The primary election next Tuesday, Feb. 15 in the Kiel Area School District will reduce a field of eight candidates to six ahead of the April 5 election in which three Board of Education members will be elected.
Incumbents Dan Dietrich, Philip Schaefer and Tony Johannes are all seeking re-election. Their seats are being challenged by Diana Sitzman-Schaefer, Jamie Henschel, Markus Ladd, Andrea Doute and Mike Joas.
Following are the replies of each candidate to a candidate survey provided to them by the Tri-County News. Their replies are printed in their entirety as supplied to the Tri-County News. The order in which their replies are printed was determined by a random drawing conducted by News staff.
Jamie Henschel has been working for Kohler Company for 29 years.
He started as a tub grinder in the foundry and is currently a supervisor for the Global Power Service building.
Henschel has been married to his wife Heather for 13 years. “I have three kids, Cody, age 29; Wyatt, 9; and Hailey, 2,” Jamie said. “Wyatt has attended Zielanis Elementary for almost five years. We live in School Hill and last year I had the opportunity to coach the Peewee baseball team for the School Hill Athletic Club. We are members of the St. James UCC Church in Spring Valley and I currently hold a leadership role on the Educational Board for the church. I also am a part of the Land Committee for the Township of Meeme.
“My daily tasks as a supervisor are to communicate and organize the needs of the business. To oversee the employees, provide guidance, support, identify needs and manage the relationship between staff and the organization. Most importantly, help people become successful and provide ongoing, timely feedback. I think these traits would transfer well as a member of the School Board.
“An important issue in the Kiel School District are the below average scores in the Elementary and High School. We need to identify where we are failing and address these issues. If the teachers need help, we need to address it now—not next year. If our teachers ask for help, we need to react. If we do not, we are letting the students down and just passing it on to the next year. This is not acceptable. Our students should be our number-one priority.
“There needs to be more transparency in the School Board. People aren’t being heard. They refuse to answer questions from the people that elected them. They ignore what the community wants and asks for. It’s time for a change.
“Why should you vote for me? I’m a person that can’t sit back and watch things fail. Watching the Kiel School District fail is not an option for me. I will lead and drive results. Below-average scores are not acceptable and our teachers and students deserve better.
“If we need to have a meeting every week to resolve the issues, then that is what we need to do. All hands on deck. We need to celebrate our wins but also identify and then resolve our failures.
“Our community is full of great people and leaders. We need to let them give suggestions, we need to listen and collaborate with them. All voices need to be heard. Communication is number one. We all have the same goals. Let’s help our kids to succeed.”
Diana Sitzman Schaefer
Diana Sitzman Schaefer is a homemaker but previously worked in gaming regulation, internal auditing, real estate and substitute teaching.
She has been married to retired Navy Master Chief Jason Schaefer since 1997. They have two sons. Ocean, 14, attends Between The Lakes Virtual Academy and Lucian, 12, attends Kiel Middle School. Diana’s parents are Ron and Carol Sitzman of Kiel and Danie (Doyle) and the late Kent Wilson of Sheboygan.
“We moved to Kiel in 2018 so our boys could grow up with their cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles,” she said. “Over the years, I have served my communities as a board member for various church, professional and HOA organizations and volunteered in various other capacities. For example, in Memphis, I organized community service and fundraising projects within my company to benefit the students at an economically disadvantaged elementary school and a local community center. In Pensacola I organized a community service project for military members to assist local residents. Most recently I’ve volunteered to tutor here in Kiel.”
Schaefer has not previously held public office. She said, “As a military spouse for the past 24 years, we moved every three to five years so public office was not an option.”
Asked about her qualifications which would make her a good school board member, Schaefer said, “Educationally, I hold a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Business Administration. I have lived in five states as well as Japan, and Kiel is the fourth school district my boys have attended. While living in Washington State, I worked with several tribes in casino gaming regulation, licensing and related consulting. In Tennessee and Nevada, I worked in the Corporate Internal Audit Department of Harrah’s and Caesars Entertainment where I initially led financial and operational compliance and control audits and eventually managed the Information Technology Audit Services team out of Las Vegas, assessing risk, performing audits, advising on project management and system development teams, and implementing and managing audit systems and providing training and support to our teams. I am a licensed real estate agent in Florida and while in Japan and Kiel I substitute taught in the middle and high schools gaining insight into today’s classrooms and the opportunities and challenges faced by students and teachers. I feel that my diversity of experiences and related skills would provide alternate and valuable perspectives to the Board of Education.”
As for her perception of issues facing the Kiel Area School District, Schaefer said, “I feel the most important issue presently facing the district is the lack of proficiency demonstrated in Math and English at the High School. Our DPI School Report Card overall score of 50.3 is essentially a failing grade. I am concerned that approximately 85 students scored “below basic” in math last year and yet our graduation rates are very high. Short term, I would say we need to identify the students who need extra instruction and provide it, potentially during Raider time, before they graduate. Long term, we need to identify the root causes of the issues and implement changes to address them. One of those challenges is mental health and I’m glad to see the district taking steps to address that. I would see the next step to be gathering feedback from students and teachers as to the other challenges they each face in their classroom efforts, such as academic and behavioral expectations and standards, and classroom disruptions and distractions.
“CRT is also a current issue. It is a hot topic nationally, people understand it differently, and it divides many. For myself, I simply want to see the district take a stance against divisive teaching methods and materials. Kids should not be taught that they are inherently victims or victimizers, oppressed or oppressors, based on skin color. Teach them history and alternate perspective; don’t make them the cause of the problem but guide all of them to being part of the solution. If people don’t feel that this is currently an issue, what harm is there in proactively taking steps to ensure it doesn’t become one?
“Finally, I don’t believe we are sufficiently challenging all of the students. Standards-based grading sets the bar at a 3 (which is a B or better), allows multiple attempts to get there, and recognizes straight 3’s as high honor roll. Consequently, many kids don’t see a reward for getting there the first time, consistent recognition for exceeding the standard, or even the value in working harder or going above and beyond. The KASD Mission includes, ‘Everyone must be challenged to reach their full potential.’ I do not believe this is happening. I feel that we need to raise the bar for our kids; set higher expectations and rewards, rules and natural consequences. They will rise to the challenge.”
Schaefer added, “I am running for the KASD BOE to do what I can to ensure my sons, my niece and nephews, their friends, and all the kids in our community are provided the best education we can give them to adequately prepare them for whatever path they desire to follow in life.”
Markus J. Ladd is a registered representative for Saxony Securities, Inc. He also is the executive director of the Kiel Educational Endowment Fund, a trustee on the Manitowoc-Calumet Library Board, and a life member of the Kiel Historical Society. Ladd also has served in the past as a Kiel Board of Education member.
Asked about his qualifications for being a good board member, Ladd said, “In addition to serving on the Kiel School Board which helped me understand various aspects of the Kiel School District functioning—such as fund balance and other terms—I have served as chairman of the West Virginia Coal Association and the West Virginia Mining and Reclamation Association.”
As for issues he perceives are facing the KASD, Ladd said, “Declining enrollment due to various reasons affects school systems in non-urban areas. The Kiel School System has addressed this issue with eSchool, the Between the Lakes Virtual Academy, an Agricultural Department, Industrial Arts and strong music and art instruction.”
Ladd added, “Kiel has provided a broad spectrum of academic, cultural options, a variety of sports and special needs programs. The system and the public needs people on its School Board to maintain these diverse needs. I would be proud to serve on the School Board.”
Dan Dietrich is employed as a part-time delivery driver. He has a daughter Ashley and two grandsons.
Dietrich served on the City of Kiel Planning Commission for 18 years. He is currently serving on the Kiel Area School District Board of Education and has for the past 21 years.
Asked about his qualifications to be a good School Board member, Dietrich said, “I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and taught high school. I have 21 years of School Board experience.
“I have good communication skills and excellent listening abilities. I am fully prepared to discuss items on the meeting agenda and make decisions based on what’s best for our students. I continue to gain professional development by attending school board workshops, etc. to keep current with educational trends. I’ve owned a business and understand the financial responsibilities of good fiscal management.”
As for issues he believes are presently facing the KASD, Dietrich presented them as follows:
Issue—The social and emotional health and well being of our students and staff due to the COVID pandemic.
Solution—Provide onsite counseling services and hire appropriate qualified staff to enhance coverage using ESS grant funds.
Issue—Increasing test scores at the high school.
Solution—Approve a professional development plan to improve ACT and student achievement at the high school.
Issue—Continual fiscal management to keep a balanced budget.
Solution—Prudent use of funds from school aid funding and U.S. government programs; careful use of 840 monies. Prudent management of our self-funded health insurance premiums.
Dietrich added, “The current board was an early participant in establishing a virtual charter school for on-line learning and added the Between the Lakes Academy for 4K-12 coverage (have 25 partnering districts). We have increased our partnerships with local businesses, industry and trade entities and Lakeshore Technical College. Refurbished the high school athletic complex and built a new Performing Arts Center from an approved referendum. Are supporting and carrying out a strategic plan which was built by the community. We openly live stream all board meetings and district events, thus keeping transparency. We take a ‘Kid First’ mentality when making decisions.’”
Mike Joas was born and raised in Kiel and is a graduate of Kiel High School. He married his high school sweetheart in 2001. They have remained in the Kiel Area School District and are raising two sons.
He attended several trade school programs to advance his knowledge in the family business. During his senior year, he started managerial duties and in 2002 he took over the reins of the business from his parents. The business—Joe’s Auto Body Tractor—just marked 50 years in business in 2021. During the years in business, Mike and his family have adjusted to the changes of the industry and focused on their passion for tractor restoration.
Mike and his father have grown a business that reaches far beyond the Kiel Area School District. The business has done business with customers in 26 states as well as Puerto Rico and the Netherlands. As manager of the business, Mike has learned the importance of thinking outside of the box, adjusting to economic changes, and listening to his customers. Problem solving is an every day task requiring communication throughout the supply chain. Additionally, he manages aspects of the business finances and the budgets related to the various restorations.
Mike still finds time to help and give back to the community. He has volunteered time to various local clubs and organizations in the Kiel area. He has held office positions in the FFA Alumni & Supporters, a local tractor club and Holy Trinity in School Hill. He has served one prior term on the Kiel School Board.
Joas said he spends more than just time when working with the community. He and his family donated their time and resources to completely paint and customize the interior of the Kiel FFA Alumni and Supporters trailer which is seen and used by the FFA kids at community events such as the annual Kiel Picnic.
When free time can be found, Joas said he enjoys hobby farming with his family. The hobby farm includes raising a beef herd and caring for goats, horses and chickens. The family will also do a little cash cropping each year.
Joas said he cares about the education of the community’s children and continues to participate in the district to bring awareness to the current board and administration.
He said, “As a life-long community member and local business owner, I feel it is very important for our district to prepare our students for the real world. We have great teachers and staff working in our district. I want everyone to be able to leave the school with an education which makes them a valuable citizen to any community, regardless where they choose to live in the future.
“When talking with the management of our district, the superintendent and the Board of Education, it has become apparent schools are charged with so much more than educating the students. Unfortunately, this has resulted in performance numbers and metrics that concern me. If you look at our five-year State Report Card history trends, it is difficult to find bright spots. Our teacher turnover ratio in our district also needs to be reviewed. Our current performance leaves our students behind as they move into the real world and our teachers frustrated. I want to work with the board to advance our educational goals and figure out what is not working. I do not want anyone to view our district as kicking the can down the road. We need to fix matters now.”
Joas added, “Community members and parents have expressed concerns about our district’s future. This includes the ability for the community to engage with the board to voice concerns and solve problems together. I have learned the importance of having open communication with customers. As a self-employed individual, I understand how to work with all types of personalities and issues and the importance of leaving everyone with a positive experience. This includes being respectful of all opinions and talking through the issues.
“I believe one of the most important foundations about public education is local leadership and participation. We need to keep our district away from ideas that may not reflect the values of our community and certainly do not need the divisiveness currently at the national level. I want to focus on the school doing what it is charged to do—educate our children.”
Andrea Doute is employed as a radiologic technologist at Aurora Healthcare. She was born and raised in School Hill by her parents, Dennis and Helen Brost. She attended and graduated from Kiel High School in 2006 and attended X-ray school in Green Bay at Bellin Health. “My husband and I came back to Kiel in 2016 to raise our three daughters, currently 8, 5 and 3,” she said. “We attend Ss. Peter & Paul Church and I work locally at the Aurora Clinic in Kiel. My husband, a 2005 Kiel grad, is the director of finance at Dorsch Ford in Green Bay. Together, we live in Rockville and remain active with our girls’ extra-curriculars.”
Asked about her qualifications to be a good school board member, Doute said, “Having three daughters attending the district, I have a personal, vested interest in their life-long learning as well as the overall construct of the district educational system as a whole. Also, working in the healthcare setting, I am constantly needing to be advocates for patients in a wide range of scenarios. I believe actively listening and responding to feedback and keeping community members, teachers and kids informed is no different than the respect patients should be receiving with their healthcare.”
As for issues she believes are facing the KASD at this time, Doute said, “I have been consistently and actively attending School Board meetings, so I am aware of the current issues/concerns the district faces. It’s hard to fully grasp the situation at times when it feels, as a community member, that questions and answers aren’t being openly provided. My hope and intentions are to help bridge that ‘transparency’ gap by adequately providing the best, open form of communication, while still providing the integrity and trust that is expected by the elected board members. Without having this fundamental basis present and consistent at all times, it’s difficult for parents, teachers and community members to feel confident in the work of the board.”
Doute added, “I know the current members on the board have been dealing with some crucial topics (Critical Race Theory, academic reports, legal matters) so I thank them for their time and dedication to that. I’m just hoping to have the opportunity to provide different angles and viewpoints on behalf of the children, whether in-district, open enrolled, or virtual. I want to drive change in transparency as we strive to raise the next generation.”
Tony Johannes is employed as a math teacher at Sheboygan North High School. He said, “My wife Cary and I have two children, and our family loves the community of Kiel. Addy is a ninth grader attending Kiel High School and Elise is a third grader at Zielanis Elementary School. My daughters enjoy soccer, basketball acting and music. This means I have had the opportunity to volunteer to coach their teams or help in other ways as needed.”
In October, Johannes was selected to join the Kiel Area School District Board of Education. Asked about his qualifications for being a good board member, he said, “For 25 years, I have served the students and families of Sheboygan as a math teacher. In that role I have worked as North’s Math Department chair, city wide math chair, numerous committee heads and led various curriculum adoptions. I have also served as my church’s president and pastoral relations chairperson. In all of my leadership positions, I manage budgets of various sizes, I strive to build consensus with all decisions and I communicate openly and transparently.”
As for issues he perceives are facing the district, Johannes said, “The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone including our students. At a recent School Board meeting our counselors shared the challenges they are facing on a daily basis and how overwhelmed everyone is feeling. Our students cannot succeed academically if they are struggling with various mental health challenges. I believe it is vital for the district to assess our current needs and find ways to provide additional training for current staff and add additional counselor(s) or social worker(s) as needed.”
He added, “The recent state report card reflected great academic success at both Zielanis Elementary School and Kiel Middle School; however, it also showed we need to assess our practices at the high school and take steps to ensure our growth and academic achievement increase. I believe it is important that we ensure our graduates are career and college ready. This means we need to continue to develop our relationships with area businesses. Additionally, we need to make sure our students are meeting the benchmarks for academic success at the college level. This includes college prep classes, volunteer opportunities and involvement in clubs and other extracurricular activities.”
Johannes added, “Recognizing a challenge is important, but also having the ability to formulate solutions while working as a team is just as vital. During my time as an educator and my time on the Kiel Area School District’s Board of Education, I believe I have shown the ability to do both. I am excited to continue that work if elected.”
Philip Schaefer is employed as the security manager for Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. He is married to Jolene Schaefer and they have two sons, Cameron, 11; and Charlie, 8.
Schaefer has been a Board of Education member since 2019. He also is Kiel Baseball Club president/co-president, 2020 to present; coach in the Kiel Baseball Club from 2017 to present; and a Kiel Area Basketball Association coach (sixth grade boys) from 2021 to present.
“Most importantly, my commitment to serving the community, especially kids,” is what Schaefer said about why he is qualified to serve on the board. “I have had a successful career in public service, starting as a sheriff’s deputy and currently working at a community college. I strive to make well thought out decisions that positively affect those I serve. I pride myself in being able to articulate my perspective while listening to the perspective of others. I believe in making decisions based on known facts and understood impact, not on a political or personal agenda.”
Schaefer added, “There are a number of school district issues that are recurring—budget constraints, student success, aging buildings, etc. While the district budget is currently in a positive position, I will continue to work to be sure that money is spent wisely, having a direct impact on student success.
“Another issue is making sure that all are college or career ready. The district continues to partner with colleges and area businesses so that students understand their options, and prepare themselves according. I will continue to support those efforts.
“Last, the community has been divided, as is the nation, by the terrible state of politics. My board decisions will always be based on making sure all kids have an inclusive environment to learn, and not be influenced by politics.
“As a current board member, I have witnessed the tremendous efforts of teachers and staff, sometimes through extremely difficult circumstances, to go above and beyond for kids in this district. I am inspired by those efforts. I am running to continue on the board so that I can support these professionals and provide a work environment where they can be as successful as possible in their continued efforts to positively impact all of our kids and our community as a whole.”