With election season drawing near, candidates for the Watertown Unified School District are getting ready for election day April 7 and all of them have a slightly different view of how to improve education and get rid of the budget deficit.
The Watertown School Board will see incumbents Board President Tony Arnett, 408 S. Washington St., Vice President Jennifer Bakke, 117 Riverlawn Ave., Treasurer Mark Holland, N8543 Hilltop Road, and member Doug Will, W6363 Walnut Road, all running for re-election. They will be challenged by Rebecca Iverson, 501 Bridlewood Lane. There will be three three-year terms and one one-year term that will be filled with the person receiving the fourth-highest amount of votes earning the one-year term. Voters must no more than four candidates.
Each position on the school board pays $25 per meeting, regardless of title.
Tony Arnett and his wife Kathy moved to Watertown from Ohio in 2005. The couple has two children in the WUSD with a first grader and a fourth grader attending Lincoln Elementary.
Arnett has a bachelor’s degree in management from Antioch University and has worked in marketing and technology for the last 20 years. He currently works for Generac Power Systems in Waukesha.
Arnett has served on a number of public boards in Watertown including six years on the Board of Education, six years on the Watertown Common Council as well as terms on the Watertown Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission and the Watertown Planning Commission.
Arnett also held public service positions in Ohio having served on the local city council and board of education. Arnett has also helped start an educational endowment fund and has served as a trustee for a local non-profit daycare center and nature preserve.
Arnett’s statement of candidacy is:
“The children of our community are growing up in a challenging, globally competitive economy. The key to success in public education is high expectations. If we have high expectations of our students, they will achieve great things.
“Our biggest financial issue is declining enrollment. We need to do everything to keep the students we have and to attract new students. The district has started several innovative programs the last few years that will help retain and attract students.
“It has been a privilege to serve the last six years on the Watertown School Board, and before that, six years on Watertown City Council. I also have served four years on a school board in another community. I understand the types of issues a school board has to handle, from budget to personnel to curriculum to buildings and grounds. I understand what it means to be the people’s representative and a conservative steward of taxpayer’s money.
“On the school board, I will focus on high expectations, growth through innovation, sound budgeting, and public service. I am dedicated to making our community a great place to live and to raise a family. That’s why I’d like your vote this April.”
Arnett said the solution to dealing with the district’s projected deficit is to bring in more students to the district. He said the district has made strides with innovation over the past few years and will need to stay on that path for growth. Arnett also said the district needs to be prudent with expenses,such as finding a less expensive provider for the district’s health care.
Jennifer Bakke has lived in Watertown with her husband Dale since 1985. Their children, Alec and Karla, both received their entire K-12 education within the WUSD. Bakke holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree in managerial communications from Northwestern University.
Bakke held numerous jobs including positions in electronic manufacturing at Eaton Corp. and dairy food processing at Alto Dairy Cooperative in Waupon, where she served a variety of roles including executive leadership within customer service, quality management, production and human resources.
Following those careers, Bakke was employed for 11 years by Madison Area Technical College, where she served as the East Region Dean overseeing both the Fort Atkinson and Watertown campuses. She also served as director of business and industry services, managing workforce training services for employers throughout the MATC district and teaching in the supervisory management program. She retired from the school in 2017.
Bakke has served on the Watertown Board of Education since April 2014.
Bakke’s statement of candidacy is:
“I am seeking my third three-year term to the Watertown Unified School District Board of Education to continue my investment in the community. I am running as a citizen of Watertown since 1985 who takes pride in the quality of education and services WUSD provides. As a life-long learner, serving on the board of education keeps me growing and utilizes a variety of skills and talents gained during 40 years of active employment, including: executive leadership, front-line supervision, group facilitation, systems thinking, effective listening skills, communication skills, and a focus on continuous improvement. Serving on Watertown’s board of education provides an opportunity to have a positive impact on the workforce and economic health of our community, our state, and our country. Our children are our future.
“Please see my answer to how the district should deal with its projected budget deficit to understand what issues I believe to be most important. I take seriously a board of education’s responsibility to balance the budget and ensure that fiscally responsible decision-making takes place while also balancing the need to provide a quality public education to all students.”
Bakke said balancing the budget and ensuring fiscally responsible decision-making are top-priorities for any school board member. She said she is committed to the priorities of growing enrollment, supporting innovative programming and advocating for the WUSD faculty and staff. She said growing enrollments and innovative programming would not only offset financial constraints, but will also grow Watertown as a community and wants the district to ensure the approaches to teaching and learning meet the needs of today’s children as well as tomorrow’s children as they are the future citizens and workforce.
Mark Holland and his wife Phyllis have lived within the WUSD for 46 years. Holland graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University before graduating with a master’s degree in education administration from Ball State University. Holland also took multiple graduate courses at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Holland has been a member of the academic community for many years teaching second to ninth grade classes for 12 years and also teaching college level courses for 26 years. Holland’s courses focused on education including 20 years of placing and on-site evaluation of college senior student teachers, in both public and private schools, in 16 states and more than 1000 classrooms from kindergarten through high school. Additionally, Holland is a retired member of Calvary Baptist Church and has been a WUSD school board member for 18 years.
Holland’s statement of candidacy is:
“Being a resident of the district for more than 46 years, I have appreciated the opportunity and responsibility to represent the people of our district as a school board member since 2002. My 36-plus years of teaching experience are a significant qualifying factor.
“My goals are focused; but as a board member I/we are extremely limited by exterior forces that drive our current public educational establishment including limited financial resources. Reduced financial resources limit our ability to provide the human resources that are currently needed in our district.
“A major problem – facing all districts is declining enrollment – thus declining funding: both state and local. This problem can be helped if the state would fulfill its commitment of 40 years ago to fund public schools at a 2/3 funding rate. This has never been done. Each district resident should contact our representatives to remind them of the promise.
“Also, special education needs are increasing as our culture continues to minimize educational outcomes. The media with its frequent ridicule of education and of civility is not helping. We attempt to teach civility and non-bullying, but the media seems to build its fortunes on bullying. We need civil role models in both television and movies.
“The greatest issue and challenge for our teachers is the fulfillment of demanding mandates and directives from both the U.S. Department of Education and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
Thus, my goal and concern is to encourage our teachers and attempt to enable them to be primarily, effective educators. Also, I plan to support educationally sound innovation and balanced learning environments for all our district’s students.”
Rebecca Iverson is a Wisconsin native who grew up mostly in Stevens Point. She graduated from Carroll College (now University) with a bachelor’s in communication and an emphasis in public campaigns in 1999. She worked in an agency doing corporate advertising before attending The Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago in 2001 and completed a one-year parish internship in Arlington, Virginia, which was followed up by a one-year Clinical Pastoral Education Residency at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Iverson graduated with a master’s degree in divinity in May 2008 and was ordained as a minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that same month. She served in a parish in Tomahawk, Wisconsin from 2008 to 2012, when she and her husband Todd, also a pastor, moved to Watertown.
Iverson has no previous political experience, however she is a military wife and a mother of a WUSD student and active member of the Lincoln Elementary School PTO. She is a hospice chaplain. She said she is passionate about quality education for all the children of WUSD and hold education at a high value and has the willingness and time to focus on the needs of students, teachers and staff for the district.
Iverson’s statement of candidacy is:
“As our community continues to change, I believe it’s time for a new generation of leaders on our school board. If elected, I would be an additional member of the board of the Watertown Unified School District with a child enrolled in our public schools. I don’t believe the current leadership is meeting the needs of today’s children due to not having many parents of school age children on the board. We need new people with a new vision and it’s time for the new generation to lead. I believe I can be the person Watertown needs, who can successfully lead our children, staff, and parents into the future.”
Iverson said she wants the fiscal management committee to conduct a comprehensive review and audit the entire WUSD budget to determine which line items have projected shortfalls, where the district is overperforming and where they are under budget. She also said the district should consider budgeting bi-annually to encourage school board members to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and make wise investments for students. She also said they need to make investments in the district’s teachers and children as no teachers should have to work a second job and no child should go without the resources for learning they need.
Doug Will and his wife Carrie have lived in the district since 1985. They have raised three children who all attended WUSD schools. Will has a degree in accounting from Moraine Park Technical College. Will has worked in a management capacity in three different businesses in Watertown for the last4 40 years.
This is his first election as a public official, but he was part of the WUSD Board of Education for the past year after being appointed last April. Will wants to bring an outsider’s view to the table and a positive “we can get the job done together” attitude.
Will’s statement of candidacy is:
“Before the passage of the 2019 referendum, I investigated the merits of the referendum as to whether I should vote for it. To help me make an informed decision, I did some research on the Wisconsin Department of Instruction website and spoke to a few employees of district and members of the community to get their thoughts and opinions. I attended a referendum meeting and listened to the presentation by Board President Tony Arnett and Superintendent Cassandra Schug. After that experience and with the information I had obtained, I made an informed decision on the referendum. In April of 2019, a spot opened on the board of education due to a member resigning. The board held interviews for the open position and with great appreciation, I was chosen to be a member of the board. I am now a candidate for a position on the board.
“I believe my management experience and team approach to problem solving helped bring success to three Watertown businesses I worked for. This experience provides me with insight on how to develop a winning game plan for the Watertown Unified School District to become the school of choice in our surrounding community.”
Will said the district should focus on promoting and achieving enrollment growth to solve the budget deficit which will help avoid cuts or closures. He said increasing the state of Wisconsin assessment grade and continuing to retain and hire the most qualified staff while providing safe and functional classrooms educating to the best of their ability are important to reducing the deficit.
He also said there needs to be a renewed focus in some areas of the budget where the district can be more efficient in getting the taxpayer the most bang for their buck.