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Seven candidates vying for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

The primary race will be on February 16, 2021.
Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 9:45 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 3, 2021 at 7:31 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -Seven candidates are running for Wisconsin’s Superintendent of Public Instruction and are on the ballot for the February 16th primary race.

Carolyn Stanford Taylor will not be seeking election. She was picked by Governor Tony Evers to succeed him in the role. She began serving her term in January 2019 and is the state’s first Black state superintendent.

NBC15′s Gabriella Rusk spoke one-on-one with each candidate via Zoom to hear his or her plans if he or she is elected and his or her opinion on issues such as COVID-19 safety protocols, mental health and racial equity.

Jill Underly

Jill Underly is the current superintendent of the Pecatonica Area School District and a former assistant director at DPI.

On COVID-19 Safety in the classroom, Underly said:

“I feel that working together to make sure that we can provide the healthiest and safest conditions for our students and our staff is critical. That’s what I would plan to do is to just keep working with our local leaders.”

On addressing racial inequities and social justice issues in Wisconsin schools, Underly said:

“I also feel that we need to look at our educators. We don’t have a very diverse educator workforce and so we need to recruit more professionals who look like the kids that they’re teaching.”

Steve Krull

Steve Krull is the principal at Milwaukee’s Garland Elementary School and former U.S. Air Force instructor.

On COVID-19 Safety in the classroom, Krull said:

“What we need to do is put into place a system that we know will produce an environment that will allow us to survive another pandemic in a manageable way.”

On addressing racial inequities and social justice issues in Wisconsin schools, Krull said:

“I believe in a two-pronged approach. One is what happens in the classroom with the teachers and the students, the other is really looking at the structural, financial type of issues that we’ve got facing our schools.”

Deborah Kerr

Deborah Kerr is the former Brown Deer Schools superintendent and a founding member of the Closing the Gap Consortium.

On COVID-19 Safety in the classroom, Kerr said:

“I’m proposing a statewide plan for reentry that starts with our elementary students. We can do it safely based upon evidence and medical practices across the country.”

On addressing racial inequities and social justice issues in Wisconsin schools, Kerr said:

“This is not just a Black History Month situation. This should be taught every single day and integrated into our culture to create a sense of belonging in our schools.”

Troy Gunderson

Troy Gunderson is currently an adjunct professor of school finance in the superintendent certification program at Viterbo University, and former West Salem School District Superintendent.

On COVID-19 Safety in the classroom, Gunderson said:

“I think we need to kick off the fall with a real assertive leadership based on data and fact and experience. We’ll have the benefit of a year’s worth of data and be able to say, ‘Here’s what you need to do to keep parents and kids safe.’”

On addressing racial inequities and social justice issues in Wisconsin schools, Gunderson said:

“I think we can use our CESAs to create a plan of attack so it’s regionally appropriate. We can provide the type of materials that are more relevant to all of the families, whether it’s indigenous children in Ashland or African-American kids in Racine, how are we serving and connecting to everybody.”

Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams

Shandowlyon Hendricks-Williams served as Gov. Tony Evers’ Director of Milwaukee office and as the DPI Education Administrative Director of Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Licensing.

On COVID-19 Safety in the classroom, Hendricks-Williams said:

“We need to figure out a way to not only return to face to face but continue to provide blended and virtual learning until our parents are comfortable as well. We need to figure out a way to not only return to face to face but continue to provide blended and virtual learning until our parents are comfortable as well.”

On addressing racial inequities and social justice issues in Wisconsin schools, Hendricks-Williams said:

“Give students the truth and allow them to form their opinion based on that truth. Not from a position of blame but from a position of learning lessons to make sure that we don’t continue to allow history to repeat itself.”

Shelia Briggs

Shelia Briggs is the assistant state superintendent and former Madison principal at Schenk Elementary School.

On COVID-19 Safety in the classroom, Briggs said:

“We have to make sure that our teachers are getting access to the vaccine as soon as possible. That’s going to make it much easier to ensure that our staff are safe and we’re not spreading the virus.”

On addressing racial inequities and social justice issues in Wisconsin schools, Briggs said:

“We need to make sure that we provide our pre-service teachers and our in-service teachers with support in making sure that they understand their own biases and understand how to make sure that we’re valuing, supporting and having high expectations for all of our children.”

Joe Fenrick

Joe Fenrick is a Fond du Lac High School science teacher and UW-Oshkosh geology lecturer.

On COVID-19 Safety in the classroom, Fenrick said:

“The faster that we can get our educators vaccinated, the faster that schools can open up. Masks do work, I know people don’t always like them, but so far for the schools that are open, it’s helping to stop the spread at our schools.”

On addressing racial inequities and social justice issues in Wisconsin schools, Fenrick said:

“We need to make some changes in our schools. These changes can’t be just for one day or for a week or for a month but they need to be for years and then continue on for generations.”

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