Two challengers, one incumbent vie for two school seatsVoters in the Ellsworth School District will find two challengers and one incumbent are trying for two available seats on the school board in Tuesday’s election.
Voters in the Ellsworth School District will find two challengers and one incumbent are trying for two available seats on the school board in Tuesday’s election.
The candidates are Susan Langer, incumbent Jeff Stockwell and Robert Wittenberg.
They were given questionnaires by the Herald. Following are the questions and the candidates’ written responses.
Please give a brief description of yourself. Include information such as age, family, where you live and for how long, and list any educational, life or public service experiences which you believe will assist you in the position you’re seeking.
LANGER: I am a 50-year-old, 1980 Ellsworth graduate. I married my high school sweetheart, Gary Langer, in 2006. Together, with Gary’s two children, Roarke and Madeline, we have resided within the Ellsworth Township for nearly seven years. I have a 25-year career in marketing with an expertise in 1:1 relationship marketing and brand management. I founded Mosaic Marketing in 1996 and currently office out of our home in Beldenville. My entire adult life has included participation in community outreach--on local, national and international stages. Currently, I serve as a director on the board of a national non-profit, Real Resources, that focuses on youth; I am also a member of Zion Covenant’s Leadership Team.
STOCKWELL: My name is Jeff Stockwell and I have been a lifetime resident of the Ellsworth area. I am married to Lori and have three children, Ryne, 21, Brent, 18, and Abby, 16. Previously to being on the school board, I served on the Martell township board. I am currently the church chairman at Zion Covenant.
WITTENBERG: My wife Waynette and I been married 41 years, both graduated from Ellsworth. I'm 61-years-old, retired, we have two daughters and four grandchildren. Moved back and have lived in Ellsworth for past 20 years. After college, my career was in Transportation/Logistics in the fields of: Market Research and Development, revenue projection, budgeting and Interstate Commerce Law. In the past, I served on five Board of Directors for companies and Trade Associations with annual budgets $5-$550 million annually. Fifteen years served as a Legislative Consultant with Trade Associations, working with state and federal governments, including testifying before congressional hearings.
If you are a challenger, explain how and why you chose to seek the position and what areas particularly interest you; if you are an incumbent, discuss the committees on which you have served, review any accomplishments to which you feel you have made a particular contribution and share your intentions for involvement during a new term.
LANGER: In my work with international non-profits, I saw first-hand that the health of a community--wherever it is--is defined by the health of its children. It is the responsibility of community members to ensure the infrastructure is in place for its children to live within a society that is safe, has a strong education foundation and offers opportunities to engage its residents at all levels. Ellsworth enjoys a rich history of community involvement, as evidenced by the many life-long residents who are hyper-active community leaders from all sectors--business, church, civic and volunteer. As a resident, step-parent and business owner within this community, I take serious the obligation of being active in effecting positive change to ensure the health and well-being of our children.
STOCKWELL: I currently serve on the building and grounds and curriculum committees. I also served on the Ellsworth Strategic Planning committee. A few accomplishments that I am proud of are helping pass the last school referendum and my continued effort to try to keep class room sizes small by being a big advocate for SAGE during each budget process.
WITTENBERG: My concerns for Ellsworth are with the new laws and state budget confronting our schools on how they will impact school budgets and debt.
What facility needs do you recommend be addressed by the community-based School District Facilities Committee?
LANGER: Before offering a recommendation, I would first need to thoughtfully review a cost-benefit analysis of proposed options. With that said, my bias for addressing facility needs are as follows: First and foremost, building/classroom structures need to be safe and sound within the academic setting to offer quality instruction and provide good study practices. Second, ensuring that adequate co-curricular facilities and host venues are equipped to function at a regional, competitive level enabling Ellsworth to attract families/students and events to the area; thereby, increasing business for local merchants while providing opportunities to bring community members together for a positive, youth-oriented purpose.
STOCKWELL: The biggest need for facilities is our aging elementary schools. The district is in the process of forming a committee to address all the facility needs, which wants community involvement to see which direction we should go.
WITTENBERG: The Facilities Committee should review our High School utilities and technology needs. Review our Elementary and Lindgren Early Learning schools concerning further upgrading or consolidations.
Should a four-day week be considered for the school district and what do you see as its advantages and disadvantages?
LANGER: It should be considered and thoroughly assessed and discussed. Advantages: On the surface, the benefits appear to be more for the school with a potential cost-savings. I would need to better understand the numbers to see where and how the savings occur. Disadvantages: Children need defined structure and routine; school provides this. Most families have two-working parents…and of those that do not, many are single-parent households; therefore, adding another day of daycare could substantially negatively impact household finances in already-challenging times. Longer days also could be a challenge to maintain the required focus necessary for the effective development of all students among the varying levels of learning abilities.
STOCKWELL: I would consider the option of a four-day week. However, I would like to see a track record from the other schools that are doing this. Currently, there is not one, so I would wait until there is one.
WITTENBERG: The consideration of a four-day week may have a huge impact on parents, children, teachers and community; any consideration must be made with extreme caution.
Identify and elaborate on any other issues facing the Ellsworth School Board which you feel to be important.
LANGER: Last winter, I served on an Action Committee within the Ellsworth School District’s Strategic Planning Process. I was very impressed by the dedication and collaboration among the Ellsworth School District’s administration, its teachers and volunteer community members. I sensed a deep desire for an open-minded, innovative, integrated approach to developing healthy, resilient, productive young adults within an ever-changing, complex world to graduate with good character and an attitude for serving others. The importance of teachers within the lives and psyches of our children is crucial. Research shows that an inspiring, well-informed teacher is the most important school-related factor influencing student achievement. Therefore, focusing on teacher training and evaluation will be a key area of interest of mine.
STOCKWELL: I feel one of the biggest issues facing the Ellsworth School District has been and still is the sluggish economy we are in. The past few budget processes have been challenging just to maintain our current programs.
WITTENBERG: I have learned from the past we should not be afraid to put anything onto the table and be willing to think outside the traditional box.