Challenger Donath Emphasizes Respect for Teachers

SchoolBoardElection_LogoBy Alyssa Birkeland, Current Staff

Jennifer Donath is one of four candidates running for school board in the April 5 election, in which two open seats will be voted upon.

Donath grew up in West Bend, attended college in Milwaukee, and returned here for her husband’s job as a police officer. Donath herself was raised in private schools in the city, but sends her second grade son to McLane Elementary and says she “is completely confident in our public schools.”

Donath emphasizes her educational background in her run for school board. She has taught composition at UW-Oshkosh for 11 years, and says she can tell which students were brought up through better (and worse) schools. Donath also volunteers in her son’s classroom weekly, and is on the McLane PTO.

It was mainly through her time in the classroom that moved Donath to run for the board. She said she was not happy with the way things were heading, but decided to be part of the solution instead of complaining. Donath has also had concerned parents and teachers reach out to her and encourage her to run.

Among her main interests, Donath highly stresses open communication between teachers and administration. She also would like there to be a sufficient number of social workers and librarians in the district and smaller class sizes. Donath thinks it is important to have the perspective of an educator, parent, and woman on the board.

Each of the candidates were asked three specific questions that target common concerns among students at the high schools. Below is a summary of Donath’s responses.

What are your thoughts about the teacher turnover rate and what do you see as a possible solution?

The main point for Donath is to make sure teachers’ voices are being heard and respected. She would like there to be a teacher-selected liaison in place between staff and administration for when issues come up. Donath also said that the district needs to remain competitive following Act 10, when it became easier to “balance budgets on the backs of teachers.”

How would you like to see the positions of superintendent and head principal filled?

Donath likes that there is a nationwide search currently for superintendent. She said it would be nice to have one of the two positions filled from within the district, but is also open to having both filled from outside if it’s what’s best for the district. She again stressed the importance of having someone who will listen to teachers, and suggested teachers have a say in who is chosen. It is also important to her that the candidates have classroom experience.

How would you like to address policy change in the coming years?

Donath reiterated her stance on making sure teachers’ opinions are being heard and fully taken into consideration. She would like teachers to regain control over their own classrooms, and for teachers to be comfortable taking a more informal approach to the board when they have problems. Lastly, Donath wants to encourage teachers to actually go to the school board with their concerns, instead of always immediately administration, to keep the board in the loop.

Click on the links to read full transcripts of Jenn Donath’s answers regarding policy changes, teacher turnover, and hiring a new superintendent and high school principal.

Also read interviews with candidates Tiffany Larson, Randy Marquardt, and Ken Schmidt at The Current. Earlier coverage can be found here.

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