Three candidates are vying for two seats on the Waupaca School Board in the April 1 spring election.
Pat Phair is challenging two incumbent board members, Stephen Johnson and Kenley Hansen.
Born and raised in Waupaca, Johnson attended Waupaca schools and graduated from the University of Southern California.
Johnson has worked for an insurance company for the past 30 years.
“My business background and critical thinking skills have allowed me to bring important views to the board from both financial perspectives and in the development of policy for the good of our students and staff,” Johnson said. “I believe my business and financial background is important as our schools are not only a place of education, but a $31 million community business.”
Johnson has served on the Waupaca School Board for six years. He currently serve as the chairman of the Finance Committee and as a member of the Personnel and the Building and Grounds committees. He previously served as the chairman of the Student Services Committee.
Phair received his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and a master’s degree in English from Minnesota State University. He teaches English at Waupaca High School.
“I have been an educator for over 30 years and believe my face-to-face contact with young people in a classroom setting and working with administrators, community members and parents has given me a unique perspective into the day-to-day running of our school district,” Phair said. “To be effective is to be understanding of the roles of all who contribute to the well-being of the students of the Waupaca School District.”
Hansen, who has been on the school board for three years, is a 1988 graduate of Waupaca High School and a 1993 graduate of UW-Madison. He has worked for Waupaca Foundry since January 1994.
He was hired as a molding operator and has worked the last 15 years in quality assurance. He is currently the quality director.
“The disciplines required to operate a robust manufacturing operation are similar to the requirements of a successful school district,” Hansen said. “Collection of meaningful data and analysis of that data are part of every work day for me, and the challenge of making good observations and recommendations, based off district data, is one of my favorite parts of being a board member.”
The candidates responded to nearly a dozen questions sent to them by the County Post. Following is the first part in a two-part series covering their answers.
Describe your community involvement and indicate the organizations to which you belong. How has this helped make you a better school board member?
Phair: I am fortunate to be a member of many community organizations including Waupaca Breakfast Rotary Club, Winchester Academy Board, Waupaca County Natural Resources Foundation, Waupaca Community Garden and Fox Valley Technical College Advisory Board, who share common goals to promote life-long learning for all Waupaca School District residents. The experience and knowledge I have gained by working with so many dedicated people will undoubtedly aid in Waupaca School District decision making.
Hansen: I have coached soccer, softball, baseball, and basketball in our community over the past 12 years. I am currently a member of the girls’ softball board. This has been a terrific opportunity for me as I’ve had the chance to meet and work with many kids and parents. The relationships I’ve developed help me maintain a good understanding of what’s going on with the kids in our community. I’ve also been on the Riverside Medical Center Quality Improvement Committee for the last two years, and was recently appointed to the RMC Board of Trustees. Policy development and deployment are key functions of all boards, and I have obviously been fortunate to have many opportunities to work in this area.
Johnson: Locally, I am on the boards of a multistate financial institution and a sports facility. I am proud that both are exceptionally strong supporters of our school programs. I am also on the Board of a scholarship foundation with chapters at universities throughout the Midwest. Each of the above adds to my perspective as a School Board member. However, most important are activities that center on our sons, their friends and families. Whether it is academics, the arts, sports or other activities, the constant interaction with students and parents has made me a better and more responsive School Board member.
Share some information about yourself and family.
Hansen: I was born in Waupaca. With the exception of the college years in Madison, I have lived my entire life here. My parents and sisters also still reside in Waupaca. My father and grandfather both served on the Waupaca School Board. My wife, Heather, and I have four children, and three remain in the Waupaca school system. Two are at Waupaca High School, and one at Waupaca Middle School.
Johnson: After college and working in the southwest, I returned to central Wisconsin in 1986. My wife, Carole, and I decided to move to Waupaca to raise our family due to the quality of life here, the people of Waupaca, the value of having “roots” in a community, and the desire for our children to receive an excellent education. Our oldest son, Stephen “Michael,” is a freshman at Waupaca High School. Our second son, David, is in eighth grade at Waupaca Middle School. Both boys are involved in sports and the arts.
Phair: The Waupaca community has been home for my wife Mary and me for greater than 40 years. Mary is a registered nurse and assistant director of nursing at Bethany Home in Waupaca. We raised five children here and all of them attended grades K-12 in the district and graduated from Waupaca High School. Today, our children are sprinkled throughout central Wisconsin and northern Illinois and work in health care, real estate, education and social work. Several are married and Mary and I are proud grandparents of five young grandchildren.
Why are you running for the Waupaca School Board?
Johnson: I have always felt a responsibility to serve our community. I was fortunate to receive an excellent education here at Waupaca and was strongly impacted over the years by many of my teachers. One way in which I can give back to the schools and serve the community is to draw upon my business experience to provide insight to aid with policy development and the many decisions the school board must make. The policy and decisions we make must balance the best interest of our students with the needs of the members of our community and district staff.
Phair: I am running for the board to help maintain a quality educational system for our students, today, and into the future. I believe there are many fiscal challenges, curriculum concerns, job readiness ideas, and facilities and maintenance updates along with a host of agenda items looming in the near future. But, complex issues can achieve positive results through collaboration, insight and a willingness to roll up our sleeves to find innovative solutions.
Hansen: I am running for re-election to the board because it’s important to me that the district continues to make fiscally responsible decisions that are in the students’ best interest. Funding will continue to challenge us, but we need to ensure that it doesn’t hinder student and teacher achievement and continuous improvement.
What do you see as the primary work of the school board?
Phair: The primary work of the School Board is to oversee an organization which addresses the educational needs of its community. Within the funds, facilities and human resources available, the board’s job is to create a safe, free, open and positive climate for student learning by day and adult and community enrichment in the evenings. I believe the schools within the district should be magnets which attract people of all ages to come in to learn and grow. Communities with quality facilities, teachers and students will have a much better chance to grow and prosper in the future.
Hansen: To be proponents of student achievement, preparing them to be productive and active members of our community. This is best done by facilitating cooperative planning and execution of policy with students, parents, teachers, administration and the board. Board members need to operate with an open mind and a desire to learn.
Johnson: The key role of the board is to develop and maintain a solid working relationship with our superintendent, administrators and teachers based on mutual respect and a joint commitment to student success. The board’s mission is: to assist our students in reaching their potential by providing a cost effective education which prepares them for their post-school plans; to support students in becoming contributing members of the community; and, helping students develop the skills necessary to make responsible life choices. The board must focus on student progress and achievement while monitoring and evaluating means by which each can be improved.