Packed candidate field in race for Montello School Board

March 9, 2019

MONTELLO -- Voters could elect as many as three new members to the Montello School Board in April.

Six candidates will be on the spring ballot for three open seats including Theresa Campion, Alma Paul, Danielle Pierce, Cindy Bloom, Doug Coddington and the race’s lone incumbent, Andy Zellmer.

Board members Kyle Hunter and Sara McNamara won’t seek re-election, meaning the seven-member board will gain at least two new members serving three-year terms.

The Montello School District hosts a candidate forum at 6 p.m. March 20.

“I think that every citizen should want, in some way, to serve their community,” Campion said of her decision to seek election, which marks her first-ever political run. “I want to be part of the future and help share in the continued growth of the district.”

Campion is a registered nurse for SSM Health in Portage who’s worked in health care since 1987 and a 1982 Montello High School graduate.

She would like to bolster special education offerings in the district, she said, and one way to do that is by providing more detail in the course descriptions in transcripts for graduating special education students.

“When employers look at their course descriptions,” Campion said, “I want them to see, clearly, that these (special education) students have skills that would be useful in the workforce.”

Pierce is employed at Giuffre Insurance Agency in Montello and Disney Store in Wisconsin Dells and a 2000 Montello High School graduate.

“I am running for the Montello School Board for a number of reasons, but mostly to keep the positive momentum going that we have in our elementary school,” Pierce said in an email. “I would like to see that grow into the middle and high school. … I want to work with the students, teachers, administration and community to keep improving the culture.”

As a member of the board, Pierce would focus on retaining quality teachers, she said. “I believe that if you take care of your teachers, then of course the students will benefit, thus creating an environment geared toward success.

“Happy teachers make for happy students.”

Paul has owned Paul Robinson Insurance Agency in Montello for more than 20 years and has worked in the insurance industry since 1981.

She’s a Milwaukee native who’s lived in Montello for more than 50 years and previously served on the Montello School Board for about 15 years until the early 1990s, she said.

“The school district is on an improvement path, and I’d like to be part of it,” Paul said of her candidacy, noting that while she’s been encouraged by recent test scores in Montello, she hopes to see them “come up much, much more.”

Montello scored 64.4 and “met expectations” in state report cards for the 2017-18 school year after scoring 62.4 and meeting “few expectations” the year before, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.

Paul would be focused on fiscal responsibility and hopes to see better compensation for Montello teachers, she said.

“God love them, there’s not a teacher on earth who makes enough money.”

Bloom is an accountant in Mauston and has worked in the accounting industry for 13 years.

“I spend a lot of time working with the youth and community, and serving on the school board felt like a natural progression for me,” she said of her candidacy, noting that she heads the youth summer baseball league in Montello and is involved in the youth basketball program too. Bloom also helps out with middle school and high school musicals and runs the concession stands for school basketball tournaments.

“There needs to be a lot of discussion about how we spend money and what we use it for,” she said of what her focus would be if elected to the board. “We need to support the activities that kids want to be involved in. That’s our responsibility as community members, as parents and as a school.”

Coddington is an electrical contractor at Pieper Power in Middleton and has 13 years of experience working in education. He spent 10 years as an elementary teacher in southeastern Wisconsin and then spent about three years as an elementary principal and dean of students in the Chequamegon School District in northern Wisconsin.

His wife, Hannah Coddington, teaches the fourth grade in Montello.

“I am running for the Montello Board of Education to continue the important work of creating the best outcomes for all students, and balancing the needs and resources of the school district with those of the community,” Coddington said in an email. “I am a principled, common-sense decision maker. I will advocate for plans that build upon recent academic improvements in the elementary school and expand those successes into the middle and high school.”

Zellmer has served on the Montello School Board for more than 20 years, non-consecutively, and is a dairy farmer in Marquette County.

“I want to help improve student education and address the constant challenges for the district in being financially sustainable,” Zellmer said of seeking reelection. “Through the years, we’ve had to go to a number of operational referendums and building referendums, and I empathize with the taxpayers who fund the bulk of what we do.”

Montello is in the final year of a three-year referendum allowing the district to exceed the state-mandated revenue limit by $1.2 million each year.

It is not seeking another operational referendum in April after Montello voters, in the fall, approved a 10-year, $4.5 million construction referendum that allows the district to make improvements to its roof, heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment, plumbing, carpeting and fire alarm system.

Zellmer said he wants to keep supporting the district’s best programs. “What comes to mind is our excellent music program. We just have so much student involvement in the choral department, specifically, and I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention our tremendous agriculture and FFA program, too. They’re very strong.”