Spring Election 2022: Bristol School Board candidates Q&A

Voters in the Bristol School District will be able to vote in a Feb. 15 primary to narrow the field for school board for the April 5 election.

There are five candidates for two seats. The primary will narrow the field to four candidates. None of the incumbents are running for re-election.

Appearing on the primary ballot will be:

  • Tina Elfering
  • Stephen Grimm 
  • JoDee Hale-Schmid 
  • Danielle Whitaker
  • Lauren Zimmer 

The same questionnaire was submitted by westofthei.com to each candidate by email. Here are the candidates’ biographical information followed by their question responses, presented in alphabetical order:

Tina Elfering  — Age: 45. Village, town, city where you reside: Bristol. Education: Graduate of Bristol Grade School, 1994 Graduate of Westosha Central, Associate Degree from Gateway Technical College. Occupation: Mortgage Loan Partner at Bank Five Nine. Previous elected/appointed public office: NONE.

Stephen Grimm — Age: No answer given. Village, town, city where you reside:  Kenosha. Education: Bachelor of Science, Penn State University. Occupation: Former Business Executive; Presently Stay-At-Home Dad. Previous elected/appointed public office: None.

JoDee Hale-Schmid — Age: 43. Village, town, city where you reside: Bristol. Education: BS in Marketing from UW-Parkside. Occupation: Prior to becoming a “stay at home” mom she was a global marketing manager for an IT company. She is now mom to a Kindergartner and continues to dabble in graphic design work and has a crafting business on the side. Previous elected/appointed public office: n/a.

Danielle Whitaker — Age: No answer given. Village, town, city where you reside: Village of Bristol. Education: Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Sociology from the Big Ten University in Champaign-Urbana (2005), Masters of Mental Health Counseling and Christian Studies from Trinity International University (2014). Occupation: Director of Talent Acquisition and Corporate Development for a largescale construction firm. Previous elected/appointed public office: None.

Lauren Zimmer — Age: 32. Village, town, city where you reside: Bristol. Education: Bachelor of Science (Agribusiness) from West Texas A&M University. Occupation: My primary function is a stay at home mom, however, in the last year my husband switched to being self-employed and started his own company.  This has added an additional role in managing the behind the scenes aspects of his small business. Previous elected/appointed public office: N/A.

1.) What do you feel is the most pressing issue facing the school district and how do you feel the School Board should address it?

Elfering — Over the past two years I think everyone can agree that the best place for our students is in the classroom with educators and resources to make them successful.  Our students deserve a more robust elective platform (STEAM, foreign language, etc).  Our teachers and staff deserve fair wages.  Our administration deserves as board that will hold them accountable and encourage them to strive for growth.  An effective member of the school board needs to know how to partner with administration and the community to ensure that needs outlined above get met. *Keep our remarkably talented teachers and support staff by working with administration to address those needs. *Electives for middle grade – currently they are only offered band. *Provide up to date curriculum for teachers and our children – hold administration accountable for this educational material. *Be relevant and competitive in providing a quality education to our students. Yet providing the facility to ensure an environment for successful teaching and learning. *Manage and maintain a balanced budget. *Create transparency amongst the community and the board that will instill the trust the board once had within the community in the past. We need to understand the community’s values, wishes and challenges.

Grimm — Soon after I am sworn in as a Bristol School Board Member, (that, of course, being dependent on me having the honor of being elected by the Bristol community), I will be glad to step up and volunteer to oversee the development of a long-overdue 5-7 Year Strategic Plan. This plan must include short-term and long-term goals for Bristol School, as well as a roadmap for school administration to use when developing measurable goals for what all stakeholders should decide together are most important. The stakeholders should include community members, teachers, parents and students. The over-arching goal of this process is, of course, to maximize student achievement! Going forward all decisions made by the Board, as well as School Administration, should then be guided by these realistic goals that everyone agrees up front are attainable. This includes virtually all fiscal decisions, curriculum updates, extracurricular activities, who and how we hire, teacher salaries, etc. Without such a plan we are, at best, meandering our way as we hopefully move forward. At worst, we find ourselves band-aiding issues which unfortunately we have done in the past when it comes to large maintenance concerns, technology, and curriculum decisions, amongst other things. Quite frankly, this Plan should have been in place before the referendum process was ever begun. (But, it wasn’t…and that shouldn’t impact a yes or no vote.) Creating a Strategic Plan is a process that, as I understand it, was begun a few years ago, but then aborted due to the obstacles that were presented by the virus. This very important activity needs to be dealt with as a “pressing issue” and cannot be put on the back burner any longer. Again, I look forward to working with other Board members, School Administration, teachers and staff and all members of the community in making this Plan a reality, sooner rather than later.

Hale-Schmid — The kids and community need to be at the forefront of the school board. Kids should be afforded all the opportunities we can feasibly provide for them to explore new opportunities, the tools to be successful, and the ability to flourish with a solid educational foundation. Listening to the community and taking their feedback into consideration and giving them a voice for aiding and fostering solutions to needs and obstacles the school faces. Avoiding stalemates and getting things done in a timely and prioritized manner. Exploring creative solutions to address needs not only financially but also those that are tangible and intangible

Whitaker — Our students are coming to age in a world that changes dramatically, seemingly overnight. Sociologists are describing our current period as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, and they are estimating that 50% of current jobs will be drastically altered due to technology and automation. With information changing so rapidly, I believe it is
critical that our school prepares students to be life-long learners. A student’s confidence in meeting the demands of an ever-shifting society will set them up for future success. Our district has many strengths: committed staff, involved parents, and a thriving community. These strengths will allow the administration and school board to work in
coordination; casting a long-term vision, budgets that align with this vision, and resources to equip our teachers to carry out the immense task of equipping the next generation. One last note: I am optimistic that during my term on the school board, the number of Covid-related policy decisions will be minimal. Hopefully, this will free up energy and
time for other pressing challenges and opportunities facing our district. For the sake of transparency, I do strongly believe in the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines; however, I am opposed to a mandate for staff or students.

Zimmer — I do think that many of the issues the current BOE is facing are being addressed in their referendum such as maintenance and updates to the building and adding in curriculum enhancements, that being said some of the issues in the school run deeper than that.  Our students, teachers and community deserve a district that provides a high quality education in a positive environment.  I firmly believe we have an excellent administrator in place with Jack Musha and I know that he is working diligently to elevate our school.  As a board I think there is a need to find the balance between honoring our small town roots while simultaneously evolving enough to set our students up for success when they move beyond our walls.

2.)  Why are you the best candidate for School Board? 

Elfering — I am a lifelong resident of Bristol.  I attended Bristol School, and remember how Bristol School used to be the best demonstrated practice for a great elementary education.  I believe that by partnering with the administration team on a plan that puts the students first we can be that school again. Over the past year I have paid close attention to the role that our school board not only holds within our school – but within our community.  I am running because I feel like Bristol School can do and be better.  I remember the partnership and respect that Bristol School once had in our community, and I know I am ready to put in the work to bring it back.   Our children deserve up to date curriculum.  Our staff deserves to feel listened to and be fairly compensated to create the best working environment available so they can focus on giving our children the best education possible.

Grimm — I have been attending School Board Meetings for more than four years and I have come to realize that my experience as a management professional and business executive should be helpful to the needs of Bristol School. Specifically, my experience in the following areas should be an asset: budgeting ($75 million), personnel management & development (including hiring, performance evaluations, personal improvement plans, etc.) and goal-setting (management-by-objectives). In my last professional role, I was one of four executives that sat down weekly, at a minimum, to decide on the short-term and long-term priorities for a privately owned $125 million company. This experience taught me the importance of collaborative discussions, developed my problem-solving skills, learned the art of big-picture thinking while still paying attention to the details and prepping always to turn-on-a-dime as needed. This type of role allowed me to grow professionally and personally and I believe it will be a benefit to the needs of the Bristol School Board. Personally, I have a fourth-grader at Bristol School and therefore I have a sense-of-urgency when it comes to the various issues that the School Board, along with School Administration, will need to address over the next several years. This includes important topics such as an updated curriculum (including STEM and electives), special education, extra curricular activities, teacher’s needs including pay, etc. We must strive to be one of the best schools in the state of Wisconsin, not simply one of the best West of the I!  

Hale-Schmid — I understand the importance of focus and never losing sight of why you started or wanted to be a part of something. I am a self motivator. When I am passionate and care deeply about something I’m off and running. I’m not one who becomes involved in something for my own self gain. I’m becoming involved because the kids and community deserve a great board of education for their school. They do not deserve to feel the ill effects from people who have their own agenda. That in turn affects the whole ecosystem of the school and community. I want to help create a thriving, efficient, and more desirable school that surrounding communities envy. A blend of old school, everybody knows your name, kick butt teachers and staff right down to the janitor and food services, along with top educational materials that allow teachers the freedom to teach outside of the box in fun and unique ways that make students prosper and flourish.

Whitaker — If elected by the community, I will bring a mixture of hard and soft skills to an already dynamic team. In my early 20’s, I co-founded an exterior painting business that thrived despite the challenges of the Great Recession, growing revenue from zero to nearly 3 million dollars in less than five years. I was responsible for approximately 30 employees and all profit/loss for that business. The community has continually voiced a need for fiscal conservatism, and I commit to working within our school’s financial means. After selling that business, I continued to work in the construction sector focusing on finding, recruiting, and hiring the best talent. I’d like to bring that “recruiter” eye to my
time on the school board as we seek to onboard new teachers. This becomes even more pertinent if the specialized electives being discussed now become a reality. In my 30’s, I have earned two graduate degrees: one in mental health counseling and the other in theology.  These “soft”, people-focused skills I honed working with individuals and families are a great asset to me in collaborative work; especially toward shared goals involving various stakeholders.

Zimmer — While I am brand new to having a student in the district, I began attending board meetings before my son was enrolled at Bristol. Since the August 25th regular school board meeting, I have attended 8 of the 9 regular and special board meetings in person. I believe this makes me a more than well informed candidate on the actual role and duties of the school board as a whole, the dynamics of our current board and I have very versed knowledge of the agenda items our board is currently working through.  Additionally, this has shown me a portion of the actual time commitment our board members take on in this role.  I believe my actions have shown I am willing to do so as well.  If elected I would be bringing a level head and outside perspective.  I will look at the bigger picture each time to see all sides that need to be considered as well as take input from the staff and community in order to make the best informed decisions.


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