While the primary focus going into the spring election is the school referendum, the Grafton School District will also be deciding on several seats on the School Board. Incumbent Paul Lorge will be challenged by John Meinecke, Jerry Rossi, and Carrie Walls for three seats on the board. Shawn Viesselmann will also be on the ballot, but he has since informally withdrawn his intentions to run for the board.
Ozaukee Now asked the candidates a series of questions about the upcoming election.
How does your previous experience qualify you to serve on the school board?
Lorge: My 15 years of board experience, most of these as treasurer, position me well to meet the challenges and opportunities that we face as a district. As a CPA and president of a small manufacturing company, I know what it takes to develop and enhance a high-performing organization with great students, great educators and great administrators.
Meinecke: I am a degreed mechanical engineer from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. I have spent 20 years working as an engineer and project manager at various Department of Defense contractors in the Milwaukee area. I have extensive experience dealing with budgets, complex projects, and teams.
Rossi: I believe my nearly 20 years of experience in the investments and finance business will be a great asset to the board. I also have two children that attend Grafton’s public schools with a third that will be school age in a few years and will join them.
Walls: I have been a board member three out of the past four years and have been attending board meetings regularly for over seven years, so I bring experience with issues facing our district. As a mother of four who is frequently in all the schools, I bring fresh perspective and approachability.
Nauta: I have 24 years of business management experience working on budgets, long-term planning and direct supervision of employees. I have also been a Grafton School District employee as a high school basketball coach for 15 years so I am familiar with the facilities, staff, and many of the school policies.
The new referendum for the school district will also be decided in this election. What are your thoughts on the referendum as it stands now?
Lorge: I fully support the current referendum. I believe that the plan appropriately identifies the most pressing needs of the district and addresses them in a reasonable and fiscally conservative manner consistent with the recommendations of the facilities advisory committee and the hundreds of individuals providing input into the process.
Meinecke: There are many things that need to be done to the schools to fix and modernize. The scope and funding mechanism of the current referendum is flawed. We need to find a way to upgrade our schools, give our teachers what they need, and be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers.
Rossi: I support this referendum and plan to do everything I can to help make that happen. Year over year changes to home values in Grafton were the second lowest in Ozaukee County. We also lost 62 students to open enrollment and private schools for this school year. I believe our failed referendum had a lot to do with those factors.
Walls: I appreciate the work of the facilities committee and realize from my time spent in the schools and on the board that our schools are in desperate need of repair. In particular, Grafton Elementary School has outlived its service life, and safety updates are needed at the other schools.
Nauta: I had the privilege to be a member of the facilities advisory committee (FAC) for the upcoming referendum. I believe that the final recommendation of this committee to the board of education is a plan that will provide a quality education for the current and future Grafton students. I am fully supportive of the referendum and I encourage the Grafton community to support it as well.
What other improvements would you like to see in the district that may not have been included in the referendum?
Lorge: The referendum addresses the most pressing facilities needs throughout the district; an important and necessary investment to bring about better student outcomes particularly for highly successful and highly sought after tech and science courses. Continued focus on enhancing rigor throughout the district and raising the bar for all students, every day must remain a focus.
Meinecke: The district office administrative costs must be evaluated and reviewed to determine the right size required to support the teachers and school staff to make sure they are aligned with student progress and outcomes. The community and district need to put together a vision document that details what our common shared vision is for the Grafton school district and what the plan is for the next 10 or 20 years.
Rossi: I believe this referendum is full of needs and that the district must continue to use Fund 46 to save for future maintenance costs of those needs. I also want to see the mindset in Grafton get to the point where our graduating seniors can compete for a spot at any university they’d like to attend.
Walls: Some safety improvements to the current athletic fields are still necessary and can be financed using the existing fund balance. Looking beyond facilities needs, I would like to see evaluation of new course and curriculum options in order to better serve the educational needs of the students.
Nauta: The referendum that will be on the ballot in April will not include any funds for the outside athletic fields for improvement in the conditions or safety of those playing surfaces. The current school board has committed to finding other financing mechanisms to make the appropriate improvements. I fully support this commitment and decision.
Address: 1800 Cedar St.
Political history: School board for five consecutive three-year terms
Phone number: M: 414-510-8755; H: 262-377-8755; W: 262-532-9079
Address: 519 Greenfield Drive
Political history: Ran for school board in 2016
Phone number: 262-375-9480
Address: Town of Grafton
Political history: None
Phone number: n/a
Address: 1656 Lake Shore Road
Political history: Grafton School Board 2014-16
Phone number: 414-218-7701
Address: 1650 South Pine St.
Political History: None
Phone Number: 414-791-7748