KAUKAUNA — After two years at the center of often-heated debate over the best way to manage the pandemic, the race for the Kaukauna Area School District Board of Education has attracted a crowded field heading into the April 5, 2022 general election.

There are six candidates running for three seats on the board following the February primary. The candidates are:

  • Charles West
  • Melissa Kurey
  • Chad Berken – incumbent
  • Samantha Hoffer
  • Christine Bouressa – incumbent
  • Kathryn Breitzman – incubment
  • (Larry Coons, who was defeated in the primary, is running as a write-in candidate)

Voters can choose up to three candidates.

Early voters from all districts and wards should vote at the Municipal Services Building downtown, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday through April 1. Election Day is April 5, 2022.

The use of absentee ballot drop boxes is NOT permitted under Wisconsin Law. Ballots must be returned in person (by voter) or mailed to the Clerk’s office in order to be counted. Wis. Stat. s. 6.84 (1)

Absentee ballots must be returned to the clerk by 8 p.m. on Election Day. They can be dropped off in the clerk’s office during open hours, or returned in person to your polling place on Election Day.

Election Day is Tuesday, April 5, 2022 – polls open from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.

The normal two polling locations will be used on election day:

  • Aldermanic Districts 1 & 2/Wards 1 – 5 (see map here) – vote at the Municipal Services Building (MSB)
  • Aldermanic Districts 3 & 4/Wards 6 – 12 (see map here) – vote in the Community Room at the Streets, Parks, and Rec (SPAR) Building (207 Reaume Avenue)

Please remember your photo ID.

Additions and corrections can be sent to editor@kaukaunacommunitynews.com

Here are their responses in the order their names will appear on the ballot:

Charles West

Public email: cmwest411@gmail.com 

West

1) Why did you decide to run? Our district is filled with so many great hard working people and our schools are a reflection of that. The staff at our schools work hard every day to give the best to our kids and it would be an honor to be part of the process that sustains and builds on their hard work.

2) How will you make decisions regarding the district’s response to the pandemic? The pandemic has affected so many parts of our lives and is a difficult topic for so various reasons. There are many opinions about how to go forward, but it is true that less Covid-19 is better than more. Personal responsibility through masking and vaccination are important but not a 100% solution. Our buildings are large and difficult to ventilate. Classroom air filtration is universally supported and is commonly implemented in other districts. It doesn’t rely on anyone’s personal behavior. We should designate ESSER funding for HEPA filtration and begin implementation in classrooms with students under 5 year old and in other under ventilated spaces.

3) What do you perceive to be the greatest strength of the KASD, and where should the district be in five years? KASD has an amazingly balanced academic, performing arts, and athletics focus. Anyone who has seen a kid in this community knows that’s true. I would love to have smaller class sizes for our teachers because personal connection with a teacher makes a big difference to a student.

4) What specific policies or programs would you suggest to help improve the school report card scores?
Standardized testing is the tool we use to compare schools and without a better measure, test scores help us know where we stand. Getting back to a consistent school experience will have the biggest impact on our school report cards.

5) Reader submitted questions. Answer one or more:

• In the last 5 years what specific involvement have you had in the Kaukauna school district? For 5 years I sat on the governance council of my daughters’ school; I witnessed Kaukauna teachers and administrators work hard to find the best curriculum for our students. This district has a great Math curriculum, great English Language Arts curriculum, and great Science, Technology and Social Studies curriculums. I know that with the help of Kaukauna teachers my daughters love books. That’s how they know and learn about the world. They know about Superheroes, Greek Gods and fair-play. And they know about scary things too, like pandemics, loss and divorce. That’s the power of books. Sometimes books are about racism are important too. The teachers of this district work hard to have important books available for our children. That’s the way it should be.
It appears that Critical Race Theory is a recurring topic in this year’s election cycle. What are your thoughts? That academic legal theory has little to do with what and how our schools teach. I do know what curriculum is taught in this district.

Melissa Kurey

Facebook: Melissa Kurey for Kaukauna School Board

Kurey

1) Why did you decide to run? I have been allowed to be able to volunteer in my children’s school for the last 18 years and now through many prayers, I believe it’s time to take the next step forward and run for school board and be the ears and voice for our kids.

2) How will you make decisions regarding the district’s response to the pandemic? I advocate for medical freedom. Each family is unique and has different family values and beliefs. Public health orders must be evaluated on their outcomes. The outcomes have had a negative effect on our children when it comes to their mental health and learning.

3) What do you perceive to be the greatest strength of the KASD, and where should the district be in five years? In my opinion, the greatest strength would be that KASD has many AP and CAAP classes to offer and all the sports, clubs, and activities that are available and we do have some amazing teachers that truly care for our students! I would like to see KASD in 5 years. It is my hope that our students have recovered academically, mentally and socially from the trauma they have endured.  

4) What specific policies or programs would you suggest to help improve the school report card scores? I would like to improve the breakfast and lunch programs that are offered to our children. Getting the proper nutrition plays a big part in how our children learn. 

5) Reader submitted questions. Answer one or more:

• In the last 5 years what specific involvement have you had in the Kaukauna school district? In the last 5 years, My involvement in the School District is that I have volunteered in the classroom, gone on field trips, and chaperoned prom and homecoming dances. I was also blessed to be a proud parent of the 2018 boys’ state basketball team!

Do you believe in the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children? Yes, I believe in a fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. 

NDLC parents are extremely interested in adding grades 5-8 to the school.  Would you support and why/why not? The unique learning that NDLC and Park Community Charter School should be extended to 5th thru 8th grade at Riverview. I know when my children left Park I was disappointed that they did not have the ability to continue Conscious Discipline at school.

Chad Berken

Public email address: berkenc@kaukaunasd.org
Previous experience: Current member of the KASD Board of Education
(Note: Berken’s responses also appeared in the Post-Crescent)

Berken
  1. Why did you decide to run? I am running because I believe that my previous experience on the board, as well as my 24 years in education, give me a unique perspective on education. I believe this helps me to make informed decisions to help lead the district to grow and improve.

2. What are residents telling you are their most important issues, and how would you address them? Providing safe, in-person education has been the leading issue for the past few years. We have worked diligently to provide as many quality experiences for our students as we are safely able to. Open enrollment and the growing district footprint are also issues I hear about. I continue to work to develop a strategic plan to address this future growth and continue to bring more families into our district.

3. What makes you the better candidate in this race? My experience on the board helping to guide our district through the last few difficult years has made me a better board member. Drawing upon that experience as well as my own experiences as an educator make me uniquely qualified for this position.

Samantha Hoffer

Facebook: Samantha Hoffer for Kaukauna School Board
Public email: SamanthaHoffer4schoolboard@gmail.com

Hoffer

1) Why did you decide to run? God put it on my heart to run. The last two years have really opened my eyes to the direction public education is heading. It is important to me that parent’s rights and medical freedom are protected within the school system.

2) How will you make decisions regarding the district’s response to the pandemic? I will base my decisions regarding the district’s pandemic response on available facts and data while protecting parents’ rights to make decisions for their children. 

I will lead by encouraging parents and guardians to research information from a spectrum of medical professionals in their fields of expertise. I will advocate for proper hygiene, exercise, healthy eating and rest.  I support providing home screening criteria of viruses so parents can make informed decisions as to whether to keep their child home from school. 

Unless colds and flu have been eradicated from society, quarantining is unnecessary. The current school board voted twice to implement a virtual learning model after a majority of parents voted for in person learning.  I would encourage other school members and administration to focus on education and leave medical decisions between families and their health care provider. I am a supporter of medical freedom and personal choice.

3) What do you perceive to be the greatest strength of the KASD, and where should the district be in five years? KASD has many strengths, one of the greatest is the wonderful sense of community among students and families. I would like to see the district improve their transparency and communications with families over the next couple of years. I would also like to see board meetings be moved to a different time in effort to be more accommodating to the schedules of working families.

4) What specific policies or programs would you suggest to help improve the school report card scores? Dyslexia affects 1 out of 5 children and impacts reading, spelling, writing, and math skills as well as behavior.

One area I would especially like the district to focus on to help improve Department of Public Instruction school report card scores is to educate teachers across the district on identifying signs of dyslexia.

As a future school board member, I would increase awareness by inviting Susan Barton, founder of Bright Solutions for Dyslexia, to speak to district families, staff and school board leaders. 

I would also encourage partnership with the Dyslexia Reading Connection in Appleton to employ screening in Kaukauna’s elementary/secondary schools. 

It’s time dyslexia is formally recognized so schools can provide necessary resources to helping children thrive in their current learning environment.  

This initiative will not only set the district apart from the others, but will provide educators with supplementary tools to improving educational success.

5) Reader submitted questions. Answer one or more:

What are your ideas to improve the mental health of students at all district schools? List the programs/ideas you would  like to see implemented or changes made? I would encourage the District to adopt trauma informed care approaches to mental health for both students and staff. Trauma informed care (TIC) is recognizing and responding to the signs, symptoms, and risks of trauma to better support the individual. This type of care is important as nearly 50% of youth have been exposed to trauma by the age of 16. Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) can negatively impact how students learn and behave in a school environment.  Ensuring interaction among students and teachers through in person learning, observing facial expressions and having access to healthy lunch/food choices are just a number of ways to address mental health in our schools. Gut health is often linked to disease and behavioral issues, including mental health.  As a future school board member, I will promote TIC across the School District.
NDLC parents are extremely interested in adding grades 5-8 to the school.  Would you support and why/why not? I would need to research the district’s demographics, enrollment projections, costs and related data before adding grades 5-8 to New Directions Learning Community, but on the surface, adding these additional grades may increase the sustainability of New Directions Learning Community and provide parents more options for middle school. It would reduce the number of transitions children need to make ahead of entering high school and could ease the traffic congestion at or around Riverview Middle School. (Editor’s note: This answer has been corrected by the candidate to indicate she intended in her orginal submission to refer to the school as New Directions Learning Community.)
Do you believe in the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children? Yes.
It appears that Critical Race Theory is a recurring topic in this year’s election cycle. What are your thoughts? I do not support the indoctrination of our youth or staff.
Do you feel that KASD has a staffing shortage and if so how would you address it? Based on recent comments made by the KSD HR director and Superintendent, Kaukauna schools is experiencing staffing shortages now.  Understanding the root cause to the shortage and engaging in conversation is a good first step to developing creative solutions.  Maintaining a call-back list of retired teachers may be one way to solve this issue. Reviewing and improving KSD compensation for substitute teachers with surrounding districts may also attract more talent.  Recognition can often go a long way when expecting existing teachers to cover down on additional duties.  A recognition/non cash/cash award program may be other ways to thank existing staff for extending themselves beyond expectations.  When elected I will review current policy and programs to ensure the district has robust solutions to avoiding future shortages. 

Christine Bouressa – incumbent

Facebook page: Chris Bouressa
Public email address: bouressac@kaukaunasd.org
Previous elected experience: 18-year member of the KASD Board of Education

Bouressa

1) Why did you decide to run? I love KASD and am passionate about serving our students, staff and community. I have been on the board for the past 18 years and believe I have experience and history with the district that will be valuable during this crucial time.

2) How will you make decisions regarding the district’s response to the pandemic? I have done extensive independent research concerning covid. This gives me confidence to support our Stronger Together Team. I believe they are working hard to achieve balance and implement appropriate mitigation strategies as the pandemic evolves. My commitment is to support our mission statement which is to deliver relevant and rigorous curriculum in a safe and caring environment.

3) What do you perceive to be the greatest strength of the KASD, and where should the district be in five years? Our greatest strength is our people! KASD is committed to developing students into effective lifelong learners who can be positive contributors to society. I believe our employees are exemplary role models!

4) What specific policies or programs would you suggest to help improve the school report card scores? We recently had an audit of our Math programs by CESA 6. We are doing great things here at KASD! And the teachers are asking for more rigor!!! I would like to see us adopt the CESA 6 recommendations (These are stated on
pages 15-16 of their report; found in the board meeting agenda for the January 10 school board meeting) We should also continue our Literacy coaches.

5) Reader submitted questions. Answer one or more:

• In the last 5 years what specific involvement have you had in the Kaukauna school district? I have been on the school board for 18 years. Prior to the pandemic, I also volunteered to teach knitting to interested students during Flex time at the high school.
• What specific issues do you believe the district needs to address in its academic programming and offerings? What changes would you like to see? (please list specific changes): Our curriculum directors review our course offerings annually. We review and approve the additions, deletions and revisions to the CADR each year in January. I support this process.
• What are your ideas to improve the mental health of students at all district schools? List the programs/ideas you would like to see implemented or changes made? The Connected Community Wellness Screen provides free, voluntary, and confidential emotional check-ups for students at RVMS and KHS. I would like to see something like this be available for the elementary school students as well.
Do you believe that teachers should have a greater input/voice in district decisions that impact their work and their students? If so, what would you support? I believe that teachers should work together with leadership to give the students the best possible learning experience. Our guiding principles include implementing a collaborative approach.
• How will you address the district’s staffing issues, specifically educational assistants and bus drivers? Fair and competitive wages and benefits and a great work environment.
How would you improve safety at each of the schools? We are working on safe and secure entrances at every school. There are also anti-bullying initiatives and mental health screenings. I would like every child to feel safe or to know who to address if they don’t.
• NDLC parents are extremely interested in adding grades 5-8 to the school. Would you support and why/why not? Yes. NDLC is doing a great job. Some kids have a hard time with transition, and this would be beneficial to them. I also see the value of having a family all at the same school. The challenges might include band and choir lessons and concerts and extra-curricular activities.
• Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system? I feel that I represent the community.
• As a board member, where would you look to make budget cuts? Are there any areas you would not consider cutting? How would you determine your budget priorities?: I have been on the board long enough to have seen severe budget strain. I would not recommend any cuts right now.
• Do you believe in a fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children? Yes. I think it is great to see so many parents at board meetings. I believe their active interest in their child’s upbringing and education is what makes us Kaukauna Strong.
• What are the questions you would ask a candidate for superintendent and what would you hope to learn from the responses? Why do you want to come to Kaukauna? A true love of education and Kaukauna. Excitement for working with our students and staff.
• What is your leadership style? Authentic
It appears that Critical Race Theory is a recurring topic in this year’s election cycle. What are your thoughts? We should continue to teach American history, which includes slavery, the Civil War, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and the fight for civil rights. We should not use CRT to shame or belittle any race, color, gender, or ethnicity.
• Do you support another referendum, and if so, what should it include? I would look at buying land for a new school in the future.
How would you describe how you would handle a parent bringing an issue before the board that you disagree with? I would listen to learn why they feel as they do; research if needed and respond respectfully, according to what I believe to be right.
Every school in the district has some degree of traffic control problems at drop off and pick up and/or parking issues, most notably Park and Riverview. What solutions would you propose to these issues? I have often thought about a walking club that meets before and after school at a place that could be easily accessed on foot…this could alleviate some congestion, but would require organization and either staff or volunteers. The added benefits would be exercise and fresh air!
• What are your ideas for long term solutions for the growing district and our current buildings? Do you feel that overcrowding is an issue that our current buildings are facing? Some of our buildings are at capacity! I think we should look at the previous work done by the long-term planning committee, and review the population projections for our district. We should look at buying land for a school.
• In what ways would you promote diversity, inclusion and acceptance for all students in the district? We added
classroom books to the elementary schools a few years ago that reflected more diversity. I would like to see us sponsor an ethnicity event…perhaps like Slurp with foods and arts from people of different backgrounds. We approved the addition of an International Cuisine class to our course offerings at the Jan 10 meeting. This is a great start!
• Do you feel that KASD has a staffing shortage and if so, how would you address it? Yes. Along with fair and competitive wages and benefits, we must let people know what an awesome place KASD is to work. Our culture and climate must reflect caring and authentic leadership.

Kathryn Breitzman – incubment

Facebook: KJBreitzman
Public email address: flockers2@new.rr.com
Previous elected experience: Previous president of the Kaukauna Education Association when I taught in the district, presently chairperson of CESA 6, (Cooperative Educational Services Agency) Board of Control, WASB (Wisconsin Association of School Boards) representative at the state convention (twice) and presently president of the Kaukauna Area School District Board of Education.

Breitzman

1. Why did you decide to run? I enjoy remaining connected to the Kaukauna Area School District where I spent 34 wonderful years as an elementary educator at Electa Quinney, Dr. H.B.Tanner and Nicolet Schools.

2. How will you make decisions regarding the district’s response to the pandemic? I have been in favor of masking as the district used this method during the last school year to successfully reduce the spread of COVID-19 in classrooms.

3. What do you perceive to be the greatest strength of the KASD, and where should the district be in five years?The greatest strength is our community spirit. It’s families, students and staff coming together for success-truly Kaukauna Strong. In five years I would expect a new school to be constructed, and we will continue on our path of positive culture and climate, fiscal responsibility and sustainability and continued student achievement.

4. What specific policies or programs would you suggest to help improve the school report card scores? There is always room for improvement in a school district. We need to continually assess support services including those for students with special needs. We need staff and administrators and parents to collaborate in best methods to support students so they can succeed.

5) Reader submitted questions. Answer one or more:

In the last five years what specific involvement have you had in the Kaukauna school district? I have been a school board  member for almost 6 years. I have been a member of the policy committee and the public communications committee. I have chaperoned field trips for the science department and the technology department. I have been an announcer for softball and baseball games. I have volunteered as a basketball scorer. I have set up meals for high school staff during conferences. I have spoken to the Introduction to education class at KHS about my experiences as an educator in the district and a member of the school board.I made soup for the National Honor Society “SLURP.”
What are your ideas to improve the mental health of students at all district schools? List the programs/ideas you would like to see implemented or changes made. The Kaukauna Area School District is fortunate to have a terrific staff of counselors at all schools in the district. They work with students one-on-one and in groups to work through mental issues. Sources of Strength is a program which addresses the mental health and wellness of district students.
Do you believe that teachers should have a greater input/voice in district decisions that impact their work and their students? If so, what would you support? Educators at KHS have opportunities each year to use the CADR program in connection with courses available for programming. CADR stands for Course Additions, Deletions and Revisions. I feel if educators at the middle and elementary levels ask administrators to look at a new program or service that looks promising, time will be taken to do just that. 
How would you improve safety at each of the schools? Victor Haen and Electa Quinney Elementary Schools underwent renovation this past summer and were made safer for students, staff and visitors by moving the main offices. Next summer Park Community Charter School and Dr. H.B. Tanner will also be renovated, making them safer. Schools have cameras and  use doorbells that must be rung before entering. Schools are locked all day except in the morning when students arrive. 
NDLC parents are extremely interested in adding grades 5-8 to the school. Would you support and why/why not? I would support a move to add grades 5-8 to NDLC. A problem to be addressed would be where to find the space.
Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system? This seems like a strange question to me. School board members are firstly, community members. We live here. Our children attended or are attending Kaukauna schools. We’re part of PAC meetings, we attend plays, band, orchestra and choral concerts, we volunteer at athletic events throughout the school year, we make soup for SLURP, we donate blood at the National Honor Society sponsored blood drive, we chaperone field trips, and on and on. We are visible. I have had conversations with other community members in person, over the phone and by email. I believe school board members are available and willing to communicate with other members of the community. We all have the best interests of our young people in mind. I am both a community member and a member of the board which represents the community. 
Do you believe in the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children?Upbringing, yes. Education… parents, educators, support staff, administrators and school board members need to work together to provide the best education for children.
What are the questions you would ask a candidate for superintendent and what would you hope to learn from the responses? What helped you decide to be a candidate for superintendent in Kaukauna? How would prioritize the needs of the district?
It appears that Critical Race Theory is a recurring topic in this year’s election cycle. What are your thoughts? Critical Race Theory has yet to be a recurring topic at board of education meetings.  When and if it does, we, along with the district administrator and administrators will address it. 
Do you support another referendum, and if so, what should it include? Referendums occur when a school district realizes a need for improvement or expansion. The future of our city will help to indicate what the district’s next step could or should be.
Every school in the district has some degree of traffic control problems at drop off and pick up and/or parking  issues, most notably Park and River View. What solutions would you propose to these issues? Solutions for River View for safety and convenience should be happening in the near future. The situation at Park is also being addressed after communication from a concerned parent was shared with a board member. 
What are your ideas for long term solutions for the growing district and our current buildings? Do you feel that overcrowding is an issue that our current buildings are facing? There are schools that are more crowded than others. I don’t feel that there is overcrowding.
In what ways would you promote diversity, inclusion, and acceptance for all students in the district? Kaukauna High School has a Diversity Club which welcomes all students interested in becoming more involved in treating peers the way they should be treated, with kindness and understanding and acceptance. K-kids is available for students to become a part of at Victor Haen and Park Community Charter School. I’m also confident that these issues are addressed and dealt with on a daily basis by the caring educators, support staff and school counselors at all schools in the district.
Do you feel that KASD has a staffing shortage and if so how would you handle it? That issue is the responsibility of the administration.

WRITE IN

Larry Coons

Facebook: Larry Coons for Kaukauna School Board
Previous elected experience: Coons has previously run for KASD board of education.

Coons
1) Why did you decide to run? I decided to run to take back the school board for parents, the taxpayers and elect a board that works for the people.

2) How will you make decisions regarding the district’s response to the pandemic? I will make decisions based on true science and the rights of parents to make decisions for their kids.

3) What do you perceive to be the greatest strength of the KASD, and where should the district be in five years? The greatest strength is the teachers and support staff. The district should be concerned with growth.

4) What specific policies or programs would you suggest to help improve the school report card scores? The first thing is Common Core has to go. It’s time to start teaching the basics so all students can succeed.

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Samantha Grimh




By Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak, born and raised in Kaukauna, is cofounder of Kaukauna Community News.