Here's what the Greendale School Board candidates think about student learning during a pandemic and new equity efforts

·10 min read

Questions about the best way to instruct students during a global pandemic and how the school district is handling student equity and race relations were tackled by the six candidates looking to secure a seat on the Greendale School Board.

The candidates, appearing below in alphabetical order, were asked to provide written responses to the two questions and limited to 100 words in their answers.

They were also asked about their occupations, community involvement and about any prior experience as an elected official.

The candidates are vying for two available seats. A primary election will be held Feb. 15 to narrow the field from six to four.

The pandemic has presented challenges for school districts both in terms of providing safe learning for students and providing effective learning for students. As a school board member, what would guide you in determining how best to keep students safe during the pandemic, and what are your feelings about in-person versus remote instruction?

Brian Bock: The pandemic has made life difficult on everyone in the village of Greendale, the students are no exception. I believe that the most effective learning for the children is done in-person. It would be my job as a school board member to set the safety guidelines for the school so that as many kids and staff were attending school in-person. I would accomplish these goals by following medical guidance and implementing the guidance to prevent the need for virtual learning. My same guidelines would also outline a path to end masking as the pandemic ends.

Tassia Hughes: I would allow consensus among the medical experts from the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, and our own pediatricians — backed by evidence — to guide school safety measures. I believe in-person school is best for kids’ socialization and learning, especially for younger kids. I place strong importance on mental health as part of kids’ overall academic experience. The pandemic has impacted kids’ mental health, and I think Greendale can build upon existing resources to address these needs.

Robert Kobleska: The data clearly shows that most students do best with in person learning, but COVID safety mitigations have tested the education system from K3 through graduate school, and we all know that students can't learn in an unsafe environment; thus, striking the balance between safety and academic achievement is something that has always been important to school boards, superintendents, teachers and parents, and has been even more important now. Finding the right balance for the residents of Greendale is my goal.

Thor Misko: As a current board member, and the only member with children in our schools, I have been steadfast in my focus to keep our students safe while providing the best possible learning environment throughout the pandemic. I have, and always will, prioritize in-person learning and access to our No. 1 ranked teachers. It’s always easy to judge from afar, or say what you might do, but my actions are public record. I urge you to look for yourself and continue to call me with your questions. Together, with our amazing staff, we will persevere and become an even stronger community.

Tony Novinska: In-person learning for all students must happen for all students that are able. The psychological, anti-social damage to kids will be irreversible if virtual learning persists. From a 300% increase in teen self-harm, anxiety and depression, schools being closed do more harm than good. Board focus on student achievement, engagement of youth, families and citizens, with a sharp eye on finances while working with the superintendent to hire top teaching talent will bring us out of the pandemic.

Lorin Michael Schuchardt: Our students are better socially, mentally, and physically when they attend school in person. This is reflected by lower test scores during virtual learning periods. I believe in taking a proactive approach to create a plan that keeps our schools open and safe. This includes listening to all viewpoints and analyzing all credible evidence to make sound decisions for the best interests of our school community. COVID rates are lower in our schools than in the community because our schools have effective safety plans in place. As we move forward, I will ensure we are ready for what comes next.

In 2021, the Greendale Board of Education adopted the Student Equity and Anti-Racism Policy. How would you evaluate how the school district is handling the issue of student equity and as a school board member, where would the topic fall on your priority list?

Bock: I believe the school district has made improvements on the issues of equity and racism. I see a need for more community involvement in assessing how curricula on anti-racism and equity are performing — semi-annual community and administration meetings on curricula to review successes, what needs improvement, and failures. Equity is a top priority for me as a Greendale School Board member. Greendale offers classes at local technical schools, but one potential way to increase equity would be providing transportation for all interested kids to get to the off-campus sites as well.

Hughes: I appreciate the policy the board has adopted and the district’s work since the 2021 policy was put in place. Their actions have been prompt and sincere. I would like to consider the appropriate age and grade level for learning about advanced topics such as sexual identity and racism. All kids need to feel emotionally, physically and socially safe in the classroom, and this readiness is the cornerstone of effective equity work. I would evaluate this policy at the end of the upcoming school year via a survey to students, parents, and staff to determine if any changes are needed.

Kobleska: My priority as a Greendale School Board candidate is: safety balanced with academic achievement, academic achievement, more academic achievement, and bringing common sense decision making to the school board table. I am not overtly opposed to the Student Equity and Anti-Racism Policy, but I believe that the supply of equity programming in Greendale far exceeds the demand. The Greendale School Board meeting on Oct. 25, 2021, available on YouTube, is an example of the supply negatively impacting equity issues in Greendale. My overall goal is to assist the superintendent in graduating responsible citizens who will contribute locally and beyond.

Misko: Ultimately, my goal is to ensure that each and every student belongs, is empowered to learn and grow, and reaches their full potential. I served on the Policy Committee and worked with our administration, staff, and community to craft this policy. As our policy states, "students are the first priority of the Greendale Schools and must receive the primary attention of the Board and all staff members. To fulfill its obligation to the students, the Board must strive to examine all its actions as they relate to students, including the assurance of a safe and supportive learning environment."

Novinska: GSD needs to better understand the concerns of all citizens in the village, not just the vocal ones, including public groups. I am weary of talking about it because it has escalated to shouting. We must come together as humans to incorporate the different elements that allow children and families to focus on student achievement, family involvement and celebrate differences, through the lens of creating productive and responsible citizens. We achieve this via a strong and engaging program.

Schuchardt: Along with the pandemic, equity and mental health issues are a top priority. The best way to address these issues is by promoting community awareness. Our district has taken positive steps by hiring an equity director and increasing the number of mental health professionals in our schools. I support programs that prevent bullying, racism, and violence, as all our children deserve a safe place to learn. I believe in restorative justice models to address student issues in school and groups such as Sources of Strength that encourage peer intervention.

Brian Bock

Brian Bock
Brian Bock

Age: 38

Address: 6008 Clover Lane

Occupation: Registered pharmacist

Previous elected experience: None

Community involvement: Redeemer Lutheran Church member and church board secretary; Racine County YMCA board member; Greendale School District substitute teacher

Contact info: Email: brian@brianbockforgsdschoolboard.com Website: brianbockforgsdschoolboard.com

Tassia Hughes

Tassia Hughes
Tassia Hughes

Age: 51

Occupation: CPA, substitute teacher

Previous elected experience: None

Community involvement: Board member for two real estate expansion projects; violinist in Festival City Symphony; Girl Scout leader; member of the Citizen Budget Team for the Greendale School District; participant in the Greendale School District's five-year strategic plan listening sessions; volunteer for multiple Greendale school district activities including: reading buddies, Trunk or Treat, Olympic Day for Elementary Students, raffle nights, classroom helper, Clean and Green, Greendale FTC Robotics Team, Greendale FRC Robotics Team and Greendale High School Marching Band

Contact info: Email: tassiaforgreendale@gmail.com; Facebook: facebook.com/hughesforGreendaleSchoolBoard Website: hughesforgreendale.com

Robert Kobleska

Robert Kobleska
Robert Kobleska

Age: 37

Address: 5900 Dawson Court

Occupation: Vice president, Noble Backgrounds

Previous elected experience: None

Community involvement: Vice president of the Greendale Library Board; Greendale Twi Nite coach; volunteer at Greendale Village Days

Contact info: Email: rob4greendalesb@gmail.com Website: rob4greendalesb.com

Thor Misko

Thor Misko
Thor Misko

Age: 38

Address: 6691 Hill Ridge Drive

Occupation: Vice president of project development and minority owner of Selzer-Ornst Construction Company

Previous elected experience: Elected to the Greendale School Board in 2019 and currently serving as vice president

Community involvement: AbleLight (formerly Bethesda Lutheran Communities): board member; Ahrens Foundation: treasurer, board member; Greendale Education Foundation: past board member; Greendale Park & Recreation: past committee member; Greendale Schools: vice president, board member, Community Partnership team leader, Cooperative Educational Service Agency (CESA) #1 delegate, Panther Community Facilities Advisory Team member, Time 4 Learning board member, past Policy Committee member; Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE): Corporation Board Member & Alumni Association; Wiedemann-Steiner Syndrome (WSS) Foundation: vice president/COO, board member, past secretary; American Heart Association: sponsor, run/walk participant; Versiti Blood Center of Wisconsin: donation site; Department of Transportation (DOT) Adopt-a-Highway: sponsor & volunteer; International Facility Management Association (IFMA): sponsor & participant; Hales Corners Lutheran Church: member; Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC): Region of Choice representative

Contact info: Phone: 414-688-7725 Email: thor.misko@gmail.com Facebook: facebook.com/ThorforGreendale

Tony Novinska

Tony Novinska
Tony Novinska

Address: Dahlia Lane

Occupation: Sales manager

Previous elected experience: None

Community involvement: Greendale Jaycees, 1990-96, board member 1993-96; Greendale Entertainment Association, 2000 to present, board member 2006 to present; Village Days co-chair, 1990 to present; Public Celebrations Committee, 2016 to present; "Sprit of Greendale" Award for Volunteer of the Year, 2017; Annual Children’s Spring & Fall Resale, 2010 to present; Annual Summer Gazebo Concert Series, 2010-19; Trimborn Farm Festival, 1990-97

Contact info: Phone: 414-235-7857 Email: Tony4gsd@gmail.com Website: TonyForGreendale.com

Lorin Michael Schuchardt

Lorin Michael Schuchardt
Lorin Michael Schuchardt

Address: 5307 Radcliff Drive

Occupation: Attorney

Previous elected experience: None

Community involvement: 2021 Greendale Schools Strategic Planning participant; College Park Elementary School PTO member, president (2019-21), treasurer (2017-19); Greendale Education Foundation board member; 2019 Selection Committee participant for Director of Equity & Instruction; St. Stephen the Martyr church member; Active community volunteer including Village Days, Greendale Children’s Garden, and Friends of the Greendale Library; Former youth soccer coach and Twi Nite baseball assistant coach

Contact info: Email: lorin4schoolboard@gmail.com

Contact Bob Dohr at 262-361-9140 or bob.dohr@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BobDohr1.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Greendale School Board candidates tackle questions on pandemic, equity

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