Note to voters/taxpayers in the West Bend School District: the pending election for three seats on the school board April 4 will be of epic proportions for its impact on the school district for the next three years.
Three extreme critics of the board, the administration and teachers in general are running as a trio to establish a majority on the seven-person board. They are Bill Schulz, Laurie Schloemer-Aleven and Nick Stewart.
The other three candidates could be described as moderate to conservative supporters of the school system. Unlike their three opponents, they are not running as a team, but they generally line up on approaches to education, governance and respectful demeanor when serving in public office. They are June Kruger, Dr. Chad Tamez and Kelly Lang.
We need to get to know everything we can about these six candidates in the next seven weeks. Some school districts have been torn apart when extremists take control through local elections like the one West Bend is facing.
Voters need to determine if each of the six candidates will be a voice for his/her personal agenda and opinions, or if they will be voices for a majority of the public.
It’s clear that the Schulz, Alevan, Stewart trio will bring their social views to the forefront if elected. They will favor such policies as guns in the hands of teachers (as incumbent John Donaldson has already proposed). They will push for cameras in the classroom as a means of teacher surveillance — beyond cameras that are already installed in the hallways for safety purposes. They will try to expunge from the curriculum any words and concepts they view as “woke.”
The three independents will be pragmatic, managerial and non-ideological as they push for education improvements.
All the candidates will identify themselves as fiscal conservatives. This is West Bend, a conservative place, after all. But it’s almost a non-issue in this campaign because the school administration and current board have dropped the levy rate year-after-year to its lowest point in recent memory. And the district will soon have no debt, an incredible accomplishment. What’s not to like if you are either critic of the district or a supporter?
I have been trying to think of words to characterize the two casts of characters running for the board and have come up with the terms either “pro-district” or “anti-district.”
Here is an example of the rhetoric from the last election during which Schultz said, “I strongly believe the West Bend School District school board doesn’t know how to lead, isn’t interested in leading and will only lead themselves to a 7-0 (vote) while they smile, crack jokes that only they laugh at, and fake it ‘til they make it.”
That’s a heavy level of disrespect for the people serving on the board, who by and large have been exemplary citizens in this community.
The three independents have been highly visible in the community for their contributions to the school district and other organizations. The trio of critics have been largely invisible at community events. Most citizens don’t know who the trio is, which makes it extremely important that we learn who they are, where they come from, who they hang with and what they plan to do.
In the last election two candidates, John Donaldson and Melonie Ehrgott, who have the same mindset as the trio, won two seats. So the board consists of five centrists and the two critics. Ehrgott has demonstrated a mature demeanor on the board. Donaldson, who supports the three antagonists, has been disruptive at times in board meetings. That majority would flip if the three anti-school district candidates are elected on April 4.
Stay tuned. It’s going to be a hot and heavy contest. The turnout will probably be high for an off-year election on April 4. It will also be a defining election for control of the of Wisconsin Supreme Court.
In order of appearance on the April ballot, here are the occupations of the six candidates: Kruger, Senior Lead Business Analyst, West Bend Mutual Insurance Co.; Tamez is an independent family physician in West Bend; Lang, a sales and marketing manager at a large trade association; Stewart, a self-described veterans “mental health professional;” Schulz, a milk truck driver; Schloemer-Aleven, a nurse at Froedtert Health.
Experiences in their work lives are important in serving on a board. But we need to know a lot more about them.
This is a broader set of issues than just the West Bend election. The right wing of the Republican Party has made it a goal to take control of local school boards across the country.
For example, a centrist majority had to fight long and hard to prevail in recent school board elections in Mequon/Thiensville and Keil, Wisconsin.