Three area residents are asking for your vote on Tuesday, April 6, for the election of two positions on the Chetek-Weyerhaeuser Area School District Board of Education.
Austin Chamberlain, Janene Haselhuhn and Carri Traczyk are on the ballot. The two with the most votes will be elected to the school board. Haselhuhn and Traczyk are incumbents; Traczyk is the current board president and Haselhuhn is the current vice president.
The Chetek Alert contacted each candidate via phone this week to ask them about themselves, why the are running and what they think about the district and its future. The questions and the candidates’ answers, listed alphabetically by last name, follow.
• Tell us about yourself, your family, your occupation and how long you have lived in the area.
Chamberlain said he and his wife, Monica, have six children; one is in middle school and the other five are graduates of C-W. The couple moved to the area in 2011 and Chamberlain works at ABC Truss as a forklift driver. Monica also works at the school kitchen and as a recess supervisor.
Haselhuhn said she graduated from Chetek High School in 1982 and moved back to the area in 1990. Previously, she did secretarial and computer work for a promotional company in Rice Lake, managed Curves in Barron and worked at the school. Currently, she cleans houses part time and is the caretaker for her mother. She and her husband, Tim, married in 2002. They have one daughter who is in high school at C-W. She has been on the school board since 2012.
Traczyk said she has lived in the area for nearly her entire life since her parents moved back to the area in 1978. Traczyk works as a dispatcher for a trucking company. She and her husband, Scott, have five grown children. She has been a board member since the Chetek-Weyerhaeuser school district merger in 2010.
• Do you have any other public service or elected office experience, such as volunteering, church councils or town boards?
Chamberlain noted he is the church deacon at The Refuge in Chetek and has been coaching football for six years. “In a past life, in Illinois, we were a part of a school development committee,” Chamberlain said, which created student-involved community projects, like community gardens and community clean-up projects.
Haselhuhn said she has been on the Chetek Food Shelf board for more than five years, and she has organized the Sip for the Shelf fundraiser for five years. Haselhuhn has been on the Hydroflites board for five years, volunteers for Chetek Chamber of Commerce events and organizes the annual Easter egg hunt with local churches. She previously served on the St. Boniface parish council.
Traczyk said she is the treasurer of the C-W Booster Club.
• Why are you running? Are there any particular issues that concern you and how should they be handled?
Chamberlain said, “We love the community and the school district. We felt like it was just time to get involved and be part of the conversation to make the schools better.”
While there were no big issues that concerned him, he said he would like to see the district safely open up as the pandemic nears its end. He added that social issues being talked about in Washington, D.C.—such as transgender and race-relation issues—will eventually reach our area. He said girls’ sports should be kept for girls and felt that fit the area which he feels is conservative. He wanted to make sure those issues were handled reasonably and thoughtfully, without knee-jerk reactions, Chamberlain added.
He would like to see the district be innovative with academics and keep progressing. “We’ve had some really good reports, but we can also improve with that,” Chamberlain said.
Haselhuhn said there haven’t been any big issues or concerns for her. The current board runs well, she said.
“We have a great administration. We’ve kept it organized and kept the costs down,” she said. Adding why she is running, she said, “I feel it’s the right thing to do. I want to help make the decisions for the students and staff. I would like us to continue the good work that we’ve done so far.”
To do so, Haselhuhn said the board has and will continue to be open to all possible solutions. “When things are brought to us, we have a process and the process works very well. And that’s why the board has been very successful,” Haselhuhn said.
Traczyk said she was proud of the school district and what it has accomplished. She wanted to continue being a part of that and wanted to keep the kids in mind. The staff works hard and is a family, she added. “I think we have a very good school and I want to continue supporting the school and continue what we are doing.”
This is possible because the board works together, supports the administration and listens to the community, she said. She wished more people would attend the board meetings.
• How do you think the school district has handled the pandemic response? How do you see the district handling the pandemic into the future, from today, onwards?
Chamberlain said he thought the school’s administration and staff have done a tremendous job on keeping the schools open.
He added it was tough to see athletes wearing masks in games, but those were Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association rules. For the future, he would like to see things return to normal. Perhaps Roselawn students would not have to wear face masks while outside, or outdoor sports would not require masks either, he said. He suggested that masks might only be required while moving about, but not while seated, as some restaurants are operating.
Haselhuhn said, “I think we’ve done amazingly well.” She knew that the face coverings were not popular, but they were keeping people healthy, she said. The work that the administration and teachers put in before school started ensured teachers could teach in-person or virtually, as needed. “The district put in the time so students could see their teachers.”
For the future, Haselhuhn said a pandemic will always be a concern. “It happened once and it could happen again, but we have the plans in place.” But for now, things were slowly being added back. School clubs were meeting. Things were slowly moving back to normal and would continue to do so.
Traczyk said the district has done very well. “The numbers have spoken for themselves. We haven’t had to close the schools down.” She credited the many hours of planning the district staff and teachers have done. “I think they’ve done very well.”
For the future, Traczyk said the district will continue following state guidance on masks through the current order. If they say masks are not needed, the board will consider it then. The school will continue as it is set up for the remainder of the school year.
“I hope by fall, it will be back to normal,” she said.
• Do you have any long-term goals for the schools and the district?
Chamberlain said, “I would like to see reading and math scores go up in all grade levels.” They were around 50-percent proficiency, he thought, and he wanted them to be higher.
Also, he wanted to see the technical education department expand, offering more options for students not wanting to go to a four-year college. There were great welding and computer-aided design programs, but he would like to see electrical or plumbing programs be added.
Haselhuhn said she would like to see in-person teaching remain and to keep working on the district’s pandemic restrictions.
She added there were building maintenance projects coming up and there are plans to be worked on.
Haselhuhn said she got a great education at Chetek. “I want to make sure that continues for others and continues to get better,” she said.
Traczyk said her goal for the district was to continue getting better and not stagnate.
“Test scores are good, but we can do better,” she said. They could use new technologies to do that, she said.
• Why should people vote for you? What do you think makes you qualified?
Chamberlain said he loves the community. “I believe I have a wide range of experience and skills,” he said, noting he has lived in various places and countries. He is willing to listen to both sides in an issue, and the complaints, in order to bring forth good solutions.
“I’m not afraid to speak up for what I believe in,” he said. “I’m not afraid to back down or take heat for what I believe in.”
Haselhuhn noted her time on the board since 2012.
“The things we have implemented as a board—we have kept the school going. We didn’t stall or get stopped,” she said. “Fiscally we are doing amazing. We haven’t had to borrow or go to referendum.”
It was the work that district residents wanted to see and what the board has done, Haselhuhn said.
Traczyk said, “I think I’m qualified, number one, as a parent.” She is a mother and now a grandmother and works from home. Her children went to C-W and hopefully her grandchildren will as well. Traczyk said she is down to earth, easy to talk to and works from home. “I think they should vote for me because of my experience,” she said.
The spring election is Tuesday, April 6. Local polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To see where your polling place is and what other races will be on your ballot, visit myvote.wi.gov.