.

Miller — The growth of our community and the spacial constraints that currently exist at the school. Effective and interactive communication between the district, all the stakeholders and the community. Incomplete and/or nonexistent of the critically needed transparency and accountability to all the stakeholders and community.

Woolard — The most important role of a school board is to work collaboratively with administration, staff and the community to improve student achievement. Staff morale and school climate are current challenges that Bristol School faces. In order for optimal student achievement, the internal climate needs to be positive, motivating and fair. Another challenge that Bristol School currently faces is lack of transparent and timely communication. It is the School Board’s responsibility to facilitate two-way communications with citizens of the District. If we are able to accomplish solid two-way communication – stakeholders will be able to have trust and confidence in the District.

3.) What would be your top initiatives for the next term if you are elected?

Blair — To earn back the public’s trust in the board. To make Bristol the #1 grade school in the Western District again. To have a board that has more knowledge of day to day operations in the school. Better communication between the Board, Administration, Teachers & the Community.

Boncher — Continue monitoring the anticipated growth in Bristol and make sure we continue to be proactive with the future planning. I would also like to look into developing a compensation model that puts Bristol at the forefront of its goal of attaining and retaining high quality staff. Furthermore, I would like to continue to build positive relationships within the District and community in an effort to enhance the Bristol experience for our families and be a District our community can continue to be proud of. Lastly, I would like to ensure we are implementing and utilizing best practices in education and providing our teachers with the support they need in order to elevate the District’s academic excellence. My goal is to continue to work collaboratively in order to make Bristol School the best it can be.

Butenhoff — I am running for school board because I believe the board can do better in serving our students and community. As a board member, I would like to focus on re-engaging the community and promoting trust through proactive and open communication. I would also like to bring back positive school culture by actively advocating for our students, teachers, staff, and community. Our teachers and staff are our biggest asset – we need to work to retain them. Above all, I would like to make sure our students receive the highest education possible in a safe environment. I would work to set smart goals and reinvest in the educational and positive behavioral programs that our school policies support. Not only do these programs challenge our high achieving students, but they also provide the tools to help ensure success of our most at-risk students. It is important that these programs are practiced with fidelity and consistency. I firmly believe that if work together, we can ensure a bright and positive future for our community.

Kratowicz — If elected, I will make sure that we have open communication with our administration, teachers & staff and community. I want us to become a more transparent and approachable board that will listen and allow all voices and concerns be heard. I would also ensure that our current facilities are being completely and fully utilized. We can do this by evaluating the current assignments for our building to make sure that we are making the most of our space in the most practical and effective way.

Miller — I would endeavor to create and foster an environment that promotes ethics, transparency and accountability for everyone involved in board processes and policy compliance – which always begins with clear and unabated communication. The referendum is a critically important initiative.  We must make the best decisions possible as to progressing and how best to move forward.  Our future is quite literally our children, and accordingly – their future depends upon our quality decision making now.

Woolard — My top initiative if elected is to improve the communication between the School Board, the staff and the community. We need transparent communication to rebuild trust. I also plan to ensure that programs that the school promotes, such as Response to Intervention (RTI) and Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), are consistently implemented throughout the school. As far as student capacity issues and the appropriation of available space, we need to explore all possible solutions. This includes making cost-effective decisions, but not at the expense of optimal teaching and learning environments. The resources we should be using to guide us in these decisions are our teachers and staff; their expertise and knowledge of the current space are of the greatest significance. Believing this to be true, I have a responsibility as a parent and member of the Bristol community, to do whatever it takes to restore Bristol School to its top performing status in Kenosha County.

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