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Waupaca School Board race

Four incumbents, two challengers

By James Card

he April 2 election will have six candidates on the ballot for the Waupaca school board.

Up for reelection are Steve Klismet, Betty Manion, Bob Adams and Nicolas Genske. Lori Verhalen and Tom Link are challengers.

Board members Dale Feldt, Molly McDonald and Ron Brooks are serving their current terms and not up for reelection this year.

The Waupaca County Post sent two questions about their background and views to each of the candidates.

Why do you want to be a member of the Waupaca School Board and what are your qualifications?


Adams: I desire to be a member of the Waupaca School Board because I believe in the power of education to transform lives and shape communities. As a current member of the board, I have no hidden agenda. I attend all of my kids events and appreciate how the teachers work with all kids. My faith plays a big part of who I am and through that lens value all students. I am objective and listen to all aspects of a topic to make the best decisions.

My qualifications for this role stem from longevity in this school district. I have spent over 20 years as the pastor of Radiant Fellowship and over two years as the Executive Director at Foundations for Living. I have also served this past year on the Waupaca School Board.

I have actively engaged with the community through various volunteer roles, allowing me to understand the diverse needs and perspectives of our district’s stakeholders. I am a skilled communicator and listener, which will enable me to effectively advocate for the needs of students, parents, and teachers.

I am committed to staying informed about education trends, research, and best practices. I constantly seek opportunities for professional development.

Genske: As a parent of two daughters in the district and a member of the Waupaca community, I am deeply committed to helping the district with providing academic excellence, social and emotional development, and career readiness for all students while being fiscally responsible.

With over 20 years of experience as an engineer, including leadership of a global program that manages tissue machine assets in 23 countries, I understand what knowledge and experiences are needed for our students to succeed in today’s highly competitive global economy and am dedicated to working collaboratively with other members to achieve our shared goals. I am passionate about education and would be honored to continue to serve on the board.


Klismet: I have been serving the Waupaca community for the last three years as chair of the Buildings and Grounds, and currently I serve as your vice-president of the Waupaca School Board. I chose to run for the Waupaca School Board to get more involved at the community level and wanted to set a good example for my five children. I have been a resident of Waupaca since 1976 and I am a 1986 graduate of WHS. Four of my children have graduated from Waupaca and I currently have a daughter that is a junior.

I have served this community through our family-owned and operated business since we moved here, my wife Carol and myself continue to do so yet today. I feel I bring a common-sense, real-life experience voice to the board and believe every student and employee of the Waupaca school district deserves a safe and healthy learning environment. I feel every parent should be able to have individuals that represent them that are approachable and reachable. I pride myself in being available to you when you need me, anytime of day. I would appreciate your vote on April 2nd.

Link: I’m driven to join the Waupaca School Board out of a desire to give back to a community that shaped me, while paving a path forward for the next generation. As a consultant and leader at a global firm, I’ve honed my skills in strategic planning and project management, making me well-equipped to oversee changes at the administrative level.
My own experiences as a neurodivergent individual and a parent with a child in the school district underline my commitment to prioritizing mental health, faculty and supporting staff, innovating education, and fostering inclusion. I look forward to leveraging my professional expertise and personal insights to ensure the board serves student, faculty and community needs.


Manion: I love Waupaca and have been part of this community for 45 years. Our four children received an excellent education here and being a board member has allowed me to give back to our community. I am grateful and humbled to have been elected to serve on this board for several years. Being a board member brings an incredible responsibility to our students, staff, families and taxpayers, one which I never take lightly.

I believe I bring two crucial perspectives to the board: my female voice and my board experience. Knowledge of past practice and institutional knowledge is invaluable to present day proceedings and a vision for the future. Diversity in board makeup is also invaluable to good decision-making as those voices fairly and equitably represent the makeup of our community. Running for re-election will allow me to bring to fruition many exciting projects and endeavors of which I have been part of since their inception.

Along with my past board experience, I believe being in the field of education for my entire career as an: educator, artist-in-residence, administrator, author, and adjunct professor at St. Norbert and Silver Lake Colleges has afforded me the knowledge, qualifications, and passion for the role of a board member.


Verhalen: I am a dedicated advocate for quality education as an active member of our community, I am excited to contribute my skills, experience, and passion towards the success of our school district. I realize the importance of this role and the challenges it may entail. I am willing to collaborate with teachers, administrators, parents, students, and community members to implement positive changes in the district.

As a board, we need to make informed decisions that benefit our students and the community. I have had the privilege of serving on the board of a private school where I played an integral role in facilitating its remarkable growth. The school had a small student body, I actively contributed to the strategic planning and implementation of initiatives that propelled the school’s expansion.

In my real estate career, I have successfully navigated highly charged and emotionally challenging circumstances by skillfully brokering deals that addressed complex issues and diverse perspectives. In these situations, I demonstrated adept negotiation skills, empathy, and a commitment to finding mutually beneficial solutions. By fostering open communication, building trust, and remaining focused on common goals, I was able to facilitate agreements that satisfied all parties involved.

What do you feel is the biggest issue facing the Waupaca School District, and how would you try to fix that issue?

Adams: In my view, one of the most significant issues facing our school district is the need for increased transparency in staff changes and stronger collaboration with the community. To address this issue, I would propose implementing strategies that prioritize open communication and foster a greater sense of involvement.

I would advocate for clear and timely communication regarding staff changes. This includes providing comprehensive explanations for important changes, such as transfers or resignations, to ensure staff members feel informed and supported.

Furthermore, I would continue to promote transparency through accessible online platforms or regular updates on the district’s website and social media channels. This would enable parents, staff, and community members to stay informed about important decisions, upcoming events, and district updates.

By enhancing transparency in staff changes and fostering greater interaction with the community, we can create a stronger sense of trust, inclusivity, and collaboration within the Waupaca School District. This approach ensures that decision-making processes are more inclusive, empowers stakeholders, and ultimately helps to cultivate an environment that supports the success of all students.


Genske: Like many districts across the country, we are facing the challenge of declining enrollment due to lower birth rates. This affects our funding, as it is based on the number of students attending. However, I am happy to report that enrollment has stabilized in the short term and we are actively working to attract new families through open enrollment and promoting our district as a preferred destination.

Our facilities, academics, staff and extracurriculars are strong and we are increasing awareness of these strengths through improved branding, such as the new video board in the high school gymnasium. This was funded through local business advertising partnerships at no cost to taxpayers. I look forward to further leveraging this funding model to build community pride in our excellent school district. That said, we can’t forget that the foundation of all schools is the teachers and staff, we must continue to attract and retain top teaching talent. To attract and retain talent, competitive pay and career opportunities are required. I am always open to feedback and suggestions, please reach out to me if you would like to discuss. My contact information is available on the school district’s website.

Klismet: One of the biggest issues for Waupaca School District is maintaining a balanced budget. From declining enrollment to less state funding, the district has to find areas to save money and generate revenue. I feel that there are several ways to generate revenue without having to cut programs for our students and benefits for those employed by the school district.

The School District of Waupaca is responsible for the upkeep of certain properties in the community. The soccer fields and Ffrisby golf on King Road and also the tennis courts at the high school and middle school. I feel that we could work out a better agreement with the Waupaca Park & Rec department to help relieve the financial burden of these properties. In addition, we are at half capacity in the High School, we need to come up with ideas for that empty space. I feel that Fox Valley Technical College would be utilized more by our students if it was located in our high school.

Another item is the Comet logo. Currently there is no trademark on the Comet logo. That means anyone can use the logo at no cost to them and benefit financially from the printing of that logo. I feel that the Comet Logo should be trademarked and then money could be generated for the school from that logo. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you and our community. I would appreciate your vote on April 2nd.


Link: The Waupaca School District faces the challenge of modernizing education whilst ensuring the well-being of students and teachers. As a business transformation leader and parent, I intend to use strategic planning to enhance teaching methods and provide strong support systems to assist teachers and students in navigating educational challenges. Advocacy for fiscal responsibility, transparency, and community involvement is also on my agenda. By striking a balance between these, I am committed to fostering a nurturing environment that promotes high academic achievement, strengthens our school community, and paves the way for long-term success.

Manion: I feel the biggest issue facing the Waupaca school district is tackling and balancing the district’s budget while maintaining our “Excellence in Education.” This becomes a challenge due to limitations in state funding to school districts and a worry to not pass that burden on to local taxpayers. Unpredictable revenue limits, not tied to inflation make it difficult to deal with rising costs in utilities, insurance, operations, wages, programming, construction, etc…

I feel the best way to deal with this is to always keep in mind, “Who we are as a community and what we are about.” Always approaching decisions with “What’s best for all our students” helps us to create the best programs, hire and maintain our great staff, celebrate our four unique schools, support our sports and extracurriculars and promote the arts in our schools. A “We’re All in This Together” mentality is the best way to achieve this by coming together with open communication, transparency, creativity, common interests, and shared values. This approach will help us tackle important issues of safety, mental health, diversity in our district, and preparing our students for college and career readiness in our ever-changing world.

Verhalen: As a real estate business owner who is tied to the success of our local educational options (which increase property values), and as a community member who feels a sense of ownership in educating our youth, I believe that our district is effectively utilizing its funds and doing an excellent job at managing them. The district offers many diverse programs focused on students, equipping them with tools for future success. The list of programs we currently offer students is quite impressive, including student career planning support.

I am impressed with the Waupaca Works program and the positive impact it has on our students and community. The economic development potential is endless. I had the opportunity to witness two students engaged in a youth apprenticeship, and it was fascinating to see their growth. I believe there needs to be more engagement within the community for local partnerships and supportive programming for our students. I would like to see a strong marketing strategy in which our district becomes a destination district.

By showcasing our strengths, attracting more students and families, and engaging with the community, we can improve our overall success and enhance our reputation. Let’s work together to achieve educational excellence for our families.

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