Six candidates — including three incumbents — are vying for two three-year terms and one one-year term on the Evansville School Board in Tuesday’s election. Incumbent David Hamilton did not respond to requests for responses. (I) indicates incumbent.
Mason Braunschweig (I)
Address: 6217 N. Cassidy Road
Family: Wife, Kathleen; children Ricky, 14, Charlie, 13, Benny, 8, Grace, 5
Job: Rock County assistant district attorney
Prior elected office: Evansville School Board, four years; Evansville City Council, eight years
Other public service: Evansville Youth Wrestling Board; volunteer middle school football coach; youth baseball coach
Education: Bachelor of Arts, political science and criminal justice, UW-Madison; Juris Doctor, Northern Illinois University
Website or email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keith Hennig (I)
Address: 14116 W. Northridge Drive
Family: Wife, Mary; children Madison and Spencer
Job: Electronic distribution for Sager Electronics
Prior elected office: Evansville School Board
Other public service: Music Boosters; Evansville High School football team announcer, 15 years; assistant youth soccer coach; assistant summer swim team coach; church youth group at St. John’s Lutheran Church; lifelong Boy Scout and assistant scout master to Troop 514, 2010 to present; Evansville Park Board and city board of appeals.
Education: Associate of Applied Science, Kirkwood Community College
Website or email address: email@example.com
Address: 7622 Antler Court
Family: Wife; daughter, 9; son, 6
Job: Senior manufacturing engineer
Prior elected office: None
Other public service: Committee member for local Cub Scout pack; Sunday School teacher; youth soccer coach
Education: Bachelor of Science, mechanical engineering, UW-Madison, 2003
Website or email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: 21 Garfield Ave.
Family: Widow; adult daughter, Lauren
Job: UW-Madison IS systems development specialist
Prior elected office: None
Other public service: Former Girl Scout leader, 13 years; parent volunteer and former president of the Evansville High School Music Boosters; current member of parish council at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Evansville.
Education: Bachelor of Arts, philosophy, Hamline University, 1982
Email address: email@example.com
Address: 4322 N. Cornfield Drive
Family: Son, Ethan
Job: Self-employed long-arm quilter
Prior elected office: Evansville School Board, 2008 to 2015
Other public service: Current president, Evansville Education Foundation; leadership team at Faith Community Church.
Education: Master’s, counseling, Indiana State University, 1986; Bachelor of Science, psychology, Indiana State University, 1984
Website or email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
In what way are you better qualified than your opponent to serve on the board?
Braunschweig: My experience in both the School Board and the City Council and my education give me some skills that really help in regards to board issues, but my eight years of military experience have given me leadership qualities that you simply can’t get anywhere else. I don’t believe my opponents have that type of experience.
Hennig: Decisions need to take the new factors of today’s world into consideration. The three candidates that are running against the incumbents all have the backing of our teacher’s union. That tells me that they are advocates for the days of the past and, like it or not, things have changed and you cannot make decisions on wistful glances at yesteryear.
Nyhus: As an engineer, having an objective point-of-view and problem-solving skills are a must. Our school district has some crucial decisions to make. I know that my skills will serve me well in getting to the bottom of the issues and addressing them in the manner that is best for the community, including facing challenges we didn’t even know we had.
Paul: I view one of the important roles of a board member is to be a listener who hears and addresses the concerns of the citizenry. I believe I have the necessary skills to fulfill that role. My intent is to ensure citizens do not feel alienated in their attempts to contact board members or thwarted in attempts to raise concerns.
Swanson: I believe I have the experience, the leadership skills and the communication skills needed to be an effective board member. I understand that I will be accountable to different stakeholders and will work hard to represent my community and make decisions that are best for the children of our district.
What is the main challenge facing the district and how would you address it?
Braunschweig: The main challenge we have is the limited revenue received from the state coupled with the limits in revenue received from our local property levy. This makes it very difficult to give our excellent staff the salary increases they deserve. I am hopeful that our community will support an operational referendum that will make this challenge more manageable.
Hennig: The main challenge we face is money. We need to look for new and better ways to use resources through co-op programs with local technical colleges and the UW system, internships and hybrid models with businesses. Imagine a privately owned health and fitness facility that contracts with the school district for use. How about an aquatics center? These never make money but a joint venture may change all that.
Nyhus: Preparing the youth of the district for their future should always be the biggest challenge. We need to make sure that our young people are aware of all their choices and promote careers in the trades right along side those requiring more extensive education. STEM curriculum is also important to give our young people tools to be successful in society.
Paul: I believe the loss of students through open enrollment is a problem, especially considering the estimates of revenue loss of nearly $1,000,000 every three years. I think the district would be well-served to follow up on the reasons why parents choose to enroll out, as well as to be pro-active in recruiting enrollments in the way other nearby districts do.
Swanson: Loss of revenue is the main challenge facing our district. Reversing the open enrollment trend is a top priority. Determining why parents choose to open enroll their student out of our district and addressing those concerns are necessary.
In what ways can the district improve, and how would you do that?
Braunschweig: We are going to have to look at areas where we can save money possibly by cost-sharing with other governmental bodies. We need to retain more of our younger staff rather than having Evansville work as a stepping stone. This is going to require a new approach to our current ways of communicating with our stakeholders to ensure we have the support and resources we need.
Hennig: Administrative staff and the faculty know what they are doing and can be left alone to do their jobs. Let’s make it possible for them to do that without hand-wringing about pay raises because there is no money. Let’s build such a great product that we have more students come to our district and we get more state funds to implement ideas that make businesses see profit in working with us.
Nyhus: Efficiency and transparency are two of the biggest ways that the district can improve. The income of any district is limited and we need to consider every decision thoroughly to be sure that the chosen approach is what’s best for the district. Collaboration is crucial to accomplishing this, including working with administration, education staff and the community at large.
Paul: The aim of the district should be to provide quality education within our financial means. I would bring to the board an ability to address problems analytically and logically. I view working collaboratively with administrators, teachers, staff and citizens key to a properly functioning district, and that it should be done transparently so no one doubts why decisions were made.
Swanson: The marketing of our district could be improved. Developing promotional materials that highlight our schools and their strengths, in addition to holding open meetings in the community, are a couple of ways to address this.