Five newcomers and one incumbent are competing to fill three Janesville School Board seats up for election in April.
Incumbent Greg Ardrey filed papers with the school board clerk and is in the running. Fellow board members Dale Thompson and Steve Huth, the current board president, will not seek reelection.
Ardrey said he decided to run again because he feels he has more to give to the district. He is the board treasurer and told The Gazette in December he would focus on those on the lower social and economic end of the district.
“I want to focus on really the students and staff who I would say don’t have the full representation—those that are maybe more socially or economically on the lower end in the district,” he said.
Ardrey was appointed to the board in 2008, elected in 2009 and reelected in 2012, 2015 and 2018.
The other candidates are Liz Paull, Curt Parish, John Hanewall, Jessica Davis and Cathy Burt.
Paull, a 42-year-old mother and Craig High School graduate, currently serves as president of the Marshall Middle School Parent Teacher Association.
She wants more family and student input in district decisions, and she thinks she can find that as a parent.
“My goal isn’t to change things because I have great respect for those who have been serving on the board ... but when vacancies appeared, I just felt like it was important to make sure that families and people with children in the district are represented on the board, and I feel I can do that,” she said.
Parish, 69, is a retired finance worker with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from UW-Madison.
He said the district has been “very good” to his family and two daughters, and the school board gives him a chance to give back.
He has previously been on the Parker High School Booster Board and worked with the district DECA program.
“I believe educating our youth is the most important investment we make, and to provide a proper education we have to support teachers, support staff and the facilities we have,” Parish said. “It’s important to attract and retain quality school staff to attract and retain quality businesses and people.”
Hanewall, a 64-year-old with a background in social work and education, has considered running in the past but decided this was the right time.
Hanewall worked for 20 years at KANDU Industries and Rock County as a social worker before being named director of the Rock County Developmental Disabilities Board. When the county dissolved the board in 2016, he retired. He also has taught at Upper Iowa University and Beloit College.
Hanewall believes he would be a good fit for the board and can represent those who might not always have a voice. He said his Rock County experience will help.
“Having worked with individuals with developmental disabilities and special needs for the better part of my career, I understand the IEP (individualized education plan) process and feel I would be a strong advocate and voice for those people on the school board,” he said.
Hanewall also pointed to his experience managing a $30 million budget for Rock County as a positive, given the budget uncertainty caused by COVID-19 and state aid adjustments.
Davis, 33, has lived in Janesville for seven years. She works in Madison as an employment and retention coordinator with Journey Mental Health Center.
She decided to run because she wants to give back.
“For a while, I kind of thought running for school board or local office would be for someone older or someone with more overall experience, but I just realized, especially with everything going on and that I have a child in the district, and I want to serve and connect with my community. I think I would be a great fit for the school board,” she said.
Davis said she would push for increases in teacher wages and paid time off because that was an issue she heard frequently from teachers when collecting signatures. She said she feels certain COVID-19 has made their jobs harder.
Davis said her other focus would be implementing an antiracism curriculum across the district and providing staff training.
Burt, 60, is a homemaker and baby sitter for her granddaughter.
She said she wants to keep students learning in person.
“I’m really happy that the school board made the decision to bring the kids back, and I’d like to see that stay in place as long as county numbers stay OK,” she said.
Burt said she values offering alternatives to public schools, such as charter and virtual schools.
She also wants to ensure that there isn’t a political agenda behind decisions.