March 17, 2021
The Banner believes that it is in the best interest of our citizens to have as many opportunities as possible to learn about candidates for public office. We are pleased that the League of Women Voters – Whitewater Area hosted a forum for the candidates and also compiled responses to questions for inclusion on the vote411.org site. The Banner recently invited the candidates for School Board and Common Council to share anything they wished with our readers. The Common Council candidate responses will be posted on Friday. We are pleased that all three active candidates for the Whitewater Unified School District board have provided the responses which are printed verbatim below. Andrea M. Svec, who was one of the four winning candidates in the February primary, recently announced that, “Due to unforeseen circumstances, I will not actively be pursuing a seat on the Whitewater school board for 2021. I look forward to renewing my efforts for a 2022 seat. Thank you for your support and understanding.”
My wife, Beverly, and I have lived in Whitewater since 1990. Our daughter, Emily, graduated from WHS in 2010. Bev retired after serving as the Whitewater Middle School counselor for 17 years.
My degrees include B.A. (Honors) and M.A. in English, and Ph.D. in Urban Education with a specialization in curriculum and instruction. I was also certified as a Grades 9-12 English teacher.
I served as an English teacher at Custer High School in Milwaukee for 10 1/2 years. I also worked with the theater program and as advisor for the student newspaper.
After one year at Southwest Missouri State University in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, I accepted a position at UW-Whitewater as the Associate Director (subsequently Director) of the Office of Field Experiences in the College of Education. I was also tenured as an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. My research, publications, consultations, and in-service training focused on mentoring and mentoring programs for beginning teachers. I retired from UWW in 2011.
In December, 2017, the WUSD school board appointed me to fill a seat on the board and I was elected in 2018 for a three-year term. While on the board, I have been a member of the Policy and Review Committee, a representative of the board on the Curriculum Planning Council, and the board delegate to Cooperative Education Service Agency #2. I have frequently participated in conventions and professional development activities sponsored by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.
As a citizen, I have always viewed serving on the school board as a perfect way to give back to the community of which I had grown both fond and proud.
The last sentence in my 2017 letter of interest for serving on the school board is as true today as it was then: “Based on my education, work experience, and familiarity with Whitewater as a resident for 27 (now 31) years, I believe I am in a good position to represent the citizens of Whitewater and the other communities served by WUSD in building upon the strengths of the district and influencing its trajectory into the future.”
As a school board member, I appreciate the many opportunities I have had to learn more deeply about the operations WUSD on a daily basis and in response to extraordinary situations and events.
I believe the most critical issue facing the WUSD today is the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The response requires balancing different and sometimes competing perspectives, including those of students, families, school district personnel, the community, and medical and mental health experts.
A critical part of this response includes supporting students academically and emotionally during and following the pandemic, especially students whose academic growth, achievement, and social engagement have been negatively impacted. It is also essential to support the district employees who have been impacted by the pandemic. Ongoing efforts to monitor school operations during the pandemic and to make necessary modifications to promote the safety of students and staff, along with student academic growth and achievement, are essential, and must include input from students, their families, and district staff.
I also believe that proactively seeking to reduce open enrollment out of the district in ways that are reasonable, sustainable, and fiscally responsible, must be a district priority, along with attracting, supporting, and retaining high quality employees for every aspect of the school district’s operation.
Budget planning for the district must take into consideration the pandemic’s impact on school operations, as well as the level of local, state, and federal funding available to the district.
Efforts to meet the needs of the very diverse population of students attending Whitewater schools must be at the heart of every classroom, program, and activity, and school board decisions must take into account and balance the voices and opinions of citizens.
The impact of the pandemic on me as a member of the school board has been far more profound than anything I could have imagined – but not just in negative ways. I have learned more than ever that for our schools, “essential worker” doesn’t just apply to teachers and teacher aides, but to all the district’s employees, including building and central office administrators, administrative assistants, and maintenance and food service personnel.
I believe that the post-pandemic world for Whitewater schools will be very similar to what it was before the pandemic. At the same time, I also think it will be important to take full advantage of what has been learned during the pandemic about teaching and supporting students and staff in ways that may be different from the past, but also effective.
I have come to appreciate the importance and positive role of “trust” on attitudes, perceptions, behavior, performance outcomes, and making meaningful changes within a complex organization like the Whitewater Unified School District – not to mention the deep trust that is at the heart of electing someone to serve on the school board.
If re-elected, I will continue to provide a steady and calm presence on the board, including during unsteady times and as the district moves forward and away from the ripples of disruption that the pandemic crisis has created. I will continue to do my part as a member of a 7-person school board team in ensuring that quality Whitewater schools are a lasting trademark for the City of Whitewater and for the townships of Cold Spring, Johnstown, Koshkonong, LaGrange, Lima, Richmond, Sugar Creek, and Whitewater.
I am a long-time Whippet with degrees in Finance and Law. I have 30+ years of experience in the financial services and real estate industries, have spent several years working in the Wisconsin State Legislature, and am a former college instructor, having taught business law and finance courses. I formerly served on the Whitewater Community Development Authority, and the UW-Whitewater Alumni Association. I currently serve on the Whitewater Parks and Recreation Board, Whitewater Leads, Inc.(Children’s Literacy),the Greater Whitewater Committee, the UW-Whitewater College of Education and Professional Studies Advisory Board, and the Whitewater School District Citizen’s Financial Advisory Board. Community and school district involvement have long been passions of mine.
I am running for the open seat on the Whitewater School Board because I believe my unique background in business, finance and education can help the school district achieve success. The students and families in the school district were hit especially hard by the COVID Pandemic. When the district went virtual, many lower income and rural families struggled due to slow, or no internet service. Working two-parent and single parent families were forced to make very difficult financial decisions while trying to do what was best for their kids. Many families chose to open-enroll their children out of our district due to their poor virtual experience last spring, the uncertainty of virtual vs in-classroom teaching this past fall, and the cancellation of most extra-curricular and athletic activities. According to the Department of Public Instruction and WUSD data, our enrollment dropped from 1,962 students in September of 2019, to 1747 enrolled students in January of 2021. We had over 200 more students open-enroll out of the district than those that open-enrolled into the district, which was about 100 more than the prior school year. Each student that lives in Whitewater, but enrolls elsewhere, potentially causes WUSD to annually lose $8,000 to $12,000 in state funding, depending on whether the child is considered general education or special needs. This is a huge financial concern for our local school parents and taxpayers.
I am greatly concerned about the educational and the emotional losses our students have suffered due to the pandemic. Many parents, teachers and taxpayers felt their voices simply were not heard when tough decisions had to be made. If elected, I will fight to re-prioritize spending to bring students back up to grade level; a setback largely caused by COVID. We need to actively recruit the students we lost back to our schools. We have a lot of good things going on in the district, but we often do a poor job of marketing and communicating. I give credit to the school board for recently approving some after-school sports programming in the 5th and 6th grades, something I have openly sought for several years now. We need more extra-curricular activities to keep students engaged. We simply, within reason, must do a better job of providing our students what is needed.
I have been actively involved with UW-Whitewater to create a “COVID-related” tutoring and mentoring program, to help bring our K-12 students “back up to speed”. I believe having a great “Town and Gown” relationship can be one of this community’s greatest assets that can set us apart from neighboring school districts. Although it is not a done deal, I believe the effort has to be made. It is nobody’s fault that COVID arrived, it is now up to us to move forward. If elected, I will bring a different way of thinking to board meetings. Students, teachers, staff and administrators have been back working in the district. With vaccinations now occurring, it is time the school board also comes back to public/hybrid meetings, socially distanced with masks, of course. I will always attempt to put the student’s interests first, but parents, teachers, staff and taxpayers all have to have their voices heard. It’s the Whippet Way!
About your candidate:
Where did I come from: I grew up in Milwaukee and Glendale. I have 7 siblings and amazing parents who have been married for over 50 years! I attended and graduated from Nicolet High School. Our family moved here 7 years ago because of the school district. We were looking to move to an area that had a good school system. As a parent of a child with special needs, the school district we picked had to have a strong emphasis on inclusion and be willing to work collaboratively with me. We interviewed principals and administrators from three different areas. Whitewater-specifically Lakeview won hands down. We moved here a few months later and have loved every minute of the 7 years we have been a part of this community.
Family: I live with my husband and three children on a farmette near Whitewater Lake. The fourth child is now grown, happily married and has a house of her own. My children range in age from 1.5 years old to 22 years old. Those who know me know I am a chicken lover. We have 28 (hopefully my husband doesn’t read this article-he thinks we have about 12).
School involvement: I am the Vice President of the Whitewater Middle School PTO. I was also very involved in the Lakeview PTO and Lakeview Loves. I am one of the co-founders of Lakeview Lunch Ladies. We are a group of moms that for 2 years in a row, has paid for all negative school lunch balances not only at Lakeview but also for students at the other district schools who had a sibling at Lakeview. My family and I always make it a point to advocate for and support our schools in any way possible.
Professional: I am a graduate of UW-Milwaukee. I hold a bachelor’s in healthcare administration and Business. I am a six-sigma black belt and project management specialist. I currently run the Walworth County Food Pantry and Diaper Bank.
Community Involvement: As a family, we are involved in 4H, volunteering at events for the County food pantry and church activities. I also serve on the Disability Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission for the city of Whitewater. I serve as a state of Wisconsin parent to parent advocate for families of children with special needs. I am also on the planning committee for the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission for Food Security.
Why am I running: I want the chance to serve our district and this community. It is very important for me that we have a strong, viable district. As a parent of children in the district, I am invested in our schools and I want them and their peers to best for them and their peers. I think our district is a hidden gem, but many families bypass our district for other communities because our district report card does not reflect how wonderful our schools truly are. I know my business acumen, training in quality management and my role as a parent FIRST will be a asset and complement our school board. My goals will be
- Retaining our current staff
- Smart spending on programs that have tangible ROI. If we pass referendums, they must have clear, tangible goals. They should also enrich our community. Referendums that have to do with infrastructure should accept bids from LOCAL contractors first, then open up the bidding to contractors in the tri-county area, in the state and lastly outside of the state. Tax dollars from referendums should stay in our community whenever possible.
- Fostering and leveraging partnerships with UWW, area Tech Schools, local businesses, and community groups.
- Retaining our current families and recruiting new families.
- Most importantly keeping our kids in school, in sports and in the arts.