EM school board candidate: Kelly Holzer

ELK MOUND — Four candidates have filed nomination papers for three positions on the Elk Mound Board of Education in the April 1 election: Tim Sivertson (incumbent); Mark Cedarblade; Kelly Holzer; Patrick Rhude.

The Colfax Messsenger sent a  questionnaire to each of the candidates.

Bill Moore and Jim Holte, who have both served on the Elk Mound Board of Education for 15 years, decided not to run for re-election.

Kelly Holzer, 38, resides at 304 Moundview Court in Elk Mound with her daughter Amanda, who is in sixth grade.

Holzer is a 1994 graduate of Elk Mound High School with training in English from UW-La Crosse and Special Education/Applied Social Science from UW-Stout. She currently serves as a Continuing Education Program Associate at UW-Eau Claire.

Here are Holzer’s answers to the questionnaire:

1. Why did you decide to run for election to the Elk Mound Board of Education? 

If there is one thing we can always be sure of in this town, it’s our great schools. I received a world-class education here (Class of 1994) and my daughter is receiving one here, too. I am running for school board because I want to work to keep our schools strong and successful.

2. What aspects of your background make you particularly suited for serving on the school board?

I have been involved professionally in many areas of education, from course objective development and program planning to curriculum writing and classroom instruction. I have spent countless hours volunteering in Elk Mound classrooms, including 4 years as a Mound View PTO officer.

I have chaired local boards where I have helped a variety of diverse ideas and personalities come together respectfully around a common goal. I am trained in effective communication and conflict resolution.

I worked as a marketing analyst, which taught me that to accomplish an important goal and encourage growth in any area you not only have to have your details down, but you have to understand how those details connect to the big picture—that’s what the board of education is all about, isn’t it? Connecting small ideas and logistical details in a way that supports our larger mission statement for the good of the community.

As a parent, a volunteer youth coach and Girl Scout troop leader, I have a lot of experience with Elk Mound students outside the classroom. This is important because you can’t properly address the needs of any individual if you view them from a one-dimensional perspective.

I have shown that I can lead, that I can work effectively as a member of a team, and that I won’t shy away from asking the tough questions but that I will always aim to do so with respect and consideration.

3. What issues do you see as being the most important for the Elk Mound school district and why?

There will always be challenges to address in our schools. Among the current challenges are:

1. Enrollment – While many districts have seen declining enrollment in recent years, Elk Mound continues to grow. This has led to space issues in all three buildings. Fortunately the community recognized this need and approved a referendum to expand the buildings, but building staff will tell you they are approaching space limits once again. Creative solutions may need to be explored to be sure our students’ needs are being met in balance with the economics of our current revenue structure.

2. Economics – Speaking of economics, school funding continues to be a challenging issue, particularly for smaller, rural districts like Elk Mound. Many will say that Act 10 provided districts with more flexibility in addressing funding issues; but in many ways it further restricted districts’ ability to respond to changing financial needs. Not only is their ability to raise income restricted, but their ability to adequately compensate teachers is restricted as well. As with the enrollment issue, meeting this challenge will require some creative measures and solid communication with the community.

3. Education Standards – As I’ve spoken with district residents over the past few months, I’ve heard a lot of concern about the Common Core standards. Folks are concerned about what they are and what they might mean for our students and staff. I think the board will continue to hear more questions on this subject and having ready answers is going to be a key factor in helping our staff, parents and students navigate this new territory.

4. What issues do you hope to bring to the Elk Mound Board of Education or what issues would like to see addressed by the school board?

I mentioned Common Core as an issue I believe our district will be challenged by in the months and years ahead. In the absence of factual, easily accessible information, people tend to gravitate toward the politically charged answers on both sides of the aisle. That’s not good for our students or for our community. I would like to see the board offer information sessions on Common Core, facilitated by non-political parties. Parents and community members need to be able to understand the standards and their implementation on a level that allows them to ask meaningful questions. I also believe the district should be more transparent with the community about its expectations and compensation plans for teaching staff. I have heard a lot of questions from community members recently about whether teacher compensation is tied to test results in our district. The board can be proactive in answering some of those questions, I feel.

Before each board meeting, board members make themselves available to answer questions from community members. Folks don’t often take advantage of that opportunity, it seems, but I think it’s a wonderful idea. I would like to expand that idea by hosting a monthly opportunity for community members to come and dialogue with me and/or other members of the board at The Junction in town. Some people are intimidated by the school setting and would be more comfortable in a more social atmosphere. It’s also a great way to remind folks that board members are members of the community, too.

I would also like to see the board explore partnering with local service organizations to develop increased sustainable practices in our buildings. One way we could do this is to explore how to get more locally grown food into our school lunch program, including but not limited to a district-maintained community garden space. My conversations in the community have shown me there is high interest in developing this type of program, and it would tie in effectively with our agriculture and science programs.

5. Other comments?

With your vote, I will work towards a board that:

• Supports both our students and the staff who educate them

• Considers diverse opinions respectfully

• Keeps personal agendas out of the decision-making process

• Reflects the makeup of our community

As a member of the school board, I will:

• Do my homework and seek new opportunities to grow and learn

• Solicit regular input from parents, staff and community members, and listen to your ideas and concerns to better represent you

I am proud to be a Mounder, and I know I can make a positive difference on the school board by carrying on the best practices the board has developed and by helping to seek out and navigate pathways of continuous improvement for our staff, our students and ourselves.