The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

Three candidates running for school board


Quotes were taken from both individual interviews and candidate responses at the January 25, 2024 School Board Candidate Forum. Visit the Shorewood Ripples YouTube channel to view the full forum. Remember to vote for a School Board Candidate February 20, 2024, in which the lowest-voted candidate will be eliminated and the remaining two candidates will advance to the Spring Election ballot in April. 


Heather Cook Elliott

Heather Cook Elliott, wedding photographer and small business owner, does not claim to be an expert, but believes her curiosity, drive and parental perspective make her a well suited candidate. As someone currently guiding their own child through the transition to Shorewood Intermediate School (SIS), Cook Elliot aims to bring her firsthand knowledge of the challenges and opportunities within the district to the Board.

The Covid pandemic caused Cook Elliott to pay more attention to her community, and sparked her interest in running for a Board position.

“I was not particularly engaged and kind of assumed everything was great in Shorewood,” Cook Elliott said. “It was really around the pandemic that I started realizing how much the decisions of the school board affect the day to day for our kids and their education in such a short time.”

Cook Elliott hopes to increase academic rigor and success throughout all grades of the Shorewood School District (SSD), especially at SIS.

“We should be able to target resources wherever kids need them… it’s about giving each student whatever tool they need in order to elevate all,” Cook Elliott said. “If we have identified students that are underachieving, then we should be putting our resources there…it seems like people [brush off underachievement at SIS] and I just feel like it [is] such a lost opportunity to not focus attention, expectation, and rigor onto kids who clearly need it.”

Cook Elliott seeks to enhance communication between the Board and parents, creating a space for a reciprocal dialogue where both parties take each other seriously. She envisions a more interactive approach from the Board through committees and additional opportunities for engagement.

“[My goals include] understanding what we can do to increase communication between the school board and the parents, but not just one way,” Cook Elliot said. “Not just the school board communicating to the parents, but for the school board to take seriously what the parents have to say and answer their questions and connect them back.”

To combat financial pressures, Cook Elliott suggests these various committees as a more sustainable solution. She believes that groups of local experts will provide community members with ample opportunities to have questions answered.

“It seems like the school board meetings or follow up meetings should be that place, [but] I don’t think that the school board currently takes seriously that parents feel really disconnected and don’t feel heard. I think that needs to change,” Cook Elliott said. “I don’t think that parents feel like there is any place other than individual interactions, whether it is school board members or administrators, where they can go to have big discussions about big things.”

Additionally, Cook Elliott will attempt to return Shorewood parents and taxpayers to financial stability.

“We’re on a referendum roller-coaster with no plan for how to exit, and [not] enough transparency on how we got here,” Cook Elloitt said. “I’m running for school board to draw attention to the fact that more needs to be done with what we have, and the best chance to do that is not by electing an incumbent…but [someone] who reflects the lived experiences of parents today.” 

Cook Elliott does not believe that additional moves for referendum are necessary, and believes that Shorewood should consider alternative solutions.

“I have heard the school board talk about how the legislature in Madison is not funding schools, but they are not funding schools across the entire state. Every single school in the entire state is subject to the same rules that we are,” Cook Elliott said. “Shorewood has one of the highest Mill rates in the state, it has one of the most dedicated communities in the state when it comes to [increasing taxes for school funding] and still somehow…we have been told in recent school board meetings that we’re probably going to have to go to referendum again… I don’t think that [just trusting the school board] is satisfactory anymore.”

The Shorewood Educators Association and the Shorewood Support Staff Association’s recent staff satisfaction survey revealed that out of all 105 staff responses, 57.1% have considered pursuing employment in another district. Cook Elliott believes that Shorewood must divert more attention to this issue.

“The one unifying experience is that everyone thinks that the teachers are amazing and the people who are with their kids everyday are incredibly talented, dedicated and the whole reason people stay in Shorewood…the very last thing that should be put on the table is anything that would cause a teacher to not want to stay in Shorewood,” Cook Elliott said. “I believe our SSD teachers are tremendously dedicated and excellent so I think it’s a misstep to hold Steps and Lanes hostage every year to balance a budget in a community that is so highly taxed and so very committed to strong public schools.”

Cook Elliott believes the decreasing residential class size across the SSD is cause for concern.

“Kids who come to the school through open enrollment do not come with the same dollar amount as a resident who enrolls. If there were no budget problems then okay, fine, but if there are budget problems, then every openly enrolled student is simultaneously bringing some money in, but is not bringing as much money in as it costs to educate a student so it seems like, I don’t understand the math on that,” Cook Elliott said. “The school board needs to be curious [as to why residents aren’t sending children to Shorewood schools], and they need to understand what people are getting in other places that they don’t think they can get in Shorewood and then make those changes.”

Additionally, she believes that Shorewood taxpayers pay for Shorewood residents to attend Shorewood schools.

“I think as a general idea open enrollment is great, I think it certainly adds to our community,” Cook Elliott said. “The School Board and the SSD is here to serve Shorewood kids. The taxpayers are thinking that they are sending money into the taxbase to educate Shorewood kids.”

Cook Elliott believes that the district belief of “Excellence Means More Here” should apply universally, and acknowledges the importance of caring for the whole child.

“Excellence is excellence,” Cook Elliott said. “I would like to see those minority students also get to be a part of that academic excellence, I would like to see Special Ed students get to be a part of that academic excellence, and, to be frank, I would like there to be more resources for advanced learning, so that everybody across the board is getting more, if that’s what we’re telling everybody that they get here.”

For many issues, Cook Elliott believes that the school board should “ring the fire alarm”, because certain issues deserve more attention than what has previously been given. 

“I think that one of Shorewood’s strengths is that it is such a small district, so that when one kid is having a problem, parents and administrators know about it and we can all come together and help,” Cook Elliott said. “If any district can move the needle and achieve it, it should be Shorewood.”  


Ellen Eckman

Incumbent Ellen Eckman, seeking reelection for a second term on the Board, aims to apply her foundation in education and public service to her candidacy. With a 16-year tenure as a social studies teacher at Shorewood High School (SHS), she would like to bring stability and continuity to the Shorewood School Board, and believes that her lifelong dedication to education provides her with invaluable perspective and experience. 

“I must really like school because I still take courses,” Eckman said. “I am a lifelong learner and I think that is an important characteristic.”

As a teacher, she emphasized civic engagement by requiring her students to attend a local government board meeting. This initiative aimed to cultivate their active participation in influencing the trajectory of governmental processes. She remains committed to upholding this focus for the next generation of Shorewood students, asserting that, on top of encouraging good grades, developing citizenship and character is of equal importance. 

“Putting a continual focus on academic excellence [is important] in our school district, and we talk about excellence, not only in academics, but in issues around citizenship and around character,” Eckman said.   

Within schools, Eckman believes that recognizing Shorewood’s work on equity is of significant importance to Board members and to her. 

“In order to address the achievement gaps [between white students and students of color] we are going to have to focus on addressing the differences and make it so that we are offering all students wellbeing, health, accelerated learning, special education,” Eckman said.“Integrated Comprehensive Systems for Equity (ICS) is designed to have us be aware of and to work toward the goal of equal education for all students so that all students can obtain what we are promising them in the Shorewood School District…it isn’t just a theoretical change, it’s …something that takes a lot of time, to uncover and unpack the systems that we’ve had in place.” 

The health and wellbeing of students is also important to Eckman’s previous efforts on the Board.

“[We always try to] make sure our students are healthy in body and mind and that we are taking good care of them,” Eckman said. “I think part of that is equity work, so that our students and staff and everyone is working towards a common goal of excellence…excellence, achievement and growth is something we will always keep at.”

Eckman’s primary goal is to instill a new appreciation for learning within students, as well as expressing the importance of education. 

“My goal would be to continue to give people a love for learning, a civic responsibility to the value of education which we all hold so dearly,” Eckman said. “I want to keep up many of the traditions, but I don’t want to be hidebound by traditions that don’t address new situations.”

Eckman posits theories regarding the causes of decreasing residential enrollment numbers throughout the District.

“It is very easy for people to sit and say we are not getting the scores that we want without looking at the bigger picture…the enrollment issue that we are facing in our district is something that we are very cognizant of,” Eckman said. “There are things we can do in the Village to increase enrollment in terms of housing and development. [However] there is also a declining birth rate across the state and increased homeschooling.”

Eckman states that the Board is currently working on improvements to combat the dip in resident enrollment.

“We’re looking at marketing strategies, we’re looking at more involvement and getting out into the district more as a school board with all of the community engagement activities,” Eckman said. “It’ll take an effort from all of us to talk about enrollment issues.”

Eckman predicts a different future for Shorewood schools due to the lack of state funding.

“As we continue into financial issues we have to decide as a community of parents, the schools and the district what it means to be a much smaller school…[open enrollment] allows us to stabilize class sizes…when we have space without adding new classes, new faculty, new staff then we add open enrollment spots,” Eckman said.

Along with decreasing class sizes, Eckman believes that right-sizing staff is a sustainable, fiscally-responsible option to uphold limited funding.

“The reason for the referendum is that we do not have enough funds to carry on all the things we want to carry on in the schools and the hard things that have to be done, and they may have to be done in the future,” Eckman said. “When we were budgeting we had already done what is called right-sizing staff… to match enrollment.”

In response to findings from the recent Shorewood Educators Association and Shorewood Support Staff Association staff satisfaction survey, Eckman states that the Board’s current focus is on maintaining existing benefits and commitments, rather than introducing new strategies for addressing concerns raised by faculty and staff.

“We are steadfast in doing steps and lanes, and we have not changed from that,” Eckman said. “We’ve always said that all staff, everyone here, will receive the increases that are available… I don’t think we’re going to change from that; that is very, very important to us.”

Eckman believes that, in comparison to other Wisconsin schools, the referendum was the ideal solution.

“The issue of sizing and enrollment…[is that] there are inflationary costs on everything that we do and that’s happening everywhere,” Eckman said. “I think 92 Wisconsin school districts went to an operational referendum in 2022 and 2023, 76 of those referendums passed and the districts that didn’t have them passed are looking at closing schools buildings…it isn’t that we’re trying to scare anybody but if you look at the financial [data] it’s out there and spelled out.”

Having served on the Board for three years, Eckman would like to continue her work for the SSD.

“I believe in giving back to the community with the skills and experiences that I have in education and in leadership,” Eckman said.


 Andrew Frey

Andrew Frey, stay-at-home dad and eight-year Shorewood resident, believes that he will bring a different perspective to the school board through his time as a school administrator and teacher, as well as a parent and small business owner. 

“I feel like I have a different set of questions than what current school board members ask, maybe different experiences than current board members have had as far as my history within schools,” Frey said. “I spend a lot of time on the playground after school and hearing the concerns from other district parents made me think that I can make a difference.”  

A primary concern of his is the proficiency rate decrease from elementary to intermediate school. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction 2022-2023 Report Card, Shorewood Intermediate School’s (SIS) overall summary score was 61%, while Atwater Elementary was listed as 84.9% and Lake Bluff at 85.8%.

“The first thing would be stabilizing curriculum, expectations, outcomes at the intermediate school – hopefully it would be as consistent as the education at the elementary school and into the high school,” Frey said. “I think that over the last eight to ten years I haven’t seen anything happening to improve those scores. I haven’t seen the care [from the Board].”

Regarding the achievement gap existing between white students and students of color, Frey believes that the first step is admitting the disparity, and finding a way to pinpoint what exactly is at the root of the issue. 

“I think you focus resources on those issues, you figure out if it’s a home thing, a conflict in the classroom, or if the students don’t feel comfortable [in the school],” Frey said. “Meeting the students where they are and making plans to close those gaps… you can make goals with the students.”

Frey believes that “opportunity myth” and grade inflation exist within Shorewood, and plans to divert focus into more in-depth learning and community involvement. He believes that the Shorewood School District’s (SSD) motto, “Excellence Means More Here”, means having higher expectations in both academics and community involvement.

“Stretching kids’ ability to just a little higher than what they know already so that they learn more is what the motto means to me,” Frey said. “It means asking for more, more rigor, more expectation…expecting that we can do the best for everybody.”

Frey also considers enrollment numbers as a pressing issue for Shorewood schools, more so over the last few years. Additionally, he believes that both the current funding for open enrollment and the decreasing resident enrollment is not sustainable for a continual increase in staffing.

“I think [we should] cap off the open enrollment and base our numbers off of resident enrollment,” Frey said. “I think there needs to be a study on the number of kids in Shorewood and if there are kids then [we need to find out] why they aren’t coming to Shorewood schools. If there are no kids, then we have to downsize, but if they’re not coming to Shorewood schools because they don’t like x, y, or z, then we have to fix x, y and z.”

Frey believes that Shorewood taxpayers pay for Shorewood students to be in Shorewood schools, and does not agree that increasing open enrollment to stabilize a decreasing residential class size is the solution.

“There is not enough funding that comes with open enrollment seats so I think that we need to make all of our selections off of resident enrollment,” Frey said. 

Instead of increasing open enrollment spots, Frey believes that researching ways to alternatively teach classes would be a better solution.

“We have tons of adjunct professors that live in the community [who can] come in and teach a class for a day, or also [encourage] dual-enrollment between SHS and UWM,” Frey said. “We really have to take a good look at [these options] because [increasing open enrollment] is not going to be financially sustainable.”

Admitting that he never supported the passing of the operating referendum due to lack of clarity and information, he is certain that it is not fiscally responsible, and is not upholding its promise of supporting Shorewood teachers.

“To put [passing the referendum] on the teachers’ backs but then not support them after that? I don’t find that to be acceptable,” Frey said. “We’re losing talent because we are asking our teachers to do stuff and then we are not supporting them.”

Similarly, Frey believes that teachers should have a predictable pay rate.

“Every year we’re coming to the board [wondering] if we are going to get Steps and Lanes and we always have to negotiate about it; let’s just decide on it, let’s start inside the classroom and build out,” Frey said. We have a lot of luxuries in Shorewood that other districts do not have and if we lost some of those luxuries we would be able to give our teachers a more predictable livelihood and a more predictable job.”

Returning the SSD to financial stability is a primary goal of his, and he believes Shorewood should budget in a new way. 

“A second [focus of mine] would be financial stability, so that four years from now there is not going to be another referendum, or if there is it’s more realistic…[but] let’s budget so we don’t need to go to referendum again,” Frey said. “I feel like we are almost taxing people out of Shorewood.” 

The re-implementation of committees is of interest to Frey, as he believes that it will increase the number of voices representing Shorewood. 

“I would like to see more involvement from the community and [committees] are a great resource to help with finance, curriculum, extracurricular activities,” Frey said. 

With his slogan, “A Listening Ear and Accountable Voice”, Frey believes that listening makes all the difference to create lasting change, as well as increasing transparency to all Shorewood members.

 “I will ask the questions, and I will say the answers,” Frey said. “I learn from my mistakes and I grow from those mistakes.”