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Stevens Point School Board candidates answer additional questions ahead of April 2 election

Stevens Point School Board candidates answer additional questions ahead of April 2 election
Six candidates are running for three seats on the Stevens Point School Board in the April 2 election. Incumbents Miguel Campos, Meg Erler and Judy Rannow will face challengers Bob Larson, Jim Lepak and Will Scheder.

School Board members serve three-year terms. The board consists of nine members.

To learn more about registering to vote and to find your polling place, visit My Vote Wisconsin.

The Stevens Point Journal asked each of the candidates to address important issues in the district.

Read additional responses: Meet the candidates running for Stevens Point School Board ahead of the February primary election

Miguel Campos

Miguel Campos
Miguel Campos

Age: 42

Residence: Plover

Occupation and education: Berkshire Hathaway Insurance employee and small business owner − real estate management and rentals

Relevant experience: Current School Board member of the Stevens Point Area School District, board member of the Central Wisconsin Apartment Association, past board member of IGNITE Young Professionals, Community Foundation of Central Wisconsin Grants Committee member

Campaign website/Facebook page: Miguel Campos-SPAPSD School Board Member on Facebook (non-campaign page)

Meg Erler

Meg ErlerMeg Erler

Meg Erler

Age: 65

Residence: Stevens Point

Occupation and education: I am indefinitely retired. I am currently serving on the Stevens Point Area Public School Board and am volunteering as a board member for Boys and Girls Club of Portage County and the Portage County Legal Aid Society. I have a bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School.

Relevant experience: I have served as a proven leader on the Stevens Point Area Public School Board since July 2014. I served as the president of the School Board from April 2015 to April 2022. I have also previously served as a trustee and as the president of the village of Plover, as a Portage County Board supervisor and on the boards of directors for the United Way of Portage County, the Community Foundation of Portage County, Ministry Healthcare (now Aspirus Healthcare), the Portage County Business Council, Healthy Beginnings of Portage County and Right From The Start of Portage County. I am also serving as a member of the Department of Public Instruction Professional Standards Council for Teachers.

Campaign website/Facebook page: I am happy to speak with anyone in our community with questions about my campaign by phone at 715-491-2448 or email at

Judy Rannow

Judy RannowJudy Rannow

Judy Rannow

Residence: Town of Hull

Occupation and education: I have a master’s degree in adult education and human resource development and have worked for K-12 and higher educational institutions, nonprofit, for-profit and governmental organizations. I currently work as an organizational development consultant at Sentry in Stevens Point.

Relevant experience: The majority of my professional career has focused on understanding individual, organizational and community needs and providing opportunities for diverse groups to come together to learn and work collaboratively. I have served on local, regional, state and national boards/councils as well as serving on the School Board for nine years. I currently serve as the School Board treasurer and chair for the Business Services/Human Resources Committee.

Campaign website/Facebook page: I am not using social media to campaign.

Bob Larson

Bob LarsonBob Larson

Bob Larson

Residence: Stevens Point

Occupation and education: Veteran, retired from Kraft Heinz in 2001, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

Relevant experience: Previously elected twice to the Stevens Point School Board

Jim Lepak

Jim LepakJim Lepak

Jim Lepak

Age: 53

Residence: Stevens Point

Occupation and education: Physician assistant. Bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, bachelor’s degree in the physician assistant program from UW-Madison

Relevant experience: As a physician assistant in orthopedics for the past 26 years, I have educated patients, staff and students enrolled in medical fields on a daily basis. Through my career, I’ve also been involved in Wisconsin legislative issues related to physician assistants and state regulations. My community work consists of volunteering as an assistant Scoutmaster, mentoring as a Big Brother and leading as president of Tomorrow River Lions Club. In addition, I assist with the Prime W.A.T.E.R. Anglers kids fishing clinic locally.

Will Scheder

Will SchederWill Scheder

Will Scheder

Age: 23

Residence: Stevens Point

Occupation and education: Substitute teacher. Bachelor’s degree in environmental science and political science at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; graduated summa cum laude and received the Chancellor’s Leadership Award and the Albertson Medallion

Relevant experience: I served in the student government at UW-Stevens Point for four years as the president, vice president, speaker of the senate and a senator. While there, I worked to unite student governments across the state, create streamlined reporting for issues with classes, encourage vaccinations during the pandemic, address student success and retention shortfalls and increase funding for buildings with the state legislature. I am now working as a substitute teacher and special education aide, from kindergarten to 12th grade and in every classroom setting.

Campaign website/Facebook page: Scheder for School Board on Facebook

The School District is asking voters to approve a $14 million operational referendum in April. Do you support this referendum? Why or why not?

Campos: I, along with the entire Board, were happy bringing forward the referendum to the entire District for consideration. The community has gone through a lot of financial challenges over the past four years, and I think it’s important that a financial ask of this magnitude be the decision of all taxpayers. Every person now has a voice, and I support any decision you make as an individual. I do not walk in your shoes, nor you in mine, you must make the decision that is best for you and your family, and I do not judge you for that.

Erler: I support this referendum. Our District needs additional funding to support our mission “to prepare each student to be successful” (answers 2-4). Our District received no increase in per pupil funding six of the past eight years. We face a $5+ million structural budget this year, projected to grow $2+ million annually if the referendum fails. Without passage, we will have to make ongoing significant budget cuts impacting students, staff, families and community. We will lose good teachers, see increased class sizes, decreased programs and co-curriculars, and struggle to recruit, retain and support quality staff for our local public schools.

Rannow: I do support the referendum. I have witnessed the fiscal responsibility of the district and dedication of the staff and board to ensure that it remains so. Historical funding practices have limited the amount of funding available to the district. Without increased funding, the district will be in a position where cuts to reduce spending negatively impact educators and students. I have always been proud of what the district is able to offer students and do not want to see reduced offerings and choices for students.

Larson: I want to let voters know why I am voting “no” on the Stevens Point School District’s $14 million operational referendum. If it should pass, the referendum would raise taxes as follows: A house valued at $200,000 would see the property taxes go up $88 the first year. The second year the property taxes would go up a total of $182. My own property taxes already increased $627 as a result of the reassessment of properties in Steven Point. … The district needs to reassess their pay scales and bring them in line with national norms. Passing this referendum would continue to fund these high salaries and will solve nothing.

Lepak: This is a personal decision at the ballot box. Community members may not realize that the School District did not receive extra revenue even though re-evaluations resulted in high property taxes for some. The district is proposing possible cuts to student programs if the referendum fails. This does not include any mention of cuts to administration salary or positions. The deficit keeps being blamed solely on lack of state funding. There is almost no mention of the $6 million+ loss in revenue caused by the sudden drop in student enrollment. Some ownership or admission of responsibility by the district would go a long way toward gaining some trust from the voters.

Scheder: I do, although I wish the circumstances were different. The district should not have to go to referendum for basic operating costs, but without proper state resources, the district has been forced into this position. If the referendum fails, the district will be forced to cut staff. I have worked full time in the district since September, and I cannot imagine how the district would operate with less staff. Teachers are stretched to the limit as it is, and students need more support than ever. This referendum is critical for the success of our youth.

Residents often talk about academic challenges in the School District. If elected, how will you work to improve academic performance in Stevens Point schools?

Campos: The focus on every stakeholder’s mind should be “how do we make dollars more effective at teaching children.” Bad student behavior must be dealt with by administration, and teachers removed completely from that equation beyond student reintegration. Classes and programs which have low attendance, poor performance and not a core subject, or which have no measurable outcomes need to be shut down or retooled to better perform. Any spending that does not directly relate to teacher support for teaching, or direct support for assisting students in obtaining better grades needs to be under review. The Board is responsible for ensuring administration helps.

Erler: I will continue to vote in support of evidence-based learning opportunities designed to increase academic performance. This includes outcome-based strategies designed to: 1) Recruit, hire, retain and support quality dedicated teachers. They are the key to student learning. 2) support student achievement, especially language arts/reading, math, science, and technology. 3) Provide resources supporting student learning, especially social/emotional/mental health support, up-to-date instructional materials, data-driven student intervention techniques, and supportive caring staff throughout the District. 4) Decrease learning gaps among District students through targeted educational plans. 5) Create strong learning partnerships with parents, families, businesses, and our broader community.

Rannow: Academic challenges are not always centered around curriculum. We need to provide a safe environment where students feel they belong and can connect with others. Success will look different for all students. In addition to looking at test scores and student growth, we need to support mental/behavioral initiatives to create a safe learning environment and provide meals so hunger doesn’t supersede learning. We need to be focused on the whole child with the ultimate goal of preparing them to be successful after they leave the school district.

Larson: The School Board’s job is to implement policy as our school administrators are the experts in this area. School administrators bring proposals to the board and then it’s up to the board to vote on their recommendations.

Lepak: Improved academic performance starts with raising expectations. There is too much tolerance for late assignments. Grades of 50% are sometimes given even if no work is completed. Repeated test retakes are too often allowed. These concepts equate to low expectations. The students then gladly comply with the low expectations and achievement suffers. These policies sound compassionate, but they are counterproductive. It also leads to grade inflation, which tricks parents into believing their students are achieving at a higher level.

Scheder: I see the struggles that our staff and students are facing every day. I am a believer in getting out of the way and letting teachers teach. Our staff do amazing work, day in and day out. They are the experts in how to support and educate. The School Board needs to make sure that they have the tools to make that happen. Academic performance is also certainly still being affected by the remote-learning of COVID-19. The long-term consequences of those years should be examined.

What subjects or school programs do you think need more focus or investment in the District and why?

Campos: I‘ve said the same thing for three years now. We need to triple our efforts on STEM education, trades-related education, and introduce a K-12 financial literacy curriculum. There isn’t one issue in our society, past or present, which can’t be linked to financial competency or a lack of. If this District wants to close the equity gap, then prepare them for STEM jobs − teach them that a plumber is just as important as a nurse, doctor, attorney, or physicists. And for gosh sakes, show them how interconnected money is to everything and the consequences for not knowing this.

Erler: Student success requires broad substantive student-based learning experiences in classrooms and through co-curriculars. More focus/investment as follows is needed: 1) Reading/literacy skills are essential to learning. 2) Science, math and technology are foundational to education. 3) Problem-solving skills helping students to actively apply learning across fact sets are key to lifelong learning/success. 4) Good citizenship in the classroom, community and on social media/on-line platforms. Our students hold the keys to the future for our community and world. 5) Ongoing education about all post-graduation options for students that best fit their unique interests and skills and support lifelong learning/success.

Rannow: We need to focus on basic subjects (reading, writing, and math) as they provide a foundation for everything else. Beyond that we need to ensure that we have a well-rounded offering of subjects and school programs. Robust class choices provide educational opportunities for all styles of learners. Education is not one-size-fits-all. Students need to be able to learn through topics that excite and engage them so they want to go to school. Our educators do a great job of providing learning opportunities that relate to student interests and future goals.

Larson: If you look at the help wanted ads, there are a lot of jobs out there, however, there are a lot of job candidates who do not have the skills needed for those open positions. One area is the trade industry. We need to offer more trade introductory courses (i.e. plumbers, electricians, HVAC, welding, etc.).

Lepak: Given the latest state report card for Stevens Point Area Senior High showing only 54.3% of students are proficient in English/Math, it should be obvious which subjects need more attention. We need to improve our achievement starting in K-3. Success here is vital to future success. Education assistants need to be better utilized in those early years to help the teachers implement their lessons more efficiently.

Scheder: Civics and mental health. Every subject in our district is important – but considering the state of our nation and the needs of the future, a deep, candid understanding of civics and government is critical. Additionally, we need more counseling and mental health support services at the district. The district already does a lot, but the current services are not enough to address the growing needs of our students. Many students are simply falling through the cracks because of a lack of support, and we need to be doing all we can to advocate for the resources to address this.

One issue that repeatedly came up in the primary race was the need to better support teachers. If you were elected to the Board, how would you do that?

Campos: Pay has continued to get better under the current Board, which I was part of seeing through. I will continue to ensure ongoing fair pay. I have also stressed the importance of removing student behavior issues off the plates of teachers entirely; it is NOT their job. I also voted in favor of increasing our educational assistance staff and will continue to do so. I have been critical of spending on things in our District that do not directly affect a teachers’ ability to teach, and our children’s ability to learn.

Erler: I will continue to support teachers by voting for: 1) Competitive wages and benefits, 2) Professional development opportunities, 3) Ongoing support in the classroom so teachers can focus on educating students versus dealing with student disruptions, 4) Focused intervention for students struggling/acting out, 5) Physical, emotional and mental health support for teachers and students, and 6) Ongoing communication to our community about the increasing challenges teachers face in our classrooms to promote understanding/support for teachers. I am grateful for the many teachers who have changed my life. Teachers hold the keys to the success of our students, families, and community.

Rannow: Learn what teachers need to be successful and as a board, work with and support administration to meet those needs. This may mean additional professional development to help them provide mental/behavioral support for students, providing educational resources, allowing time for collaborative planning, taking staff feedback into account when making decisions, or looking critically at staffing and programming. Ensuring staff have what they need will require trust and the ability for all of us to work collaboratively toward our common goals.

Larson: Budget shortfall, retaining quality personnel, and getting the District Report Card back to the 2016-2017 overall score of 74.7 (which exceeded expectations). The current 2023 District Report Card overall score was 63.7 (meet expectations). I propose that the Stevens Point School District freeze all salaries that are over the U.S. national average and cap them in the future. Then we should consider a smaller referendum so we can bring our teachers that are below the U.S. average up to a comparable wage. To address the budget shortfall, we should look at realigning the schools for maximizing resources. To address the District Report Card, we must review what schools were doing in 2016 vs. 2023 to see what changed and address those differences.

Lepak: Teachers deal with a lot of stressors that have almost nothing to do with instruction. The behavior issues they are expected to deal with can be overwhelming. How can teachers do what they are trained to do if they spend a large part of their time dealing with behavior issues? When a student makes learning impossible for others, an alternative setting is needed that allows that student to better regulate their behavior. This would allow that student a better opportunity to learn. The other students can then enjoy a better learning experience. Most importantly, the teacher is supported and allowed to do their magic.

Scheder: I work with teachers and staff every day. There are many things we need to do – but from my conversations, one of the most important things the district could do is to make sure every teacher feels adequately supported when it comes to student behaviors. Doing everything possible to take the workload off of teachers’ plates and respect their planning time is something I have heard from many educators. Also, ensuring staff are heard and their suggestions are implemented is paramount.

More election news: What voters need to know about a $14M Stevens Point School District referendum set for the April ballot

More local news: Stevens Point Common Council moves forward with plans for roundabout at Fourth and Division

Erik Pfantz covers local government and education in central Wisconsin for USA-TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin and values his background as a rural Wisconsinite. Reach him at or connect with him on X (formerly Twitter) @ErikPfantz.

This article originally appeared on Stevens Point Journal: April 2024 election: Stevens Point School Board candidates

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