Four candidates on ballot for Wrightstown Community School District board positions

By Brian Roebke
Voters in the Wrightstown Community School District have options when they vote in the spring general election on Tuesday, April 2.
The school district has four people on the ballot for two positions. Nicole Gerend is the lone incumbent seeking to retain her seat. Maggie Boland is not running for another term. Challengers are Anthony J. Decker, Paul Linsmeyer, and Michael Mollen. Linsmeyer said last week he’s pulling out of the race.

Anthony Decker
Occupation: Information Technology Specialist
Education: BS in Management from Hope International University (Summa Cum Laude). Numerous professional certifications covering IT systems, people management, service excellence, quality systems and professional trainer. While I was in the Marines, I earned a Ground Radio Repair certification.
What areas do you feel the district is strong in, and which areas need improvement? Our district has a wonderful sense of community, committed teachers and staff dedicated to helping kids, great sports programs and very cool extra-curricular activities kids can engage in to help develop areas of interest. However, literally one in two students are not at grade level reading proficiency and math is not much better and are areas that need improving. Additionally, I have spoken with many parents and long-time residents who stated the district has lost integrity because it misled people regarding the $28.7 million referendum payback.
Why are you interested in serving on the school board? I love Wrightstown and am passionate about providing every child an opportunity to receive an excellent education. As a U.S. Marine recruiter, I had the privilege of working with eight high schools which gives me a unique perspective in educational excellence. Additionally, we have the most incredible country in the world and our kids deserve the best education and I will do everything possible to make that happen.
Do you have education or experience in a field relevant to the election? With over 20 years IT management experience, I am abundantly aware of the importance and benefits of an excellent education. My IT expertise, management experience, and experience in the Marines makes me uniquely qualified to serve our community on the school board.
 What is your opinion of the school district’s debt defeasance payments? For me, defeasance boils down to what was communicated to the community. Was the referendum a 20-year payback or some arbitrary pay-off date the board could impose on residents? If it was the former, then there shouldn’t be any defeasance payments … period. After speaking with many people about the referendum, and what’s on video, what was clearly communicated to the community was $28.7 million, 2 percent interest, 64 cents/$1,000 and a 20-year payback. After the referendum was passed, the payback terms changed and people learned a new term, defeasance, which equates to much higher property taxes than what people were led to believe before the vote. I have heard paying debt off early is the conservative thing to do, and it is, but it isn’t conservative to mislead people about debt payback and force extra taxes on them. I don’t know what that is, but it isn’t conservative. I cannot begin to express the hurt and anger many people have shared with me regarding defeasance, because these extra taxes have eliminated people’s discretionary income and any extra $$$ are gone. This has been especially hard on our retirees, people on fixed incomes or families struggling financially. Accordingly, I am not in favor of any defeasance payments.

Nicole Gerend
Occupation: Controller for Summit Pump, Inc.
Education: Associate Degree in Accounting from Fox Valley Technical College and a Bachelor Degree in Science from Lakeland College. Received CPA License in January 2006.
What areas do you feel this district is strong in, and which areas need improvement? I feel that WCSD is strong in the fact that our staff work together, by grade level, to ensure that they are reaching every student no matter what their individual needs might be. By the time our students graduate, they are career, higher-learning, and life ready.
I feel that WCSD could improve by having a curriculum coordinator on site to oversee our district’s curriculum and to ensure that we adhere to local, state, and national standards. A curriculum coordinator would help our teachers develop their curriculum, with an overall goal to raise standardized test scores.
Why are you interested in serving on the school board? I am interested in serving on the school board because WCSD is what makes Wrightstown the strong community that it is. School board members are the unseen decision makers in your child’s schooling. I want to help determine the buildings your child spends their days in, and the facilities they have to participate in extracurricular activities. I want to help assess safety procedures during emergencies and set school policy. I want to help our teachers and administrative staff educate our students in the best way possible. I want to play the vital role of making sure our schools stay on track, always with the students’ best interests in mind.
Do you have education or experience in a field relevant to the election? My professional career as a CPA and volunteer experiences have provided valuable lessons in understanding, communication, and accountability. Because I have served on the school board for the last three years, I understand budgets and the need to be a high-achieving, but low-spending school district. Low spending doesn’t mean that we don’t spend money, it just means that we spend it in fiscally responsible ways that promote student and staff programs, staff retention, maintaining a balanced budget, and planning for future needs.
What is your opinion of the school district’s debt defeasance payments? I fully support the debt defeasance payments. To date, we have SAVED $1,658,015 in future interest payments and reduced the life of the loan by four years. WCSD has received an estimated $792,374 in state aid due to prepayment of debt since 2021. By defeasing debt, we are following our district’s financial priorities to maintain student and staff programs, forward think for debt reduction, maintain a strong bond rating, future plan for future needs, and maintain a consistent mill rate. Our community is best served when the school board acts in the best interests of our community AND our students. By defeasing debt, we have done just that – saved money for our taxpayers and received state aid to better serve our students’ needs today.

Michael Mollen 
Occupation: Journeyman Plumber
Education: Wrightstown graduate, Journeyman Plumber (FVTC), Journeyman Millwright Maintenance (Lakeshore Tech), NWTC Fire 1 and 2
What areas do you feel the district is strong in, and which areas need improvement? I feel the school has been strong in providing a staff that genuinely cares, acknowledges, and pushes students to be their best. With ranking No. 1 (2023-24) in the Green Bay area for overall school, 26th in the state and 15th in best teachers speaks volumes. Areas of improvement would be the college readiness area with only scoring 42/100, literacy at 46 percent, and math at 61 percent. This means 54 percent of our students are struggling to read and 39 percent struggle to understand math, key elements used in everyday life. 
Why are you interested in serving on the school board? I’m interested in serving on the school board to bring back trust, transparency, and advocate for the kids, community, and teachers. I feel there needs to be more fiscal responsibility, truthfulness and increased communication about what’s going on in our schools.
Do you have education or experience in a field relevant to the election? Yes – as a professional tradesman and graduate of Wrightstown High School I’m in a unique position to help the board and district develop and improve its youth programs such as apprenticeships. As someone that’s been through two apprenticeships, I can provide real life experience, and show that there are other options besides a four-year college degree.
What is your opinion of the school district’s debt defeasance payments? While I understand the concept of defeasance, I don’t agree with it. At peak times inflation has reached 8 percent or more, interest rates have steadily risen, prices of everyday items have skyrocketed and has really put many folks in a tough financial position. While not everyone is struggling with money, many of the people I have talked to have had enough of the taxes, and are starting to feel financially strapped. The school note was presented to the community at 64 cents/$1,000 assessed value on a 20-year/2-percent rate payback, and there was not a word spoken about prepayment/bonding the money. At peak times of defeasance we saw a rate of over $2/$1,000. Additionally, your home value increased, resulting in extra school defeasance taxes owed. I feel the community has been lied to, and it’s time to bring back integrity.