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UNION GROVE — A former Union Grove High School Board member and a former village trustee are taking on two incumbents in a race for two seats on the UGHS School Board.

Scott Katterhagen, a village trustee from 2003-07 and building and grounds supervisor at Union Grove Elementary School, and Marcia Vlach Colsmith, a UGHS Board member from 2008-14 and retired teacher, are looking to unseat incumbents Dawn Van Ess and Steve McClelland. Van Ess is a retired teacher who taught at Yorkville Elementary for more than 20 years while McClelland has served on the UGHS Board for 20 years.

The winners will serve three-year terms with an annual salary of $3,500. The election is April 2.

The Journal Times sent questionnaires to all four candidates. Following are their responses.

What motivated you to run for office and what strengths will you bring to the board if elected?

Katterhagen: While Union Grove is among the leaders in test scores in the county, I believe there are other issues regarding the students that need to be addressed. I can bring a wealth of knowledge regarding safety and security of our students. I am a current member and graduate of the Wisconsin School Safety Coordinators Association and the Wisconsin Association of School Business Officials. I also bring over 10 years of experience maintaining a school and dealing with budgets. I have also been coaching for over 23 years and know what it takes to create a winning culture at UGHS.

Colsmith: I have the time, desire, expertise and experience to serve my community as a good School Board member. My computer science degrees help me keep up with the constant changes in educational technology. My years as a high school teacher of physics, chemistry, math, computers and English helps me understand what goes on in classrooms and the challenges of teaching. As a graduate of Union Grove Union High School, I have a historical perspective on the physical changes and additions to our school and curriculum. My past terms on the School Board will enable me to be immediately useful on the board. I had been caring for my elderly mother in my home for several years. Now that she is living in a memory care facility, I have time to be on the board again.

Van Ess: I am running to continue to be an independent voice for accountability and excellence at the high school. Before retiring, I spent over 30 years as a teacher, including more than two decades at Yorkville Elementary. My experience as an educator means I bring a unique and much-needed perspective to the board. I use this perspective to protect taxpayers and to make sure the high school is preparing students to get a job after graduation or to continue their education. As someone who spent her professional life in the classroom, I am not afraid to use my voice to challenge the school’s leadership to do what’s right for students, teachers, parents and taxpayers.

McClelland: I really like the direction our board has been headed the past few years with the formation of academies in engineering, nursing and agriculture as well as improvements in security, our athletic fields and track and our new fitness center that will benefit our students as well as our community. If re-elected, I will continue to use a common-sense approach and put our students first like I have for the past 20 years.

What issues are facing the community and what are your goals if elected?

Katterhagen: I would like to address the growing drug issue at UGHS. While steps have been taken, I believe we can do more to educate and protect our kids from this epidemic. Also, I would like to keep broadening our current STEM programs to include and expose more kids at a younger age. Giving them good experiences to build on and make decisions on the career paths they would like to take. Working in one of the top ranked elementary schools has taught me that the kids come first, and every decision made needs to have the kids well being in mind.

Colsmith: Raymond, Yorkville, Union Grove, and Kansasville continue to grow, but not quickly. We may shortly see a drop in resident student population. We need to be careful that we don’t expand our building further for open enrollment students, if our own student population drops, because that doesn’t pay off in the long run. I am a frugal person and will be seeking ways to improve our educational system while keeping our tax rate low. I think UGUHS is doing a good job with ongoing curriculum improvements, and we need to continue that. The new 1:1 Chromebook program can be very useful, but we need to sure that these computers are integrated into classwork, to make it cost effective and valuable educationally. We also need to continue to attract and retain a good staff.

Van Ess: There’s a lot to be proud of at Union Grove High School, but there are critical issues that we must address.

First, the board must continue to provide strong oversight of public funds.

Second, the board must continue to challenge the school’s leadership to take maximum advantage of its new facilities. The district is just scratching the surface of what it can offer in the areas of engineering, health science, computer science and agriculture.

Third, the board must work with school leadership to ramp up efforts to address substance abuse, bullying, anxiety and other mental health issues. While these problems cannot be solved by the school alone, the school must do everything it can to combat them.   

McClelland: Recent numbers from our feeder schools indicate some declining enrollment. This should be monitored closely, along with the proposed subdivisions and building scheduled in our district, to make sure we remain fiscally responsible and strong. This would be my primary goal if re-elected.

This story has been updated to include Dawn Van Ess's answer to the second question, in full. 



Jonathon Sadowski covers the villages of Union Grove and Yorkville, the Town of Dover, arts, entertainment and odds and ends for The Journal Times.


Caitlin Sievers covers cops, crime and the west-end communities. She's a lover of cats, dance and Harry Potter. Before moving to the Racine area she worked at small papers in Indiana, Illinois and Nebraska.

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