One newcomer and two incumbents are running for two seats on the Elkhorn Area School Board.
Adam Andre said he moved to Elkhorn less than two years ago and has two step-children in district schools and another recently born child.
Being from New Jersey, he said he could bring a different perspective to the board.
He has worked closely with former NBA player Luol Deng, whose foundation Andre ran for five years. He also said he would beef up Elkhorn’s basketball programs while leaning on his affiliations with NBA players to hold camps.
Paul Martell worked in the district for more than 30 years teaching technology education and engineering at the Elkhorn Area High School. He had to retire due to medical reasons, but he ran for school board three years ago because he wanted to stay involved and continue serving the district.
“I’m running for re-election because I believe education is a calling,” he said. “I want to continue offering whatever I can to allow growth and let every child succeed.”
Jenny Ray, the current board clerk, could not be reached for an interview. She along with Martell were elected as newcomers in 2017.
Terms for the seven-member board last three years.
By alphabetical order, below are candidate responses from interviews.
Question: With school spending restricted by the state, referenda are becoming more common. Is this a sustainable way to fund schools or what changes would you like to see?
Andre: He wants to look at spending within the district.
“That’s just something I’d like to dive into more,” Andre said.
Andre said he wants to make sure money is spent efficiently and responsibly. He pointed to his work where he saw others have budgets of billions of dollars when they would “scrutinize every penny.”
Martell: “I do believe that we have to get back to where the state is funding more consistently all areas because we’re growing so diversely with future careers,” Martell said.
It takes “manpower and laboratory spaces” to expose students to the various career options available to them. It’s getting harder for smaller districts to sustain what is needed.
He floated an idea about consolidation—different districts hold different programs, such as culinary arts or manufacturing—to stop replicating expenses. But he acknowledged travel might mean it’s not feasible.
“I think we have to continue to look for answers,” he said. “We can’t continue what we’ve been doing.”
Q: What issues do you see as most important for the school district to tackle in the coming years?
A: “I’m looked at sometimes like I have three heads when I say this, but something that I really want to attack—whether I’m on the school board or not, but it is going to be something that I address somehow, someway—is nutrition,” Andre said.
His stepson once brought home a carton of milk with a “ridiculous amount of sugar in it,” he said.
He said he has relationships with chefs and trainers, and he brings a different worldview.
“We’re not feeding our children properly,” he said.
M: “I think it really is about making sure that we support every child and family in their future aspirations, not continue to just promote what we’ve always done,” Martell said.
The careers that will be there in students’ 20s and 30s don’t exist today, and some options that exist today won’t be there then.
He wants to support students as they go forward, letting them “dream big and fulfill those dreams.”
Q: What makes you a candidate worth voting for?
A: “I want to get things done that the majority wants done,” Andre said.
If he doesn’t know the answer to some issue, he said he was happy to set up discussion panels. These could get perspectives from stakeholders—middle schoolers, parents, teachers, for example.
These groups could inform the board as they make decisions, he said.
M: “One of the biggest things is my passion for students and their successes, and my commitment to our community and … the district itself over the past three decades,” Martell said.
He coached sports for more than 25 years. He was in the classroom for more than 30 years. He helped build homes with students. He built churches.
He said all those experiences went beyond the traditional school setting, and he wants to keep giving back for as long as he can.