Jessica Karnowski

Incumbent Candidate

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👍 Established Record

Tell us about yourself!

I have been a resident of Oconomowoc for the last 20 years. I moved here, because it was important for my husband to stay in the community he grew up in, and he wanted to raise his family here.

I served our community for many years on the Oconomowoc Fire Department as an EMT Intermediate and retired several years after the girls were born.

I have 3 children. My girls are in high school at OHS, and my son is in 5th grade. After the district chose to teach in a hybrid model late summer, I had no choice but to enroll my son where he could attend school every day. Up until this school year, he attended school in the district.

I am a registered Dental Hygienist working in private practice and teach part time both at WCTC and Marquette Dental School.

Are you currently, or have you ever been a teacher or administrator for any school district?

No

Have you attended any school board meetings over the last year?

Yes

Why are you running for the school board?

Because I feel our community needs a rational, moral voice that will advocate for student achievement, vote conservatively for school budget, and be the liaison for parents and the community regardless of personal feelings. I feel strongly that my job as a board member is to represent the voice of the community, and make sure the children enrolled in our district are receiving the very best education possible. I am running again because, I am one of those last few voices.

What skills and experiences do you have that will prepare you to be a board member?

My history and accomplishments over the last 6 years, has given me the experience necessary to be a qualified board member. I would be honored to serve our community for another 3 years.

Some of the roles that I have had while serving on the Board consist of School Board President, Curriculum and Instruction Committee Chair, WASB Representative, Human Growth and Development Committee, Business Advisory Board, District Strategic Planning, Athletic Strategic Planning, I developed a streamlined onboarding process for new board members, and Board Clerk.

No matter what roles I have had on the board, I have always fulfilled them with strong leadership and fidelity and have always served in the best interest of our students.

What differentiates you from other candidates running for the board?

With my history, I bring some unique perspectives to the board.

First, I am the most seasoned member and have the most years served (6). I think it is important to have the input of a veteran to help mentor others and provide insightful details of time past.
Kim Herro has served 5 years, Dan Raasch (4), Jim, Juliet, and Scott (3), and Rick less than 1. This is a very new board that is still learning how to function, and if it changes again this year my expertise and leadership could be invaluable.

Secondly, having served as the president for 2 years, I personally have been able to build rapport with the administration and staff that could serve the district well in the future. As the board focuses on repairing trust in our community and learning how to create healthy working relationships with the administrative team, I will have the ability to facilitate the teamwork needed so our leaders can keep this district functioning at a high level.

Did you support the recent recall efforts?

If you answered yes, what actions did you take?

What is your vision for education in this community?

My vision is simple, and I believe it is what every parent wants for their child and teacher wants for their student. For each student to reach their maximum potential, academically, emotionally and physically. Times are changing very quickly, and it is mind blowing to think that our current students will be working in jobs that haven’t even been developed yet.

It is important to be forward thinking enough to develop strategies that mold kids into flexible problem solvers, capable of critical thinking, while providing them a firm foundation of curriculum that ensures they are proficient in the core educational classes.

There needs to be a strong partnership between parents and schools, neither can be successful without each other.

What issues do you believe our district needs to address? What are your recommendations?

I think this next year we must be flexible to the needs of the students based on administrations recommendations. Even though data has not been presented, I feel it would be irresponsible not to assume that student achievement has declined (and for some drastically). The interventions needed to bring students back to their potential is still unknown. It is our responsibility as board members to make sure we are reasonably allocating budget dollars to the Key Performance Objective’s, so our students get back on track and are not behind in their education. Closing achievement gaps will continue to be an area of interest for me.

We also need to address Meadowview. The amount of money we are paying every year for a vacant building, could be utilized in other areas of our budget.

How does a school board balance the need to provide quality education with the need to respond to the taxpayer burden?

Very delicately 😊. The district budget is a very complex beast, and I think clear communication to our community on where their money is going is essential. Some of the progressive work that has been done for the benefit of our students, unfortunately has a price tag attached to it. It is important that we are following through on our strategic plan and its initiatives. We are very fortunate to have a business manager who is incredibly savvy and has been able to stretch our budget dollars this last year farther than I have expected. I encourage you to look at our Annual Report for specifics, but it is encouraging to know we are being fiscally responsible while supporting quality instructional programs.

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How do you feel about the common core curriculum, what are its advantages/disadvantages?

The jury is still out on that one for me. At home, personally, I realized very quickly I was not smarter than a 5th grader and needed to seek therapy after trying to help my children with math.

I can see the Pros and Cons of Common Core. In theory it seemed like a good idea, but implementation was poor and vague. It left our veteran teachers struggling to adapt to a new style of teaching with little to no support. While it was meant to increase teacher collaboration, some teachers are bogged down to teaching to the standardized test. And while it may work for some students, it has not worked for all. Especially in the area assessment and the lack of modifications for students with special needs.

On the other hand, it allows states performance to be compared accurately, and our standards are internationally benchmarked to help improve our international ranking. It also gave rise to a tool that allows teachers to monitor progress of individuals instead of comparing students against each other. The standardized test questions also encourage the use of multiple skills in each question ultimately rising to increased reasoning and problem-solving skills.

What is the best way to address differences of opinion among board members?

The best way is to adhere to proper governance. It truly can be very simple and unemotional. For example, you have a topic that needs action. You discuss the topic giving your viewpoints and asking questions, you vote on the said topic and the majority of the vote becomes the voice on that topic.

The problem I have found on our board is that the topic is debated to death, with little to no interest in seeking to understand or cross the table to develop a compromise based on what is best for students or the district. I have the perception that everyone must agree, but that should not be the case. It is good to have variety of opinions and professions. It can bring such a depth to what you do when it is done correctly. I find the lack of diversity problematic on our board, and we need more variety.

How will you communicate with and be accessible to the community you represent?

I have my school district email, and Facebook page. My cell phone is also available on the district website.

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