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Photo by Keith KohlmannWith eight contested Racine Unified School District Board of Education races, the biggest upset was the District 8 race between Melvin Hargrove and Matthew Hanser by 13 votes.

The winners include: Dennis Wiser– District 2, Michael Frontier — District 3; Julie McKenna — District 4, Steven Hooper — District 5; John Heckenlively –District 6; Don Nielsen — District 7, Hanser — District 8, and Robert Wittke — District 9.

Hanser to focus on bringing people together

Matt Hanser unseated incumbent Melvin Hargrove for the District 8 seat by 13 votes with Hanser getting 2,190 votes and Hargrove earning 2,177 votes.

While Hanser had the backing of the Racine Education Association, the teachers’ union representing Racine Unified teachers, Hargrove sided with the business community on a number of issues including handbook changes for the teachers’ union and implementing the academy model.

Relieved that the wait was over, Hanser said it felt great to win the race.

“I met with a number of students this evening and that was really positive and upbeat,” he said. “Still, it’s a little bit surreal…. but I want to bring people together to move the district forward.”

Hanser wants to focus on finding common ground between the union and the administration by seeking to understand their wants and needs. He believes that this can only be accomplished when people trust one another and follow through with their intentions.

“We need to be asking the community, the staff, taxpayers, and the community at large…what are your hopes dreams and aspirations,” he said. “…I want to find a resolution that — when your done — nobody gets hurt. I don’t believe the business community is interested in hurting our children, they want to see our children be successful.”

Even though the race was close, Hargrove doesn’t think he’ll ask for a recount. He’s not surprised how close the race was because of the make-up of the district. District 8 included parts of Caledonia, North Bay, and part of Racine. Hargrove typically garnered more votes in Racine than in Caledonia. Still, he has no regrets in the decisions he’s made about moving the district forward.

“I believe I made the right decision. Unfortunately the voters thought otherwise and I always told poeple that I was unsure about how it would go,” he said. “But the voters will live with the decision they made.”

Julie McKenna Unseats Kim Plache

McKenna believes that her and Plache shared similar viewpoints on the direction of the school board up until about a year ago when the district started looking at changing the employee handbook.

McKenna and Wiser walked out of a school board meeting after Hargrove tried to push a vote through while Frontier and Nielsen were on vacation, a point that was brought up in an ad purchased by Citizens for Excellence in Education. The ad accused McKenna of failing the “children of the Racine Unified School District.” But McKenna wrote a letter to the editor explaining that she disagreed with the procedure Hargrove took.

Plache denies knowing who paid for the ads and did not take out the ad, she said.

A lot of people know me, but they also knew Kim,” McKenna said. “Last week was the hardest with negative flier sent out by Citizens for Excellence in Education. “It may have helped to write the rebuttal letter. “And I tried to run a clean campaign, knocking on doors and reminding people to vote.”

Despite their differences, McKenna thanked Plache for her service. Plache was not able to be reached for comment.

Wittke promises to improve school district

Wittke beat Squire: 3,230 to 2,032.  Wittke, who supported the academy concept and block scheduling, said he feels the people in District 9 really want change.

“People want improvement, people want to elect someone who is focused on the kids, and I’m just flattered,” Wittke said.

Vowing to focus on moving things forward with the academy and block scheduling, Wittke said that students and the community need see that their educational investment is paying off.

“I think the board has to  start doing its job, but there needs to be long-range planning and the community needs to see us investing in our kids,” he said. “The board is the one that is setting the direction. That’s probably the thing that is closest to my heart.”

Frontier focused on goals

In District 3, Mike Frontier earned 1,841 votes against Handrow, who had 1,007 votes.

Frontier stressed the need for a more collaborative approach between staff and administrators, which he said, made the difference in this campaign. He also pointed to having a lot of campaign support as he knocked on about 2,800 of the 7,000 doors in his district. He also focused on how the school board needs to do a better job of listening to communities outside Racine.

“We want to accomplish the great goals the superintendent is proposing,” he said. “We had a really strong campaign. We had a lot of face to face contact with people. And I had a lot of great people working with me.”

Here’s what we have so far:

Racine Unified District 2

12/12 wards reporting

John Koetz 2,019

Dennis Wiser 2,247

Racine Unified School District 3

6/6 Wards reporting

Pam Handrow 1,007

Mike Frontier 1,841

Racine Unified School District 4


Julie McKenna 2,293

Kim Plache 2,186

Racine Unified School District 5


Chuck Goodremote 2,421

Steve Hooper 2,986

Racine Unified School District 6

7/7 wards reportinig

Jim Venturini 836

John Heckenlively 920

Racine Unified School District 7

8/8 wards reporting

Brian O’Connell 1,252

Don Nielsen 1,816

Racine Unified School District 8


Melvin Hargrove 2,177

Matthew Hanser 2,190

Racine Unified School District 9

14/14 wards reporting

Robert Wittke 3,230

Kurt Squire 2,032




Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.

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