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Good Government Council: Eau Claire Board of Education Questionnaire

When: Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024; polls open 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Find your voting location at myvote.wi. All absentee ballots must be requested by March 28th, 2024 and turned in no later than 8:00 p.m. on April 4th either by mail or dropped off in-person. In-Person absentee voting will start Tuesday, March 19th and end Friday, March 29th. If you plan to vote by mail, voters are strongly encourage to mail their ballots as soon as possible to ensure their ballot is received by the deadline.

What it’s about:  There are 4 candidates running for the 2 School Board seats this April. The Eau Claire School Board includes 7 members who each serve a three-year term.  The candidates include:

Heidi Harings

Joshua Clements (Incumbent)

Kathleen Kivlin

Erica Zerr (Incumbent)

Who can vote: The election is open to all eligible voters in the Eau Claire Area School District.

Where you vote and who is on your ballot:

Go to
Enter your voting address to learn which races are on your ballot and where you vote.

Why this questionnaire: The Good Government Council (GGC) is a committee of the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce dedicated to encouraging voter participation and providing members of the business community with non-biased information about candidates’ positions on important issues. Although the Chamber is active in policy issues, it is non-partisan and does not endorse political candidates.

Candidate Responses:

1.  What are your background and qualifications for this position, and what value will you bring to the School Board personally?

Joshua Clements 

I am a community development professional with over 18 years’ experience. Two kids, one current ECASD student.

I was elected as a write-in candidate in 2020 and re-elected in 2021, steadfastly served our community through exceptionally challenging years. I was a core member in the creation and adoption of our current policy governance model, focused on equity, evaluation, communication, transparency, and results.

Community livability is my passion and my vocation. Public schools are intimately linked with communities as centers of learning, employ residents, connect people, and provide life-long skills for the pursuit of happiness and general enrichment. Schools are the ultimate place-based institution and are perhaps the most important organization to the long-term condition of the community and its people.

My value proposition is that I have valuable insights, experience, and approach that improves the policy governance, strategic planning, and budgeting functions of the board

Heidi Harings

I have a passion for helping others and that is shown in my extensive background in volunteering in our local church. I teach children’s church, lead a small group from my home and work diligently on community outreach programs and local church events.  This passion and zeal makes me a great addition to the School Board.  I will represent the interests of our local community members by listening to what they need.  I will also bring diversity and a fresh perspective to the School Board with my Christian and biblical views and be the voice of reason that represents those values.

Kathleen Kivlin

I am a retired Registered Nurse, having been Clinic Director of Chippewa Valley Free Clinic. I am mom of 3 adult children, Nana to 5 grandchildren, ages 5 to 19. I grew up around educators, as my mother was a teacher until she retired at age 58. My daughter is also a teacher. I am running for ECASD School Board because of my grandchildren. I want them to have the high quality education that I received. Sadly, I feel that we have deviated so far from excellence in education and we can no longer compete on the world stage. When elected, I intend to change that.

Erica Zerr

I am a former educator from the private sector. Most recently, I worked at CESA 10 as the Business & Industry Partnership Consultant - connecting K-12 students from 21 districts in our region with local/regional workforce learning opportunities in partnership with business and industry. Currently I work in the private sector in Healthcare Administration. My experience prepares me well to understand the complexities of public education in the context of funding structures as well as development of systems that create relevancy and value for students as they prepare to be contributing members of our society. The job of a board member is to set the vision and guardrails for the district - to preserve and enhance the system so that it meets the needs of our communities today. This takes constant attention and like any business, investment. As a current sitting member of the board’s referendum committee, I have a deep understanding of the financial structures that support public schools.

2. With a strong local economy and low unemployment, many businesses report difficulty in filling positions. What can the school system do to work with the local employers to ensure students are introduced to a variety of career options within the area, including all post-secondary options, whether two-year, four-year, apprenticeships, etc.?

Joshua Clements 

Public education is foundational in the workforce development ecosystem. ECASD collaborates with many partners, including UWEC, CVTC, and several employers concerning current needs and long-term trends in employment to ensure our curriculum is responsive and prepared.

The best strategy for ECASD is to provide high quality academic preparation across broad subject areas, with exceptional social and emotional development, so that our young people are well prepared for life-long learning and success.

ECASD incorporates long-term skills into curriculum throughout a students’ education, for example, elementary students are learning technology literacy. Vocational-based courses are offered primarily at the high schools to equip them for post-secondary education or employment. Career exploration programs are built into many courses, as well as dual-enrollment programs with UWEC and CVTC. The District financially supports summer programs for students with many community institutions.

Heidi Harings

The district can work with our local employers and begin building relationships and creating an open line of communication about the future state of our economy. We can discuss how important it is that our students are exposed to these career options at a young age and begin to partner with these employers on creating job shadowing programs and scheduling speakers, etc. We can bring these speakers into our schools (similar to junior achievement) beginning at the elementary level and not just middle/high school.
Once students are in high school, we can have them attend career expositions and job shadowing opportunities. We can start mentoring programs and apprenticeship paths. This will open the doors of offering a wide variety of options that not only reflect post-secondary schooling but also trade opportunities.

Kathleen Kivlin

Trades need to be encouraged more. There has been far too much importance placed on 4-year degrees, where students graduate with enormous debt and very little job/life skills. Again, I submit that our students are not prepared to compete on the world stage.

Erica Zerr

Career knowledge and exploration should be embedded at every level of a student’s education K-12. I have been a driving force on the board for the ECASD to adopt Redefining Ready metrics that allow our community to monitor how many students graduate in our system College AND Career ready. The metrics for Redefining Ready include industry recognized certifications and Youth Apprenticeship as well as two or more Career & Technical Education courses. These experiences should happen for every single student that attends the ECASD. Every student will one day have a job and pairing industry-specific learning with their high school experience will not only help drive the relevancy of education, but better prepare students to participate fully in our local economy. Additionally, I believe that any future capital referenda need to include enhancements to career and technical education spaces within our high schools.

3. The District has been considering whether to schedule a referendum. Do you agree that it will be necessary? If so, how large should it be and what should it fund?

Joshua Clements 

The Board has approved planning for a November 2024 referendum, and it is absolutely necessary. As a result of state funding caps, the District has a structural deficit just to maintain current service levels and programming. To invest in higher performance, the District requires funding beyond current levels.

1. At minimum, referendum should be designed sufficient to address the structural deficit created by the regressive state funding scheme, and account for typical inflationary forces, to maintain current service levels for the next five years.
2. Second, increase the District’s financial capacity to invest in lowering class sizes and in high-priority programs.
3. Third, adjust educator compensation (which is limited to state-calculated inflation, by statute) to recognize the critical role educators play in our children’s lives, and for Eau Claire to be more competitive in recruitment and retention.

Heidi Harings

I do not think that a referendum is necessary at this time. In November of 2022, a 98.6 million-dollar referendum was passed. This isn't a matter of additional fund, it's a matter of planning and placing that money in the correct place. We do not need another referendum. Instead, we need to create a fiscally responsible budget and steward the taxpayer's money well.

Kathleen Kivlin

I am not in favor of a referendum. As I have knocked doors all across the city and county, what I consistently hear is that folks are tax weary. I believe that the ECASD needs to spend within their means, just as everyday, common people have to do. At the end of the month, when there is no more money in the checkbook, spending stops. The same needs to hold true for the school district.

Erica Zerr

Here’s the thing - a public school system is a business. Any business will tell you that the cost of doing business over the last five years has ballooned exponentially. In my time on the board (4 years) cumulative inflation has totaled 19%. For a district our size that’s about $40 million in costs to offset. Schools are funded largely through two pots - state funding and local property taxes. Looking at the state funding, if the amount the state allocated to schools had kept pace with inflation over the last 20 years we would have $33 million more in the ECASD which would take the burden off local taxpayers. With the state failing to do their job, we have no choice but to use property tax revenue to generate the needed income. Think about a construction company. What do they do if their costs for materials and labor go up? They raise prices to the consumer. Schools are no different. Operational referenda to fund schools are necessary and I will be as fiscally responsible as possible.

4. If elected, what will be your top three priorities in your term as a School Board Member?

Joshua Clements 

1. Adopt a referendum that addresses state-imposed structural deficits and inflation pressure for the next five years, invests in improved programs, and improves the competitiveness in teacher compensation.

2. Continue our focus on ending racial and socioeconomic disparities and inequalities in educational outcomes. This requires complete fidelity to this vision, best practices, & continuous improvement to eliminate injustice, disparate impacts, & institute restorative practices. Recognize that many barriers are due to pervasive historic practices & community factors beyond the District’s control, a wicked problem that requires the entire community to act together.

3. Improve collaboration between the District and other community institutions. Relationships exist, but we largely continue to work within our organizational silos. It requires intention, effort, and time to make these connections to identify issues, services, programs, where mutual gain is possible through collaboration.

Heidi Harings

1. Bring a conservative and biblical viewpoint to our school board. This viewpoint and perspective is necessary to bring balance back into our school system.
2. Focus on academic performance. Our families need to work with teachers to take an active role in their students' education. It is a priority that our students meet proficiency levels in core classes and get help to students that need it.
3. Advocate for parental rights. The parents have rights to choose what their child's upbringing is and I will help bridge that gap between parents and the school system. I envision a partnership that allows parents to be heard and give them peace of mind that our school system is a safe place for their children physically, mentally and spiritually. Transparency is the key.

Kathleen Kivlin

1.) Parental rights, with honest communication with parents regarding what is happening within the district and specifically with their child. NOTHING should be withheld from the parents. 2.) Plummeting test scores. 3.) Veering away from core subjects ( math, science, history, civics, reading, writing), in favor of gender-affirming, law enforcement bashing anti-constitution and communistic ideologies.

Erica Zerr

Funding. Due to high inflation, high student need, drop off in federal funding, and poor funding structures at the state level, I will make local funding a priority of my time on the board. Just with any business that has to raise prices to its consumers, we have a responsibility to educate our community about the investments that they are making in their schools. In order for our kids to graduate ready for the next phase of their lives, we need to make constant investments to meet the current need.

Achievement for all students. I will continue to push the district to rigorously adopt the Wisconsin redefining, ready framework, which allows us to measure student success in a more holistic way. Students are more than just a test score, and can demonstrate readiness for the world in multiple ways. This will help the board reach their goal of all students, no matter where they come from or what their story, graduating ready for what’s next for them.

Career exploration at all levels.

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Posted by Mallory Williams Governmental Affairs Intern

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