NEW BERLIN — Three seats are up for the New Berlin School Board on April 5. Incumbents Mitchell Helmer, Janet Schulz and Kate Unger are running for re-election and face off against challengers Meg McKenzie, Scott Jentsch and Renee Koneck.
All six candidates answered the following questions submitted by The Freeman.
School board races have taken a political turn, what do you think?
McKenzie: It’s unfortunate. School boards are non-partisan organizations and should remain so. Over the past two years, school boards have faced unprecedented challenges that have caused deep divisions that do not serve our students, educators, and families. It’s time for us to start moving forward together.
Helmer: Since my election, I’ve helped save taxpayers millions of dollars, fixed a broken budget, and kept schools open during COVID-19 while improving teacher retention and retaining academics. Unfortunately, a small group of politically active individuals have attempted to impede this progress and seem more interested in power than in improving student achievement.
Jentsch: The division of national political issues destroys cooperation and is counterproductive to progress. We have seen arguments fomented by national figures spill over into our school board meetings and cause disarray. We need to focus on education in the New Berlin and work together to help our students achieve their dreams!
Schulz: Racing has always been political. Once communities find out that political agendas are being pushed in their schools, candidates can no longer hide their true political philosophies behind the nonpartisan label. I don’t pretend to be something I’m not, and I’ve always said I believe in limited government.
Koneck: School boards adopt a political tone when candidates are not open with their constituents. Voters want to know if you’re going to sneak political agendas into the platform, demand masks for more than two years, or have supported school closures during COVID-19. I don’t support any of these and have been transparent.
Unger: It’s sad how political school boards have become. In my time at the New Berlin School Board and in my campaign, I focus on students. I want to expand opportunities to provide the best education possible and help prepare students for their future, whatever that may be.
Why are you running for school board?
McKenzie: I would like to serve on the board because I believe success is different for every child. I would like to help ensure that every New Berlin student reaches their own unique potential, whether in college, technical school, national service, trade, or something else. Education is not unique.
Helmer: I’m running for a second term because I had so much fun accomplishing more than anyone thought I could in three years. We need strong leaders who are willing to pursue forward progress and think outside the box that have solved our problems for the past 3 years.
Jentsch: I want to use my talents in marketing, communications and technology, my perspective with over 12 years of active involvement and my understanding of business and educational principles to improve short- and long-term decision-making, encourage decisive and fair leadership by example, and increase transparency in the school district.
Schulz: I first ran to find savings rather than closing/consolidating schools or asking taxpayers to pay more. Three years later, we have: schools open, surpluses, debt paid, high performance and increased teacher retention. I want to ensure continued success as well as make sure parents are involved in their children’s educational decisions.
Koneck: We have seen the real impact local school boards have had. I’m running because I’m passionate about our community and committed to keeping schools open, championing parent choice, keeping political agendas out of the classroom, and continuing to manage our budget wisely to keep taxes low and pay down the debt.
Unger: Public education is a mainstay of American society, and while we have excellent schools in New Berlin, there is always room for improvement. I want to help the community by doing my part to improve our school system – for my own son and for all the students in our district.
What is the most pressing issue facing this neighborhood?
McKenzie: I think this is the division I talked about above. National politics has diverted our attention from what our school district should be focused on: student success. We forgot that we are all on the same team. It’s time for our board and our community to start working together again.
Helmer: Keep partisan politics out of the classroom and ensure program transparency to foster an open/honest relationship between administration, teachers, and parents. The board recently passed 2 policies to facilitate this, but not all candidates supported them. We need 7 board members who support these core principles.
Jentsch: In the face of declining test scores, looming budget issues, and the need to improve education for all students, we need a stronger council to meet these challenges with preparation, respectful, and evidence-based discussions. , analysis and clear communication with the community. With this in place, we can meet all the challenges ahead – together!
Schulz: Keeping the focus on academics so that all students can succeed. Especially in English language arts, our worst performing subject. Every student should eventually be able to write a succinct answer to a complex question using 50 words or less.
Koneck: Focus and diligence. The NBDS has made great strides over the past few years to be good financial stewards of our community and to stay strong in difficult times to do what is best for our students. We must stay on this path of maintaining our financial stability and strategically allocating resources that provide the best tools to improve the education of our students.
Unger: Between budget concerns and COVID arguments, I think our board has lost sight of the students. I would like to examine our elementary offers and explore possible opportunities, such as district-wide 4K, teaching world languages in elementary school, and offering a band/orchestra/choir at a younger age.
For more coverage of the Spring 2022 Elections, click here.