Spring Election 2020: Wilmot Union High School District Board candidates Q&A

Voters in the Wilmot Union High School District will be able to cast a ballot in a contested school board race on April 7 (or earlier with absentee voting).

There are three at-large seats and five candidates.

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

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

Kelly Hansen — Age: 43. Education: B.A. in Psychology from Marquette University, Masters Degree in School Social Work from University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee. Occupation: Small Business Owner of Hansen’s Ice Cream Parlor in Wilmot. Previous Elected Office: None.

Janine Morgan — Age: 50. Education: M.Ed. Secondary Education; B.S. Political Science, History. Occupation: Teacher. Previous elected offices: none.

Erin Tassone — Age: 44. Education: BS, Therapeutic Recreation, Illinois State University; MA in Teaching, Special Education, National Louis University
Occupation: Substitute Teacher, Previous Special Education teacher at the High School level. Previous elected offices:  N/A

Steve Turner — Age: 51. Education: BA degrees in:  Psychology, Human Resource Management and Business Administration.  Minor:  Biblical Literature. Occupation: Major Account Executive; TransUnion. Previous elected offices:  Current Board Member, Treasurer and  Finance Committee Member Wilmot Union High School.  Current Board Member / Finance Committee Member Lakewood School.

Jim Walker — Age:  53. Education:  Master’s in Business Administration, Bachelors in Electrical Engineering. Occupation:   Manager of Quality. Previous elected offices:  Jt #1 Silver Lake-Salem School Board.

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

Hansen — I believe I will be able to provide a well rounded approach to serving on the school board. As a mother of 4, three of whom attend Wilmot High School, a business owner in the community in which I employ a fair number of Wilmot High School students, and my background as a school social worker will provide me with an ability to see issues from a variety of viewpoints and perspectives.

Morgan — I am the best choice for Wilmot School Board because my priority is our children. I know that Wilmot has much to offer but has room for improvement. I have worked in education for over 20 years as a teacher and in leadership roles. I also have two children who attend Wilmot. Being a parent, educator, and community member gives me multiple perspectives and understanding of the workings of and importance of a well-functioning school and good education. I attend most School Board meetings so I am aware of most of the issues the Board is currently addressing. I want to move Wilmot in the direction to help all students succeed and become successful members of our community.

Tassone — I have three school-aged children. My oldest will be attending Wilmot Union High School in the fall.  I value education and our community and have the time, energy and motivation to advocate for a quality education for all children.  My experience in education and dedication to the community make me a natural fit for the school board.

Turner — I have a passion for the school and the overall scholastic experience at WHS.  I have had two kids graduate from WHS, a current Junior and a Freshman enrolled for next year which is to say I’m vested in the education provided.  Additionally, my background has equipped me to contribute at a unique level.  I have deep experience in  policy making, financial planning, team leadership and performance management all of which lend themselves to effective board governance. Additionally, I bring in excess of 5 years of board experience from two schools to the position.

Walker — I am the best choice for Wilmot’s school board seat because all decisions I make are based on what is in the best interest of our students, staff, and the community!  I bring 15 years’ experience as a school board member at Riverview School with me.  I understand the financial challenges our schools face, how to support programs which bring up school standardized test scores, and how to support our faculty and administration to make a school the best it can be.

2.) What do you see as the chief challenges that your school district faces?

Hansen — I think it is imperative that we support our administration and teachers in ensuring that we are offering as many opportunities for involvement to our students as possible. Most importantly, we need continue and expand the schools ability to meet not only the student’s academic needs but also their social and emotional needs. We need to ensure our teachers, support staff, and  administrators have the tools necessary to meet these needs. 

Morgan — Right now, the district’s chief challenge is navigating the rest of this disrupted school year and making sure all of our students are prepared for next year. In the long-term, a chief challenge continues to be to support administration and teachers as they work to improve Wilmot’s academic Report Card and academic scores for ALL students. Wilmot’s Report Card dropped considerably in the past decade and is slowly making improvements and needs to continue to do so.

Tassone — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic it will be important to work with the Department of Public Instruction and our faculty on following new guidelines during this time of school shutdown.  We will work hard to address how to get students back on track.  In six years, WUHS’s school report card has decreased by nine points. The Board will need to work with leadership to set goals that result in more accountability and transparency.

Turner — Broadly I feel the school needs to continue to ramp up its trajectory of improvement which it has begun in the past year as measured by the state scorecard.   The administration has a good working knowledge of the challenges it faces and has, moreover, functional plans in place to make the needed improvements.  Educationally, WHS lags its peers in several core performance areas.  Progress has not been consistent and needs to be in both ELA and Math.  Math has been a particular area of challenge for the school with strategies put in place to make advances.  The strategies need to be well executed for the needed improvement to occur.  We also need to double down on our focus on drug education, prevention and support.  With the recent legislation to the south, the challenges facing our kids and the school overall will only heighten if we are’t vigilant in our efforts.

Walker — Recovering from the recent pandemic will be our biggest challenge.  Wilmot’s online learning is going well but it does not replace the level of education our students get in a traditional classroom.  Another challenge is increasing our focus on student achievement.  Our standardized test scores are not to the level they need to be.  Finally remaining financially stable is a challenge.  Under the existing Wisconsin funding model for public schools all schools are forced to do more with less.  This means making tough budget decisions.

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

Hansen — My priorities are to ensure that all students are given more opportunities to be not only involved in activities, clubs, and athletics but to also be provided with essential post secondary planning whether that be college, trade school, technical school, or employment. I want to ensure every student has the tools and skills to achieve success wherever their passion lies.

Morgan — I would work with administration and teachers in making necessary changes to continue to improve academic scores for students so they can become productive members of our community. I would like to make sure all stakeholders (students, teachers, parents, administration, and the School Board) are supported and held accountable in improving Wilmot academically and as a vital part of our community. I would encourage all stakeholders to be involved in the goal setting and strategic planning taking place over the summer.I would also encourage the School Board and stakeholders to examine the Redefining Ready initiative that many Wisconsin schools are adopting to have clear measurable goals to gauge success.

Tassone — I would aim to help the Board set goals, work toward building and strengthening relationships, engage families to ensure the success of their students, improve teacher morale, and set a five-year strategic plan.

Turner — Simply stated, educational improvement as referenced in the prior question.  As a board, it is essential that we are partnering effectively with the administration to ensure the right priorities are in focus and the communicated improvement plans are both being administered and producing the expected results.  Moving the dial in our scholastic performance is job one in my mind and, based on the feedback I have heard from the community, there is clear alignment.  My focus, if elected, will center on educational improvement with an eye toward ensuring our fiscal position remains efficient on taxpayers and the leadership teams continues to stabilize and grow in cohesion.  Additionally, we must ensure we have focused and effective plans in place relative to drug education, prevention and support.

Walker — Once students are allowed back into the classroom our first priority is developing and implementing a plan to get all of our students caught up to where they need to be by the start of the 2021 school year.  If our graduating class of 2020 cannot have a graduation or prom as scheduled we need to reschedule these important events as soon as it is feasible.  This summer we need to kick off meetings with the administration, staff, and community to define a new vision, mission, and implementation plan that makes student achievement a top priority.  The school board must hold the administration accountable for status updates on student achievement improvement initiatives.

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