Spring election 2024: Bristol School Board candidates Q&A

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

On the April 2 ballot will be:

  • Joanne Gray
  • Matthew David Ley
  • Linda Mizwicki
  • Nicole Starke

Two seats will be filled. Voters will be able to vote for up to two candidates. Neither incumbent is running for re-election.

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:

Joanne Gray — Age: 57; Village, town, city where you reside: The Village of Bristol; Education: Certified Insurance Counselor; Occupation: I started my Insurance Agency in 1996 and after many successful years, I sold the company in 2020. Working directly with the public as well as underwriters and staff for many years has given me a balanced perspective on problem solving, planning, and working as a team. Previous elected/appointed public office: After a long career of working with the public, this is my first experience working for the public.

Matthew David Ley — Age: 43; Village, Town, City Where You Reside: Heritage Heights, Kenosha; Education: High School (Darlington, WI & Abbotsford, WI), BA, Comparative Religious Studies (UW-Madison), M. Div. (Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago), MBA (DePaul University); Occupation: Owner/Principal at Flip the Script Coaching & Consulting; Previously Elected/Appointed Public Office: None.

Linda Mizwicki — Age: 47; Village, town, city where you reside:  Bristol, Wisconsin; Education: Bachelor of Science, Master’s in Special Education (Learning Behavior Specialist); Master’s in Educational Leadership; Occupation: School Administrator; Student Services Coordinator of CCSD 46 in Grayslake, IL; Previous elected/appointed public office: This is my first campaign for public office.

 Nicole Starke — Age: 40′;  Village, town, city where you reside: Bristol; Education: certified CNA, Certified Phlebotomist;  Occupation:  Stay at Home Mom; Previous elected/appointed public office: None.

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?

Gray — Much of the instruction and homework is performed on Chromebooks, which stay at the school. The families I’ve talked to find it difficult to help their children complete homework with nothing to reference. I’ve also met some of the amazing teachers who put their hearts into teaching and agree strongly that family involvement is essential to the kids success. One idea would be providing a link for parents that would enable them to be more active partners in the educational process, increasing the success rate of kids as well as the school’s report card.

Ley — The biggest issue facing school districts across Wisconsin is state funding. 85 of the 421 school districts in Wisconsin have a referendum question for the April 2nd election. Some of them have more than one. That’s 1 in 5 districts. Our schools are being asked to do more with less across the board. Having attended a number of school board meetings I believe our school board is addressing this situation well. They are exploring all options to address this need and are being financially responsible. Bristol is one of those 85 schools going to referendum. I believe this is the best lever left to the school board because the state has chosen not to pull theirs. In both cases the funds are available, they just need approval. The state said no, I’m hoping Bristol voters will say yes. I know I will.

Mizwicki — One of the most important issues facing Bristol School is funding.  The district is asking for an operating referendum to shift $700,000 from the debt levy to be used for operations.  The district has been fiscally responsible, however, state funding has not matched rising inflation costs for several years.  The referendum question will not increase Bristol’s projected mill rate.  Voting yes to this referendum will allow the administration to shift funds to support staffing and operations, curriculum renewal, and preemptive facility care.   The district has been paying ahead on debt, and will continue to pay down debt at a responsible rate.  The funding referendum will allow them to retain quality teachers, provide quality curriculum, and put money aside for building maintenance.  Also, great schools support great communities; property values depend on desirable schools. In the future, the Bristol School Board should continue to advocate for increased funding from the state of Wisconsin to offset local funds.

Starke — To me the most important is how our kids are doing  academically. More than half of the students are at or below proficiency level. I plan to support the  teachers, aid them in help and/or policies to get our  kids above proficiency level. We need to do this while spending money wisely and effectively.

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

Gray — Our schools are the center of our strong community. Preparing our children to be well-rounded contributors to society and successful in their chosen paths is a top priority. My goal is to work together with other board members, administration, and the staff where appropriate  to ensure that our public education is in alignment with our family values and give the kids the greatest opportunity for academic success. Having three grown children come through the public education system, i’ve seen how their experiences there have led them to lead very successful and happy lives. For this reason, my perspective as a school board member is unique and valuable to the district.

Ley — Each candidate brings something to the table. Having heard from them all I believe we each care deeply about making an impact at our schools. The particular pieces I will bring to the board are a focus on fiscal responsibility, an ear for the community voice, and an open and strategic mind. My current work as a consultant and coach involves supporting organizations that are experiencing shifts in size, culture and direction. My role is to help them identify why they do what they do, align to this vision, build the structures and financials to support it, and help them find ways to value their people in the process. This involves a lot of listening, leading with curiosity, hearing multiple viewpoints, and getting to the root cause of issues instead of addressing symptoms. All of these experiences will be called into play and will benefit the board if I am elected.

Mizwicki — As an experienced school administrator and special education teacher, I am committed to public education for all students. Connected to the community as a parent and neighbor, I want to help continue the excellent education the Bristol School provides for our students. I bring a focus on supporting students and teachers, a balanced perspective, and an open mind.  I have three children who attend Bristol School (grades 2,6, and 8) who have benefited from the excellent education offered there.  I have lived in Bristol since 2007, and I am connected to the community. I serve on the Kenosha County 4-h Horse Project board, helping kids learn about horses.  I know what it’s like to run my own business and to work in education. Most importantly, I believe that public education is worth the investment of my time, experience, and effort.  I want to use my experience to help kids, because strong schools help build strong communities.

Starke —  I have four kids in the school, currently they are now all day. I feel it’s now my time to get involved. I worked very well on a team in the medical field. I certainly can work well with the team of the administration, board, parents and children. I’m great  at asking questions, listening and like to see all aspects before making a decision. Our kids need a foundation that really works in order to support them through their academic career.


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