Voters to pick two from three school candidates

Tuesday election will decide race that has one incumbent, two newcomers
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

Three Grafton School Board candidates — incumbent Jerry Rossi and newcomers Shawn Taylor and Mary Widmann — will vie for two seats in the Tuesday, April 6, general election.

Rossi, who has been on the board since 2017, said he is seeking re-election because he has enjoyed his experience and wants to continue being part of a high-performing district.

“I believe myself and our district leadership team care deeply about the education of our community’s kids, about their social and emotional well-being and want to continue to reach new heights of academic excellence,” Rossi said, noting he has three children attending district schools.

“I’ve questioned things when needed, spoke up when I agreed and disagreed, and I believe I’ve added value during my time on the board.”

Taylor said she is running for her first term because she believes in community service and has three children in the district. She said her professional experience in the military, federal government and trades, along with academic degrees in business and education, provide her with a diverse background that will serve the board well.

“These varied experiences have enhanced my natural temperament to be a good listener, collaborator and problem solver,” Taylor said, who has worked in the district as special-education aide and long-term substitute.

Widmann, who is a district reading specialist and interventionist, also has three children attending Grafton schools. She said her background working with a diverse group of students in Muslim, Catholic, public and private, urban and suburban schools is an asset.

“The leadership, teamwork, relationship building and self-management skills I have learned throughout my teaching career and volunteer work have prepared me for the important job of shaping our community, since the board is responsible for setting the vision and direction of our school system,” Widmann said.

During a forum conducted last month by the League of Women Voters of Ozaukee County, the candidates were asked a range of questions related to the district’s plan for in-person and online instruction for next school year, mental health and diversity.

When asked what they envision for an in-person and online plan, all candidates said they are waiting for guidance from health officials.

“It’s a fluid situation and is hard to predict where things will be by the start of the school year,” Taylor said.

Widmann agreed, saying she would like the district to still have a blended option for next school year.

Rossi credited students, their families and district staff members with allowing Grafton schools to remain open throughout this year. He said it is vital for those groups to remain cautious about their health and that the board will share its instruction plan before the fall semester.

The candidates were asked if they think the district adequately addresses students’ mental-health issues.

Widmann said it is the role of administration and staff to work with parents when they notice students begin to change emotionally and mentally. She added it is the job of the School Board to help teachers who may experience mental health issues, as well.  

Rossi said it is the responsibility of the district to create a safe and healthy learning environment for students and staff. He said the district has been successful in addressing students’ mental well-being, and having five days of in-person learning this past school year has also helped students.

Taylor said it is essential for the district to play a role helping students maintain their mental and physical health. She credited the district’s policies with aiding students, but said there is always room to provide more support.

The candidates also addressed diversity and tolerance, which included adding curriculum involving race relations and supporting LGBTQ rights.

Rossi said the district has anti-harassment and bullying policies to ensure all students are accepted, adding that the district’s policies follow Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction guidelines and that the district has hired an outside consultant to review policies at Grafton schools.

Rossi said it is important for the board to review the curriculum to ensure it meets the needs of students, such as his children, who are of Hispanic decent.

Widmann said it is necessary to have student-led advocacy groups that are supported by teachers. She said it can be problematic for adults to insert their politics and beliefs, but the teachers at Grafton schools have been able to individualize education plans for students to support different needs in a diverse environment.   

Taylor said she has more to learn about the board’s policies on anti-harassment and that each incident should be handled on a case-by-case basis. She said it is the board’s duty to review and assess the administration’s curriculum policies.

School Board members serve three-year terms. Former member John Scolman did not seek re-election this spring.

All incumbent candidates for Grafton village and town boards are running unopposed this spring. 

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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