Decision 2023: Meet Board Candidate Nick Stewart

By Dakota Gunnare, Current Staff

Nick Stewart is running for West Bend School Board to ensure transparency in the district.

He wants to avoid dependence on federal money, which is what he moved his daughter away from. Stewart moved to West Bend four years ago. His daughter was about to enter kindergarten and Stewart wanted to move out of the Milwaukee area. He was searching for a good school district and choose the West Bend School District. His daughter attends McLane Elementary and the family has had a very positive experience there.

Stewart loves how hands-on this district is with students, including how well the district handled COVID-19. He loves how much the school district gives families a voice. 

After high school, Stewart entered the Marine Corps and then got a fire science degree. He went back to school and got a bachelor’s degree and now works at the Milwaukee VA hospital in the mental health division. He thinks that his experience as a veteran and working with people makes him a very qualified candidate.

Along with leadership and responsibility, Stewart thinks that his experience with the diversity of the military prepared him to be a good school board member.

Stewart and his family love going to the farmers market, Jumbo’s Frozen Custard, and Maricio’s Pizza in Barton. They also love to walk along the riverwalk. Stewart is an avid runner and loves to run on the Eisenbahn trail. His family really enjoys the outdoors. He likes to work on his yard and garden.

How can the district become more safe for students, both physically and mentally?

FULL TRANSCRIPT: I would say one way that it can become safer mentally and physically is being able to have accountability and then be transparent about actions within the district. Of course, still keeping within personal protective rights, you know, no names of students will be used, but we can still use the raw data, office visits, that sort of thing. And making sure that everyone is being held accountable, not just kids, adults, too. Everyone makes mistakes, but if there’s no accountability in place, it’s human nature for people to keep doing it, and maybe if we push the bounds of that–so I think being accountable when people do mess up and having programs in place, you know, if there is bullying, that sort of thing going on, having those things in place as well, where you involve the parents and maybe the potential student that’s doing the bullying, and you give extra services for that. And intentionally do that so there are systems that are overall cultured, and you know people feel more safe within the school.

What is the greatest challenge the district currently faces? How will you address it?

FULL TRANSCRIPT: I would say the biggest challenge right now is the budget and rigthsizing the district, which kind of go hand in hand. You know, they’re projecting an $8 million shortfall this coming year, I mean that’s just something so basic to me. I know when we are younger sometimes we, some people aren’t as responsible with money, some people older aren’t responsible with money. But the thing is, I think that’s such a basic thing to teach our kids, like hey, you have to have a budget and you have to follow it, you know, and if we can’t even keep a budget within our school district, we’re hypocrites to then tell all the students to have a budget themselves and then have to enforce that.

I mean, I just think it’s such common sense leading by example, you know, I think, that right there, because I feel what will happen is as the budget becomes more and more of a deficit, the district will become more reliant on federal and state funds from the Department of Education, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that but, the thing that, the issue with that is, if you become reliant on those funds, you have to then become reliant on what they want you to do when they give you those funds, year after year after year, you know, I mean just like a college kid going to school. The college kid–if the kid’s at school and is working, has a job, that college kid can then kind of dictate what they want to do with their money, if they’re not working, they have an allowance from their parents, then the parents can kind of say, “well, no I don’t want you spending money on this, I don’t want you spending money on that.” It’s kind of that way.

I know it’s a much more simple way to break it down, but I feel like we really need to balance our budget, we need to rightsize the district, and then, in the future, the people of this district will have the ability to make the decisions where we’re not really reliant on big government and all of their sacks of money to make the decisions for us.

What would you prioritize in the budget that is not currently being prioritized?

FULL TRANSCRIPT: I think one of the other things that really needs to be prioritized within the budget and it kind of goes along with the initial question too, of safety, is making sure that we have proper security locks, cameras, that sort of thing in our schools. I think there’s a real smart approach, I think the West Bend Police Department does an amazing job. I see them at the schools all the time, they really show a good strong presence, but I think being able to really implement security factors that comes with more cameras, more locked doors, maybe even a process within the school, high school, middle school especially, you know, where when they’re at class, doors are open, doors can shut and being able to just lock from one side, you know, (from) inside, training teachers on how to do those types of things and use those types of locks. If there is an extreme situation, I think just really prioritize safety, (that) would be the second thing after, besides the rightsizing of the district.

Read about the school board candidates at The Current. Five candidates responded to requests for interview by deadline. The school board election is April 4.

(Photo courtesy of Nick Stewart.)

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