Meet the Candidates for School Board

What is your motivation for running and what are your intentions if elected to the board?

SchoolBoardElection_LogoBy Alyssa Birkeland, Current Staff

This spring, two seats on the school board will be up for election.

Karen Betz and Randy Marquardt currently hold those seats, and only Marquardt is running for re-election.  On Tuesday, Feb. 16, there will be a primary election to narrow the five candidates down to four who will move onto the general election on April 5.

The West Bend Current reached out to each of the candidates for written responses to a general question: What is your motivation for running and what are your intentions if elected to the board? Below are each of their responses, listed in the order that the candidates will appear on the primary ballot.

Read more about the candidates here.

Ken Schmidt

I’m Ken Schmidt and I am running for election to the West Bend School Board. I am a long time resident of the West Bend School District and a taxpayer. I’m a family man who has a sincere interest in public education having earned two degrees from public academic institutions. I also have two public school teachers in my family – my wife and my daughter-in-law. I am acquainted with governing an educational institution through my 25 plus years of experience as a member of the Board of Regents of Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, Minnesota.

My goal is to promote quality education in our school district while maintaining respect for all stakeholders including the taxpayers. I hope to champion greater accountability, transparency, and integrity in our School District and on our Board – so we can make the best, most informed decisions possible. I want to see curricula and teaching methods that prepare our students to be successful, productive citizens in the community. I would do this as I advance the following:

  • Reassessing the Common Core Standards and their effectiveness in the improvement of educational outcomes
  • Improving our District’s school math test scores on the State report card
  • Reviewing the guidelines for assessing the effectiveness of curriculum programs
  • Increasing efficiencies in programming, staffing, and building utilization
  • Adding to the escrow account for future building projects, and
  • Encouraging volunteerism in our academic, arts and athletic programs.

I hope to be elected to the West Bend School Board to accomplish the above and focus on the best interests of our students and the positives about education in our district.

Jennifer Donath

Hello! My name is Jenn Donath and I am running for school board because I want West Bend to remain a destination district. I will do this by promoting better communication among teachers, school board members, administration, and the community. For the past three years I have volunteered in my son’s classrooms at McLane, and I am a board member of McLane’s PTO, and I see first-hand how important it is to listen to our teachers since they are the ones in the classrooms with our children. As a member of the Benders for Better Public Education group, I have been contacted by over 40 parents who are frustrated with the lack of communication between administration and families. Some feel uncomfortable with, or even dismissed by, administration and the school board. As a composition instructor at UW Oshkosh, I work with students with strong critical thinking skills who graduated from high schools with rigorous academic standards and experienced, caring staff. I’ve also seen the opposite, as I work with students who struggle to get themselves caught up with college’s academic requirements.

If I am elected to serve on the school board, I want community members to feel welcome to share their perspectives by emailing me and attending board meetings when it fits into their schedules. Even if I have a different perspective, I will listen and have an open mind. Positive change happens when we are willing to work together, consider different ideas, and compromise for a greater good. I want “suggestion boxes” put into all of our schools so teachers can feel safe writing quick messages to school board members. The writing prompt can be as simple as “I want the school board to know that…” and this can allow teachers a quick way to share accomplishments and challenges. As a member of the Benders for Better Public Education group, I have also been contacted by over 25 teachers who are afraid to contact administration with their concerns because they fear negative repercussions. If a teacher has a suggestion or concern to help him/her to be a more effective educator who engages students and teaches them to be critical thinkers and engaged citizens, this is a necessary conversation to have.

Randy Marquardt (incumbent)

As you probably know, I am running for a third term. Last election, I had a stated objective to find ways to enhance the educational experience we provide to all students, regardless of their destination after leaving high school. That goal, while progress has been made, has not advanced as much as I would have liked, and it is the main reason that I have chosen to run for re-election. The question is whether every student is getting as much as they should expect from our school system. Across the state, we have raised the basic standards and expectations across all levels, but are we successfully opening students’ eyes to the world in front of them? Are we getting students, and their parents, to really think about their futures? The system has always been geared towards preparing for the next level of education, so college-readiness is the natural bias. However, I want to continue to knock down the stigma about not going off to a four-year college. We need to listen to employers about the skills they require, and we need to inform students and parents about where the jobs are. And, along those lines, I want to provide more opportunities for career exploration, develop realistic career pathways, expand job shadowing and internships, and help kids take advantage of dual enrollment options.

Bob Miller

I am running for the West Bend School Board in order to make sure that we are satisfying the needs of all of our students and teachers. I want to make sure that we continue to grow our district and promote a positive atmosphere for all – I myself am invested with three children in the West Bend Public School System. I see some small changes that need to be made and am willing to work hard to make those tough decisions. By listening to everyone and putting my personal preferences aside, we can please our stakeholders, including the students, in order to guarantee them every opportunity for success after high school. I want to make our district the best School System in Wisconsin and the one that everyone wants to look up to.

Tiffany Larson

Providing strong leadership and representation for our youth and their families is my primary motivation to campaign for a seat on the West Bend school board. There is a general concern that the school board is not effectively representing its constituents. While I understand they cannot appease every issue, I believe members must practice the art of respectful listening and thoughtfully consider their responsibility to students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers. A lack of representation will negatively affect a district. Campaigning for a school board seat is a positive step and renews my excitement and hope for our town, its history and traditions, and its strong familial roots. Whether I win the election or not, I already feel major strides have been made to increase the public’s awareness that we have drifted from the values that made West Bend a reputable, spirited, creative school system. This is certainly not “my” campaign but a community campaign to get back to our roots and celebrate the depth and diversity West Bend School District provides to its students and community. Strong schools with successful academic, athletics, and art programs attract families to our community. When schools thrive, the community prospers.

My intention and focus include:

1) Improved oversight (checks/balances) between the school board and administration

2) Respect and support the cornerstone of education, our educators

3) Question and investigate the necessity, prior to the investment, of standardized tests and new curriculum

4) Limit the extensive initiatives and clerical work that steals time from teachers actually teaching students

5) Consider all parent concerns, but particularly one that I hear voiced often, the current discipline policy

6) Manage and conserve our financial resources; consider cost/benefit ratio of direct versus indirect labor

7) Veteran teachers have contacted me and shared dramatic testimony about factors contributing to their resignation. The school board must seek to value and retain these professional, life-long teachers in our community.

Literally, since the day they were born (on an even-numbered day of course), my kids were thrilled to be East Suns. Like their dad, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, they have developed respect and loyalty for West Bend. As young children they spent hundreds of hours in the fieldhouse where their dad coached boys basketball for six years. Now with my daughter a freshman, and my son a seventh grader, there are more concerns of teacher attrition and general mistrust between administrators, parents, and teachers. While some things may feel out of the control of local administration and a consequence of changes at the state level, there are simple business skills which administrators can do to improve outcomes in our district. For instance, practice judicious hiring procedures, promote positive employee relationships and recognition, employ empathetic listening skills, engage in active communication and participation, and execute financial decisions and investments that yield an improved climate for growth and education. Demonstrate respect to the numerous parent volunteers who fund-raise, tutor, donate, and organize countless events for the district. Rather than emphasize a “standard” or one-size-fits all brand of curriculum, give teachers professional autonomy in the classroom.

Children learn to think and act through exploration, play, and curiosity. Veteran teachers know how to develop critical problem solving skills and creative thinking through their years of practice. Interpersonal skills such as demonstrating kindness, being a good listener, and making wise choices benefit all students and should be automatic behavior. Treat others how you wish to be treated; we expect it from our kids, most certainly it should be demonstrated by our leaders. A school board member is a public servant, elected to represent their electorates, with humility and purpose. It would be an honor to humbly serve this incredible community.


Filed under Community

3 responses to “Meet the Candidates for School Board

  1. E. Meyer

    As an educator in the district, I really appreciate hearing the individual voices of the candidates. This will make local voting choices clear.

  2. Mr. Zappia

    Well done Alyssa. We will have many of our students voting for the first time next week and later in the primary’s, so it’s vital they become informed citizens and make an educated vote.

  3. Sra Kastner

    Bien escrito
    Gracias por darnos la informacion para votar por un candidato que puede apoyar nuestras escuelas y estudiantes. Bien hecho con un abrazo fuerte.

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