MEQUON — Constituents in 11 school districts across the state and 82 nationwide have launched recall attempts against sitting school board members, according to Ballotpedia. Among them is the Mequon-Thiensville School District, where organizers collected the necessary signatures to prompt a recall election for incumbents Wendy Francour, Erik Hollander, Akram Khan and Chris Schultz. Only those board members who have served more than a year on their term can be recalled.

Among the issues being called into question are the district’s COVID-19 protocols and how they affected student learning, academic performance in the district, critical race theory and spending.

On. Nov. 2, voters in Mequon and Thiensville will vote in four races: Khan vs. Kris Kittell Schultz vs Scarlett Johnson Hollander vs. Charles Lorenz Francour vs. Cheryle Rebholz The News Graphic asked all of the candidates the same three questions:

1.) What experiences or skills have prepared you to serve on the School Board?

Wendy Francour: I bring 25 years of MTSD volunteerism as a parent volunteer and a board member possessing no personal or political agenda. My experience is working every day to mitigate challenges for all MTSD students.

MTSD volunteer roles: — Elected to the school board in 2014, currently VP, previous leadership as treasurer and clerk — Collaborated with administration to create Summer Academy providing continued academic programming — Served 14 years as PTO co-president, chair of student events and chaperone — Increased student engagement by creating after school activities — Increased parent engagement by creating HHS parent-principal chats — Represented the community on district task forces — Created HHS Leave a Legacy — MTEF volunteer My BA in sociology, background in strategic sales and marketing, and working knowledge of MTSD systems and processes qualify me to be an unbiased decision maker.

Erik Hollander: Having been in higher education for the past 10 years in both an adjunct and full-time role has provided me with a unique perspective in and around education. Because of this experience and my passion for education, I decided to pursue, and successfully earn, a Doctorate of Education at the University of Southern California. That experience enlightened me to the many facets facing education and opened me up to a number of invaluable experiences and conversations, and promoted a stronger understanding through the lens of education. My experiences in teaching, paired with prior work in health care (oncology), has instilled a strong value to people, respecting their views, but with a passion for helping make someone’s life better... be it education or health care.

Scarlett Johnson: I am running because I believe real change is needed at MTSD in order to move our district away from the current “managed-decline” mindset that is defended by the incumbents. Our children need board members who are passionate, engaged and ready to work long hours in order to provide them the best education in the state. Academic recovery begins with a visionary mission that emphasizes rigor, achievement and excellence.

Akram Khan: My professional experience traverses many paths, from sales to banking to project management at a fintech company and currently as a director of instruction at Kumon of Mequon for the past 13 years. In my business, I help the young brains of our community enhance their math and reading skills. This after-school supplemental program teaches students the value of time management along with building their math and reading confidence. I value quality public education. My father instilled the importance of education in me from a very young age and would always remind me of the quote “the greatest legacy a parent can leave behind is an educated child.” I believe in the leadership of this school district, its talented teachers and its support staff who show up every day, ready to transform young people into wonderful human beings.

Kris Kittell: Running my business, I have amassed a great deal of experience with organization, customer service, fiscal responsibility and resource management. Having a connection to our community since 1968 also gives me insight into its history, people and their beliefs/values. I have seen our district be the best in the state, and I have watched it sink into decline. I've traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and the world, widening my perspective and awareness of what is needed to build a successful district. I have a deep knowledge of history, both worldwide and American, and an even greater understanding of our educational system.

Charles Lorenz: My 18 years experience as a school parent of four children — two public school districts, [a] parochial school and homeschool. I have a depth and breadth allowing me to see education from different perspectives, especially as each of my children have different needs. As a data analytics professional, I have the acumen to understand underlying trends in data. This helped me uncover trends the current board members overlooked: a decline in early reading proficiency (95% of K-2 students in 2015/16 to 81% in 2020/21), and state rankings in eighth-grade math (47th) and third grade ELA (20th).

Finally, with my experience in finance and project management I understand financials, administration and teams. This will allow me to focus MTSD on efficient use of resources and an eye towards best benefit.

Cheryle Rebholz: I am running for MTSD School Board because of my prior overall experience and knowledge of this community and district. I have stayed engaged and continue to build more school-related community partnerships to help move the district forward to excellence. I have fulfilled one of my campaign pledges by initiating and holding the first Town Hall/Listening Sessions. We will have informal listening sessions outside of the formal board meetings. The outcome of this task was tremendous and this environment yielded raw and serious issues to address. I will be a creative and curious board member. I am also prepared. When previously on the board, I spent an average of 30 hours a week pouring over the School Board packet, then immediately researched the agenda items, asked the administration as needed, researched and was prepared for the board meeting so as not to waste the board’s, the public’s or the school staff’s time. It is critical to stay on the cutting edge because of parental school choice and competition.

Chris Schultz: For 17 years, I taught students at Homestead about the wonders of chemistry and biology. During this time, I developed my communication and collaboration skills, my ability to resolve conflict and my dedication to the students, families, staff and community members of our exceptional district. My board experiences include hiring and evaluating superintendents, developing strategic plans, overseeing school finance and engaging in opportunities for community conversation.

2.) What do you believe is the role of a school board member?

Francour: I believe my responsibility to the community REQUIRES me to maintain a neutral stance and apply data-based facts, expert research and a sum of all community opinion to every decision.

An M-T board member: — Provides strategic vision through policy governance, ensuring the success of every student, — Monitors the district’s expenditures monthly and approves the annual budget, — Oversees and evaluates the superintendent, — Advocates for all students, — Assures implementation of educational best practices, — Listens and considers viewpoints of all stakeholders.

Hollander: The role of the school board member, in my opinion, in the governance model used by MTSD, is to advance education, taking input from all stakeholders to inform development of policy and maintain fiduciary accountability so that each student is in the best position possible to be empowered to succeed.

Johnson: School boards are accountable for governance, fiscal oversight, strategic planning, curriculum and other responsibilities in our district. The board sets policy and determines the mission, goals and objectives of our school system. I believe the board has an obligation to work closely with the superintendent and not simply rubber-stamp agendas. Further, the board should develop parent/stakeholder- led committees to evaluate student assessments, budgets, enrollment, the curriculum and personnel.

Khan: A school board member serves as a leader and representative of the community and an advocate for students and the school district. Additional responsibilities include adopting and maintaining an annual budget that reflects the vision of the school district, hiring and evaluating the district’s superintendent and formulating the vision and goals for the district. A board member must also understand and implement district policies.

Kittell: The role of a school board member is to be representative of the parents and overall community. We must listen and respond. It is not enough to just sit back and rubber-stamp proposals. Spending and curriculum must be reviewed very closely. Outside financial audits should be a regular occurrence. Curriculum should be transparent and posted online. The school board members should be in the schools, talking to students and teachers and searching for ways to improve the learning environment by increasing the implementation of successful ideas and programs.

Lorenz: First, be the community’s voice in public school-related items to take appropriate action on school policy/strategy and provide transparent communication on those items.

Second, set the overall policy and strategy for the administration, monitor progress in executing that strategy and push the administration to the correct course when measured outcomes are not met. For example, when reading proficiency levels declined from 2015/16 through 2018/19 (pre-pandemic), a plan of corrective action with measures from the administration should have been required. Monitoring those measures should have been the focus of board meetings.

Lastly, be a fiduciary for the school district using funds wisely toward the strategy objectives.

Rebholz: School board members are among an important group of nearly 3,000 citizens who are charged by the state constitution with the duty of governing public education.

Specifically, to break it down: 1.) Academic performance 2.) Fiduciary 3.) Management oversight 4.) Hiring of the school district’s superintendent Schultz: An effective board member must work together with other board members to guarantee that the district and schools run smoothly, ensuring an exceptional education for all students. This person must listen and be accessible to community members, be motivated by a desire to serve all stakeholders, be prepared for meetings, interpret the needs and attitudes of the community and make decisions only after hearing all sides of the situation.

3.) This election process has revealed some deep divisions in the community. What will you do to ensure you represent all of the interests and concerns of stakeholders?

Francour: The recall has created deep divisions in the community I love. I have been elected to listen to and represent all stakeholders, a value I hold as an absolute. I take my role serving on the BOE very seriously. I have no personal agenda, am an open-minded, engaged listener and welcome outreach from stakeholders. The community provides input during board business meetings, emails and phone calls which is highly valued in decision-making.

Hollander: I will continue, as I have during my term, to listen to all perspectives by all stakeholders when making decisions. Additionally, I would continue to encourage any and all stakeholders to engage with the district and/or the Board of Education to ensure that their views, perspectives and concerns are heard.

Johnson: This is the era of parental and stakeholder empowerment. The school board is governed by a parent- elected board accountable to ALL of our stakeholders, therefore the school board members must start to act accordingly.

Khan: I did not believe the divisions were ever this deep prior to the election process. Members of the community have always had the opportunity and means to have their concerns and ideas heard at the monthly school board meetings. Additionally, I am always available over email and cell phone. When I took the oath to serve the community as a member of the Board of Education in 2019, it was with the understanding that I represented the entire community. I still believe that, and I will continue to adhere to that oath.

Kittell: I will focus on the common interests of the community. They need a wide perspective so they have a basis for the choices coming into their lives. The board needs to nurture an open and supportive environment for students, parents, teachers and staff. I will not only listen to every person, but will put into practice ideas that help our students grow and succeed. Restoring MTSD back to No. 1 in EVERY category is my goal.

Lorenz: Our platform says it best: Restore Engagement > Restore Trust > Restore Excellence.

Re-engage the community by listening to all stakeholders in longer form and standing committees. That will lead to trust in the School Board again. With that trust and the ideas of the community and stakeholders (including our awesome teachers), we can return to academic excellence.

Rebholz: My job is to balance the values of citizens and the interests of students, parents and school staff. It is to focus on student achievement and bring vision and leadership to my position. I always had an open-door policy and will be accessible to work with the Mequon/Thiensville stakeholders. Let’s work together peacefully and respectfully to get the work done. Let’s start with what we agree on. Taking on these duties again will be rewarding and interesting and a precious experience in civic life. I ask for your vote on Nov. 2.

Schultz: The division I perceive in the community concerns me even more than any unfavorable distortion of facts. By nature and training, I listen to all sides and look for common ground. My ability to represent all aspects of the community, while guaranteeing that we provide the best education for our students, is dependent upon my knowledge of community concerns and values. Other than COVID-mitigation efforts, all issues related to this election have arisen since the recall effort was initiated. Regrettably, political agenda obscures authentic concerns that can and must be addressed. It is imperative that we encourage all community members to share their concerns in a respectful environment. Post-election, the largest challenge will be to heal, come together as a community, and demonstrate to our children that adults can work together; we must listen and honestly consider the value of dissenting voices. These responses express my personal thoughts and opinion, and do not represent or obligate the MTSD School Board in any way.