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Sevastopol School Board Member Reflects on Year as WASB President

The Sevastopol School Board frequently gains inside information on state funding and issues from one of its longtime board members.

Sue Todey, a retired educator, just finished serving as president of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) and now serves as its past president. She also continues to serve as board president of CESA 7, an association of 30 schools in northeastern Wisconsin.

Sevastopol Superintendent Kyle Luedtke said Todey’s service on the state and regional boards helps him and the district stay informed on issues and in touch with state and local legislators. He said she also provides an independent voice to WASB on issues affecting Wisconsin students, drawing from her years of experience as a counselor and administrator in Wisconsin schools.

“She has always been a great advocate for children and programming for children, and helping kids get what they need,” Luedtke said.

Todey moved back to her parents’ farmhouse and 120-acre farm after she and her husband retired in the early 2000s. She has been involved in various phases of education for more than 50 years. She started teaching at age 21 and worked as a school counselor and administrator in the Green Bay school district. While semi-retired, she did some teaching at the university level and did consulting work for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction on anti-bullying measures and drug-prevention education.

Todey has also served on the Sevastopol School Board since 2006.

“I didn’t do retirement well,” she said. “I needed to have something to do, and I thought I had experiences and skills that would be beneficial to the school district.”

For the past two years, the WASB has diverted much of its attention to helping school board members address the issues they’re facing: complicated student health protocols and stormy relationships with district residents and parents.

Todey speaks at the WASB convention this winter as she wrapped up one term as president.

“It’s been a challenging time in education,” Todey said. “Certainly, people have gotten very interested on all sides of the educational issues – the masking and the vaccinations and critical race theory.” 

The association provided school board members with many webinars and training sessions on community engagement, and it has provided counseling for individual school board members who have been threatened.

“When we came out with the vaccine as a country, I think we thought, we’re on a good road to getting back to normal, but it didn’t work that way when we got the Delta variant and the Omicron variant,” Todey said. “Personally, I thought more people would be rushing to get the vaccine. Not everyone felt that way.”

At Sevastopol meetings, Todey has voted both for tightening and loosening health protocols, and she has stood by decisions that don’t make all parents happy. 

“It’s been difficult,” she said. “I think there is a lot of divisiveness – not only in our state, but in our country – and it’s something we just have to work through.”

During the state convention this winter, Todey spoke about what some students are doing to combat the divisiveness through anti-hate groups that post signs and work with younger kids – “all to help them understand that this hate is not good,” she said.

People learn to hate, Todey said, and schools play a role in teaching students to love one another.

“I think that’s really the challenge we face now as educators: to help our kids so we can come up with a kinder, gentler society than what we’re experiencing right now,” she said. 

Also in the wake of the pandemic, school boards and educators need to address learning gaps that occurred when young people had online or hybrid learning models or missed portions of the curriculum. Then the next big task for Todey and CESA 7 representatives will be hosting sessions in April to inform new school board members about laws such as the Open Meetings Act, as well as other matters pertaining to board responsibilities.

She said she continues to reach out to legislators to help schools in the region receive more state and federal funding and more support for students’ mental-health needs.

“Here in Sevastopol, we do not get a lot of general aid funding from the state; we get some categorical [program] aid,” Todey said. “Because we are property rich and income poor, we don’t qualify – nor does Gibraltar or Washington Island.”

She serves on the Fair Aid Coalition, a group comprising school districts such as Sevastopol that don’t get that general aid and successfully pushed for more transportation funding.

“We’re getting federal dollars, but those will end,” she said. “We need to ensure that on an ongoing basis, we have the funding that’s necessary.”

She’s also advocating for competitive teacher salaries to continue to attract high-quality educators. Todey said the high-demand positions are competing with places such as Green Bay and Appleton, yet Door County also has high housing costs and fewer social activities for younger educators.

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