For April’s 2022 election the Waterford Graded School District has three candidates competing for two seats. The three candidates are incumbent Ryan Koncki, first-time candidate Stephen (Steve) Levas, and first-time candidate Heather Sackman.
You can view their Campaign Facebook pages at these links:
Ryan Koncki for WGSD School Board
Stephen Levas for Waterford Graded School Board
Heather Sackman for WGSD School Board
The community knows the most about the incumbent Ryan Koncki because he has served on the WGSD Board for 3 years. Koncki is the father of three WGSD students that have been in the district for the last 7 years. He is a lieutenant for the Waukegan Fire Department with a strong labor and trade background. All things considered, I believe that Koncki, the current board, and the administration did a great job during an extremely difficult time period for all. For those with concerns about the numerous tough decisions that had to be made, remember that running a school district is a very difficult task even in good times. A school board member also has to walk a careful line if and when they disagree with their employee, the superintendent. I am sure there were strong disagreements in closed sessions, but airing out grievances publicly at such a difficult time would not be wise, and it is not how consensus is reached.
Like Koncki, I am excited about WGSD’s incoming Superintendent, Tony Spence, who takes the reigns in July. Koncki shared that he is excited about the energy that Spence will bring and he agrees there will be benefits from hiring someone that lives in the community and has kids in the district, as Spence does. Finally, Koncki shared that after one-on-one discussions with Spence he feels confident that the needed changes in communication will take place soon (such as the district webpage that Koncki recently described as “sub-par” as well as how the annual budget is presented). These are just a few of the reasons why I support Ryan Koncki for the WGSD School Board, but first and foremost he served his community well during a very difficult time and we know we can count on him to continue to do a great job.
The second candidate I am endorsing is Stephen Levas, a professor at UW-Whitewater and father of two WGSD students. We know quite a bit about Levas because he has lived in the community for over 5 years and has served or been active in the community in a variety of roles (Evergreen PTO, youth coach, even suiting up to play Santa Claus at local events, etc). His interest in the WGSD Board isn’t new, having applied for the open seat when a past board member resigned almost 3 years ago. Levas has been active in the Waterford community for years and was urged by many to take the next step this year when Heather Hodach announced she would not seek re-election. The field and politics of education are nothing new to the Levas family, as Stephen and his wife Megan are also professional educators at the post-secondary and high school levels, respectively.
When it comes to priorities, Levas sees student achievement, communication, transparency, and fiscal accountability as equal priorities. Levas recently went as far as describing the current WGSD website and how it is implemented as “atrocious”. Also at Tuesday’s candidate forum, Levas stated “I feel strongly in a parent’s role in their child’s education”. This shows he understands that everyone needs to do their part, but without 2-way communication and transparency, it is difficult for parents to be engaged and informed. Finally, on the issue of safety and in response to a question about the possible need for a resource officer at the grade school level, both Levas and Koncki understand that having our current police officers “drop in when they aren’t busy” is not addressing the issue. They both felt that if the community wants to fund having resource officers in our graded buildings a clearly defined plan and associated costs would need to be put before the community, similar to what was done at the high school level.
As with Ryan Koncki, these are just a few of the reasons why I support Stephen Levas for the WGSD School Board. More importantly than any specific topic, my support is focused on what is best for the students, staff, and greater community at this time. Koncki and Levas are both known individuals in the community and they have been involved with the WGSD long enough to understand its strengths, weaknesses, and needs. Their own kids’ combined years of attending WGSD school is over 30 years (3×7 plus 2×5 = 31). That is a BIG deal because it is a lot of interaction with the school district and it will serve them well on the school board.
The third candidate is Heather Sackman and she is off to a promising start. A mother of two WGSD students, Sackman works for the WI DOT as an electrical and lighting unit supervisor. After being frustrated with Racine Unified’s continuation of virtual learning, her family moved to Waterford last year. Like the other candidates, and according to her campaign literature, her primary focus is student achievement, transparency, community engagement, and fiscal responsibility.
I sincerely appreciate her desire to jump in and get active. It reminds me of myself when shortly after moving to Waterford in 2012, I began attending WGSD school board meetings and often spoke at the monthly meetings. But unlike Sackman, I attended every meeting for three years before I put in my election papers, even going as far as videotaping every meeting then breaking them down into defined segments and posting them on this website. I listened and asked questions and took my time to get to know the issues, which were certainly a lot bigger back then.
Finally, when compared to the Koncki and Levas families, the Sackmans are very, very new to Waterford Graded. The combined total school years for the Sackman family equals just two. In fact, the Sackmans have yet to complete a full school year here in Waterford. For me, that is a little too quick to offer my support, and one of the main reasons I’ll have to wait until 2023 before considering Sackman. Getting a feel for the community, getting to know the teachers and administrators, and understanding the important issues of our district takes time. I hope Sackman will continue to watch or attend meetings and share her thoughts on the actions of our school board and superintendent. Even if I don’t agree with all of someone’s positions, I would still likely vote for them if over time they showed they were thoughtful, level-headed, and fair in their deliberations. Unfortunately for Sackman, that time hasn’t come.
Those are my feelings and decision on this year’s Waterford Graded School District election. No matter who wins, I wish them the best as they serve our community. Whatever is your decision, be sure to vote on Tuesday, April 5th.
Posted by Matt Kranich on 4/2/2022
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