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2022 spring election: Westby Area School District Seat #2, Seat #4 candidate profiles

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There are six candidates running for the Westby Area School District Board of Education. The candidates on the spring ballot on April 5 are Robert E. Kerska (incumbent) and Stephanie Hutzler who are running for Seat #2-Coon Valley Attendance Area; Daniel Kotek (incumbent) and Joshua Jorstad who are running for Seat #4-Westby Area Attendance Area; and Eric Thunstedt (incumbent) and Geniece Easterday who are running for Seat #7-At-Large Representative.

The candidate profiles for Seat #2-Coon Valley Attendance Area and Seat #4-Westby Attendance Area can be found below. The candidate profiles for Seat #7-At-Large Representative can be found online and in the Feb. 2 edition of the Vernon County Times, which was prior to the spring primary election.

The winners of the spring election will serve three-year terms.

Editor’s note: The Vernon County Times publishes the questionnaires from the candidates as we receive them and in their entirety.

Robert E. Kerska

Robert E. Kerska

Kerska

Name: Robert E. Kerska

Occupation: Retired

Elected office you are vying for: Westby Area School Board Seat #2

Other previously elected offices: Coon Valley Village Board, Saint Mary’s Catholic Church Parish Council.

Community and group affiliations: Member of Saint Mary’s Catholic Parish and a Lector, 43 year member of the Sons of The American Legion Squadron 52, Coon Valley Lions, Coon Valley Area Baseball Association.

Why are you running for office?: I am completing my fifth term on the Westby Area School Board and would like to serve one more term. It has been my honor and privilege to serve on a board with people that have such diverse backgrounds and skills. It is a board that works hard to serve the best interests of all the students, staff and taxpayers of the Westby Area School District.

What do you think are some of the more important issues facing the Westby School District?: Budgeting and finances are always at the top of the list. General Aid funding is always a hot button issue in Madison and something every district has to deal with. We have received 3 rounds of CARES-ESSER funding from the federal government and will be using these funds, as intended by the government, in response to COVID-19.

It is important that we do everything possible to maintain the quality of our teaching and support staff in the district, so that we can provide the best educational opportunities for our students. The most important part of this is the teacher in the classroom! To retain quality staff, we must be competitive in the salaries and benefits that we offer.

It is critical that we provide the best education possible for all students. At the high school level, this means preparing students to succeed after high school in a variety of scenarios, whether they attend college, a technical school, or enter the work force.

I am a firm believer in the importance of the “extras” that a school district can provide for its students. There are interests that are not met in the regular classroom and can enrich a students life. Our music programs, the musical, and STEM related programs, like Robotics, are extremely important.

Finally, I believe it is important the we explore the use of alternative sources of energy, such as solar, for our school buildings. Clean energy will help protect our environment and, in the long term, will save us money in operational costs.

Are there any issues currently being handled that you would handle differently?: I would not change any of the decisions that I have made over the past 2 years, regarding the handling of COVID-19 issues. As a board, we have been very open and transparent regarding our discussion of issues and our decision making. We have allowed and have had excellent public participation at all of our board meetings. I would especially like to express my thanks and appreciation to the residents of the Westby Area School District that attended our meetings and took part in the public participation in a manner that was respectful of all those in attendance. On the issues of masking, quarantine and vaccinations, the views for and against were pretty evenly divided. Yet, people were willing to listen to each other in a respectful way. We as a board had to make our decisions based on facts and not opinions. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Our decisions were based on science and facts and we depended on the advice of our local county health department and the health experts from our local health facilities. This is what good decision making is all about!

Stephanie Hutzler

Stephanie Hutzler

Hutzler

Name: Stephanie Hutzler

Occupation: I have been a Mechanical Designer now for over 12 years.

Elected office you are vying for: Westby Area School Board, Seat #2 – Coon Valley Rep

Other previously elected offices: None, and honestly, I never thought I would either.

Community and group affiliations: My husband, Jess & I both work full time and have three kids, two of which currently attend Westby Area schools. They asked to be in sports but we opted out because of the restrictions. I am so glad the kids can see smiles again, finally! Last fall, we joined 4H because we moved from La Crosse to rural Westby/Coon Valley in 2020 and have begun raising some animals. We love the area and look forward to getting to know the community more!

Why are you running for office?: I am a fellow concerned parent of the district and want to give the people a choice when going to the election polls this spring. I have been getting to know some like minded people in the area who also want change on the school board. I have been attending school board meetings since June of last year and speaking during public participation (recordings here: https://www.westby-norse.org/browse/196794). It has been a learning experience, listening to the board meetings. I know how important Westby schools are to our community, all the opportunities they can bring to our children and I do not want to give that up! I want to empower the people who will vote for me on April 5th, as their voice on the school board. Please feel free to let us know what you want in your school board at: https://www.facebook.com/HutzlerJorstadEasterday

What do you think are some of the more important issues facing the Westby School District?: I believe many families struggled with the restrictions and policies passed by the school board over the last two years. I think us parents were all (admittedly) a bit surprised by the amount of power the school board can have over our family’s lives and well-being. I want to restore confidence in the school board: that they will uphold our constitutional freedoms, our own right to choose, and the right to bodily autonomy.

Are there any issues currently being handled that you would handle differently?: I believe education should be the primary focus of our schools. Parents have the right to make the health choices for their own children and informed consent is essential. Regardless, everyone should be treated equally and without discrimination.

Daniel Kotek

Daniel Kotek

Kotek

Name: Daniel Kotek

Occupation: Inventory Assistant at Coulee Cap Inc.

Elected office you are vying for: Westby School Board Seat 4

Other previously elected offices: Westby Area School Board, Church Council at St. Mary’s Church-Viroqua

Community and group affiliations: Snowflake Ski Club Royalty Adviser, Member of Norskedalen and the Ridge History Park, Previous member of the Westby Lions and Syttende Mai Board.

Why are you running for office?: The children are our future. My children attended Westby Schools and now my grandchildren. I feel that being involved with our school district is very important to provide the best education for our children now and in the future.

What do you think are some of the more important issues facing the Westby School District?: Being creative to attract and retain the best staff for the district. Providing the best curriculum for all students no matter what their interests are.

Are there any issues currently being handled that you would handle differently?: There are not current issues that I would handle differently. I would like to thank the residents of the districts for their support of the school in the past and into the future.

Joshua Jorstad

Joshua Jorstad

Jorstad

Name: Joshua Jorstad

Occupation: Stock Clerk

Elected office you are vying for: Seat 4 Westby Area School Board

Other previously elected offices: None

Community and group affiliations: Board of Trustees at Bethesda Lutheran Church

Why are you running for office? I want to make sure parents have a voice in their kid’s education, safety and well being.

What do you think are some of the more important issues facing the Westby School District?: Bullying, overreach of staff.

Are there any issues currently being handled that you would handle differently? Information out to parents/guardians and general public. Look at policies/laws not being enforced.

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