Editor's note: An updated article with reponses from candidates unable to attend the forum can be found here.
Three out of the five candidates running for Milton School Board offered varying views Thursday of how the school district should communicate with the community. The Milton Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum Thursday night at Milton City Hall.
Participating candidates included incumbent Karen Hall and challengers Shelly Crull-Hanke and Chuck Jackson. Crull-Hanke previously served on Milton School Board while Jackson served on the Fort Atkinson School board.
Candidate Mike Hoffman was unable to attend due to illness. Candidate David Holterman was out of town due to a prior commitment.
On Feb. 18 voters will be asked to narrow the number of candidates from five to four.
Candidates were asked six predetermined questions and given 2 minutes to reply.
One questions asked was what are “appropriate and effective ways” of communicating with staff, media and the community.
Crull-Hanke said the district’s mission statement includes partnering with community and having a two-way communication.
“As a board, we need to speak as one voice when we go to speak with the media and the community,” she said. “And it should be one person, the board president talking.”
She said there should not be “special interest interviews, special editorials” by board members, nor should there be questions being answered “maybe out of context.”
“That’s been a part of what our lack of trust is from the community,” she said.
If the board speaks as one voice giving information in an honest and transparent and open way, she said, “We can gain that trust back.”
Hall said communication also is the administration’s responsibility.
They need to communicate to the community and staff what’s going on and provide as much accurate information as possible, she said.
“That is something that has not necessarily occurred over the course of the last several years,” Hall said. “I think that has led to a lot of miscommunication.”
“It’s again, being that respectful, honest speaking as one voice,” and she said it’s understanding individuals may not share the same opinion.
“We do have a right to our opinion,” she said. “That’s again something that should be conveyed to other board members and to administration but not necessarily spoken as the opinion of the board.”
Jackson referred to a quip at the start of the forum about Washington, D.C., this week.
“Unfortunately I think that Milton School District is somewhat a mirror image of that,” he said. “And in recent past, there’s no doubt there’s been polarity. There’s no doubt there’s been a lack of respect – maybe the right word is ‘understanding’ very strong versions of viewpoints.”
Jackson said the direct answer to the question is the board president, superintendent and communications director.
“Unfortunately, we have had some challenges in the recent past and all voices want to be heard and should be heard so that could be perceived as great turmoil,” he said. “But I think it’s honesty, and I think it’s board members doing what they believe they should be doing and that is putting their viewpoints and their ideas forward.
“Hopefully we can have a more unified board in the future.”
About three dozen people were seated in the audience.
Look for more school board candidate coverage next week.