FOX POINT - The four candidates seeking three seats on the Maple Dale-Indian Hill School Board have diverse backgrounds and skills that would inform their approach to school board governance.
Steve Largent, an attorney, has served on the board since 2014. Ryan Jenness, a risk manager, has been on the board since October. Neil Mehta, a businessman in the information technology field, has been on the board for a year. Sarah Miller, an early childhood education administrator, is hoping to replace one of the incumbent candidates in the April 4 election.
To help inform voters about the candidates, North Shore Now asked them to answer the following three questions in 50 words or less.
Why are you running for the Maple Dale-Indian Hill School Board?
Miller: As an educator, I have spent my career dedicated to advocating for and implementing quality early childhood education. My interest in being on the school board is an extension of my vocation and a sincere concern for continuing to provide a quality K-8 school program in the district.
Largent: I am running for the MDIH School Board to provide a voice for special education and to provide a perspective to enrich the board as it strives to adhere to its mission.
Mehta: I look forward to continuing to represent the community's view and establish an engaging, student-centered learning community. I also want to maximize student achievement and growth across all learners to compete in a global environment, as well as implement systems, policies and processes that reflect innovation and fiscal responsibility.
Jenness: What has become clear during my tenure is that a successful school district operates much like a successful business. As a board, we are fiscal stewards accountable to every family, educator and taxpayer for whom we serve. It’s a responsibility that I do not take lightly, and one I’m honored to have.
What do you think is the most important issue facing the Maple Dale-Indian Hill School District, and what do you think should be done to address that issue?
Miller: Changes in public school funding have put pressure on all school boards to carefully examine and evaluate all decisions. Finding a balance between budgetary constraints and maintaining quality in the district is critical. Involving all stakeholders, families, teachers and the community at large through outreach efforts will be essential.
Largent: The board has several issues it faces that are critical. Curriculum, student achievement and funding are some of the most important issues. The board is working on communication of these issues, seeking stakeholder input and developing practices to make sound decisions.
Mehta: A few accomplishments over the past year include fiscal planning, redirecting administrative costs to support instructional priorities, increasing certified staff in special education, saving $22,000 in transportation costs, curriculum articulation and instructional improvement practices. We have continued to build on the technology foundation, look for administrative savings, update policies and personalize learning across all students.
Jenness: Losing local control. It’s important to have our school policies reflect the values of our community on important issues like guns in schools and achievement standards. I was our district’s representative at the WASB assembly and will be meeting with our legislators this month in Madison to make sure our collective voice is heard.
What role do you think the school board can play in promoting student growth?
Miller: Student growth and achievement is at the heart of any district. Gaining an understanding of how curriculum and teaching relates to student growth and communicating with administration about strategies being used currently and/or up and coming, is part of a school board's responsibility.
Largent: The board sets policy and the policy dictates the framework within which our administration and staff function. In the past three years, the board has worked to review these policies, which have provided more freedom for our administration and staff. This freedom has empowered the administration and staff to further promote student growth.
Mehta: First and foremost, school boards look out for students with education being the focus. Ultimately, I believe school boards are elected to implement systems, policies and processes for their school to ensure students get the best education for the tax dollar spent, while being accessible to the public and accountable for the performance of the school.
Jenness: My time on the board has taught me that successfully managing the finances of the district allows educators to do what they do best — teach our children. Like many of you, I demand this of my child’s school district. This results-driven approach is critical to our children’s future and our community’s vitality.
Address: 440 W. Manor Circle, Bayside
Occupation: Assistant Director: Milestones Programs for Children
Education: BA in Elementary and Early Childhood Education (University of Iowa) and Masters in Curriculum and Instruction (UWM)
Political history: None
Phone number: 414-378-8637
Address: 8500 N. Regent Road, Fox Point
Education: B.S. in business from Eastern Illinois University; M.S. in physical education from Eastern Illinois University; J.D. from Hamline University
Political history: School board member since 2014
Phone number: 414-962-6100
Address: 8230 North Pelican Lane, River Hills
Occupation: IT Transaction Advisory Services
Education: MBA from University of Pittsburgh; B.S. in molecular biology from University of Wisconsin-Madison
Political history: School board member since April 2016
Address: 7887 N. Fairchild Road, Fox Point
Occupation: I am a partner and certified risk manager at a long-standing insurance brokerage in Milwaukee.
Education: B.A. from UW-Madison (2005)
Political history: School board member since October 2016
Phone number: 414-322-7983