Two incumbents and two challengers are running for the two available seats on the Chilton School Board in next Tuesday’s spring election.
Challengers Katrina Gerner and Anna Waldron are seeking the seats currently held by Terry Criter and Maria Halbach, both of whom are seeking re-election.
Following are the responses of each candidate to a survey form sent to them by the Tri-County News. The order in which their replies appear was determined by a random drawing.
Katrina Gerner declined returning the Tri-County News candidate survey form. According to an advertisement elsewhere in this week’s News, Gerner is one of three candidates for Chilton School Board to be recommended by the Calumet County Republican Party.
Terry Criter is the owner and executive recruiter for
GRN Chilton. He is married to Amy and they have four adult children—Jon, Kate, Jake and Anna.
Terry is a Chilton Athletic Club Board member, Good Shepherd Parish member, New Hope Center Board member and a Knights of Columbus member. He is a Chilton High School graduate who earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his Master’s of Business Administration from UW-Oshkosh.
Criter has been on the Chilton School Board since 2012.
Asked about his qualifications for being a School Board member, Criter said, “Experience—going on 10 years of experience I have learned the complexities of a school district and how to navigate the issues for all stakeholders. As a team we have had several huge successes including the refinancing of our school debt, implementing an energy efficiency plan and capital improvements, hiring of new leadership including the superintendent and principals, and many classroom programs. The most recent accomplishment was to keep our kids in school during the pandemic which was accomplished by a unified effort of our dedicated teachers and administration.
“Beliefs—I believe our students come first and every decision needs to be based upon what is best for our children. I believe that parents are the first and best teachers of their children and they deserve full transparency to what is taught. I believe in a conservative approach to social issues and the dignity of human life, including the vulnerable born children. I believe that there is only one race, the human race, and that we need to honor our history while preparing our students for the future. I believe in a conservative fiscal approach and treat all spending and finance issues with great respect to our taxpayers.”
Asked about issues currently facing the district, Criter said, “I see three issues for our district. The first is the operational costs that continue to rise and how schools are financed with state aid and our local taxes. We offer many classes and experiences outside of what is mandated by the state which are very attractive to our students and make a difference in their education. From AP and dual credit courses, to multiple technical education courses such as welding certification, to the arts and music and athletics, we offer a broad selection that gives every student a chance to be challenged outside of the core curriculum. This offering makes us different yet comes with a cost.
“The second issue is our need for facility improvements across the district. Our elementary school is 46 years old, needs updates and was not designed for the needs of today’s students. Circle drive and the traffic flow at the elementary and middle school was designed for a smaller campus and has been challenging for years. An athletic complex on campus for multiple sports and physical education classes will remedy the safety issues that currently exist and allow for all students of all abilities to utilize the playing surface. We have recommended a referendum on both these financial issues and the public will vote this coming April on both.
“The third issue is the debate on Critical Race Theory and if we allow that in the training of our teachers and in the teaching of our students. I oppose any such ideal and its involvement in our district.”
Criter added, “Thank you for allowing me to share my perspective. Thank you to those who voted for me in the past, for the privilege of being on the board and the opportunity to serve my community.”
Maria Halbach is employed as a behavior specialist and special education support for the Menasha Joint School District.
She grew up in this area, attending Hilbert Public Schools and was raised on Maple Grove Dairy Farms south of Chilton on STH 32/57. She attended college at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and received a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology and human development and licensure to teach students with disabilities.
“I have been a special education teacher as well as an autism and behavior specialist in the Menasha Joint School District for 15 years,” she said. “Public education is a big part of who I am and what I have invested myself in. I have a family, which includes my husband, Joe Halbach, and three children. Two of my children are graduates of Chilton Public School District, Amber and Lukas Halbach. My third child, Zac Halbach, is currently a sophomore at Chilton High School.
“I am also involved in our community in a few other ways,” Halbach added. “I am president of our AFS Chilton Adult Chapter. I am passionate about creating a more diverse and global community. Bringing students from other cultures and communities to Chilton has been a part of Chilton High School’s tradition since the 1950s. I am also involved in our Chilton Booster Club which supports our students’ participation in athletic programs.”
Halbach also has served one term as a member of the Chilton Public School District Board of Education
Asked about her qualifications to be a school board member, Halbach said, “I have a number of strengths that I believe I bring to my role as a member of the Chilton Public School District Board of Education. I believe that I am first and foremost a person who listens. It is important to me to be a listener and not just listen to one perspective on an issue. In addition, I am a person who works to be a critical consumer of information. I ask questions to help gain a deeper understanding of all sides and perspectives of decisions being made. The other attribute that I bring to the role of being a school board member is having a focus or emphasis on solutions and positive problem solving. I work to be thoughtful and purposeful about recommendations taking into consideration the multiple perspectives and impacts that decisions might have. It is imperative to consider all of our students in the decisions we are making. It is not about my personal opinion on an issue, it is about considering the information we have and implications our decisions have. In the end, I support what is best for our students.”
As for issues she feels are facing the school district, Halbach said, “My hope as a member of the Chilton Public School’s Board of Education was and continues to be to use my personal strengths and experiences as an educator to help us evolve as a school system to meet the ever changing needs of our students and families. There are many difficult decisions and questions that are facing our school systems. I want to be a part of creating a system that is focused on doing what is best for all of our children and youth. I am not running with a specific personal agenda, I am running to be a part of solutions to the challenges before us. I believe it is important to have a variety of voices and perspectives when making decisions and having an educator as a voice on the school board is important. I approach each decision and conversation with curiosity and desire to understand.”
Anna Waldron owns an educational consulting business which she founded in 2006. “Through consulting, I evaluate educational programs and help local and regional non-profits and municipal agencies submit grants that will provide additional resources to our region. I also evaluate numerous federal, state and privately funded educational projects across the country to ensure the money invested is achieving its desired impact.”
Waldron’s family resides on a small farm in Chilton with a menagerie of animals including cattle, goats, chickens and a horse. Their two boys ages 13 and 15 are active in sports, theater and community service. “My husband (Matt) and I have served the Chilton Athletic Club for nine years, promoting youth baseball and softball and the spirit of volunteerism that has been a hallmark of Chilton for decades,” she said. “I am the volunteer concessions stand manager which is critical for raising funds to maintain the program and ensure that children have community baseball and softball available to them. I also serve as the director of Christian education at our church and teach at all levels from pre-K to grade 8. My personal mission is to be a humble servant to my community and use my skills and abilities where I can make the biggest impact .”
Waldron added, “This is my first candidacy for public office, but I have been involved in public sector education for 29 years and serve on two non-profit boards.”
Asked about her qualifications for seeking public office, she said, “I taught in K-12 schools for seven years and at the college level for 18 years. I earned a Ph.D. in Education from Cornell University in 2006. I have extensive experience with strategic planning, budgeting and reporting. I have specific expertise in evaluating projects and programs to determine if they are meeting their intended goals. I will utilize this experience to help the district reflect on our core values (continuous improvement in delivering an excellent educational program; a highly trained, professional staff; our reputation as a high performing school district; all students succeeding at high levels). I will help our district map these values to both short-term and long-term district goals and create processes to ensure that those goals are being met. I will use my educational and business experience to serve the Chilton School District with the ultimate goal of enabling students to reach their highest potential as learners and citizens.”
As for issues she feels are currently facing the district, Waldron said, “I am opposed to Critical Race Theory (CRT) principles. We are all created equal, and since CRT promotes the view that some races are inherently racist, I reject CRT.
“I am supportive of in-person learning with tangible resources rather than virtual instruction and computer-mediated learning. The highest quality learning occurs through direct interaction between effective teachers and their students.
“I am dedicated to analyzing the district’s curriculum to determine if it best meets the needs of our students and teaches the foundational principles important to our community.
“I am cautious about using state assessments to gauge the learning that is occurring in our schools. While being one success indicator, state assessments are not more important than meeting each child’s individual educational needs. I will advocate for balance between standardized scores and local assessments as well as for curriculum and course offerings for students of all ability levels.
“I am committed to keeping parents and guardians actively engaged in their children’s education and in the decision-making processes that impact their children on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. I will work toward transparency of curriculum and communications including board meeting processes and outcomes.”
Waldron added, “I look forward to serving the Chilton School District with honesty and integrity and upholding our rural values and the principles on which our country was founded.”