How did WUSD School Board Candidates Answer My Questions Regarding Restrictions and CRT?

How do Whitewater School Board Candidates feel about discussions of LGBTQ+ by school staff? How do the candidates feel about restrictions such as masks or lockdowns?

Watching the candidate forum and reading their literature, I did not get a strong feel for their thoughts regarding these issues. After two years of lockdowns and masks (stopped just in time for elections) this is, in my humble opinion, a top issue. Gender/Race identity is also a top issue among parents.

  • Would the school board candidate be respectful of parents’ concerns regarding identity?
  • Would the school board candidate learn from the mistakes of masks and lockdowns?
  • Would the candidate be willing to engage with a constituent over tough issues?

I reached out to the Whitewater School Board candidates to ask their thoughts on these topics. I made the decision (ahead of time) that if a candidate were to answer thoughtfully, I would limit my response to under a hundred words (let their words speak).

I want to extend sincere gratitude to Kienbaum, Kromholz, and Svec for taking the time for very thoughtful answers to the questions below:

Question #1:  Whitewater just went thru two years of restrictions that included masks, closings, and discussion of vaccine mandates. I am of the opinion (and I believe I represent a majority of school district voters) that these restrictions caused more damage than good. How can you assure school district voters that these mistakes (with regard to restrictions) will not be repeated?

Question #2:  (Around the thirty minute mark of the panel discussion) The topic of “what to teach our children” came up. My understanding of the question is that it was in reference to such things as Critical Race Theory and discussion surrounding sexual identity. I didn’t really feel Mr. Aranda answered the question.  Mr. Kromholz’s response was (my interpretation) is that while parents have a voice, we have an “open school” and these topics are not the choice of parents whether or not to teach.  To be clear, I am not in favor of teachers discussing race or sexuality or identity. That is the place for parents and trusted adults.  So what can you all do to provide assurances that you will have the backs of parents like myself (again, most like a majority of your voters) that do not want these topics discussed in school plans, or by teachers and administrators in general?

Miguel Aranda

Miguel Aranda graciously declined to respond to my questions.

In regards to any publication of any print to the blog, please reference the League of Women Voters candidate forum as recommended in a former email.

Miguel Aranda response to my questions.

So the forum did not provide any significant input regarding restrictions or gender/racial identity in the schools. I asked Aranda to forward me the timestamps or quotes from the forum that he feels provide such input. If he does forward me any answers, I will update.

Aranda seems like a nice enough guy, so I will not be too harsh on him for choosing not to respond. His linkedin profile says “community advocate” and he clearly imho puts a lot of stock in organizing and government as a means to (some) ends.

With that said, I was very disappointed he chose not to respond. He could have taken this opportunity to tell us he thought the lockdowns and restrictions were a mistake (that is a very fair position), or he could have told us why he thought otherwise. Aranda had an opportunity to tell Whitewater where he stands on racial/sexual identity in the schools.

  • Would the school board candidate be respectful of parents’ concerns regarding identity?
  • Would the school board candidate have learned from the mistakes of restrictions such as masks or lockdowns?
  • Would the candidate be willing to engage with a constituent over tough issues?

What does one think when a school board candidate does not want to engage in these discussions? His base clearly is in the minority.

If Miguel Aranda wants to post his answers and clarify any concerns, I will gladly post for him.

Andrea Svec

Good Evening Mike,

Thank you for taking the time to watch the forum and asking these follow up questions.  

1.  I cannot assure voters that mask mandates will not happen again.  What I can assure voters of is that I will not vote for mandates or virtual schooling.  I believe neither of those decisions were good for our students or our school district. 

Students lost valuable time in the classroom as well as socially.  There are moments that have been lost and cannot be made up. Our student test scores have declined and can be attributed to the loss of time in the classroom.  Students who are in hands on classes such as automotive class, that time cannot be made up online.  Depression and anxiety rates skyrocketed during that time out of the classroom.  Mask mandates prevented parents from watching their students play sports.  Athletes competed with masks on their faces in empty gyms.   Musicians had to play instruments 6 feet apart and had to wear masks.  Vocalists had to sing with masks on.  Instrumentalists put masks on the bells of their instruments.  

 As a result of those decisions, we lost over 200 students taking with them more than $1.6M dollars in funding.  That missing revenue then needs to either be made up by shorting other financial needs or going to the taxpayer to make up that difference.  

We cannot change what has passed.  We MUST make future decisions using common sense. 

2.  I understand your concerns about teaching race and sexual identity in the classroom.  I too believe those are sensitive subjects that should be addressed in the home and with trusted adults.  I believe that schools should be focusing on the basics to ensure our students have the skills necessary to be productive citizens.  As an elected official, I will listen to the concerns of parents.  They are the people who have entrusted us with their children.  We must be open with our parents.  We must listen to our parents.  We must get back to basics and focus on success for our children. 

Thank you again for the opportunity to address your concerns.  If you have any additional questions, please let me know.

Andrea Svec

(Andrea Svec’s response)

Joseph Kromholz

I appreciate that you are still seeking input from me even though you have already endorsed other candidates in this race for School Board.  

I stand by the responses that I made at the League of Women Voters forum as opposed to the reinterpretations that have been offered. I suggest that people listen to the actual responses made and make up their own minds.  They can be found at https://vimeo.com/687917265   

It is my position that the safety of the children should be guided by science.  Science demonstrates that kids learn best when they are in school.   Right now it appears that masks have produced mixed results and the present policy of making masks optional appears to be the best policy.   I understand the hesitation that people feel with respect to vaccination. While I myself have been vaccinated, it is important to acknowledge that the vaccine is still classified as experimental and not been cleared for use with children in many cases.   As such it is my position that people have a right to make their own determination as to vaccinations.  That said the statistics seem to indicate that vaccinations prevent death.  Therefore, I would urge those that qualify to be vaccinated.  

It is my preference for parents to always be involved at all times with the education of their children.  My comment with respect to open education was as opposed to the closed education systems that I observed as a student traveling through Eastern Europe under the communists. I am certain that you are not proposing a communistic approach. Certainly any education should be age-appropriate. Critical race theory is not age-appropriate for elementary through high school students. It is a tool that is used in law schools to ascertain disparate racial impact of proposed legislation.  Likewise, I am certain that you are not proposing to let segregationist or racist views be taught to our children. I stated that our history should be taught. That history starts with our Declaration of Independence which teaches that all people are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights including the rights “to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”.

It is my sincere hope that we can put an end to seeking discord within our community and pull together.  We need to do what is best for the children in our schools. We need to all work together and be united. 

I am open to meeting with you to discuss these issues if you so wish.  Please feel free to contact me.

(email response from Joseph Kromholz)

Jennifer Kienbaum

Hello Mike,

To answer your questions 

1.  Unfortunately, being only 1 of 7 members on the Whitewater School Board, I can’t assure that the mistakes with regards to the restrictions will not be repeated, however I can assure you that if/when those conversations happen, I will continue to represent the community in stating that our district needs to remain open, masks need to be optional and we need to think long and hard as a board before we mandate restrictions going forward.

2. With regards to the question on critical race theory, I stated that critical race theory is typically taught at a college level and is not a topic of conversation in grades K-12. I also stated that I don’t believe in censoring classroom discussions about the meaning of race if we want to prepare young Americans for the responsibility of democratic citizenship in our increasingly diverse multicultural society. That being said, I do not have a problem discussing facts of history. However, I do not feel that it is appropriate for a teacher to insert his/her beliefs into what is being taught to our students. All curriculum needs to be reviewed and approved by the board and if there is something that you are aware is being discussed in the classroom that is of concern, I ask that you bring it to my attention so it can be addressed with the director of curriculum or if needed addressed by the Board.. 

With regards to discussion about LGBT, I stated that as a district we need to focus on teacher training surrounding how they respond to questions and support students, we need to ensure we are communicating with parents which could help navigate sensitive topics such as this and adopt a neutral position with the priority of providing a safe environment for all. I am of the belief that discussions about LGBTQ should be conducted at the household level and not in the classroom.  However, given the number of suicide attempts by LGBTQ youth, I feel it is important for our teachers to receive training to be able to support those students.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out. You are also welcome to contact me at 262-903-4566 if you would like to have a conversation regarding any of the topics above. 

Thank you,

Jen Kienbaum 

So again…. greatly appreciative of these answers from the candidates. Couple thoughts:

  • I don’t know if CRT was defined in the terms in which voters would define CRT. I think many voters would define/associate CRT (with regard to schools) with condemnation of America and with Black Lives Matter… maybe the 1619 project. I think Whitewater parents and voters (generally speaking) do not want books by Ibram Kendi or similar progressive authors in the hands of our teachers on school time.  
  • I am in gratitude for Kromholz answering the tough questions.
  • My suspicion (how else can I interpret?) is that Miguel Aranda is by far the most progressive candidate and will be the first candidate to enforce restrictions and the last to respect parents’ concerns regarding identity.

So tell me your thoughts…. email me or comment below. I wish you all much peace and love and joy.

-mike

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3 thoughts on “How did WUSD School Board Candidates Answer My Questions Regarding Restrictions and CRT?

  1. No one should be teaching schoolkids to hate America, to disdain all police, or to blame themselves for racial injustice just because they are White. But racial inequality is an important and indispensable part of our country’s history, like it or not. You cannot understand America today without coming to terms with our two centuries of slavery, state-sanctioned racial segregation in the post-slavery period, and the current high rates of poverty and imprisonment among African Americans. Students need to learn about this stuff in order to be informed participants in public debates and to understand why some of their fellow citizens may be struggling.

    If, by banning “critical race theory,” you mean removing all discussion of historical racial injustices from school curricula, you are proposing something counterproductive, dangerous, and ultimately harmful to our children. If you just mean prohibiting teachers from articulating extremist views on race (like those in my first sentence above), I don’t think you have much to worry about, because teachers don’t really teach these viewpoints in public schools. Fear of these extreme beliefs’ presence in the classroom is based on a canard meant to demonize the left and cause a moral panic among parents. For an accurate understanding of what critical race theory actually means, you should start with the Wikipedia article on it, though Mr. Kromholz is basically correct above.

    Regarding LGBTQ issues, why is any discussion of them in schools inappropriate? Like it or not, there are facts about both health and history, related to being LGBTQ, that students benefit from understanding. Parents are not always willing or able to share this objective information with their students. In a sex education class, students of all orientations should have access to factual information on how to have safer sex (when they are ready). This can keep them from getting potentially deadly diseases like AIDS and also protect the general public from the spread of these diseases. Inevitably, people are going to have sex, and the public bears part of the cost when they don’t know how to safely do it.

    A big part of our country’s recent history is the granting of greater legal rights to the LGBTQ population (e.g., marriage). Even if you disagree with these changes, you really cannot teach American history without describing and explaining them. Some students, of course, may have parents who believe homosexuality is immoral and the like, but what’s the harm of exposing students to the factual reality that homosexuality is now widely accepted (and commonly practiced) in our society? Our children will ultimately be adults, and it will be up to them to choose whose morality to embrace. More factual information, and also experience with a greater range of viewpoints, will allow them to make more rational and informed decisions when they are ready.

    Thank you for taking the time to read my response, which is grounded in common-sense rationality, and for putting together your blog.

    Like

  2. Question: What is the difference between the mafia and the government?
    Answer: They are the same, but the government is better at it.

    Like

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