BELOIT - Because there are five School District of Beloit Board of Education candidates for two open seats, one of the candidates will be eliminated in the primary election on Feb. 20, according to information from Michelle Shope, board secretary for the School District of Beloit.
Voters will be voting to move four of the five candidates forward to the spring election. The two candidates receiving the highest number of votes in the April 3 general election will be elected to serve on the board beginning at the end of April for a three-year term each. Whenever there are one more than twice the number of seats open, a primary election is required.
The regular nine polling places in Beloit will be reduced to two, with voters in wards 1-12 voting at the Beloit Historical Society, 845 Hackett St., and voters in wards 13-25 voting at Central Christian Church, 2460 Milwaukee Road. All absentee ballots for wards 1-25 will be processed at city hall by the Municipal Board of Absentee Canvassers, according to information from the city.
The terms of former board president Lisa Anderson-Levy and Dennis Baskin are up this year in April, and both have announced they will not seek re-election. Newcomers Kyle Larsen, Kathy Crawford, Sarah Weiss, David Wilson and Otis Johnson have filed papers to run for the open seats.
If elected, Larsen said he will work to retain teachers, lower class sizes and improve discipline. He also hopes to help connect the district with more mental health resources from other organizations so it can provide more services to students and families in need.
Larsen is married and has three daughters attending schools in the district. He is a former teacher at Robinson Elementary School. Larsen left the district in December of 2016, and is currently a teacher in the Delavan-Darien School District where he teaches in the kindergarten dual language program.
Kathy Crawford said she's running to help retain the School District of Beloit's quality teachers and provide a better education for kids. She said one key to improving turnover rates is to make teachers feel appreciated and supported. In addition to celebrating and rewarding teachers, she suggested fixing the disconnect between administration and school staff. Crawford works at Walgreens as a certified pharmacy technician and is a community outreach coordinator through Americorps. She is a single mother of six children and three grandchildren.
David Wilson works at Visit Beloit as the director of visitor services, responsible for the management for the Beloit Travel Wisconsin Welcome Center. Wilson is married to Janay Banks-Wilson, assistant principal at Beloit Memorial High School, and they have two children.
If elected, Wilson said he hopes to provide resources for staff and faculty through professional development training and work with staff to create change. He said the district needs to be able to recruit and retain staff and have salaries and benefits on par with other districts. He would also like a formal review of the district's code of conduct to make it more restorative than punitive.
Otis Johnson hopes to help the district do its due diligence in conducting a nationwide superintendent search. He also is a strong supporter of enforcing the code of conduct to improve student discipline and supporting new teachers through mentorships. Johnson said he is a pragmatist and hopes to make level-headed decisions to benefit the most stakeholders. He believes the city and school district need to work together closely and he has high aspirations for both.
Johnson's been a real estate broker and owner with RE/MAX Ignite for the past year. He is married to Stephanie Shaw Johnson, and they have one daughter.
Sarah Weiss works at Upward Bound, a federally funded pre-college program through Beloit College. Her primary focus will be on teacher engagement and morale. Weiss said she's passionate about equitable education - meeting students, staff and family where they are.
Weiss said she has no agenda besides students and student success. She also said she has a willingness to learn the job, and has the energy and time to devote to learning board member responsibilities and district needs. She plans to regularly visit schools, noting her experience as a teacher would be helpful in the areas of curriculum and instruction.