Four candidates are running for three seats on the Delavan-Darien School Board.
Incumbents Sharon Gonzalez and John Andreoni are seeking re-election. Tiffany Schutt and David Henriott are newcomers.
In January, the school board appointed Schutt to fill a vacancy left by former board member Monica Los, who resigned last year because she moved out of the district.
The board appointed Schutt over Henriott to sit on the board until the election.
The two highest vote-getters will serve three-year terms. The third-highest vote-getter will serve the remainder of Los’ term, which is two years.
The election comes after a tumultuous year for the Delavan-Darien School District. In the two months after last year’s April election, the school board voted to close Darien Elementary for the 2018-19 school year, cut 39 teachers and part ways with then-Superintendent Bob Crist.
Since then, the school board has appointed a new superintendent and voted to reopen Darien Elementary, and voters approved a $2.8 million nonrecurring referendum in November.
Candidate responses have been edited for brevity and clarity and are not direct quotations. The Gazette was not able to reach Andreoni for comments.
Q: There have been changes at the district in the past year. A school closed and reopened, and the administration has been shaken up. Are you pleased with the direction the district is headed? Why?
Gonzalez: I am pleased, and I think the energy and optimism Superintendent Jill Sorbie brings to the district was much needed. The structure Business Manager Anthony Klein brings also was needed. With the two of them working together, they have the best interest of the district at the forefront.
Henriott: Yes. There were a lot people upset Darien Elementary closed. Now, Darien Elementary is reopening, but Wileman Elementary is closing. There’s a method to the madness. It allows the district to reallocate Title 1 funding for reading specialists. Students in 4-year-old kindergarten through first grade are learning to read. They are reading to learn in second grade and beyond. It’s better to have reading specialists helping kids learn to read than helping them read to learn.
Schutt: Yes, I am pleased. We are learning to work within our means and utilize all our facilities and staff while continuing a great education for our students.
Q: Declining enrollment continues to be a problem facing rural school districts. How should the district address it?
Gonzalez: Foremost is marketing. Sorbie is on the right path. She is sharing what good the district is doing. When you look at the surrounding communities, each one markets its school district. Some showcase a single building. We are showcasing what we can offer to every student.
Every district is dealing with declining birth rates. How do you encourage those families that only have one or two kids to enroll them in the district? We have to market.
Henriott: The district has done a good job but needs to continue selling the district based on its improvements, such as high test scores. The district also needs to be working in conjunction with city government to understand how Delavan is growing and how to keep those who are moving into the area in the district.
Schutt: We need to sell our school. It’s not like it used to be. Parents don’t have as many kids anymore. That’s why you see declining numbers.
The district is taking steps toward making the school appealing to many. We’re working within our means. We’re continuing to thrive with single-language and dual-language programs. It shows in our excellent scores.
Q: Why are you running, and what are other areas would you focus on if elected?
Gonzalez: The district’s really important to me. In June, all four members of my family will have graduated from Delavan-Darien High School. I want to see the district get back to its greater days. I was in the district through high school. Delavan was the pride of Walworth County. I want to try to get it back to that and have a piece of the conversion.
I’m really encouraged by the new administration. We’ve just scratched the surface. They’ve got some great ideas and have been open and honest. I’m really enjoying working with them.
Henriott: I’ve spent 25 years in our youth football program. It is a different time than it was when I started. Kids are different. Families are different. It’s communicating with families why our district is great.
I think a lot of schools over the past 10 years have not been concentrating on the trades. They were pushing for college, which I’m not opposed to, but there is a generation of kids that didn’t have trade classes available. There are very good-paying careers in the trades that don’t necessarily require a college education.
Schutt: I am running because I am an involved parent who wants to help the future of our school and our students. The community is a great aspect of the school, and we need to all come together.
If elected, I’d like to continue expanding the curriculum for single and dual language and make them the best they can be, to see us financially stable and make sure the money is available and utilized. More transparency is needed.