Meet The Whitefish Bay School Board Candidates

2021 Whitefish Bay School Board candidates 
From left to right: Sandy Saltzstein, Anne Kearney, Pam Woodard, Joe Ketchum Sr., and Daniel Tyk

2021 Whitefish Bay School Board candidates From left to right: Sandy Saltzstein, Anne Kearney, Pam Woodard, Joe Ketchum Sr., and Daniel Tyk

Anavi Prakash , Reporter

On April 6, 2021, there will be an election to elect three members of the Whitefish Bay School Board. Out of the five running candidates, three are incumbent members (members who are currently holding the office/ position), including the current president, Sandy Saltzstein.

To show their places on certain issues, each candidate answered questions at the Whitefish Bay Candidate Forum, hosted by Bay Bridge and moderated by the League of Women Voters. The event took place on March 11. 


Who are the candidates? 

Sandy Saltzstein

Ms. Saltzstein is the current School Board President and has been for the past two years. Her School Board run has been six years so far, and she would like to continue that journey to see the district through the recovery process after the pandemic. Moreover, she is currently the Chief of Staff for Representative Deb Andraca and has learned more skills on a state level that she would like to bring back to the Board. 

Anne Kearney

Ms. Kearney is an incumbent School Board member and has been president in the past; also, she enjoys being on the Board. She cares about student safety and freedom, putting student and district connections high on her list of priorities. Ms. Kearney’s goal if elected is to foster more dialogue and create a more student-centered environment. 

Pam Woodard

Ms. Woodard is also a current board member and was president for nine years at one point. She would like to work towards seeing more positive student outcomes by making sure every student meets their potential while being safe and supported. She believes her outside experience of being on other boards, like the Library Board, has helped her become a better member of the School Board. Ms. Woodard feels strongly that continuing the transformation of technology that started this year is important. 

Daniel Tyk

Mr. Tyk, a new candidate, is a Battalion Chief at the North Shore Fire Rescue. He has seen the evolution of the school district and board, especially in the past year. He believes in making a change by focusing on racial equity and mental health. Mr. Tyk thinks he is a good person to steer the schools in the right direction for recovery. 

Joseph Ketchum Sr.

Mr. Ketchum is the second new candidate running for the School Board. He is a professional violinist and music teacher and has been for the last 25 years. He strongly believes in five-day in-person school because he’s seen what virtual learning has done to the mental health of students and doesn’t think it’s doing anything beneficial. Moreover, Mr. Ketchum deems it safe to go back to school because the Covid-19 positivity rate in the area has been at 2%, the lowest it has ever been. 


At the Forum

One of the most important questions the candidates were asked was about their transparency about their views, and how they were going to ensure everyone’s voices were heard. 

Focusing more on giving gaining information, Ms. Saltzstein said the rising issues of racial equity and the pandemic are opportunities for more community engagement. For the next school year, she wants to increase teacher/staff communication to determine what new aspects from this year they would like to keep implemented for the future years. As for transparency, the Zoom School Board meetings have allowed community members to go on the journey of a decision with the Board. She would also like to find what people want to know and tell them, learning from bad communication occurrences in the past.

Ms. Kearney had similar ideas, and she also looked at the environment where voices are heard. She says she hears people and the most powerful thing to her is hearing student voices. Something she thinks is important is making the environment comfortable for both students and community members to speak out. Her communication goals stand with the public comment portion of School Board meetings for the community and with the PTOs for schools. She added that her overall goal with good communication is to discuss the social and emotional wellbeing of students as well as safety. Ms. Kearney ended by saying addressing racial equity will also be an important part of being transparent with the community.

In the past, Ms. Woodard has reached out and listened to people, but she also wants to do more. She summed it up as wanting to have more two-way communication between the district and community, ensuring everyone knows what they need to know. Her areas of communication lie with student engagement and safety. She would also like to create a strong listening culture, giving the example of parent-teacher conferences as a start.

Mr. Tyk started by saying he was heartbroken at the equity School Board meeting last month because so many people voiced their discomfort in the community. He wants more community engagement, which he said will be through the combined efforts of the School and Village Boards. He, as a past public commenter at the Board meetings, also would like to see more back and forth during public comment time so more action is taken based on what people are saying. The comfort and initiative those things will bring are what he hopes will make students in the Black Student Union and other clubs more comfortable to speak out and say whatever it is they want to say. On his part, Mr. Tyk says he will utilize the help of surveys to increase the input he receives. Moreover, he would like to keep several of the tech options used during this school year for future district-related things, giving people who cannot go to events in person, a second option. An important thing he would like to implement is having town halls/community forums. He finished by saying he would love to listen to anyone who reaches out.

Mr. Ketchum brought in his “five days of school” belief, saying more voices will be heard in a group setting- when everyone is back in school. He said the schools should have been opened completely in September, and now they have to make strong policies that will influence the future. His means of communication were listed as meeting in person, or by email. He also said websites are informative to people, and although there is a lot of technology right now, that can be tweaked so there is more in-person communication. Mr. Ketchum ended by saying he will always have an open door and will explain his rationale for specific decisions when asked about it.  


One of the biggest issues in Whitefish Bay that was exemplified in the schools at a School Board meeting last month is racism and racial equity. Each candidate had a different perspective on the issue, having all seen it play out in different ways. 

Ms. Saltzstein started by saying she is very willing to bring the change needed and is currently learning the skills and knowledge needed to do that. Her goal is to create a culture of belonging for people. The school reports show there is a lot of work to be done, and now, their lens has to spotlight fixing the racial equity problem. 

According to Ms. Kearney, racism exists, but she emphasized that disciplinary action is equitable, and everyone has what they need to be successful. In terms of a racist culture, she added that the relations between the school and community are very important, citing conversations in groups and redoing the curriculum as ways to make them better. Racial equity is a goal of the Board already, but Ms. Kearney specifically said now they need more strategic planning. She said equity will increase the quality of education students get, and the quality of people that will go out into the world after graduating. To get to a point where racial equity exists, Ms. Kearney says time is needed; it is a continuing journey. 

Ms. Woodward brought up that racism is not a new issue and that work to fix it has been going on for a long time. Now, however, is when it needs to be accelerated, from available resources to how curriculums address it. She would like to create a safe environment for people of color and has ongoing work related to that. Equity wise, Ms. Woodard thinks educationally, it’s there, but on the side of racial equity, there is a lot of learning and listening to do. The solution would be to change the curriculum based on that learning done. She says even though she does not have the answers to the problem, she will put in the work to resolve it.   

Agreeing with Ms. Woodard, the first thing Mr. Tyk pointed out was that there was a lot of knowledge for the Board to gain, as everyone who is running and is currently on the School Board is white. He feels sad that students don’t feel a part of the community due to racism, because schools are a part of the community. Racial equity, he says is one of the many priorities he has. To hold the Board accountable, he says quantifiable goals need to be developed concerning equity instead of just keeping it on the agenda, as is being done right now. 

On the other hand, from Mr. Ketchum’s point of view, racism in Whitefish Bay is just like anywhere else. Emphasizing his wish for five days a week school, he said that bringing people together is key. His main focus was that extracurricular activities allow students to get to know each other more. To get more students involved, his goal is to get rid of the fear around the pandemic, due to the data he shared. Addressing racism, according to him, is “futile” until everyone is in person. His rationale behind that is without having different races at school, equity can’t be taught, and doing it online is pointless. Moreover, equity won’t exist until everyone is back in school because everyone has equal access to the school building, but when they are at home, not everyone has the same access to resources like the internet, which disrupts their learning. 


Continuing with the large issues at hand, diversity and multiculturalism came up several times. Most candidates agree that the change lies within different available resources, and changing the curriculum. 

Ms. Saltzstein, who is a current Board member, said diversity is a long-term goal of the Board, and she is working towards it as such. When it comes to multiculturalism, Ms. Saltzstein says she has seen the openness with which students talk freely about things like gender fluidity and different cultures, which is an effect of the curriculum taught to them. Thus, she thinks multiculturalism is already emphasized. 

Ms. Kearney, wanting to make the curriculum better, thinks diversity is something that is a group effort. She would like to utilize students, community members, and experts for improvement. She also would like to reach out to other communities and use their practices as models for what will be implemented in Bay. She says multiculturalism already exists because there are a lot of materials available. Moreover, in the district itself, there are excellent educators and a review committee for the curriculum, keeping it up to date. 

Ms. Woodard, echoing Ms. Saltzstein, said diversity is in the district’s long-term plan. She added that to create more diversity, everyone must respect students as citizens of the world. She cited the Chapter 220 plan as a helping factor for more diversity. Ms. Woodard then went on to say that Whitefish Bay is a great place for everyone to learn, and there are a lot of positive stories–especially with extracurricular activities. However, she noted there are some negative stories as well. On multiculturalism, she says the district has been adding elements to the curriculum and the goal is to educate students for the future. Ms. Woodard says that an important thing is helping students that have sensitivity issues because they need to learn how to respect and learn from other students. 

Mr. Tyk wants to listen more, especially to those students who don’t live in Whitefish Bay. He said people want to work where they live, and the same applies to schools. However, the school board has to make non-Whitefish Bay resident students feel welcome so that more want to come to the schools here, which will make them more diverse. Mr. Tyk thinks the evolution of curriculums and having multiculturalism in all subjects is important. However, he noted that both take time and money to get across. That’s why he said the school district has to learn from other districts. His main goal for an up-to-date curriculum is to make students aware of the world. 

Mr. Ketchum believes diversity only works when schools are open. He says that schools are the most successful when local people go to them. He mentioned that the Chapter 220 program has been very successful, but that is more of an issue for the village trustee instead of the School Board. For those reasons, he said diversity shouldn’t be the School Board’s main goal single-handedly. Mr. Ketchum’s thinking applies to multiculturalism as well, because when students are in school five days a week, their cultures are also “together.” Without five days a week, there are more inequalities than equalities. Furthermore, he went on to say the lack of five-day schooling decreased Whitefish Bay’s leadership in the community. 


Along with racism and diversity, a topic that has taken over many conversations is mental health. Focusing especially on the mental health of teens, all candidates agree there is something to be done. 

For Ms. Saltzstein, mental health is a priority now because learning modalities kept switching, affecting how and where students would learn. She emphasized the need for staff relationships with students, and for those relationships to be sensitive as many students are struggling with their mental health this year. 

Similarly, Ms. Kearney said the most important thing is to reach out and support students. She called it “community-wide work,” and said it’s important to ask students how they’re doing, along with providing resources so they can get help. 

Alluding to times before the pandemic, Ms. Woodard said mental health has always been an issue, and the district has increased the available resources during the pandemic, while also continuing to work on the issue overall. 

Following the idea of more quantitative goals and data, Mr. Tyk wants to look into mental health surveys put out by the CDC to see how kids are doing. He also would like to implement more professional help, both to help students, and also to guide the Board on their actions. 

Mr. Ketchum stood by five-day learning, saying it will improve mental health, as the lack of social interaction is decreasing the sense of humanity in people. He also mentioned that it is important to decrease the fear of going back to school because going back is safe. He finished by saying students should “be human again” by continuing with activities this school year, and in the fall, go back to school five days a week. 


Lastly, the question that is going through everyone’s heads now, is what the next school year will look like. The main concern is whether or not students who cannot go back to school in the fall will have strong virtual learning options. In the eyes of most candidates, the answer is yes. 

Ms. Saltzstein, first mentioning this year’s modalities, said the reason five-day in-person learning did not happen was that extracurriculars and safety outweighed it. The plan for next year is to keep the virtual option in place but also have five-day learning.  

Ms. Kearney started with the fact that the vaccine has been a game-changer. She also said students should have options to fit what they need. Experts have said that options are necessary because not everyone will be able to go back five days a week in the fall. However, Ms. Kearney agreed with Ms. Saltzstein, saying the Board’s goal is to go back five days next year, for the majority of the student body. 

Ms. Woodard stated that families have to stay safe. She added that the district risk mitigation policy is strong when it comes to wearing masks and distancing. With that in mind, going into the new school year, five-day learning will be available, with the virtual option still accessible to those who need it. 

Mr. Tyk said he supports the virtual option completely as his children have been all virtual this year, and feels that going back to school now is safer than before. He pointed out that the decision isn’t just about students and teachers, but also about their families and the community. Due to the concerns or needs of some families, virtual learning should remain an option going into the next school year. 

Mr. Ketchum says safety will increase with five-day learning because the school environment is safer than the community one. As for virtual options, he said they should be there for those families that need it, but shouldn’t be a priority due to their mental health impact on students. 


All in all, among all the candidates, there is a spectrum of standpoints on all the issues talked about, from racial equity to what school will look like next year. 

If you feel strongly about some of the candidates, and would like to make your opinions heard, please fill out this form, which will be used for a future article. As has been the strong recommendation for various elections in the past year, if you are old enough to vote, please do on April 6, 2021, for the new School Board members.