Glendale-River Hills School Board Candidate Questionnaire

  1. Why are you seeking election to the Glendale-River Hills Board of Education?

    Katie Avalos: I am seeking election to the Glendale-River Hills Board of Education because I care deeply about our district and our community. With the last long-term board member leaving his seat this year, it felt like an important moment to step up to the plate. Our district has many strengths and so much potential, and I want to make sure nothing gets overlooked due to the relative newness of the board and administration. I also want to make sure that work that has already recently been done surrounding strategic planning and equity don't get lost as the district shifts and changes in the coming months. These things were worked on by the community for the community and should be honored. They should also make some things easier as foundation is already in place on which to build.

    Karn Cronwell: A strong pro-public school board is key to sustaining and further enriching high quality educational systems, and high quality schools are key to healthy communities. I bring unique insights from personal and professional experiences that have already influenced policies. These last several years have offered an extraordinary challenge to educational staff and school boards. Our students, educators, and community deserve dedicated board members working with them to ensure the best education possible for our students. I look forward to continuing to serve the community as a school board member.

    Shana Lucas: Being an educator is an important aspect of my identity. I want to apply my experiences as a teacher and as a public servant to directly impact policies and decisions that affect the education and well-being of students in my community. I know from direct experience how school boards can shape curriculum, allocate resources, and ensure a positive learning environment for students and staff. It’s an important time to be a part of that in the Glendale-River HIlls school district.

    Christine Robinson: I am the proud parent of a GDRH alumna. I watched educators spark Rebecca’s love for learning and help guide her into becoming the person she is today. She was well-prepared to enter high school, and ultimately college. I want all parents in the district to be able to say that. Having recently participated in the district’s strategic planning process, and sorted through all of the data that guided it, I am hopeful about the future of our district. Yet, much work is yet to be done. We need to close the opportunity gap. I want families to feel like their students are adequately challenged, as well as adequately supported. I want educators to feel equipped and empowered to meet the needs of all students who come into their classrooms. I want our schools to have the resources they need. Finally, I want all students to feel like they belong, are cared about, and have the support and opportunities they need to be successful. As a school board member, you have my word that I will work to ensure that your student has the best education, and the best school climate, that we can possibly provide.

  2. Explain how your personal and professional experiences will make you an effective school board member.

    Katie Avalos: The number one experience that sets me apart from other candidates is I have been attending school board meetings almost recreationally since the fall of 2017. After the April 2 election, the longest serving member on the board will be starting her 5th year. This election also marks the point at which the board will have completely turned over for the first time since I have been observing. The district has also had 3 superintendents in that time, each with a very different style, and I feel that my experiences in observing each can be helpful as the district prepares to search for another superintendent. I have also worked with board members and administrators as part of the Equity and Strategic Planning committees. Additionally, my day job is for a locally owned manufacturing company which, combined with being raised by someone in the trades, gives me a different perspective on education than many of my generation and also informs my opinions on teacher pay. My position on teacher pay is that it should be comparable to if not better than that of careers requiring similar levels of education in the private sector.

    Karn Cronwell: My 20+ years of experience as a public school OT includes being a collaborator/coach; staff mentor / trainer; policy development and staff training. When districts were faced with unexpected closures during the pandemic, my work focused full time within a specialized team to develop recommendations for reentry and supports anticipated for students as well as staff, recognizing the significant impact on future social emotional wellness, and capacity to function within community learning. I’ve presented and collaborated at the state level.
    I love Glendale-River Hills for its diversity and strong educational history. Both of our children attended the K-8 schools and Nicolet, accessing the gifted and talented programs, 504 accommodations, and many co-curriculars. I have volunteered to coordinate and support PTO programs, participated on district interview committees, and co-led a girl scout troop from K5 thru 9th grade.
    With Glendale I have served on the Plan Commission as well as on the 2040 Comprehensive Master Plan vision committee to develop the 20 year vision for our city; our discussions were strongly focused on education as an essential component of a healthy community.

    Shana Lucas: I am an educator with 15 years of experience in K-12 schools. I’m currently finishing up a graduate program in Education Policy and leadership that has taught me a tremendous amount about what school leaders at all levels do to create the optimal learning conditions for students and families. I’m an alumni of Public Allies, an Americorp program that was among my first authentic experiences in leadership and community engagement. As a former Special Education Teacher, I have been an advocate for marginalized students for many years and want to continue to be a voice for the community’s concerns and priorities by fostering collaboration and dialogue to address the educational needs of all students.

    Christine Robinson: Like the vast majority of our community, I appreciate the diversity that our district offers. Our students will be better equipped to work in a diverse workplace, and to experience what the world has to offer, because of their friendships and teamwork with diverse classmates. I am committed to ensuring that everyone feels a sense of belonging, that the district continues to look at decisions through an Equity Lens, and continues to practice the Equity Non Negotiables. I support our district’s movement toward culturally responsive teaching practices, and hope we can implement features of Universal Design, where supports are available for all students who need it. I enthusiastically support the district’s efforts to close the opportunity gap.
    I also appreciate collaboration and community engagement. As I read the survey results that guided our district’s strategic planning process, I was again reminded of the investment, expertise, and wisdom found in our community. As we make difficult decisions regarding our district’s budget, search for a superintendent, and as we consider other significant issues, I believe in the importance of input from all constituencies. We need to make participation convenient and significant for our busy families.
  3. Explain how your personal and professional experiences will make you an effective school board member.

    Katie Avalos: I believe diversity is one of the biggest strengths of Glendale-River Hills. I feel strongly that the only way to fully benefit from this strength is for the district to pursue equity at every turn. This means meeting students and families where they are at and giving them what they need to grow, which is sometimes more than others. This means making sure that everyone is included even if some barriers seem almost insurmountable, it is the district's job to find a way to make it happen. I also believe that "success" does not look the same for every individual. Not every student needs to be college bound, though they should all have that option when the time comes to choose. We also need to promote other options as being equally as valid and worthy of pursuit. Additionally, I believe in figuring out how to use resources that are already available before using money to solve problems. Sometimes the only option will be to spend money, but sometimes our community has other solutions for us that we only need to find a way to access.

    Karn Cronwell: I believe that education is a primary pathway to stronger communities and individual future achievement. Strong public education supports students in myriad ways - recognizing that strong social emotional skills / emotional regulation is key to a student’s ability to focus and engage in learning; feeling part of your educational community is key for all students. Students' intelligence may follow the traditional academic ways AND ALSO within the visual or performing arts or athletics, so ensuring equitable access to robust opportunities to academics, arts, and athletics is essential to a strong public education system.

    Shana Lucas: I have come to believe in the power of community and the importance of calling on all stakeholders to be a collective impetus for change. I believe that leaders who trust others with decision making and empower others to share leadership create school communities that challenge systems of inequality. I believe a district’s core principles should involve equity and inclusion. I have become increasingly aware of how a commitment to the community and a strong value system impacts a leader’s ability to sustain an organization through a process of transformation or growth.

    Christine Robinson: As a board member, I would leverage my experience to meet the challenges of our district. I am a public school special education teacher and certified dyslexia tutor, having immersed myself in the Science of Reading in order to improve my students’ outcomes. My expertise in literacy, and knowledge of special education, will equip me to assist the district in implementing the provisions of Act 20 and to ensure that all students are successful. As a parent of a gifted and talented alumna, I understand the importance of making sure our students are adequately challenged. Prior to being an elementary school teacher, I served as vice president for student development/dean of students at a local university. As a former administrator, I am skilled at policy development, problem-solving, and mobilizing resources effectively. I also did considerable work in crisis prevention, crisis response, and crisis communication. I facilitated diverse groups of stakeholders through collaboration on staff selection, policy development, and special events. My team made significant improvements in the support services provided for students with physical and mental health needs. As a loaned executive with fundraising organizations, I am prepared to speak compellingly about our district and its funding needs.

  4. Many controversies have surrounded public education in the last several years. Are any of them of particular concern to you?

    Katie Avalos: The controversy I am most concerned about right now when it comes to public education is book banning/restriction. I believe wholeheartedly that our students deserve access to more books, not fewer. Our diverse student population needs to see itself reflected in our school libraries and classrooms. Any guardian has the right to restrict access for their own student, however, restricting access for the entire student population is cruel and completely unreasonable. I am so proud that Glen Hills Middle School specifically ADDED books to their collection this past summer to honor the request of the schools LGBTQ population for more representations. I am also very concerned and troubled by School Choice which takes much needed funding from our already underfunded public schools and gives it to religious schools, which seems to cross the line of "separation of church and state."

    Karn Cronwell: Underfunding public education is a profound issue. Compared to 2010 funding models, our per pupil funding is more than $3000 LESS. Special Education funding continues to be woefully low; at 33.3% it desperately fails to meet the financial demand of student needs. Our representatives created a largely unfunded mandate with ACT 20 - requiring more of our district staff and resources with limited financial support. Due to the long standing state funding formula, GDRH receives almost no state equalization aid, which again translates to a higher local burden on taxpayers.
    Another significant issue facing educational communities is the lack of teachers and substitutes. Districts across the country are struggling to fill teacher vacancies -An NCES survey from October 2023 indicates that 86% of public schools report difficulties hiring teachers for the 2023-24 school year. Turnover is highly disruptive to our educational communities. My goal as a board member is to attract and RETAIN dedicated, engaging educators.

    Shana Lucas: School board members have the responsibility to advocate for the best interest of all students, ensuring that their needs are met and that they have access to high-quality education, resources, and support services. Controversies created by groups or individuals that promote intolerance, prejudice, or outright discrimination have created an environment of hostility for too many of our students and staff. Everyone has the right to a safe learning environment. I want to work to create policies that promote equity, diversity and inclusion within the school district.

    Christine Robinson: I am concerned about attempts to ban books. So often, these books represent the experiences of people who are marginalized. When these books are removed, we intensify the marginalization. Already, we know that children are prone to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and isolation. Many times, the books give representation. Students feel less alone if they read about someone who is experiencing what they are experiencing. I will not victimize children by further isolating them.
    I am also concerned about laws that prohibit educators from showing support for ALL of their students. Students who do not know if they will be accepted tend to assume that silence means non-acceptance. Schools and educators need to be able to show the active inclusion of our students.
    I am also concerned about laws that prohibit educators from sharing factual information about history. Part of the purpose of public education is to prepare students to be responsible citizens. Whereas we need to ensure that our teaching is developmentally appropriate, we owe it to our students, and our country, to provide factual information to enable them to become well-informed, critical-thinking adults.

  5. Please provide your personal information.

    Katie Avalos: I have lived in Glendale for 17 years and been a district parent for 14 years. I am a mother of 3 with a son who is a senior at Nicolet and two daughters still in Glendale-River Hills as 6th and 7th graders at Glen Hills. My daughters are very active in extra curriculars at Glen Hills and my 7th Grader was recently the first Student Ambassador to the School Board.

    Karn Cronwell: No additional information.

    Shana Lucas: 5245 N. Bethmaur Ln, Glendale, WI 53209

    Christine Robinson: Education is a significant part of my life’s purpose. After spending a number of years supporting college students through their crises, challenges, and dreams, I made a mid-life career change to elementary special education. When my students were not making significant reading gains, I realized it was up to me to do something different. My subsequent certification as a dyslexia tutor has helped them to make the gains I was hoping for. When there is a problem, like inadequate reading growth, I am relentless in my search for solutions. I am truly a life-long learner, who commits to learning everything I can to support our district in providing an excellent education and nurturing community for every student.