Contested race in Clintonville
Five running for two school board seats
By Bert Lehman
Five candidates are vying for two seats on the Clintonville Board of Education.
A primary will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 16 to trim the field of candidates to four. The four candidates who receive the most votes in the primary will be on the ballot for the election held on Tuesday, April 5.
To help provide voters with information about each candidate, as well as where they stand on the issues, the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette sent a series of questions to each of the candidates — Larry Czarnecki, Samantha Ozment, Lori Jean Poppe, Dirk Weber (seeking reelection) and Mark Zachow. Four of the candidates answered the questions and returned them to the Tribune-Gazette.
Why have you decided to run for Clintonville School Board?
Czarnecki: I have always had a strong interest in education. If I was not an engineer I definitely would have become a math teacher. I feel it is a good time to offer my time and talents to the community.
Poppe: I have chosen to run for school board because I strongly believe that our school district has great potential and needs change. I would like to be a part of the decision making process that would allow these changes to take place so that our children can truly succeed.
Weber: I am running for this position because I believe in the value of public education. I also believe that, as much as possible, it is important that decisions that affect school districts be made at the local level.
Zachow: I have been contacted by numerous concerned individuals in the district to run for the school board. We need to have trust and transparency in the decision making process.
What qualifications do you have that would help you when serving on the board?
Czarnecki: I was on the school board at St. Martin School for six years and also on the PTL board for two years. I have worked with students over the years as a coach, an engineering mentor and an Engineering Exploring leader so I feel I can bring those student connections and strong STEM experiences to the school district as a board member.
Poppe: My qualifications that will help me while serving on the board include: 25 years of parent volunteering, the experience acquired from owning and operating our own family businesses; I have five years experience as a paraprofessional/special education aide for the Clintonville School District which includes in-depth knowledge of managing activities of special needs children and assisting teachers in their daily tasks. I have also been vice chair and secretary for Head Start Policy Council and secretary and vice president for Clintonville Music Boosters. I am presently a parent volunteer family support for special needs children.
Weber: I am an experienced school board member. As our district’s representative to CESA 8, I have had experience as a board member for that organization. I have been a partner in a small business. I have been an active member of the community in the 35 years that my wife and I have lived here.
Zachow: I have worked in the After School program for four years and saw firsthand how things are done within the district. Also, since I am employed as an officer with the Clintonville Police Department, I have teamed up with the Longfellow kindergarten teachers to provide safety tips to the children for the past 20 years. I have also taught Internet safety to the second and fourth grade students for the past 10 years.
What are the two most important issues facing the Clintonville School District?
Czarnecki: First would be to improve the education students are receiving and second would be making the proper facilities decision that will support the goals, growth and improvement of the district and ultimately the students.
Poppe: The two most important issues facing the Clintonville School District are: 1) The lack of good communication between our district’s families and the schools. 2) Making sure that our students are receiving the correct education per their academic level.
Weber: Two big issues that we have are the poverty level of our students and attracting and retaining excellent staff members.
Zachow: The loss of good teachers in the district is a big concern. Why are they leaving? Also, the morale is a concern among the staff.
If elected, what would you do to find solutions to those issues?
Czarnecki: Being trained as an engineer there is a standard process you go through in finding solutions: clearly define the problem, research possible solutions, chose the best option, implement the solution and then measure its success. Obviously there are no simple solutions to these issues and others the district will face, but as an informed team the school board can help lead changes for improvement.
Poppe: When elected I will work diligently to open transparent communications between our district families and the schools. Helping both sides to understand each other. I will also work hard to ensure our school staff is receiving proper education for the many issues/disabilities that our students may have and how to help them succeed.
Weber: The poverty level of our students is an ongoing challenge. We will continue to adjust our curriculum and programs to meet the needs of our students. We do this while maintaining high academic expectations for everyone. We have to impress on our students that education is their key to success.
One example of what we have done is that the After School program has been changed to better fit our staff and our students.
Another example is the Chromebook program that is in its second year. All students in grades seven through 12 have their own laptop computer provided by the district.
Attracting and retaining staff is also an ongoing challenge. We need to make sure that the Clintonville Public School District is a great place to be a teacher. We will do what we can to have competitive compensation.
Beyond that, the board of education and administration need to support teachers and their classroom efforts as much as possible. Education is changing. Teachers need to know that they will be supported when they try something new.
Zachow: It needs to be found out why teachers and staff are leaving. Obviously there is a reason.
There has been a lot of discussion regarding the future of the district’s elementary school. How should the district approach this issue?
Czarnecki: It is important to gather all the facts first and then do the research. The district and board have already done some good things heading down this path, and that needs to continue. This is a big issue that affects the whole community, we must take the time and do it right.
Poppe: I feel the district is right on track with how they are approaching the future of the district’s elementary school. Obtaining information, forming committees and asking the community their input is vital to this potential project.
Weber: Our community will have a decision to make in the next year or so. Our elementary school is in need of significant updating. The question becomes, do we spend money on updating the current facilities or should we build a new building? We will need a community committee to research our options and then find out what the community wants to do.
Zachow: The first thing that needs to be done concerning this issue is to find out the costs of remodeling Longfellow Elementary vs. a new building. That needs to be studied and determined before proceeding any further.
Why should voters elect you?
Czarnecki: My daughter will be graduating this May and has had a good high school experience that will help her in the next steps of her life, yet I know from talking to other parents there are still areas in the district that can be improved so that current and future students get the quality education they deserve.
Poppe: My family has attended the Clintonville Public School system throughout the last 45 years and has seen many good and bad changes come about. I understand first hand as a parent and previous district employee, the concerns and frustrations our district is facing. My goal is to help bridge the gap between our community, district and the schools, and encourage families and staff to voice their concerns on how our children are being educated. By working together we can help make Clintonville an even better school district than it is.
Weber: I would ask the voters of our district to elect me to the board of education because I believe in the value of public education. I try to understand all points of view before making decisions. And I try to make decisions in the best interests of the entire community.
Zachow: I would like to bring a positive perspective to the school board. I would like to see the issues that are concerning the people of the district identified and corrected. Most important to a child’s education, is the quality and morale of the staff.