Three run for school board
Two incumbents, one challenger
By Robert Cloud
Three candidates are running for two seats on the Waupaca School Board.
Dale Feldt is challenging incumbents Dmitri Martin and Steve Hackett.
Their names will appear on the April 2 non-partisan ballot.
Hackett has served one term on the Waupaca School Board.
“I’m happy with the job I’ve done,” Hackett said, “I’ve been there and I’ve been learning. I’ve been able to set the board straight on a couple of occasions.”
Hackett said he reads the reports and materials provided to board members prior to the meetings.
If he has a question or concern about a report, he prefers calling the teacher or administrator prior to the meeting.
“I will not go to the meeting and embarrass the person who wrote the report,” Hackett said. “It is not my job to embarrass anybody, but it is my job to be prepared and read everything before I go to the meeting.”
Hackett said he brings the same attitude to the school board that he has for 16 years as a member of the Waupaca Common Council.
Prior to his retirement, Hackett worked as a mail carrier.
“I always say I was a streetwalker for 33 years,” Hackett said, laughing.
He also worked as an aide for the Waupaca School District for 17 years.
“I don’t have to guess what’s going on. I pretty much know,” he said.
Hackett said retired teachers Pat Phair and Mark Polebitski bring their personal experiences to their decisions as members of the school board.
He also appreciates the work of the current district administrator.
“Greg Nyen, in my opinion, has been one heck of a good administrator,” Hackett said. “He’s moving the district in the right direction.”
Hackett noted the district’s improved test scores as one example of Nyen’s leadership.
Martin is seeking his second term on the school board. He was appointed to the board in 2016, following Connie Baldwin’s resignation.
He was elected to the board in 2017.
Martin also ran for state Assembly in 2016 and is currently running for Waupaca Common Council against Chuck Whitman.
Last year, he became a Realtor and previously owned a small business specializing in energy efficiency.
Martin is a 1995 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
Among several proposals for change, Martin would like to see some students serving on the school board.
“It would be a non-voting position, but the students would be given an opportunity to hold a seat on the board and be a part of discussions,” Martin said.
Martin said the board would have to establish the details of how the students would be selected, but they could be chosen either by the student council or the school board.
Martin also supports policies that give teachers and parents a greater voice in the district.
“I think we need to, as a board, be on guard against authoritarian or patriarchal managerial decision making,” Martin said. “It can impact the morale of staff.”
Martin said he wants the board to implement some form of “360-degree evaluations.”
“I think it would be helpful to have teachers evaluate the administrators,” Martin said.
Martin said he has been willing to break ranks with a board he believes has a tendency to reach unanimous consensus.
“When I don’t think we have enough information, I have been willing to vote no or abstain when everyone else is voting yes,” Martin said. “A diversity of votes on the board should reflect the diversity of opinions within the community. I think it’s healthier when that happens.”
While speaking with the Waupaca County Post, Martin endorsed one of the other school board candidates.
“I encourage people to support Dale Feldt in his candidacy,” Martin said. “I think he has a lot to offer to the board.”
Martin noted Feldt’s experience as an award-winning math teacher and his life-long commitment to students.
“I want Dale to serve on the board even if it means that I don’t,” Martin said.
Feldt began working as a long-term substitute teacher at Waupaca High School shortly after he earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in December 1984.
He began working full time in Waupaca the following January and earned a master’s degree in education from UW-Stevens Point in 1991.
Education is important to Feldt and to his family.
“I’m a teacher, my wife has been a teacher here for 31 years, my daughter-in-law has been teaching fourth grade at Waupaca Learning Center for three years, my son has been a fifth-grade teacher in Weyauwega-Fremont for four years and my youngest son’s fiancée is a teacher,” Feldt said.
Feldt won a Kohl Fellowship in 2006, earned UW-Stevens Points’s Tom Hayes Memorial Award for outstanding service to teacher education in 2017, won Teacher of the Year awards from Waupaca Rotary and Waupaca FFA, and the Hillshire Award for Outstanding Teacher in 1986.
Prior to his retirement, Feldt said he worked an average of 70 hours per week during the school year, which included preparing lesson plans five hours a day on Saturday and Sunday and arriving to work by 6:30 a.m. on school days.
He was faculty adviser for the National Honor Society, SADD and the high school math team.
Just as Feldt spent time volunteering at the school and in the community, he encouraged volunteerism among his students.
One of his biggest projects was organizing the post-prom party that runs from midnight to 4 a.m.
“I would get up at 6 a.m. on Saturday and not go to bed until 7 a.m. on Sunday,” Feldt said.
He noted the post-prom party attracted a lot of community involvement from parents and businesses.
“I still want to make a difference in kids’ lives,” Feldt said, regarding his candidacy for the Waupaca School Board.
Feldt said a strong public school system is important to the entire community.
“If you ask the Realtors in town, they will say that people looking to move into an area will look at the schools,” Feldt said. “I want to make sure we remain a strong academic-centered institution while being a good steward of people’s tax dollars.”