Current applicants include a SPASH senior, chief deputy
“It’s that public appearance that detracts from the mission of those public teachers and administrators.”
By Brandi Makuski
Officials from the Stevens Point School District on Friday confirmed at least two local residents have applied to fill an empty seat on the school board.
Residents can still apply for the seat, vacated by former Board Member Alex Kochanowski, through the Wednesday deadline of 4:30 PM. Kochanowski resigned on April 1, just shy of one full year into his first term.
So far, Dan Kontos, 51, and 18 year-old Keaton Schultz have both applied for the spot. Kontos, a 20- year veteran of the United States Army, is the chief deputy for the Portage Co. Sheriff’s Office and has experience serving on numerous committees and boards.
Schultz, too, has experience serving on various boards, to include work with the Boys and Girls Club and Ignite Leadership of Portage County. The SPASH senior is employed by Skyward and has been taking business classes at UWSP for two years. He said there’s a “major shift” in K-12 education, and thanks to advancements in technology students are empowered to take responsibility for their own learning. He wants the board to recognize and lead the trend, but he’s also concerned with the board’s current reputation.
“I watch every [school board] meeting because it directly affects me, and I care about how we look to the community, and how others look at us,” Schultz said. “We’re not the most highly sought-after school board, and I want to change that.”
Schultz said his parents are cautiously supportive of his endeavor.
“They said, ‘make sure you know what you’re doing’,” he said. “The way my parents brought me up is, if you don’t like what’s happening, you have to do something about it or else you can’t complain about it. I don’t like what’s happening, so I’m doing something about it.”
Schultz also said applying for the seat is a little intimidating, but after seeing what he characterized as “unprofessionalism that’s not supposed to be on the board”, he’s willing to step into the arena.
“Professionalism is the key to moving fast, to getting things done,” he said. “Even on the other boards I’ve served on, people get angry…but if you’re angry, there’s a different way to go about doing it. And that’s not on this board. They need a new perspective and I think the board needs to realize students do listen to the meetings.”
Kontos said he’s vying for the seat because his work within county government would prove helpful- and because he has two girls in the public school system.
“I look at my two children who are going to be in the district for a while, and this is important: the board needs a new perspective,” he said. “I think the school board has a lot of good people on there, and it’s a hard job, I understand that. All I’m doing is saying, ‘if you need my help, here I am’. I believe in my heart of hearts everyone wants the same thing on the school board. How they want to get there might be different, but we have to maintain a world- class education system for our kids.”
Kontos said he’s “one of those geeks who likes to watch school board meetings” on the city’s Community TV channel, and his experience would benefit the board’s pending decisions and current challenges.
“I’ve got that background in things like budgets, finance, human resource questions and policies,” he said. “The board itself can look at things from a diverse, but in the end unified, perspective so we are free to give opinions in a robust but…gentile fashion at the same time. And when we’re done, respect the system and respect the outcome and move forward as a unified body. It’s that public appearance that detracts from the mission of those public teachers and administrators.”
Kontos has been with the sheriff’s office since January, 1995, and during that time has also been active with local fire departments, volunteering with the Red Cross and teaching at Mid-State Technical College. His wife, Amy, is a member of the Stevens Point police force and currently assigned as police liaison at P.J. Jacobs Junior High.
“The school board has huge impact on the latitude these professional educators and administrators have, and what they can do to innovate and teach students and, not only try new things, but also to concentrate on areas they need to concentrate on,” Kontos said. “And I think if we have some good folks on the school board- which we do- we can focus them in the right direction and alleviate a lot of the distractions these educators face that just takes away from their energy and their resources.”
Kontos isn’t the first law enforcement officer to vie for a spot on the board. Last year former SPPD Chief Kevin Ruder applied for a vacant seat left by former Board Member Renae Sheibley, who resigned for health reasons. Ruder eventually withdrew his name from consideration after he learned Meg Erler had also applied for the seat, who Ruder said was more qualified. After filling that appointment for several months, Erler was elected to a full term on the board in the spring election.
More details on applying for the seat can be found on the district’s website. The board is expected to fill the appointment at its April 27 meeting.
The appointee will then serve through April 2016, when the seat will return to the three-year election cycle.