Milton School District residents will head to the polls Tuesday, Feb. 20, to face a crowded slate of school board candidates.
Eight people are running for three open spots on the Milton School Board, and the primary will trim two candidates off the ballot ahead of the April 3 general election.
Incumbents Shelly Crull-Hanke, a board member since 2015, and Brian Kvapil, elected last year, are seeking re-election.
Newcomers Tony Astin, Joe Martin, Diamond McKenna, Brent Miller, Harvey Smith and Gabriel Szerlong are also running.
Longtime board member and current board President Bob Cullen is not seeking a seventh term.
Q: Why are you running for Milton School Board?
Astin: “With the last couple referendum votes that went on and the public outcry related to it, I felt there was a need for someone to run who people could approach with ideas in an honest position there,” he said.
Crull-Hanke: “I decided to run again because we haven’t finished everything I wanted to start,” she said.
She also cited her longtime involvement with the district’s strategic planning committee and her teaching background as a positive influence on facilities and academics.
Kvapil: He wants kids to have the best education possible and wants to continue doing more for the district, he said.
Martin: He wants to guide the schools and “continue the tradition of what I think is excellent performance” within the district, he said.
McKenna: “While hot topics are important, it’s taken over why people are running,” she said. “I think topics that don’t get talked about and aren’t as apparent are still just as important. I want to make sure people are running for the right reasons.”
Miller: Right now, the district and school board are polarized, and everyone is for or against certain issues, he said. He wants to restore an open line of communication because the school board “isn’t meshing right now.”
Smith: He has been a youth counselor for much of his adult life and has continued that through his involvement in Boy Scouts. Now that he’s retired, he feels he understands the pulse of the community, he said.
Szerlong: People suggested he run because he is a recent graduate of Milton High School, works for the state Assembly and majored in political science and public administration at UW-Whitewater. His background makes him a strong candidate, he said.
Q: What’s the next step in the district’s search for a facilities solution?
Astin: “(We need) to make sure we hear ideas from people who disagreed with prior referendums and find what ideas they would support and craft something that’s a compromise for everybody,” he said.
He stressed facilities are not the district’s main issue.
Crull-Hanke: She believes the district still needs a new high school because space needs aren’t going away. Interest rates are going up, and another referendum could be on the horizon, she said.
Kvapil: He wants a list of needs compiled by consultants and then used for a “scientific prioritization” method to figure out which areas the district most needs to address.
Martin: Facilities aren’t the only issue, and the district should be proud of its other accomplishments. But the school board needs to keep exploring its options, he said.
“I think there’s a solution out there,” he said. “We just have to keep working to identify it.”
McKenna: District buildings are overcrowded and have safety issues, but the board should understand that voters have rejected two proposals for a new facility, she said.
“The first thing we need to do is find out why is this failing? Why doesn’t the community support it?” she said. “And how can we get everyone back on the same page?”
Miller: Like others, Miller said Milton’s schools are overcrowded. He called for a task force that would come up with tangible ideas by a certain date.
Smith: The board needs to incorporate more public feedback and adhere to the results of a previous community facilities survey, he said.
“The first referendum was defeated, and that should’ve been a starting point to go back to the drawing board,” he said. “But it seemed they were determined to push forward the one idea they were attached to, and that solution failed as well.”
Szerlong: He advocated for further community input and input from different contractors to see what possibilities the district could consider. The school board needs to do everything it can to weigh all options, he said.
Q: Besides facilities, what other issues face the Milton School District. How would you address those?
Astin: Because he’s an outsider to the board, he would rely on district employees to learn about pressing issues and consult them on how to solve those problems. Overcrowding is a problem, but it shows parents want to send their kids to Milton, he said.
Crull-Hanke: Facilities are the district’s primary issue. Milton needs to continue to push its technological curriculum to provide students with a 21st century education
Kvapil: He wants the district to pursue the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, an annual federal award recognizing excellence in various sectors. It would give Milton some national prestige, he said.
Martin: Related to facilities, the district needs to be creative with temporary space options. Even with a successful referendum, it would take several years before a new building could be completed, he said.
McKenna: She became concerned with school safety during a recent tour of the high school. The district has also done a good job of creating a modern school environment and should continue focusing on that, she said.
Miller: Milton should explore additional educational opportunities with the technology and construction industries, he said.
Smith: Milton provides a strong education, but it could do more to prevent its graduates from taking remedial courses in college. He also wants to encourage more girls to take STEM classes, he said.
Szerlong: He wants to promote more vocational opportunities for students instead of pushing them to four-year universities. He also wants to restore faith in the district, both in terms of public trust and faith in God.