By Megan Landvatter, Current Staff
After watching her three daughters graduate from West Bend West High School, Jody Geenen hopes to give back to her community once more.
Already, Geenen has donated her time and effort to the community. She served as the Girl Scout Service Area coordinator while being a Girl Scout leader for multiple years. Additionally, she was both a coach and judge for forensics as well as debate, and acted as the club mom for the high school’s environmental club, SEED. She has also donated to the high school blood drive every year that she has been able to.
“The school board represents a very big amount of different types of people,” Geenen said. “I think just being a part of the community, being as old as I am, I’ve probably had a hand in a lot of different areas in life already, which would be good because I’m representing all the people in the community.”
Throughout her life, Geenen has worked as an administrative assistant, a certified dental assistant and a legal assistant. Currently, she provides child care at her home during the week while spending her weekends waitressing, bartending or hostestessing at Riverside Brewery in West Bend.
Geenen has hosted a yearly blood drive at Saint Frances Cabrini Parish, where she also teaches religious education classes to students preschool through 12th grade as well as to adults and children with disabilities.
If elected to school board, Geenen hopes to spend more time focusing on the content that students are exposed to. In the past year, she has gone through and read the entire sixth grade biology and social studies resources with a dozen other people from the community in order to properly review them.
Why are you running for school board?
FULL TRANSCRIPT: First of all, I was recruited to run last year, and I was recruited again to run this year because people in this school district are looking for someone that they feel has conservative values, who will pay attention to what the curriculum is going to be, what the kids are learning in school, and also who will be a good steward of taxpayer dollars, who will help the school board, the school district, to be transparent with the community.
So when there’s new resources or curriculum coming up, let’s let the public know about it far enough in advance that they have time to come and take a look if it interests them to take a look at what their students might be learning in the future, and make comments about it. So, transparency, good stewardship with the dollars, and making sure our kids will be getting a balanced, fact-based education. A lot of people are just too busy to step up and take that.
I know there are two openings and we weren’t able to get a second person either time to step up with me, and so, hopefully in the future, you know every year they’re looking for a new conservative. Last year, I came very close to having a seat on the school board. I had over 6,800 votes, but I lost by about 146, and it’s probably because people were encouraged to choose three candidates when they voted when two of the incumbents are going to win no matter what, so if people were voting for me, and yet they felt duty-bound to fill in the dots, they filled in the dots for the incumbents, and that kind of cancelled my vote out a little bit. So this year, hopefully, as I’m running again because I came close enough last year when I was recruited again, I thought, well, I came close enough last year, people know my name better, I’ve had more of an opportunity to understand how the school board works, so sure, I’ll give it another shot, and that’s what I’m doing right now.
How should the school district approach the 2021-2022 school year in regards to COVID-19?
FULL TRANSCRIPT: I am happy with the school district as far as they’ve done a pretty good job keeping families, letting the kids go to school in person compared to some communities. So, I do appreciate that, and I would want to make sure that we are still on that road, and it looks like we are.
I know that the school district feels now that we need to continue offering virtual schooling for those that aren’t quite comfortable with coming back yet. Those are probably wise decisions that we’ve accepted post coming off of COVID. Although I did hear right now that only about 10 percent are planning on coming back virtually, so that also says a lot for the way that the school district has moved forward with COVID in the past, and we’ve done a good enough job where COVID hasn’t really been spread throughout the schools.
Although, from what I understand, throughout the country even, COVID isn’t something that kids spread, anyways. But we can help add to that science then because we’ve actually had our kids in school in this district and not had problems, so that’s wonderful that we actually could lead the country in keeping kids in school, those where the families felt comfortable having the kids going to school in person.
So, I would think that we would continue to go forward and eventually I would like to see things getting back to the way things were pre-COVID. I can’t see that that’s going to happen tomorrow, but it would be nice to have things back to the way they were, but now that we’ve had an opportunity to use the virtual schooling, I’m sure that’s always going to be at least a small part of what our community can offer families that need that kind of schooling for their children or prefer it.
What is the school district’s biggest concern at this moment?
FULL TRANSCRIPT: From what I can see, I really do think, for the whole nation even, I do believe it’s what is in the resources, what is the method of learning, things like that. I think that’s one of the biggest things because we want to make sure the kids are getting a balanced, fact-based education and as things move forward it seems like the resources that are coming out are not completely fact-based and not the full balanced education.
It seems to be more one-sided things that students are getting, and I think that that is a huge concern because that means that our kids aren’t learning everything they should learn. They should learn everything that’s out there. If you’re learning about biology, if you’re learning about evolution, that is a theory and great, we should learn about that theory of evolution, that is a theory, but there are other theories that are also out there that the students should also be learning in order to get a full education instead of just parts of education. So, I really do think, especially when we’re talking about students, that is one of the most important issues that we have, for our community, anyways.
How might the district better allocate and manage funds?
FULL TRANSCRIPT: From what I’ve been seeing, as long as we keep doing what we have been doing, I think we’re on the right path. If we start adding in a referendum or adding more taxes and such, then I don’t think that we’re any longer in the right direction.
So, right now I think, like, I just watched one of the last couple school board meetings. Because of COVID, there’s gonna be a lot of downs, but there are also some pluses that come out of it. One of the pluses was that the interest rates happened to come down. So, fortunately, it wasn’t the school board that did this, but the administration that is in charge of our finances, they took that opportunity and they were able to refinance our past referendums that we’re still paying for, which saved us millions of dollars in interest, so that’s wonderful.
I feel like that’s even more money that we planned to pay for that we no longer have to pay for that can be put towards facilities and things that we didn’t know we had before, which makes it another plus towards not having a referendum in the future.
Read more about each candidate at The Current. The school board election is April 6.
Photo courtesy of Jody Geenen.