School Board Candidates Answer Reader-Submitted Questions

MARSHFIELD, WI (OnFocus) – The Marshfield School Board has two seats up for grabs during the 2022 spring election. Five candidates from various backgrounds and experiences will be vying for the two spots on the board.

The spring election will be held April 5, 2022 with a primary on Feb. 15 to determine the final four candidates.

We contacted all of the candidates to get their thoughts on a variety of Marshfield Schools topics and questions that our readers submitted. Here are the candidates and their answers to those questions:

Dale Yakaites (Incumbent)

Dale Yakaites is seeking re-election for his third term and has lived in the Marshfield area since 1972 when he began working for the Marshfield School District.

Alanna J. Feddick-Goodwin

Alanna J. Feddick-Goodwin

Alanna Feddick-Goodwin has lived in Marshfield since moving here with her family in 1994.

Iddi Adam

Iddi Adam

Iddi has lived in Marshfield since August of 2003, when he took the position of professor at the UW-Marshfield/Wood County (now UW-Stevens Point at Marshfield).

Cathy J. Gorst

Cathy Gorst has lived in Marshfield for close to 40 years and has been a longtime attorney in the Marshfield area.

Rebecca Oliver

Rebecca is 63 years old and was raised in Marshfield. She has grandchildren in the school district.

*Disclosure: Oliver’s answers came five days after the original release of the article due to a family matter.*

Q: Why did you choose to run for a school board position?

Yakaites: If re-elected, this would be my third term on the Board, and I still have a desire to serve.

Feddick-Goodwin: After completing Leadership Marshfield years ago, I desired to be more involved in local government and causes. I sought an appointment to a school board position at that time, and was one of two finalists, but lost on a coin toss. I then sought to be appointed to a city council position and was successful. I ran again six times for city council, serving 13 years in total. I stepped down as I believed I had accomplished my goals on the council. I am now on the Ethics Committee and Communications Committee for the City. I believe parents with children in the school system should be on the school board. My step children went through the Marshfield School System and are successful in their future endeavors. My son just entered middle school in Marshfield.

Adam: My entire adult life up until 2019 has been spent in education. As a student, a professor, and administrator. I have experience on boards, having run a few myself in my professional life. Besides, as a parent, I care deeply about the district and want to contribute to make sure we are still one of the best school districts in the state.

Gorst: I have heard parents, both before, during and after the pandemic raise concerns

  • regarding the accessibility, for themselves and their children, to the facilities and staff in our school district;
  • regarding a lack of fiscal transparency, foresight, and accountability;
  • regarding the physical and mental health and safety of their children in the schools in our district;
  • regarding the lack of accountability of staff for their behaviors and poor teaching skills;
  • regarding the educational lag their children are experiencing and the failure to provide their children with the educational tools to develop good critical thinking skills and the skills needed for them to compete in a global environment.

These are significant concerns relating to our children and grandchildren and need to be addressed.

Oliver: I chose to run for school board because I am always being told more people need to be involved in local government, so I decided to do something.

Q: Why do you feel qualified to run for office?

Yakaites: Again, I have served the district since 1972 as a junior high and high school teacher, coach, journalism adviser, Co-Technology Department Director, Publications/PR Director (a district administrator position) an adviser for several Marshfield School District Superintendents, a key leader in several referenda (including the one that built Madison and Washington schools and made improvements to our other schools) and —last but not least—two, three year, terms as a current Board member.
In short—I have the experience needed.

Feddick-Goodwin: As a mother of a child in middle school, I believe I can address issues regarding the fundamentals of educating our children, empowering parents, ensuring student success, supporting teachers and staff, and promoting financial accountability.

Adam: My wife and I have six children. Four are grown and out of the K12 system. Our two youngest are in elementary school. I have been in education most of my life. I believe that as a parent and an educator, my voice would be a welcome addition to the board. I bring the perspective of a parent who has lived on three continents, with a vast wealth of experience in education. I know the value of education and I know what it takes to create conditions for good education to flourish. I have experience in management, having been a department chair, associate dean and dean. I have made tough decisions and understand the behind-the-scenes discussions that take place before difficult decisions are made.

Additionally, in this era of political polarization, it is important to take a step back and talk to everyone. Not just those who agree with you. I welcome open dialogue on opposing views which can stimulate creative solutions to the complex issues our school district faces. I think regardless of individual perspectives, we all share the same goal: helping all kids find success within our school district.

Gorst: I am an adult resident of the Marshfield School District and a property owner. I meet the qualifications in the forms provided by the Clerk of the school board to run for this position as well as the qualities and qualifications enunciated by the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.

I am an Attorney with my Juris Doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Law. My undergraduate degree is in Medical Records Administration and my last position prior to attending Law School was with the University of Wisconsin Madison Department of Family Medicine and Practice working in their residency program.

In addition, I have served on several Boards including the Wisconsin Board of Veteran’s Affairs, the Marshfield Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Law Foundation.

Oliver: I was a school board chairman for a small school. I know schools can have a lot of hard decisions to make, I do have some experience in that.

Q: Do you think the current School Board is doing an overall good job? 

Yakaites: Yes. I enjoy working with the other current Board members, and know that, we as a group, have worked diligently to keep Marshfield an excellent school district.

Feddick-Goodwin: I believe all children should be protected, encouraged, and engaged in education, and to learn in the way each child learns best. Our children’s grades, achievements, and character development matters. There are huge problems in our schools, including vaping and drug use. A different approach needs to be taken to address these problems and more.

Adam: Yes. Overall, my sense is that the school board has done a credible job steering the affairs of the district. For example, the board has maintained and grown programs, expanded support for student and mental health services, and has overseen a teaching staff that continues to demonstrate effective learning and dedication to students despite very difficult years. Of course, there are areas I think can be improved. One of those areas is communication. The board needs to do a better job of articulating its decision-making process to the various constituent groups – students, parents, teachers, staff and the community. They also need to listen more to the needs of the community.

Gorst: After hearing the concerns noted above, observing the board at recent meetings, observing how my grandchildren are attempting to function in their schools, observing the Board’s attempts to evade answering Public Records Requests, and personally attempting to locate information on the School District website, I would have to say they are not.

They were ill prepared to implement an effective virtual learning program during the pandemic, so much so, that several parents transferred their children to other school districts and to private schools to address their educational needs.

Students were pass /fail and if they turned in work (if they received any) it seems like they all passed.

This occurred in spite of the passage of a continuing referendum for several million dollars annually to be added to their budget.

The Board currently presents as secretive and non-transparent and have on some issues that they should address transferred their decision-making authority to the Administrator. At the last two Board meetings that I attended, it appeared that they had made their decision on issues discussed and opened for public input prior to the meeting.

More recently, I was contacted by parents whose children were assaulted by other students in the hallways at school. This behavior appears to be occurring frequently and there does not appear to be a policy in place to address it.

Oliver: Only in one area, because we are consistently above the state levels when testing. I feel the last two years that there is too much focus on mask mandates. The communication between parents/community/teachers has been greatly lacking. When attending meetings, you hear practically nothing in discussions between them, it appears they have already made up their minds before hand and the meeting is a formality. We gain no understanding of their thinking in the process.

Q: What do you think the priorities should be for the School Board?

Yakaites: To keep our schools safe for all students, staff and all who visit our buildings. The other major priority is to provide a quality educational experience for our children, for which our district has been known statewide.

Feddick-Goodwin: 1. That ALL students matter, from Kindergarteners to Seniors. 2. That students should learn HOW TO THINK, not just what to think. 3. We are preparing the next generation of leaders. We need to give students the skills now that will assist them in understanding how to be the most productive members of society. 4. We need more parental involvement.

Adam: We need to begin to rebuild trust – trust between parents and the school board; trust between administration and staff; trust between the district and the community. I know that we all want the best for our district and our students. Of that I have no doubt. But what we differ in, in my opinion, is how to get there. Very often, motives are questioned and a lot of second guessing is done. This is partly the result of an information vacuum. In the absence of information, suspicion grows that lead to an erosion of trust. One of the things I would like us to focus on is trust building measures, including information sessions, where the district’s board provides avenues, both formal and informal, for constituents (students, parents, teachers, staff and the community) to come and listen, share ideas and information and be brought up to speed on initiatives being pursued or contemplated.

The second issue we need to tackle is addressing the workforce shortage in our district. Some of this is a result of the current COVID-19 surge that is sidelining some teachers and staff through quarantining. But even before the pandemic, there was a steady increase in resignations in the ranks of our teachers and staff. To stem this tide, we need to create the environment where our professional and support staff feel valued, appreciated and heard. We do not necessarily have to provide more compensation (although that can certainly help). What we do need to do is to foster an atmosphere of respect, dignity and appreciation. We also need to work on providing our staff avenues for upwards mobility.

Gorst: The priorities for the school board should align with creating a physically safe environment for students with classes and educational options that provide them a learning environment where the can develop the critical thinking skills and receive the education required to be a proficient competitor in the world marketplace.

Oliver: Finding ways to involve the parents and teachers in dialog. There is too little communication and too many misunderstandings. We also will need to look at ways the school can help with the problems that mask wearing and virtual learning has affected the students, so we can help implement corrections for those problems.

Q: If you are on the School Board, what new direction, if any, would you like to see the school board take?

Yakaites: Not a new direction, but a major issue in ALL school districts, not just Marshfield, is to work hard to recruit and retain excellent teachers and other school staff.

Feddick-Goodwin: I would like to focus more on academics, so our students are prepared to become productive members of society and to practically and effectively lead our communities, preparing students for college, technical school or to enter the workforce.

Adam: Rather than a new direction, I would advocate for the need to continue to grow and adapt to the changing times. The pandemic has taught us that technology must become an integral part of the tools we need as we move forward. That means investing in professional development for our teachers and staff to be more competent with technology. Here are a few more ideas that we can work on, and I should mention that we do some of them quite well. I would like us to continue to grow in those areas:

  • I want to advocate for educating the whole person – that includes not just the sciences and math and language arts, but also fine arts (visual art, dance, theatre, and music) and career and technical education. There is evidence pointing to the fact that even science students do better when they also have, for example, music lessons.
  • I want to prepare our students to live and thrive in communities by preparing them for the workforce of tomorrow, so they can have a competitive edge. This includes more career and technical education. This includes internships. It also includes getting experts in the field and business people to interact with students. An example in this instance is for business people, in say, welding or plumbing to be invited on a regular basis, to talk to and interact with our middle and high school students.
  • I want to promote the value of inclusive excellence for diverse learners and families.
  • I want to work cooperatively with the community to ensure high-quality education for all students in our great district.

Gorst: I would like the Board to be more proactive in developing an effective curriculum that addresses the competitive environment in the real world and looks at issues from all sides. There are no participation trophies when competing for a job, for housing, or for the productivity bonus, etc. when they graduate and have to compete and that needs to be made part of the learning process.

I would like to see the school develop mentor programs and add classes for tutoring and extra assistance for students who are having difficulty in Math or Science or any other subject.

I would like the school district to make parental access and participation in schools a priority.

Oliver: I would like to see a program developed to involve parents and/or community to help relieve staff shortages in the schools. Such as tutoring/aids for struggling students.

Q: If the school district received a $1 million grant to use in any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why? 

Yakaites: I’m not good at hypotheticals like this, but to reply to your wording, “What would YOU do with it and why?” Central Office administration, and elected School Board members would collaborate to determine areas in most need of such an amazing windfall.

Feddick-Goodwin: I would want to see the listing and prioritization of programs and infrastructure, determine and/or discover a plan that would have the most productive impact for the students, the schools and the community, and focus on that plan.

Adam: As someone who likes to make decisions based on evidence, I would need to know more about the shape of our finances, the current and future needs before I jump into solutions. Having said that, here are some areas we can think about:

  • Career and Technical Education as well as Internships: We have a fairly robust Career and Technical Education program in our district. We also have a fairly decent internship program. We need to make technical jobs and careers right out of high school attractive again. Some students would benefit from learning what we used to call “trades.” I am talking about professions like welding and plumbing and electricians, etc. We can also invest in providing more high school students avenues to get some on the job training as part of their high school credits. Let them try their hands on some professions and see if it takes.
  • We can also invest in digital citizenship, beginning in elementary school. By digital citizenship, I am referring to the ability of our students to engage positively, critically and competently in the digital environment. If this is done well, they would be able to draw on the skills of effective communication and creation, to practice forms of social participation that are respectful of human rights and dignity through the responsible use of technology.
  • We can look into investing in programs for “at risk” students. The reality is that it is often easier (and I might add more cost effective) to provide support to students who are at risk of falling behind than to help them catch up later on in their education.
  • Teacher and staff retention. The past decade has seen a steady exit of teachers and fewer people opting to go into the profession. After market analysis comparing our compensation package to our competitors, we may want to invest some dollars in this area.

Gorst: I would like to see the development of an effective and interactive virtual program so that no student ever misses a day of class. It should be a program that would permit children to attend class virtually and interact with their classmates and the teacher as well as allow their classmates and the teacher to interact with them. All classes should be taped and archived so that any student can access them and review the lessons for the day. This would allow students who are ill and who are staying at home to be actively involved in their classes. Children who attend class in that manner would be considered in attendance.

Oliver: I would like to see a new middle school that is one level, I think the one we have makes schooling more challenging for the students. I know I had problems getting to classes when having to run upstairs two flights between classes.

Q: What goals do you have in place to getting schools back to pre-Covid guidelines (allowing kids to intermingle, lunch time extension to greater than 10 minutes at elementary levels, volunteers in the classrooms, allowing parents back in school at drop off)?

Yakaites: I think this question is confusing because it implies some things that are not true.

You: “allowing kids to intermingle” —My response: Kids do intermingle. I’m not sure what is intended here. Spacing of students in classrooms and at lunch due to Covid restrictions? How do 1200 students at the high school, and large populations of kids at all schools, attend school and not “intermingle.” I am not sure what is being asked or queried here.

You: lunch time situations Me: Have people actually consulted with school principals regarding each schools lunch periods? For example: Students at Grant Elementary have 15-20 minutes to eat lunch and can then raise hands after 10 minutes if they wish to be excused to go to lunch recess. If a parent calls the school and asks for more time for his/her child for lunch, that can be and is accommodated.

You: allowing “volunteers in the classrooms and allowing parents back in school at drop off?” My response: Current policies regarding limiting or not allowing volunteers—as well as allowing persons to enter schools during drop-off are in place to limit the possibility of Covid spread. When local Covid numbers become lower, these two policies can be revisited.

Feddick-Goodwin: I believe the lack of in-person learning has stunted our children’s education and learning and stunted our children’s mental health. There is no evidence that shows the masking of children, the least affected by covid, has changed the course of covid in any way. Instead, fear has negatively motivated choices and decisions.

Adam: I would like to regularly evaluate which of our mitigation strategies aren’t effective and get rid of them or modify them. Some of the mitigation efforts, to us as parents, sometimes feel confusing and hypocritical or can seem like a lot of effort for little mitigation. For example, we need to re-examine the loss of classroom volunteers. Is there any risk to allowing volunteers back into the school with appropriate precautions? We can also re-examine our drop off/pick up procedures and how that is negatively impacting not just our students, but our teachers and staff.

Going forward, I would like the district to set some metrics in place for easing COVID restrictions. These metrics can be put in place after consultations with experts, parents, teachers, staff and the community. At what point in the near future can we dispense of masks as is being done in other districts? How about kids mingling in school and on the playground? If we have these firm metrics, it makes it easier for parents to plan and look forward to.

Gorst: MY goal would be to move forward as quickly as possible to return to regular programming and interaction. Parents should have access to the school and to the staff with no restrictions. In person school conferences, allowing parents into the school to get their children and giving children adequate time to interact at lunch is important. Parent volunteers are good assets for the school and using parent volunteers gives the parents more confidence in the school.

It should be made clear to both teachers and staff that they do not make moral, religious, identity or health choices for the children they teach. Those are decisions which should be left to parents.

Oliver: All grade level classes need to co-mingle at lunch as well as recess. Too many kids have friends in the other class, and they were having a hard time last year not seeing them, many thought they were not liked anymore.

Parents need to be able to come in the school, kids love showing their school and their teachers off to their parents.

I think we need a program to encourage parents and community in the classroom to help the teacher.

Q: What is your view on mandatory masking in schools? 

Yakaites: I voted for it and continue to support it until Covid rates get much lower in Central Wisconsin. A reminder: All policies are finalized after a collaborative effort by all Board members and the district administration. I cannot alter policies as one member.

Feddick-Goodwin: I believe masks should be optional, based upon the desires of the parent(s) of each child. Further, I believe masks interfere with communication, proper oxygen and breathing, and development, as children rely heavily on facial cues.

Adam: I am a strong believer in data-driven decision-making. We need to make decisions that considers the best available science. Science by its very nature, does not provide definite answers for all eternity. What it does do, is provides answers that are relevant for today. The answers can change when additional evidence is uncovered. The best available evidence today points to the fact that masks save lives – not only for the wearer, but for those the wearer comes into contact with. The current Omicron variant will not be the last mutation of the virus. We are likely to see other strains emerge. We need to be protecting one another as we weather this storm. Along with masking is the issue of vaccines. I strongly urge individuals and families to get vaccinated and boosted to protect themselves and the community. If we are to get out of this pandemic, we all need to row in the same direction. We all need to do our part in combating the disease. That means vaccines, masking, social distancing and frequent washing of hands.

As the science evolves, so should our stance on all of this. Current guidance after contracting COVID-19 is 5 days quarantine and another 5 days of wearing a properly fitting mask. I encourage everyone to follow these guidelines to save lives.

I would like to regularly review these guidelines and make adjustments based on the science and the needs of the district (parents, students, teachers, staff and the community).

Gorst: I do not support a masking mandate. I believe that whether a child should wear a mask is a parental decision that should be made based on the needs of their child after they have the opportunity to weigh the benefits and detriments to their child and evaluate the current environmental issues.

Oliver: I believe masks have a place; they can help get kids back in school a few days quicker, after any illness, sneezing/coughing are contained that way. I DO NOT believe healthy kids need to be masked. Parents need to make that decision.

Q: Is there any way the school district can improve communication to parents and the community? If so, explain.  

Yakaites: I think we have improved communications greatly over the situation that existed under previous administration. I am open to hear more from staff and the public on any shortfalls. I am always available to talk to all district staff, parents, students, business owners, and members of the general public in this district.

Feddick-Goodwin: I am a huge proponent of an overabundance of communication to parents and the community. I fought for improved communication for the City of Marshfield, and am part of the communications committee. I do have a concern that there is no voice from the school board to the community. The televised meetings are not enough. For instance, I believe there should be a regular newsletter to the community, and a new website that is more user friendly.

Adam: Yes, one would be regular informal discussions between the school board and its members and the community. The primary purpose of these informal meetings is to begin to build trust – on both sides. These can be held either at school grounds or in the community, like the public library. People can come to these informal listening sessions with ideas and issues they would like addressed.

The second is to have regular points of contact between the school board and the leaders of the district’s professional staff. So, for instance, we can schedule monthly or quarterly conversations between the school board and the leaders of the professional staff. These conversations can brief leadership on issues and problems coming down the horizon, strategies being developed and the input of staff.

Gorst: Post their agendas and minutes as well as a notice of hearing dates further in advance of a meeting and request public input into the agenda.

Maintain an archive of all minutes and all documents made available and reviewed by the Board as part of their decision making process.

Prior to implementing a new policy or any new curriculum or programming, make it available to parents prior to implementing it.

Oliver: We could have forums where we can have open dialog and questions answered. Concerns can be raised and looked at, to find solutions, instead of ignoring the problems parents and teachers are having.

We could have a newsletter for the community telling what is happening and voted on and what may be coming up for vote in the future with a way that opinions, comments, and questions can be asked and heard by the board before they make their decisions.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like voters to know? 

Yakaites: I have served this district to the best of my ability for almost 50 years (50 this coming August), and am still energized to do so. I am also aware that being on the Board covers many, many issues and policies. Personal agendas should not be a reason to run for School Board, and newly elected members always find out that there are a plethora of district, Board, local, county, state and federal policies/laws that must be considered when making decisions. The School Board consists of seven members in a collaborative effort to set school and district policy. I think we have a great Board right now that really cares about safety, and providing a quality education for ALL students. I hope newly elected members (including myself) will continue to follow those goals.

Feddick-Goodwin: I have been a resident of Marshfield, and have owned a small business in Marshfield for the last 20 years. I am passionate about the success of our community, and it starts with our students.

Adam: One of the best decisions I made in my life besides asking my wife to marry me was to relocate to Marshfield in 2003. At the time, I thought I was nuts. Moving from Toronto Canada to the “middle of nowhere” seemed like a crazy thing to do. But over the years, I have come to cherish this city and all it has to offer. We have a safe and vibrant community. And the crown jewel of the community is the school district. It is the envy of our surrounding communities. I love this city. I want to see it continue to thrive. Besides working in research, my wife and I also own private businesses. The corner stone of any community is the school. I want to do my part to ensure that we continue to be seen as one of the best school districts in the state.

I am a trained Geographer and Environmental Scientist. My undergraduate degree is in Geography and Resource Development and I minored in the Study of Religions. My graduate degrees are in Environmental Science (Masters) and Geography (Ph.D.). I was a professor and administrator in higher education from 1998 to 2019. I currently work in Oncology Research.

My bottom line is this: I have no personal agenda. I go into this campaign and, hopefully to the school board with an open mind. I will always help make decisions based on three principles: First, is it in the interest of our students? Second, is it fiscally responsible? Third, is it the best course of action based on available data?

To read more about me and my ideas, please visit my Facebook page: Iddi For School Board. You can send me your ideas, questions and concerns. I can also be reached at at [email protected].

Gorst: If elected, I will do my best to make the schools the best possible learning environment for our children. I will make every effort to be accessible and will listen to both sides when there is an issue before the Board.

Oliver: I grew up in Marshfield, left and raised eight kids, during which time I was a school board chairman and had to fire a teacher midterm. I know that the board’s job is to make hard decisions sometimes, I have had experience in that. I had to listen to angry parents and work out problems with them. I did some substitute teaching for awhile and understand where teachers need support. I homeschooled my children for a time as well and understand the importance of a GOOD curriculum. I watched my grandkids struggle under the mask mandates, which did not stop them from getting covid. A couple of them are going to struggle for years socially because they could not understand why their friends could not play or talk with them last year. Their confidence in friends is gone. They wont let others get too close to them. 

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News Desk
Author: News Desk