CALEDONIA — Kimberly Hoover, a 40-year-old litigation specialist at CNH Industrial Capital America, will face off in the April 2 election against Anthony Hammes, a 39-year-old stay-at-home father, in a quest to represent District 9 on the Racine Unified Board of Education.
Both candidates breezed through the primary, as the third candidate for the seat, Kurt Squire, suspended his campaign before the primary — but not soon enough to get his name off that ballot.
District 9, currently represented by School Board President Bob Wittke, covers most of Caledonia and Wind Point. Wittke decided not to run for re-election to the School Board after being elected Nov. 6 to the State Assembly, where he began serving earlier this year.
Following are questions The Journal Times submitted to the candidates and their responses.
What are two goals for the School Board that you have during the next three years?
Hoover: Focus on student achievement: Work collaboratively to provide the necessary guidance and opportunities for current students to reach their full potential, while seeking ways to addressing declining enrollment.
Responsible financial planning: Address current budget deficits, analyze future promises/commitments made by the district, and devise long-term financial plan.
Hammes: Decrease student migration to other districts and improve and increase safety measures in the schools.
Do you believe most administrative decisions should be made by the board or by the superintendent? What is the role of School Board members?
Hoover: The daily administrative decisions should be handled by the superintendent. The School Board members’ role is to oversee and evaluate the superintendent and work collaboratively with all district stakeholders. The School Board is responsible for setting the vision and goals for the district, with primary focus on student achievement.
Hammes: The administration decisions should be left to the superintendent. The role of the School Board is to govern by policy.
What do you believe should be done to address the district’s structural deficit?
Hoover: To address the district’s structural deficit, I believe we need to address current budget deficit issues, as well as seek to put tools in place that would allow us to analyze present and future budgetary issues, analyze future expenses, devise a long-term facility plan and implement a long-term financial plan.
Hammes: Minimizing student migration to other districts is essential to protect our annual funds. Additionally, we need to have complete transparency and improve our allocation and distribution of these funds.
What is the most critical issue that you see facing the School District right now, and how would you address it?
Hoover: Student achievement gaps. I believe that strong community support is needed for positive progress in closing student achievement gaps and improving the district’s performance on the state’s report card. Closely monitor progress of short- and long-term district goals, increase parental involvement and seek accountability from all levels of the district.
Hammes: The most critical issue is student migration to other districts or private schools. One way we can address this is to have exit and follow up interviews with families who have left the district to find out why they are leaving or have left. We need to learn what is working for other districts and look for opportunities to improve, in hopes of convincing families to bring their students back.
What areas of expertise do you bring to the table to make the School Board stronger?
Hoover: I have an advanced educational and strong work background in the legal and financial sectors. I am a parent of two children who attended and graduated from RUSD, and actively volunteered for their schools and extracurricular activities. I am an involved community member, actively volunteering for various local community organizations.
Hammes: As an alumnus and a parent of a student in Racine Unified School District, I have a vested interest and I am passionate about its success. I have spent the last couple of months reviewing the Racine School Board minutes for the past year while studying policy and coherent governance. I’m committed to respect and represent the points of view of all my constituents, regardless of party affiliation.
What does a successful school district look like to you?
Hoover: I see a successful school district as one where all stakeholders of the district and community work to build a district where all feel a sense of belonging, while collaboratively supporting all students’ educational needs and providing the opportunities necessary for them to become our community’s next generation of leaders.
Hammes: A successful school district should have adequate resources, qualified teachers and dedicated administrative staff. The focus should be on quality of education, student achievement and a high graduation rate. The district should dedicate resources and energy to the reduction of student absenteeism and the retention of teachers and staff. Students should graduate either college-, technical- or trade school-ready.
What should be done to address underperforming schools in the district?
Hoover: We are a diverse community that must focus on and serve the educational needs of all students. The current strategic plan, based upon the North Star Vision and core values, focuses on using continuous improvement practices to accomplish the overall district goals within all levels (high/middle/elementary) of the educational experience.
Hammes: No two schools face the same challenges, but all schools would benefit from reducing staff and teacher turnover and improving continuity and retention. We need to identify the cause of absenteeism and find solutions by working closely with teachers, staff, students and their families. Attendance is critical to student success. Quality of education is also critical. We need to ensure that all of our students are reading at their grade level by the third grade.