By Brandi Makuski
Officials from the Stevens Point School District say three local residents have applied to fill an empty seat on the school board prior to Wednesday’s deadline.Angel Faxon, Dan Kontos and David Colby have all applied for the vacancy created when former Board Member Alex Kochanowski resigned on April 1, Keaton Schultz, an 18 year-old SPASH senior, had previously applied but has since withdrawn for undisclosed reasons.
Faxon is at the end of her first term in office, but lost a re-election bid after receiving the lowest number of votes among four contestants for three seats in April. She said she’s running for the appointment because many parents and district employees have asked her to do so.
“And I’ve had a lot of people say they didn’t go out to vote because they had no idea I could lose the seat,” she said. “There is still so much work to do, and so many things coming up on the state level. I don’t want to lose the relationships and all the work we’ve taken all this time to build.”
Faxon said she spent most of her time as board president keeping the peace and “putting out fires”. The negative reputation of the board, she said, has too-long been the resting place for many local residents.
It’s taken away from the big achievements in the district, she said, to include the new Life Skills Center.
“That project took so long to finally get into place, and it’s something I’m really, really proud we could put in place in this community,” she said. “There is so much more I could contribute as a regular board member.”
SPASH senior David Colby is also running for the appointment. Colby, 18, is the son of a public school teacher and had previously served as a student liaison on the district’s Policy and Legislative Committee.
“I learned so much on that committee, and I feel I can contribute on the board as well,’ Colby said.
Colby also has experience as the editor of “The Mirror”, the SPASH newspaper, and participated in student senate. He is slated to attend UWSP in the fall but is undecided about his field of study. He said the perspective of a recent graduate would be a great benefit for the board.
“There are too many cuts coming in from the state,” he said. “I’ve seen the cuts, and my mom knows about the cuts first-hand, and I think I could help do something about it. One of my biggest goals is helping students succeed.”
Colby also said he’s not intimidated by the board’s negative reputation.
“I know if we stay on task we can get a lot of work done, and continue the district’s mission of making each student successful,” he said.
Kontos is a 20- year veteran of the United States Army and the chief deputy for the Portage Co. Sheriff’s Office.
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.
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.