When area voters head the polls this spring, they will be choosing three individuals to fill three spots on the DeForest Area School Board.

All three individuals running or the board are incumbents, including Steve Tenpas, Linda Leonhart and Gail Lovick.

Tenpas and Lovick are running to represent Windsor on the board, while Leonhart is running in the Town of Burke.

The DeForest Times-Tribune sent out candidate questionnaires to the three running for the school board.

Candidates were limited to 100 words per answer. Statements over 100 words were trimmed down at the discretion of DeForest Times-Tribune staff. (An ‘I’ next to a person’s name signifies incumbent.)

DeForest Area School Board

Three seats — Steve Tenpas (I), Gail Lovick (I) and Linda Leonhart (I).

Tell us about your background: how long you have lived here, your age, career, family, volunteer work.

ST: My wife Betsy and I have lived in Windsor for almost 30 years. We raised two boys who went through the district. I am the Assistant Director for Member Learning and Communication at the Wisconsin Technical College District Boards Association. I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, in Education and Special Education. I am a volunteer member of the board of directors for Advanced Employment, a Dane County area human service agency that assists people with disabilities to locate and maintain employment. For the last 30 years I have been a volunteer member of Advanced Employment board.

GL: I have lived in DeForest/Windsor area my whole life. I was a 2001 graduate of DeForest High School. Went on to UW-Milwaukee to major in Communications. My work history lies in the retail world with 15 years of managerial experience for big box retailers. I currently farm with my husband just outside of town. I also volunteer on several boards within the community and outside. I have three kids, one in middle school and two at Yahara Elementary.

LL: As a resident of the Towne of Burke, my interest in the DeForest Area School District began over 30 years ago. Our five children are graduates of DeForest High School, and four of my grandchildren are currently attending district schools. My professional career was primarily in public education, including experience as a speech/language clinician, elementary principal and director of special education, instruction, and community education. In addition, I served as director of the Head Start State Collaboration Office in three Wisconsin state departments. Current volunteer activities include weekly sessions in a kindergarten classroom, participation in the Homeless Action Network of DeForest and serving as co-chair of the Reach Out and Read Wisconsin advisory council.

What do you believe makes you qualified to serve on the school board?

ST: Foremost, I believe in the right of public education for all citizens. I am familiar with the work and responsibilities of a school board. I am a resident of the district – Village of Windsor.

GL: I got on the school board to stay involved in my children’s education and have learned so much more than that in the process. I believe in advocating for education for all children in our community. I strongly believe we have the best staff working with our children. I have spent the time to understand the structure that supports staff and student learning, so all can reach their full potential, which is why I want to continue serving on the board.

LL: In addition to my family’s involvement in the district, I have participated in all three of the Framework for Our Future community planning events over the past 20 years. I also served for six years in two DeForest Area School District central office administrative positions in the past. During that time, I was a co-founder of the Linkages intergenerational initiative. Most recently, I was appointed to fill a Deforest Area School Board vacancy in June 2016, and elected for a three-year term in April 2017. It has been an honor to serve the community in this capacity, and I am looking forward to continuing in this role.

Have you held public office in the past? If so, when and in what roles? If not, why did you decide to run for office now?

ST: I have been a member of the DeForest Area School District Board of Education since 2005. I have served five terms on the Board.

GL: This is my second term on the board.

LL: As mentioned above, I have served on the DeForest Area School Board since June 2016. I also served on the DeForest Public Library Board for three years, during the time the new library was built in 2001.

Describe your biggest priorities for the DeForest Area School District.

ST: The board will continue to prioritize student achievement. We are a growing district in a growing region. We will work to assure equitable education for all students and seek to recruit and retain highly qualified teachers and staff.

GL: I think the priorities of the district are and should always be the students and staff. Students are not just facing new kinds and levels of academic challenge, but are facing new demands in managing their lives, social relationships, and perhaps work responsibilities. We, as a district, need to be able to help them achieve their goals whether it be life, career or college. I also believe that staff play an integral role in fostering relationships with students and have a huge impact on student learning. Providing our staff with the training and tools needed to be effective teachers will enhance the learning of all our students.

LL: My continuing priority in serving on the school board is to support the DeForest Area School District mission “to provide an excellent education and to engage, challenge and inspire all students to pursue their full potential.” Utilizing the vision and direction set by the community through the Framework for Our Future 3.0 forum, our Board focuses on a long-term vision as we monitor student achievement and organizational performance.

What do you think are the biggest challenges the district and/or the school board currently faces?

ST: We work hard to meet the expectations of students, families and citizens of the DeForest Area School District.

GL: The demands on schools and teachers are becoming more complex. Society now expects schools to deal effectively with different languages and student backgrounds, to be sensitive to culture and gender issues, to promote tolerance and social cohesion, to respond effectively to disadvantaged students and students with learning or behavioral problems, to use new technologies, and to keep pace with rapidly developing fields of knowledge and approaches to student assessment. Improving the expectations, efficiency, and equity within our schools so that all students have access to great education is and will continue to be a challenge.

LL: Some of the most immediate challenges facing the DeForest Area School District are emerging due to the coronavirus pandemic. The need for action in the midst of ever-changing circumstances is unprecedented. Preparing staff, students and families for virtual instruction with minimal lead time is a daunting challenge, but one which is being met.

Once the current crisis has passed, ongoing challenges will remain. The encouraging fact is that the DeForest Area School District has the expertise, resources, creativity, and partnerships to successfully address both short- and long-term challenges.

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