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WI Primary: Meet the 7 candidates vying to become the next superintendent of schools

Posted at 6:02 PM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 19:02:35-05

MILWAUKEE — Following the recent announcement that the current state superintendent of schools, Carolyn Stanford Taylor, would not be running in the 2021 election, all eyes are now on seven candidates looking to take her spot.

"This is perhaps the most important election in our lifetime," said candidate Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams.

Steve Krull, who is a current principal at Garland Elementary School in Milwaukee, says if elected, there are a number of things he'd like to focus on to improve the entire school system - including recruiting and maintaining teachers, closing opportunity gaps, but most importantly, lowering tuition costs, and looking at financial reform.

"I really want to move us away from property taxes. So, our plan calls for reducing property taxes by up to 30 percent. If we could have good tuition and reasonable tuition in the 40s there’s absolutely no reason we can’t have them today," said Krull.

Meanwhile, Troy Gunderson, who's spent 35 years in public education, says on top of making sure teachers get vaccinated for COVID19, he'd like to see more funding for early childhood education and address racial inequities within the school system.

"Using the bully pulpit of that position to draw attention to the diversity in the inequities surrounding our state is important," said Gunderson.

Deborah Kerr, the former superintendent for the Brown Deer School District, says her top priorities are to connect the education system with workforce development needs. On top of enforcing her recovery and re-entry plan, to get students back into schools amid the pandemic.

"My plan recommends that we start with elementary pre-K through fifth grade. Getting those kids back because we have a lot of work to do," said Kerr.

Sheila Briggs, who's spent the last 10 years working within the state superintendent cabinet at DPI, says on top of supporting the social and emotional health and recovery of students dealing with the pandemic, addressing the teacher shortage within the state is also key.

"We need to make sure that we are making the working conditions in the classroom, supporting our teachers in the ways that they deserve, so that they can do the important work of educating our students," said Briggs.

Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams, the former director of DPI, says she's already created the Bill of Rights for Wisconsin students: a 20-point policy plan that would ensure students get a sound education, and already has her 100-day plan laid out.

"One thing I’m going to do is assemble a task force to look at our funding formula based on recommendations by the [Wisconsin] Association for Equity and Funding to change the way we fund our schools," said Hendricks-Williams.

Jill Underly, the current superintendent of the Pecatonica Area School District, says her main goals include providing better access to mental health services for students and better funding for schools.

"As state superintendent, what I need to do is I need to work on getting that funding formula changed, using that position to advocate for different types of revenue into our schools," said Underly.

And Joe Fenrick, a current science teacher at Fond Du Lac High School, says he'd like to bring back hands-on learning in the classrooms, on top of addressing the current teacher shortage.

"We need more teachers, which means we need to start recruiting now. We need to recruit as many college students as we can for the classroom," said Fenrick.

The primary election, which takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 16, will narrow down these seven candidates to only two candidates, who will go on the ballot for the April 6 election to determine the next state school superintendent.

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