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Four running for two seats in Howard-Suamico

By Press Times Staff

SUAMICO – All four candidates running in the April 6 election for Howard-Suamico school board have some experience in the district or with education.

Incumbent Jeff Eilers has served a decade on the board, and incumbent Vanessa Moran just capped her first three-year term.

Moran also taught at Meadowbrook Elementary School before becoming an administrator in a neighboring district.

Challenger Greg Klimek played active roles on the most recent referendum task forces, and the final challenger, Travis Veraghen, spearheaded an online campaign to get kids back into schools during the pandemic.

All four advanced past the the February primary.

Moran led the way with 1,321 votes, followed by Klimek with 1,126 votes, Veraghen with 801 votes, and Eilers with 530 votes.

AJ Walker (498 votes) did not advance past the primary.

The district serves 5,956 students in eight schools and nine community-based 4K sites, making it the 25th-largest school district in the state of Wisconsin.

The Press Times emailed each candidate the same questions and gave them 100 words to respond to each.

Jeff Eilers

Why are you running for the Howard-Suamico school board?

Over the past 10 years I have been honored to serve the citizens of Howard-Suamico as a representative to the board, I believe I have stood up for the citizens beliefs and honored their values.

I have served as a clerk several years and as a CESA 7 representative the entire 10 years (both as a vice chair and a treasurer).

I have served on the delegate assembly to the WASB (Wisconsin Association of School Boards) and represented the values and time they would spend advocating for our children in the Legislature.

Jeff Eilers

What is your position on the two upcoming referendum questions?

I support the district and its leadership team in the betterment of the district.

It was a long road, and numerous studies and community support went into the questions.

Forest Glen’s roof has been an issue for years, and Bay View has been outgrown by its classes before it was a middle school.

Now is the time to better the situation.

I’ve been a community member for years; my kids went to school here.

I know what it takes to keep them up and keep them in the times, and I worked on the referendum committees the last 10 years.

What should the district do to retain resident students?

To retain students, the district needs to retain teachers (the highest quality teachers).

To do this, we need to keep them safe and feeling proud to work in our district.

Keep good (great) quality teachers.

Parents want their children here and thus we keep resident students.

How should the district and local municipal governments work together?

It has been a long standing practice of our board to advocate for the children of the district to local legislators on a yearly basis.

Our board routinely has a linkage meeting inviting all area legislators and advocating to them our children’s needs as well as district needs.

We have one board member who contacts them on a regular basis to keep abreast of the upcoming legislation and how it will affect our district on an annual basis.

Our administrators work closely with the legislators and the board to keep the district strong functioning and running in the black.

Should the board keep or replace its policy governance model? Why or why not?

We as a board have decided to allow (Superintendent) Damien (LaCroix) to run the district in a sensible way.

Our only employee is the superintendent, and we have faith and confidence that he will run the district in a way that is good for everyone.

We monitor our ends policies yearly to make sure they are being followed.

The board is always kept abreast of the situations that happen within the district, and we are always in the know of anything that the administrators feel will come to our attention though any means in the district.

Vanessa Moran

Why are you running for the Howard-Suamico school board?

First and foremost, I’m the mother of two children and not only care deeply about their education, but for the education of all students in Howard-Suamico.

For 10 years, I served as a teacher at Meadowbrook Elementary in Howard before becoming a school administrator in another district, and was honored to be elected to the school board three years ago.

I am dedicated to this community and hope to continue to serve as your voice on relevant issues, such as the health and safety of our students and staff, as well as the responsible use of your tax dollars.

Vanessa Moran

What is your position on the two upcoming referendum questions?

I am hopeful that the public will support both referendum questions so we can provide the best educational opportunities for our students; however, I have stated publicly that we need to end our reliance on operational referendums.

This is simply not sustainable.

I’m proud to say that due to the legislative advocacy efforts that I lead on behalf of the board, the state Legislature has significantly increased our revenue limit and our per-pupil funding over the past three years.

These dollars need to be put to good use so that we do not have to continuously rely on referendums.

What should the district do to retain resident students?

We need to continue to put the most qualified, dedicated teachers in our classrooms, offer the best programming, and provide rigorous, relevant educational experiences so that our students are prepared for the future ahead of them.

Education is so much more than learning content; it is developing skills for life.

That is why I am proud of the work of the board to adopt the Graduate Profile.

The characteristics embodied within the profile are explicitly taught, beginning with our youngest learners and continue to be an integral part of a students’ education until they leave our doors.

How should the district and local municipal governments work together?

The board maintains a strong relationship with local, county and state government officials through regular meetings and communication.

In fact, over the past three years, I have served as the public policy correspondent, the position responsible for informing the board of relevant legislative initiatives, and have worked to build and maintain strong relationships with the elected officials that represent our school district.

Our work often intersects, and it is important that we work collaboratively to find creative solutions to complex issues.

Should the board keep or replace its policy governance model? Why or why not?

The board should replace its policy governance model.

Under this structure, the elected voice of the people is secondary to the will of the administration.

For example, when it came to the decisions to suspend in-person learning as well as the return to the classroom, no official vote was held.

The current model focuses on end results rather than on how we go about achieving them.

There needs to be more accountability in decision making.

I have petitioned my fellow board members to explore other models and will continue to fight so we can truly represent the community we serve.

Greg Klimek

Why are you running for the Howard-Suamico school board?

My wife, three children and I are all graduates of Bay Port and I have lived in the community most of my life.

I know that strong communities and strong school districts go hand-in-hand.

I have seen the impact of my previous involvement with the district through serving as president of the Howard-Suamico Education Foundation and co-chairing two Referendum Community Task Forces; and I view joining the school board as a way to step up my contribution to the Howard-Suamico community.

Greg Klimek

What is your position on the two upcoming referendum questions?

I have co-chaired the last two Referendum Task Forces, which made recommendations to the current board on what to present to taxpayers.

It’s important the community votes to extend the operating referendum to keep class sizes low and retain quality staff.

Until the school funding formula is corrected at a state level, taxpayer support is vital to maintain current status.

As a task force member, I would encourage our community to support the $98 million investment in facilities.

If elected to the school board, I would use my business experience to maximize the value of the investment made.

What should the district do to retain resident students?

The Howard-Suamico School District has been a district of choice for many years.

The HSSD Board of Education and district administration have managed open enrollment policies well with community input.

Families choose to move to Howard-Suamico because of the education and opportunities their children will receive.

We need to make sure this continues to be the case.

The district’s vision of providing “an authentic, innovative, connected, and inspired experience for an ever-changing future” should remain the focus.

Facility upgrades supported by the referendum will help the district adapt to the changing future.

How should the district and local municipal governments work together?

Strengthening relations between district and local government would be one of my top priorities.

I have been a member of the Development Board in Suamico and through business, have good relationships in both communities.

A dynamic school district is a key element to a strong community, and I believe transparency and open communication is necessary.

The district and community leaders need to be in support of each other, and within that support is taking responsibility for how each affects the community.

Should the board keep or replace its policy governance model? Why or why not?

Prior to the policy governance model, the Howard-Suamico School District had five superintendents in six years.

The current structure of policy governance is a strong model, and one I have supported in my businesses and other boards I’ve served on.

I believe in empowering leaders to do their job, but the success of policy governance comes with monitoring and accountability.

As I reviewed Howard-Suamico’s current policy, they have a detailed process spelled out.

When done correctly, this will deliver success and results.

As casual deviation from this governance model is dangerous, ownership of this type of governance model is critical.

Travis Veraghen

Why are you running for the Howard-Suamico school board?

I am a parent of four children (elementary, intermediate, middle and high school) in the HSSD system and a resident for the last 12 years.

My wife is a special education teacher in the district.

I believe this underscores my investment in our schools.

As a community member and parent, I have decided to take a more active role.

I helped organize a coalition to get kids back in school and believe the board should be more involved in these decisions.

I believe the school board is the voice of the community and should advocate for students and staff.

Travis Veraghen
Travis Veraghen

What is your position on the two upcoming referendum questions?

With the operational referendum, I believe we need to continue what passed in 2018 while moving away from a reliance on referendum funding.

To accomplish this, we need to advocate for increases in the state revenue limit while also making sure we manage our resources effectively.

My yes vote comes with an expectation of budget accountability.

Many comparable schools, including Kimberly and Neenah, provide a quality education with less funding.

The building referendum authorizes the district, which has low debt, to borrow to address much needed improvements to many of our buildings without additional taxpayer burden.

I will vote yes.

What should the district do to retain resident students?

If our district is performing at a high level and meeting student and parent needs, we will have no issue retaining and attracting students.

We are fortunate to live in a growing community, and the key to retaining students is to provide an unparalleled education and extra-curricular programming.

I believe in public education and believe that when we are at our best, we can compete with any school district.

To be our best and keep students engaged, we need to attract and retain top talent and empower them to do their job effectively.

How should the district and local municipal governments work together?

There are several issues in which the district and the local governments collaborate.

One way this is facilitated is through linkage meetings with the school board and local government officials.

The key is to maintain a regular structured cadence of communication as there are many issues which require collaboration.

One of the biggest is infrastructure planning, such as expansion planning, traffic flows, joint facilities agreements, etc.

One specific example is the upcoming Lineville expansion project.

We should work together to address the traffic issues outside Lineville Intermediate School.

Our school district benefits the communities, and our communities benefit our district.

Should the board keep or replace its policy governance model? Why or why not?

I’d like to see us replace or modify policy governance.

Policy governance directly contributes to the lack of transparency in decision making in our district.

The pandemic and the district’s response to it highlighted a shortcoming of this governance model.

The most disruptive decision in the school’s history, the decision to take students out of the classroom, was never voted on by the school board.

I believe the board represents the communities, and decisions of this magnitude should be made by elected representatives with input from the administration.

I believe the board should be accountable and transparent in decision making.

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