Wausau Pilot & Review
Five candidates will vie for two at-large seats April 4 in the spring election. Megan Stankowski, the current board clerk, is on the ballot along with Joseph A. Knoedler, Willy Luedtke and Clandra Zebro. Donna Kaiser is running unopposed for Area 2 of the Mosinee School District.
Wausau Pilot & Review invited all candidates to offer their views in advance of the election. Each candidate was given the same group of questions and 10 days to respond. Of the candidates, only Stankowski, 36, and Kaiser, 73, chose to do so.Their unedited answers are below. Follow all of Wausau Pilot & Review’s election coverage by bookmarking this page, and watch for our voter guide coming soon.
What skills or experience do you have that makes you qualified to be a board member?
Stankowski: I have spent the last three years on the Mosinee School Board. My reason for joining the board in 2020 was in response to my time spent volunteering at our school, which I still currently do. Seeing firsthand how hard our staff work led me to join the board to advocate for them and most importantly, for the children.
Kaiser: June 2022, I retired from the Mosinee School District with 23+ years experience in various capacities. They include, Food Service, Special Education Paraprofessional, Sports Worker and Attendance Secretary. While our children were in school, I participated in the Clubs and Activities they were member of. Prior to working in the School District, I had various jobs in the Community as a way to get to know the area and the people in the Mosinee area.
What is the biggest challenge that the Mosinee School District faces today, and how would you tackle it?
Stankowski: The number of schools in our state going to referendum is indicative of our biggest challenge: funding, or lack thereof. Our state funding formula is failing and cannot keep up with what our education system needs. Case in point: Many schools are going for operational referendums, which is to say that they are asking for money to fund basic operational expenses, such as staffing and utilities. Advocating for change to legislators is important. In Mosinee, we thankfully have had an increase in open enrollments since covid, which helps our numbers. Yet overall, we have had to spend conservatively, making reductions and cuts if need be.
Kaiser: Having worked in the Mosinee School District I believe a qualified Teaching Staff and all Support Staff are the “backbone” of the school district. One of the biggest challenges today for School Districts is offering competitive wages and benefits to retain and maintain a qualified staff.
What would you do as a board member to help attract and retain qualified teachers and other staff?
Stankowski: My reason for joining the board was in response to my time spent volunteering at our school. Seeing firsthand how hard our staff work led me to join the board to advocate for them. My approach as a board member has always been to trust our staff and treat them with respect. As a parent of three children in the district, I am forever indebted to the amazing staff we have. In turn, my belief and hope is that a staff who feels seen and appreciated will do their best to take care of the most precious people, our children. Furthermore, we have recently increased pay for all staff members. I also served on our ad hoc committee to redo our Fund 73 Post-Employment Benefits, making for a very attractive benefit to employees.
Kaiser: Work with Staff and the Board to keep communication open and develop positive policies.
What is your view of school choice?
Stankowski: As noted above, I see the benefits of school choice, both from a school board lens and also through a parental one. I think it’s important to be accommodating to families and to allow parents and children to make decisions that work best for them.
Kaiser: I am not opposed to School Choice. I feel that a good quality education is always an important reason for School Choice.
What is your view on banning books? Who should make those decisions?
Stankowski: Overall, I do not support banning books. A school board’s role is policy governance. We have a solid policy in place in terms that allows parents or students to bring forth concerns to the appropriate staff.
Kaiser: Banning books, questionable books have been around around long before I attended school…Common sense plays a factor here!
What are the literacy challenges students face, and how would you address them?
Stankowski: Unfortunately we can still see the negative effects of covid on our student achievement test scores. Our teachers are working harder than ever to improve this and as a board member, I support them and will vote to help them get the materials and extra help they need.Our ELA Coordinator is working to address student’s ELA needs which I will likely support when brought to the board. On a personal level, I volunteer in our schools to help out. Every week I read with a group of 3rd grade students and I help a Kindergarten class with their writing activity.
Kaiser: Some critical challenges students face today are, reading, comprehension of the written word, thoughts and imagery, cursive writing and letter recognition. All core classes use these critical skills. It is not a new concept, but what begins in Early Childhood has to continually expand as we enter the Elementary grades, into Middle School, through High School and beyond. We need to be conscious of where our students needs are at. Listening and working with Teachers, Administration, the School Board, and CESA’s, and working with other District’s with higher scores can be very beneficial to the outcome of all students.
What role should the community play in supporting the education of children?
Stankowski: One thing I love about Mosinee is how supportive the community is. Every week I see elderly community members in the school volunteering. I love seeing community members and alumni at our sporting events, concerts, and academic functions. This past summer I requested that a Purple Pass be created to further strengthen the bond between community and children. Thankfully our MSD team created the Purple Pass for district residents 55 years and older, providing them with lifetime admission to most school sponsored events.
Kaiser: More opportunity for literacy interaction for students and families and continued community support in Academic areas. Example, tie Scholastic Reading with projects focused on the world and displayed in the classrooms. I believe the MSD has some excellent opportunities already in operation to engage Families and the Community.
What could the district do to improve academic achievement for all students?
Stankowski: As mentioned earlier, we can still see the effects of Covid on our students. That said, we need to make sure that their needs are met, not only academically speaking but also in terms of their emotional needs. To promote healthy social emotional skills the MSD has adopted a new and improved social-emotional learning curriculum. Implementing this curriculum well is vital to our student’s success. Our district needs to work harder than ever to help regulate our youngest learners. To achieve this, the board has recently approved the creation of a new role: Specialized Intervention Support. This position, in addition to our other mental health positions and interventionists, needs to continue to strive to help children who are still in need of support coming out of Covid. I would like to see more business involvement, especially in our tech ed department. Our tech ed wing could use improvements and we have plenty of employers all around us who need skilled laborers. Creating a partnership would be beneficial for both sides. Our district continues to seek out and retain staff through our new pay models as well as improved post-employment benefits. Yet in my opinion, the best employees are the ones who feel appreciated; thus, I always try to convey that to our staff.
Kaiser: We all need to decide what are we focusing on…Administrators are primary in their embracing and fostering positive attitudes, positioning positive people in the correct areas, and ensuring the environment is educationally responsive to the student needs. There are many facets involved to academic achievement, parents and students need to be held accountable and responsible also, without their cooperation and enthusiasm it will ultimately fail.
What will you do to ensure that all children get a full arts education?
Stankowski: As a board, we just approved a new position: STEM/STEAM specialist (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math). Our curriculum offerings ensure that our students get a well-rounded education, arts included. For instance, my 5th grade daughter just brought home some materials for choosing her 6th grade classes, in which it was required that each student take at least one of the following: choir, music appreciation, or band. This, of course, is in addition to art, gym, and technology. Continuing to promote the arts and attend its concerts, shows, and performances are all things that I do in person and on my Facebook page.
Kaiser: The MSD is doing a wonderful job in the area of Arts Education, a deeper community involvement and support for Arts Education is always welcome.
What would you ask lawmakers to include in the next state budget to improve K-12 education in your district?
Stankowski: Fix the stagnant state funding! Wisconsin is rated one of the best states for public education, and we need to keep it that way. We need to invest in our future by investing in our schools.
Kaiser: No comment at this time.
Is there anything else you’d like voters to know?
Stankowski: It is my deep belief that aside from His only Son, children are the greatest gifts from God. That said, I am deeply concerned about school safety. I was part of our Ad Hoc Safety Committee and am proud of the results that came from it with the board’s support, such as the addition of more Student Resource Officers, fencing in our middle and elementary schools, and adding a secure entrance to our high school. I look forward to the results of our safety assessment completed by WSSCA (WI School Safety Coordinators Association) and hope to keep up to date with the Office of School Safety and see a partnership with Speak Up, Speak Out Wisconsin. However, when we think about making our schools safe, we often think of its physical structure. Yet the safest schools are ones where children feel like they belong. For this reason I am a tremendous supporter of clubs and sports: They bring a sense of community. They teach you how to be coached. They teach you how to persevere through adversity. They teach you how to lose with grace. They bond people together. They create friendships. Having three active children in our district, my evenings and weekends are often spent at a gym, rink, or field. I’ve seen how our facilities compare to those of other districts. My dream would be to see a community center be built with not only plenty of gym space but more importantly, could serve as a gathering place for all community members, of all ages, especially the elderly as I believe this is something that Mosinee unfortunately lacks. Maybe this dream won’t happen, but nonetheless I will advocate for and support a referendum. We are nearing the end of our Elementary School debt and successfully getting another referendum passed would open the doors to so many possibilities: such as the continual implementation of co-teaching or perhaps the implementation of a better tech ed wing with a heavier focus on STEM/STEAM at our older levels. In closing, I’m eternally grateful for our amazing teachers and staff. Overall, I believe that those working in our schools with our precious children deserve the utmost respect, appreciation, and support.
Kaiser: I’d like people to know that I am proud to be in the MSD. We offer many great educational opportunities, College Credit opportunities, Vocational Tech classes and a wide variety of Extra Curricular activities and opportunities for all students. We are also fortunate to know our students and families by name and not as a number.