Deadlocked board draws lots to pick new member

Alexander’s name chosen after PW-S School Board casts tie vote for finalists
By 
BILL SCHANEN IV
Ozaukee Press staff

A deadlocked Port Washington-Saukville School Board drew lots on Monday to select its newest member.

Melissa Schlenvogt Alexander, a 2008 graduate of Port Washington High School who works part time as a sales and marketing coordinator for Ozaukee County, was appointed to complete the term of Matthew Uselding, who resigned earlier this summer because he was moving out of the district. That term expires on April 23, 2023.

Also vying for the seat representing the Town of Port Washington on the School Board were Justin Myers, a vice president at U.S. Bank, and Steven Witt, a professor of education at Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon.

“We are lucky to have three qualified candidates for this position,” Board President Brenda Fritsch said.

Witt, who received two votes from the eight-member School Board, was eliminated during the initial vote. The board then split its second vote, 4-4, between Myers and Alexander, whose name was drawn out of a box.

How individual members voted was not known earlier this week. The board cast ballots that were tabulated by Heidi Belohlav, School Board secretary and administrative assistant to Supt. Dave Watkins, who announced the totals during the meeting but not how members voted. Watkins said Tuesday that information would be unavailable for five days because Belohlav, who has the ballots, tested positive for Covid-19 shortly after the meeting and is away from work for that period of time.

The vote came after the applicants for the position answered nine prepared questions. Board members did not ask follow up questions or discuss which candidate was best suited to serve on the board.

In response to a question about the district’s priorities in light of fiscal challenges, Alexander said, “We need to prioritize our teachers and our students before sports, if you will. If we’re not prioritizing education, then what are we doing?”

She said her time spent traveling the world as a Disney performer taught her how important inclusion is in education.

“Inclusion means everyone is represented, everyone is heard,” Alexander, who is married and has a 2-year-old daughter, said.

Myers acknowledged the challenges presented by the pandemic and said he supported how the School Board dealt with Covid-19.

“I just want to keep adding value to what you folks have done,” he said.

Myers, who has two children at Port High and one in college, said his involvement in community organizations — as president of the Friends of Port Washington Parks and Recreation, a board member of Balance Inc., a board member and former officer of the Port Gridiron Club, former president of the Port Washington Soccer Club and a coach — is not motivated by a desire to pad his resume but to do what he can to improve his community.

“I love being an advocate for these groups,” he said. “I ask myself, ‘Did I help make a positive change to get from good to great?’

“The academics are great here. I think they could be greater.”

One way to maintain and improve the quality of education in the district is through effective communication, he said.

“Communication is always going to be key to me,” Myers said. “We need to be consistent and we need to be transparent.”

Witt, the father of five adult children, has been an educator for 30 years.

“And I’ve been an educator of educators for 15 years,” he said.

“Teaching is difficult, and I’m an advocate for teachers in the trenches.”

Witt said he would bring to the board connections that could benefit the district financially and in the form of relationships that could improve education.

“I think with my connections I can tap into the grants that are out there,” he said. “We need to think about apprenticeships and business partnerships.”

When faced with difficult decisions, Alexander said, it’s important to rely on clear priorities.

“We need to remember that, above all else, we are here for one reason, and that is for our students,” she said. “As long as we realize we’re all on the same team with a common goal, we can work through the challenges.”

Alexander, 32, is the former executive director of Port Main Street Inc. She has also worked as an event planner and entertainer for Event Concepts and as a regional director DreamMakers Talent Competition, as well as a dance instructor. She was recently appointed to the Town of Port Washington Plan Commission.

She has a bachelor’s degree in dance from City University of New York-Hunter College and a master’s degree in international business from the University of Birmingham in England.

Alexander’s first board meeting will be Sept. 12.

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