By Megan Landvatter, Current Staff
After serving on the school board for the past three years, Chris Zwygart believes that he is ready for a second term.
Originally from Iron Ridge in Dodge County, Zwygart graduated as a proud Marshman from Horicon High School. After that, he went to Marquette University for four years in order to become a certified public accountant before another three years at law school to become an attorney. After working at an accounting firm called Coopers and Lybrand, he was offered a job at West Bend Mutual Company, where he had once interned. He has worked there for almost 26 years and is now the Chief Legal Officer. He believes his work experience will be beneficial in addressing both financial and legal issues concerning the school board.
Ever since moving to West Bend, Zwygart has dedicated much of his life to nonprofit work in the community.
“I really enjoy my nonprofit work,” Zwygart said. “So, between my professional work and my nonprofit work, that’s largely my family, and I enjoy spending it in my community.”
Zwygart was a founding member of the West Bend Public Schools Foundation, which works to support the West Bend School District to invest in student learning. Additionally, he currently serves on the Cedar Community Board and on multiple boards within the Froedtert medical system, where he helped assist with the expansion of the Froedtert Medical Hospital into a new building in West Bend. He has also chaired the St. Joseph’s Hospital board.
During the past three years, Zwygart helped bring in Superintendent Jennifer Wimmer after the resignation of Don Kirkegaard. He is also proud that the school board has not seen a deficit while he has been on there and has served as board president for the past year.
Most of all, Zwygart believes that his community connections are what make him a great fit for the school board.
“I think being on the school board already for three years has allowed me to get to know faculty, the administration, the staff at schools, and even students,” Zwygart said. “And I think that’s really important because it’s important to understand different people’s perspectives, and so, being on the school board gave me an opportunity to meet and make contacts with all these individuals.”
His knowledge of those in the community as well as the school system are what Zwygart believes makes him stand out from the other candidates
“It’s really that network of people that help me make better decisions for the district because I have the benefit of their input.”
Why are you running for school board?
FULL TRANSCRIPT: When I ran for school board originally three years ago, our district was without a superintendent, and one of my main goals was to make sure we recruited great leadership. And since that time, we now have our superintendent Jen Wimmer, who is doing a fantastic job, and last year our whole community needed to address the COVID-19 pandemic, and I’m very proud with how our school system, parents, students, teachers, our whole community responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We were able to keep our schools open. We were also able to offer virtual options and give students and parents choice so that they could select the option that worked best for them.
But COVID-19 meant that we weren’t able to move forward on other district initiatives that were appropriate because COVID-19 was such a high priority. I’m running for school board so that we can pick up where we left off. There are so many great things about our district. I’m proud of the wide array of classes and curriculum options, extracurricular opportunities. When I compare those to neighboring districts, we shine. And, there are so many opportunities ahead of us, I want to help the district continue to move forward so we can capitalize on those opportunities.
How should the school district approach the 2021-2022 school year in regards to COVID-19?
FULL TRANSCRIPT: Our district had success in this past year by partnering very closely with our county health department. I appreciate our county health department because they understand at a local level what is happening with COVID-19 and how we can appropriately address it. When I look forward to the next school year, I see that partnership continuing. And, we will need to be cautious with regard to COVID-19.
But, with vaccines being available, I’m optimistic that our next school year will look dramatically different. Next year, I believe, will look more like a normal school year. But we need to be working hand in hand with our county health department to make sure that we are working in alignment. And so, some of our response next year will largely depend on how successful we as a community are in eliminating COVID-19, but I’m optimistic that next year will be much brighter.
What is the school district’s biggest concern at this moment?
FULL TRANSCRIPT: I would say at this moment, certainly we need to make the way we continue to address COVID-19 is in alignment with how our county is addressing COVID-19. But, as I look forward to next year, the school district is looking at the consequences of declining enrollment. The number of students that are entering our district as kindergarteners is less than the number of students that are graduating as seniors. That means, overall, the number of students in our system is decreasing.
And, when that happens, that affects how much revenue the school system receives from the state. And if revenues are declining, we need to understand how best to address that. This is an issue that the district has been following for some time, so it’s not a surprise, but it’s very important that we address it at our earliest opportunity so that we don’t have to make drastic budget decisions in future years that would be very painful to the district. So, I look forward to working with the board on a longer-term strategy as to how to address declining enrollment from a budgetary standpoint.
How might the district better allocate and manage funds?
FULL TRANSCRIPT: Our district needs to ensure that we are allocating a sufficient amount of money to our facilities. And, as a board, we had a chance to tour each and every one of our facilities. I was impressed with how we are managing them, but I also was struck with how many opportunities we have to make sure they are properly maintained. And, money is always a challenge, but we need to have the courage to set the appropriate amount of money to make sure our facilities are appropriately maintained.
In addition, we need to make sure that as we are addressing these matters of declining enrollment, we ensure that the right services for our students and families remain in place. It’s a balancing act, but we need to be sure that we’re not sacrificing the well-being of our students and families simply to make a budget end meet.
Read more about each candidate at The Current. The school board election is April 6.
Photo courtesy of Chris Zwygart.