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Candidate Profile: Steve Elliot

Albany School Board

There are five candidates for three seats on the Albany school board. Incumbents Edward Maksym and Fred Johnson are joined by Barb Briggs, Phil Kubesh and Steve Elliot on the ballot.

Steve Elliott

Position sought: Albany School Board

Age: 34

City/town of residence: Township of Albany

Family: Married to Anna Landmark, Three Children (Alice, 8; Harrison, 3; Rose, 1)

Education: Bachelor's in Political Science, University of Akron, Akron, OH; Coursework completed for Ph.D at Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Occupation: Executive Director for the Wisconsin Alliance of YMCAs, the alliance supports the healthy living and youth development work of the 31 YMCAs located in Wisconsin.

Previous elected positions held: None

What are the top issues facing this district/municipality and how would you work to resolve it?

Declining enrollment and decreasing state aid has caused significant financial challenges for Albany. The district has tried to do more with less and needs to maintain that approach but also must spend time looking for innovative approaches to achieve cost savings and explore collaboration with other districts facing similar challenges. Some of the factors surrounding decreasing enrollment aren't for the district to resolve but others need to be addressed including greater emphasis on why families are open-enrolling out of Albany. While that option is a families' right under state law, the school board and administration should make keeping all of those who do and could potentially Albany aware of the schools many successes and benefits. Nearby districts do not experience the same loss of students (and some even have a net increase) from open enrollment.

These challenges require the board to do more long-term planning. I would suggest that board set benchmarks for the board, administration, and academic staff to achieve on annual basis and hold all accountable to those standards. I believe experience working with small non-profits that provide services to their community is helpful to conducting such planning.

What are other key issues facing the district/municipality, and how would you work to resolve them?

The school district needs to engage teachers, staff, and community members in a more robust manner. Initiatives need support from both the public and school staff. Our community supports our school and I believe many community members would do more if they were provided with information and opportunities to do so.

Over the past few years, I've been disappointed to see the school board use closed meetings to an excessive extent. I strongly believe that this trend needs to reverse. There are limited reasons for the board to have discussions outside of the view of the public. Given the challenging financial situation the district has faced, more openness to the process is necessary to maintain public trust and support.

I would suggest that the school board along with the to-be-hired superintendent and other school staff agree to participate in a series of activities that would help foster a better understanding of what our community wants and needs from our school. Parents, business owners, and residents should be included at every point. We ask our neighbors to pay for the services provided by our school and we should ensure that the school is reflecting what our community wants.

Why are you the best candidate for this office?

My family and I moved to Albany in 2009. We chose Albany because of what the community and school provided. I hope to work on behalf of that community and make our school even more successful. I believe that my education and professional experience would be helpful to the board as a whole.

My professional career and time in the Navy has exposed me to the importance of strong leadership and governance. The last six years working in the non-profit sector lends itself well to working with district administration to pursue grants and ensure our school provides its customers (students, parents, and the community) with what they need and expect. Managing budgets and develop or enhance programs have been among my recent responsibilities - these skills apply to ensuring Albany's administration meets the highest standards.

Finally, I have a strong vested interest in seeing our community served by the best school district possible. My eldest daughter is a second grader who has grown and learned much from the teachers at Albany. My son will enter the school next year. Our community, my neighbors, deserves an open and accountable school district and I will work to ensure they get that.