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Candidates: Southern Door School Board

Pamela Parks, 47

Parks, 47, is married with three teenage children. A Southern Door High School graduate, she has a bachelor’s of social work from Carthage College and a master’s of social work from the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

• Experience: I currently work as the assistant to the register in probate and family court commissioner in Door County Circuit Court. In the past, I have written freelance articles for the Door County Advocate, Door County Magazine, and Edible Door Magazine. I have also worked as a domestic-violence advocate. 

I coordinate the Operation Christmas Child dropoff center at First Baptist Church of Sturgeon Bay, participate in 4-H as an adult leader, and am a member of the Class of 2000 of Leadership Door County. I am the secretary of the Southern Door FFA Alumni.

Janel Veeser

Veeser, 39, is married with two children. She has an administrative professional associate degree, bachelor’s degree in management, and a master’s degree in organizational behavior.

• Experience: In Leadership Door County, I learned to appreciate the diverse viewpoints that make strong leaders in our community. I learned about community issues through experiential learning. It instilled a strong feeling of civic responsibility and leadership. I felt my calling was to be a leader in education. 

As an educator in higher education, I understand the level of commitment needed to embrace learners. I also understand a teacher’s need for support from leadership to implement new practices and the process of continuous improvement. 

I am an avid volunteer at church as a religious ed teacher and Bible study leader. I volunteer when available in my children’s events in band, softball, baseball, wrestling and football. I am the treasurer for youth football, and I am the vice president of the wrestling club.

Marissa Norton

Norton, 47, is a Southern Door graduate who earned her degree from UW-Green Bay and a masters in education from Viterbo University. She is married with two teenage children.

• Education: I attended Southern Door from kindergarten through 12th grade and graduated in 1990. I then earned my undergraduate degree from UW-Green Bay in 1994. In 2001, I earned a master’s degree in education from Viterbo University. 

• Experience: I was chosen by the board to fill the remainder of Tammy Sternard’s term last June. Prior to that, I had been a part of several committees and ad hocs at Gibraltar Schools, where I have taught second, first and, currently, fifth grade for the past 25 years. I am also the general leader for the Brussels Shining Stars 4-H Club.

Christopher D. Jackson

Jackson, 40, is married with three children. He earned his bachelor of arts at Valparaiso University; master of divinity at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis; and doctor of education at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

• Experience: I have been a member of the Southern Door Board of Education for nearly three years, and I have served as board president for nearly a year. In addition, as a parish pastor, I have a strong connection to the community and have developed skills in strategic, cooperative leadership. I am also involved with Algoma Boy Scouts, Southern Door Wrestling Club and Southern Door Girl Scouts. Finally, I have served as an officer in the U.S. Army, and I am proud and grateful for the leadership training I received there.

What attributes and skills do you bring to the school board?

Pamela Parks (PP): I am organized, a problem solver, a creative thinker, a lifetime learner and an advocate of education. I also bring experience and perspective because I have served as the clerk of the Board of Education at Southern Door Schools for nine years.

Janel Veeser (JV): I believe that I bring a new perspective to the board. I have the ability to engage in open dialogue, and I am driven by the needs of students. My experience as an educator helps me to appreciate all students and our school’s unique needs. 

I am a team player, and I have the ability to collaborate. I welcome and will listen to diverse opinions. One of my strengths is written communication. I know the importance of providing information to all stakeholders. Most of all, I see my role as a school board member to oversee without being overreaching.

Marissa Norton (MN): As an educator, I understand the complexities of providing a quality education for our students. Being a parent of a Southern Door graduate and a current high school student also gives me a valuable perspective. I am able to listen to all sides of an issue and make a decision objectively. I also understand that to be a successful school board and lead Southern Door effectively, we all need to work together, keeping what’s best for our students in mind as the main goal.

Christopher D. Jackson (CJ): I bring both theoretical and practical knowledge as an educator. I hold a doctorate in education. I have served as a middle school educator and currently serve as an adjunct college instructor for Concordia University Wisconsin. I have an ability to bring a group of people to a shared vision and consensus.

What is the biggest issue the school board needs to address, and what should the board do about this issue?

PP: Public education strives to ensure that all students are prepared to meet their future goals, whether their career paths include furthering their education at a college or technical school, moving directly into the workforce, serving in the military, owning a small business, giving back through civic service, or an array of additional opportunities. 

Preparing them for this journey begins long before high school. Having a solid foundation of reading, writing, math, history, science and the arts in elementary school will open the door to opportunities in middle and high school. That solid foundation is built by having the best team of educators and staff in front of all of our students, having the resources needed to prepare all students for the future, and offering extracurricular activities for students to explore a wide range of talents.

Southern Door’s strong tradition of providing an exceptional education will continue if the school board and administration are able to focus on the mission and goals set before us. To do so, we need to focus on the good work that needs to be accomplished, celebrate our successes and continue to advocate for our students on the local and state levels.

JV: The school’s budget, in my opinion, is always the biggest issue. It needs to be at the forefront of all decisions. The board needs to make good financial decisions in all facets – academics, athletics, personnel and capital purchases. We need to make sure the district is fiscally responsible, but at the same time, we need to be supporting our students and teachers and continuing to move our district forward.

MN: The biggest issue, in my opinion, continues to be the school-funding formula. As a board, we need to continue to work collaboratively with the administrative team to work within the budget and prioritize retaining high-quality teachers with appropriate salaries.

CJ: In the long term, the biggest issue the school board needs to address is student performance. Our students deserve the best education we can provide them, and we need to work hard in order to provide it for them.

Already under my leadership as president, the board has taken strong steps to ensure a good education for our students. For example, we have adopted new curricula and put into place measurable goals for student achievement; few other districts in the state have adopted such accountability measures to inspire the efforts of our staff to focus on student achievement. 

Further curriculum adoptions are necessary to give our students a cohesive and up-to-date learning experience, and the board needs to keep its eyes focused on evaluating the district’s success in attaining our achievement goals.

What other issues does the school board need to address?

PP: In order to ensure that all students are prepared for their future goals, we need to continue to address how we are going to finance what our students and staff need for a quality education amid unfunded state mandates and a flawed state-aid formula. We will continue to work with the administrative team to control costs and increase revenue while maintaining high educational goals.

JV: It seems that education continues to tread new waters. Obviously, the effects of the COVID-19 virus will need to be addressed in a timely fashion and responsibly. I believe we are moving in the right direction, and we need to continue to stay at the forefront of school safety and security. In addition, we need to continue to maintain our talent in the district. Lastly, we need to continue to be vigilant with our students’ academic progress.

MN: The school board needs to continue to address student achievement, working together with all stakeholders to see to it that all students leave our school being college- and/or career-ready.

The last passed referendum has given us a positive outlook for student and staff safety with the construction/remodeling starting this month, which will make a more secure learning environment for our students. Continuing to oversee this project for the taxpayers is also a priority.

The board also needs to continue to address opportunities for our students outside of the classroom through athletics and the arts. Southern Door is very fortunate to have a dedicated, caring community that values supporting our students in and out of the classroom.

CJ: Another issue the district faces is our net loss of students due to open enrollment. This net loss is both a symptom and a cause of problems at the district. The best way to address this net loss is by focusing on excellence in our core mission of education. 

To that end, I have supported providing resources such as up-to-date curricula and improvements to worn, dated and suboptimal learning spaces through major renovations. Additionally, as board president, I worked to put into place measurable goals for student achievement.

While we continue to work on providing excellent education, we also need to listen to those who are choosing to educate their children elsewhere. Why are they choosing another school district to educate their children? What can we do to make our district more attractive to them?