3 candidates vie for 2 seats on Superior School Board
All agree the budget is the biggest challenge the district faces.
SUPERIOR — Three candidates — one incumbent and two challengers — are seeking seats on the Superior School Board in the April 4 election.
Nick Schumacher, 41, is a father of three and oversees 11 Caribou Coffee locations in the Twin Ports and Iron Range in his role as district manager.
“I want our district to be the best that it can be; assure that we educate and prepare our students to be contributing and respectful members of society; and hold the district administration and school board members accountable for critical decisions,” Schumacher said. “I see and hear about great things happening in the district, and I’ll add to the positive and build on it. I plan to ask teachers how we can better support them and also provide more ways for parents to be heard.”
A mother of two, Shawnu Ksicinski, 40, serves as executive director of Progress North, an independent project focused on connecting individuals and organizations in Northwest Wisconsin across race, class, gender, sexual orientation, generation and geography.
“I truly believe it takes a community to raise children,” Ksicinski said, and she wants to serve as an advocate for them. “I am running because I believe as a community we need to make sure all kids in our community and school district should feel supported, safe and have access to all the resources necessary to continue to make them successful.”
Retired educator, administrator, coach and activities director Steven Olson, 68, said he is seeking a second term because of the passion, pride and admiration he has for the education in the district, and for the community.
“I believe in building strong relationships, within our school district and the community of Superior as a whole. It is my moral imperative, my north star, to always make decisions as to what is best for all our students first,” said Olson, who strongly supports the district’s mission and vision goals. “I also believe that ‘all means all’ is inclusive of our adminstration, teachers, support staff and all other members who contribute to the success of our school district.”
The candidates agreed that the budget is one of the two top issues facing the district. They differ on what the second issue is, however.
For Ksicinski, it’s how to address the increasing mental health needs of students.
“Our district isn't alone in facing these challenges, and I believe that in this particular instance it would be incredible to see our students and staff/teachers be at the center of proposing potential solutions that meet everyone's needs,” she said.
Retention of high quality, effective teachers, administrators, support staff, bus drivers, paraprofessionals and other district employees was Olson’s second concern.
“The school district values all the staff within our organization and the direct impact they have on the students they work with on a daily basis,” he said. “We need to continue to provide the staff with highly effective instructional practices throughout all of our schools.”
For Schumacher, the second most important issue is addressing below-grade level proficiency in core subjects.
Candidates were asked what they hope to accomplish on the board.
“I will be a positive, informed and prepared board member,” Schumacher said. “I expect to see momentum and gains in budgetary issues; answers for an increase in student proficiency; and more transparency between district administration/school board members and the community.”
Ksicinski hopes to be a voice on the board that supports and pushes forward the visionary goals and strategic plan, and what comes next.
“What I have seen is that our district has led the charge in its equity and inclusion goal, and I would like to be a participant in continuing to help our district reach those goals and plan for even more growth in the future,” she said. “I also hope to be able to help our district maintain fiscal stability, making decisions about the budget that don't sacrifice meeting the needs of students, staff, teachers and our broader community.”
Olson is committed to the district’s vision, "In Superior, all means all, every student, every day," and wants to be part of a team that seeks solutions to challenges.
“We must keep our vision, our goals, our priorities centered around student learning,” he said. “It is our road map for our efforts to raise achievement levels, provide for student growth for all of our students, to narrow and or close achievement gaps, to ensure all students have the knowledge and skills for living, learning, and working successfully when they exit our school system.”
All of the candidates supported Gov. Evers’ proposed state budget as it pertains to schools. Additional funding for education, mental health needs and special education, they said, would help alleviate the financial strain the district is facing. However, they all agreed, it is just a proposal at this point.
What to cut
The district is anticipating a $4 million budget shortfall in the 2024-2025 school year if there is no change in the state funding formula. The three candidates sounded off on how they would prioritize future budget cuts.
“The school board in Superior is a policy-making or governance board,” Olson said. “We are not involved in the operational function, the day-to-day decision making of this school district. That being said, if the board were involved in that decision making process of how to prioritize the necessary cuts, it would be my expectation that everything from top to bottom needs to be looked at with a fine-tooth comb. We would need access to all of the information and take the necessary time to determine what is going to be the right thing to do for everyone involved in our school district and community.”
“When it comes to making decisions about how and where to make 'cuts,' the thing I will always prioritize is making sure all needs are being met for our students, staff, teachers and community,” Ksicinski said. “That means making sure that low-income students are not the ones most impacted by the cuts; and making sure that mental health and special education resources are not the first to be cut. I also truly believe it takes more than just one person weighing in on these decisions, so the community committee already being convened by the administration will provide a lot of insight as to what our community believes is needed to continue to meet the needs of all in our district.”
“A projected $4 million dollar shortfall is significant and needs considerable attention,” Schumacher said. “One important factor in prioritizing budget decisions and changes needs to be asking for input from teachers, school district staff and the community.”
Family: Korri, my husband and partner; Chloe, 13 years old; Jadrien, 3.5 years old; Frankie (our puppy), 1 year old
Occupation: Executive director of Progress North — a regional organization focused on civic and community engagement, particularly voting rights, caring economy (predominantly focused on child care, health care and addressing the opioid epidemic), and racial, gender and economic justice.
Civic and community engagement: Currently Citizen Action Wisconsin Board Member and part of the DreamUp city planning committee; formerly President of the Police and Fire Commission; President of the YWCA-Duluth Board of Directors; Member of the CDBG Board in Superior.
Family: Wife, Annie, and three children ages 14, 10 and 7
Occupation: District manager for Caribou Coffee
Civic and community engagement: Youth sports coach for 20 years, active with local church youth and children's programs.
Family: Married to Wendy Olson; children Brett (Melissa) Olson, Ashlee (Dustin) Ritchie, Trenton Olson
Government/Civic Experience: School board member 2020-2023, Vice President 2022-23; Parks and Recreation commissioner; President, Vice President and board member Superior Youth Organization (SYO); President and board member Tri State Officials Association; President and member of the Lake Superior Basketball Association (LSBA), and Great Northern Officials (GN)O) Association; member of the Superior Federation of Teachers, Wisconsin Athletic Directors Association (WADA), Wisconsin Administrators of Schools Association, the Superior Administrators Association, Wisconsin Association of School Boards, Superior High School Scholarship Committee, Superior Scholarship Foundation.