Candidates lining up to get a shot at school seats

PW-S board election to feature three races, one of which will require primary
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington-Saukville School Board’s April election has drawn a full slate of candidates, with races, including a February primary contest, for all three seats on the ballot.

The most competitive race is for the seat on the board representing the City of Port Washington held by Brian McCutcheon, who after more than 24 years on the board is not running for re-election.

Vying to succeed him are Kierstin Cira, Douglas Rogahn and Richard Sternhagen.

Cira, a 1986 graduate of Port Washington High School, is a veteran educator currently teaching elementary school classes in the West Bend School District.

“It’s my turn to put the teacher perspective on the School Board,” Cira, 54, of 1016 Nelson Dr., said. “I don’t think there’s anything specifically that needs to be changed in the district, but I don’t think we can just sit back and rely on our reputation.”

Rogahn, 45, of 1542 Holden St., is an information security consultant who said his expertise in that area would benefit the board.

“Community involvement has always been important to me,” Rogahn, whose son attends Lincoln Elementary School, said. “I’m just looking for another way to be involved in the community.”

Sternhagen, who held leadership positions in the consumer products industry before retiring in 2019, is making his second bid for the School Board after losing to Yvonne Klotz last year in a race for the at-large seat on the board.

Sternhagen, of 755 Milwaukee St., could not be reached for comment Tuesday but said last year that he believes all of the district’s stakeholders should be involved in educating students.

“I think the experts are everybody involved,” he said. “The stakeholders are the experts in this particular conversation because it really comes down to how are we providing an excellent education for our kids. Any curriculum we use should go through that initial filter.”

The three candidates will meet in the Tuesday, Feb. 21, primary election. The two who receive the most votes will then square off in the Tuesday, April 4, general election.

McCutcheon, who was first elected to the board by write-in vote in April 1998, is the second longest serving member of the current board. The title of longest serving current board member goes to his sister-in-law Sara McCutcheon, who after more than 25 years on the board is seeking a return to her seat representing the Village of Saukville but faces a challenge from Dawn Brooks.

Brooks, 57, of 204 E. Dekora St., said she is running because change is needed on the board.

“I’ve seen the good, bad and ugly in this district,” she said, noting that her children went through the district and her grandchildren are currently enrolled in it. “I don’t think some people on the School Board have the best interests of the kids in mind. We’re not putting education first.

When asked if the district’s 2021-22 state report card is an indication of shortfalls in the education provided by the district, Brooks, who is the wife of state Rep. Rob Brooks, said, “Absolutely it is.

“We’re falling behind the rest of the county.”

The district received an accountability score of 75 on its Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction report card released in November. While that score put it in the state’s “exceeds expectations” category, it was the lowest of all districts in Ozaukee County.

Sara McCutcheon, of 467 S. Main St.,  could not be reached for comment this week.

Melissa Schlenvogt Alexander, who was appointed to fill the vacant Town of Port Washington seat on the board last year and has served for less than four months, faces a familiar opponent in her bid to retain her seat.

Justin Myers, a vice president at U.S. Bank, was also a finalist for appointment to the board last year and is now asking voters to put him in office.

In August, the board considered three applicants for the vacancy created when Matthew Uselding moved out of the district and, after eliminating one of the contenders in an initial round of voting, split its vote, 4-4, between Alexander and Myers. It then drew lots to choose Alexander to serve the remainder of Uselding’s term.

Myers, who is president of the Friends of Port Washington Parks and Recreation and involved in several other local organizations, could not be reached for comment this week but during last year’s appointment process said, “The academics are great here. I think they could be greater.”

One way to maintain and improve the quality of education in the district, he said,  is through effective communication.

“Communication is always going to be key to me. We need to be consistent and we need to be transparent.”

Myers, of 3709 E. Norport Dr., has two children at Port High and one in college.

Alexander, the former executive director of Port Main Street Inc., said last year that academics must be the district’s priority.

“We need to prioritize our teachers and our students before sports, if you will,” she said. “If we’re not prioritizing education, then what are we doing?”

She said her time spent traveling the world as a Disney performer taught her how important inclusion is in education.

“Inclusion means everyone is represented, everyone is heard,” Alexander, who is married and has a 2-year-old daughter, said.

Although School Board members represent specific areas of the district, with the exception of the member who holds the at-large seat, they are elected by all residents of the district and serve three-year terms.











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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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