GREEN BAY – Five candidates are competing for two seats up for grabs on the Green Bay School Board this spring.
Board member Laura McCoy and four others will appear on the ballot in the Feb. 18 primary. Incumbent Katie Maloney is not seeking reelection, leaving one of the two seats open.
The top four will move on to the April 7 general election.
The candidates are:
Occupation and highest education level: Social researcher. Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I also attended graduate school at Georgetown University.
Relevant experience: I have a variety of job and life experiences that have prepared me to take on this challenge. I have relevant experience in the fields of, but not limited to: libraries, sales, distribution, clerical, education, retail, military training, restaurants, data collection, data entry, farm laborer, painter and carpenter.
Occupation and highest education level: Business entrepreneur for the technology, piano and swimming pool industries.
Relevant experience: Initiated traffic study request to city of Green Bay and requests for school zone signage near Red Smith School as a result of parent input. Advocated for numerous families who had difficulty obtaining information from the district. Advocated for families of bullied students while maintaining the confidentiality of student and their dignity. Discovered numerous safety concerns in busing, entry access and building/facilities and addressed with maintenance and administration. Oversaw the implementation and renovation of a music practice space at UW-Oshkosh (A&C 125) while navigating complex policies to successful completion. Continued and regular communication with district leaders on various issues involving student safety.
Occupation and highest education level: Self-employed. Bachelor’s degree.
Relevant Experience: Former teacher and educator.
Occupation and highest education level: Member services for the Greater Green Bay YMCA.
Relevant experience: I have served on the Green Bay School Board since April of 2017. In addition to my regular board duties, I have served as the legislative liaison for our board and have represented our district on the Policy and Resolution Committee for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. I have also served on a number of committees within our district that support the work of teachers and staff. In addition, I currently serve on the Brown County Human Services Board. In the past I have served as a board member on the Northeastern Wisconsin Dance Organization, Wisconsin Historical Records Advisory Board, Brown County Historical Society and my neighborhood association.
Occupation and highest education level: IT Business Systems Analyst at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. Bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Relevant experience: IT Business Systems Analyst at NWTC; 22 years of work experience at Schneider National; Girl Scout leader at Lincoln; participated in the PTO at both Lincoln and Franklin; participated in the interview for the IB accreditation at Franklin; secretary with the West High Performing Arts Parents; chief inspector at the polls for the City of Green Bay; board member for the League of Women Voters; member of the Higher Learning Commission Steering Committee at NWTC; advisor for the NWTC Anime Club.
Why are you running?
Boucher: I sense that there is a need for my knowledge on the school board. I would be doing the students and teachers a disservice if I did not run. I will champion causes that other candidates will not likely pursue. I will have the schools rethink the lunch room experience. Not all students need a low-fat diet. Variety is the spice of life, and the lunch period needs to be reexamined at many levels. I would also like to introduce dance, swimming and gymnastics/tumbling programs at the primary grade levels. These skills, if not learned early, are increasingly difficult to teach.
Davies: To continue the work momentum of creating a school board that functions effectively. I believe that board supervisory responsibilities have drifted. There is a lack of checks and balances within the administration. My goal is to ensure transparency, work to improve the teaching environment by providing support to teachers and ensure financial resources from referendums are allocated for their intended purposes. The role of the school board is not one of passivity, and I desire to model that behavior to help grow our board into a functional one. I have the necessary time and resources to accomplish this vital role.
Grignon: I am running for the Green Bay Public Schools to promote a world class education, fuel students’ passion in the trades and be a strong voice for the teachers — the backbone of the Green Bay Public Schools. As a father of a daughter in grade school and a son starting school in the next two years, I want to ensure mine and everyone’s children are prepared to succeed in the 21st century.
McCoy: I am running for reelection because I want to continue to serve families and children in our community. During my time on the school board, I have taken advantage of every opportunity I could to learn and gain better understanding of our district and its relationship to our community and our economy. That learning process has only deepened my appreciation for the work of our teachers and staff. It takes a small army to educate 21,000 students, and I look forward to being able to continue that work.
Smith: My husband and I both graduated from Green Bay schools, and our daughters attended our public schools for 12 years. Public education served my family well, and I’m running with the hopes of serving my community. I’ve seen all the great things GBAPS has to offer, and I’d like to be a part of moving our schools forward and improving the quality of our public education system. I’m a collaborator and a relationship builder by nature, skills I acquired and developed in my 22 years at Schneider and most recently NWTC, and I think that’s something our School Board needs.
What are residents telling you are their most important issues, and how would you address them?
Boucher: Many students and teachers are concerned about negativity, drama and tension in the public schools. I would eliminate the suspension/detention system. Students need life coaches to get them in the right mindset to go to school. I would expand the athletic program. … Many have complained that interaction between students and teachers is minimal. Through after school programs, lunch time socialization programs and athletics, teachers will have more time to interact with students. One important concern … is that some parents at times are undermining the educational process by implementing bad practices at home. Parents need to be educated and vigilant.
Davies: The primary concern that has been shared is the lack of consistency surrounding discipline. I would address this firstly by visiting all schools, not just my assigned ones. These particular issues tie into better checks and balances. As social media usage increases, parents are going to reach out to board members if and when concerns or questions go unanswered or ignored. By being available, it will ensure school observations are completed. I will devote ample time to this task. Checks and balances between the district office and schools will help the district grow. Board support will give teachers a sense of value.
Grignon: I’ve spoken to residents of Green Bay these past couple of weeks, and many of the issues they raise are important. Our district residents want to see a focus on the trades, they want our literacy issues addressed and they want to see a positive approach to student discipline. If elected into the School Board, I will push for a holistic education that revolves around self-sufficiency, build and expand on the great reading program through the IB schools, emphasize civic engagement and cement conscious discipline as the norm for our school district to follow.
McCoy: Community members that I have spoken to are concerned about how education is funded in Wisconsin. They would like to see better funding for English learners, special education services, transportation and social and emotional support for students. During my time on the board, I have reached out to our legislators and lobbied on behalf of our district. … In addition, our community, like all communities in this country, is dealing with urgent issues surrounding school safety. I serve on our district’s Security Committee and as an individual board member I have had many hard conversations with parents and community members around this issue.
Smith: Most of what I’m hearing stems down to the budget and the teacher shortage. We have special education teachers teaching under emergency licenses and math classes with 30+ students. The state is funding our schools at levels less than it was in 2011. Members of the School Board need to build relationships with our local legislators and lobby for public education at the local, state and federal levels. Finding ways to make teaching in Green Bay more attractive and looking for possible solutions to balance our school enrollment should also be top priorities of the School Board.
How do you believe the district should handle the enrollment imbalance between the east- and west-side high schools?
Boucher: We need to build a high school on the far east side. I would build a driving range and golf course where the school is to be built. This will prepare the area for traffic. It will also give students and staff the opportunity to learn a sport that promotes good health, and they can play for a lifetime.
Davies: As a school board, we need to focus on a broader picture of what the atmosphere is within the district. Improvements such as ensuring students can learn without disruption is a significant factor for success. Providing additional paraprofessional support to teachers or groups of classrooms to compensate for shortfalls in teacher recruitment. Our school district must focus on teacher retention. We are not losing students because we lack expensive and pretty, new buildings. Our inability to retain students is by not accommodating the needs of those we serve. We need to be adaptive to achieve enrollment increases.
Grignon: I would institute a focus group between both schools that includes the students, parents, teachers and staff. Through this focus group, we can distinguish the strengths of both schools and possibly how students could focus their studies at one school or the other. Both schools in the future, if we can make sound decisions out of the focus groups, could complement each other and be a bridge of innovative education between both longstanding high schools in our district.
McCoy: Like many districts around the state, Green Bay’s enrollment has decreased in recent years. … This imbalance causes problems around distribution of staff and funding resources. In the last several years, our district has hosted a number of task forces to capture community voices around this issue, and the 2017 referendums had a huge positive impact in the schools on the east side of town. In 2020, the school board will take up further work on how to best address the imbalance and to make sure that all our students have the resources and learning spaces they need. The work is ongoing.
Smith: Both my daughters attended west side downtown schools, and I think they are hidden gems. I would like to see the district better promote the IB opportunities available at Chappell, Franklin and West with current and incoming students. The east side has two K-8 options, and I know parents who choice their children to the east side to attend a K-8 school. I’d be interested in exploring a K-8 option on the west side. A decision may be needed about changing the boundaries. That discussion would need to involve the community right from the start in order to be successful.
What characteristics do you want to see in the next superintendent?
Boucher: The new superintendent needs to have a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm. They need an ability to communicate with a diverse student population and have a vision of the ever-evolving educational system. They need an understanding of the balance in humanity where mind/body/soul needs to be cultivated. The importance of education/athletics/arts cannot be understated. This job requires a comprehension of how to draw in students to maintain and grow the student population. Developing a beautiful/welcoming atmosphere is essential to assure success.
Davies: I would like to see the next superintendent be truthful and open to the public. The two finalists at this moment have significant flaws that could have been validated by a simple Google search. I would like to see transparency, honesty, integrity and a willingness to work collaboratively with a board rather than someone who consistently hides behind lawyers to obscure and obfuscate their actual ability. I would like to see a superintendent that is not a consultant and is there for the benefit of students and teachers alone and willing to invest themselves in the Green Bay district.
McCoy: Our next superintendent must understand that in Green Bay, they will need to be able to navigate in many arenas: within the District, within our community and within our state political institutions. They must be able to see the needs of individual children AND understand the large-scale systems that support public education – both locally and statewide. They must also fully recognize the challenges of educating a very diverse population of students. The complexities of that challenge and the delivery of truly equitable educational services is a priority for our entire district.
Grignon: Down to earth, assertive, compassionate, real and visionary.
Smith: I would like to see our next superintendent have experience working with ethnically and economically diverse schools and a record of improving student success in diverse schools. I would also like to see our next superintendent be someone willing to engage and embrace our community. A superintendent who fosters a culture of collaboration at all levels — with teachers, building administrators, staff and the School Board — will enable better communication and build strong relationships that allow everyone to work together towards the common goal of making our schools the best in the state.
If you have questions about Green Bay’s elections, you may contact reporter Haley BeMiller at (920) 431-8212 or [email protected]
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