Tourtillott to fill vacant school board seat

Local attorney selected from 4 applicants
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Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Starlyn Tourtillott, the newest member of the Shawano School Board, recites her oath of office Monday as Lori Sherman, administrative assistant for the board, holds up the written oath. Tourtillott will fill the board seat for the next five months until an election is held for a new three-year term.

The Shawano School Board has nine members again after the board voted to appoint Starlyn Tourtillott to its vacant seat on Monday.

Tourtillott was appointed to fill the city of Shawano position vacated by Derek Johnson, who resigned Oct. 1 after he took a job in New Mexico. Tourtillott will hold the seat until April 2019, when an election will be held for a three-year term.

Tourtillott was one of four Shawano residents to submit a declaration of interest for the position. The board interviewed all four applicants, which also included Mart Grams, Melissa Neuthals and Bryanna Wendt and selected Tourtillott with six votes via secret ballot; the seventh vote went to Grams.

Tourtillott has two children that go to Shawano public schools and noted a third child is due to be born early next year. Besides working as an attorney, Tourtillott also serves on the Shawano Redevelopment Authority and the school district’s Title VI committee.

“My passion for education has been my entire life,” Tourtillott said, noting she is a direct descendant of both the Menominee and Stockbridge-Munsee tribes. “With kids in the district, it’s especially important.”

Tourtillott noted she was had some challenges with the district when it comes to her family’s tribal culture, noting an issue with her son’s long hair.

“That can be misunderstood in a lot of contexts, so I wrote a book, and we provided it in the life skills class at Hillcrest in all the grades,” Tourtillott said. “It really was an amazing experience … to achieve a result that meant something and made a difference.”

Tourtillott praised the district on its efforts to incorporate technology into learning, but she noted it needs to be included in all aspects of the school district. She noted that the declarations of interest she and the other candidates had to fill out had to be handwritten, and she felt that might have hindered more Shawano residents from applying for the board seat.

“Something as simple as this, putting it on your web site, you probably would have gotten more people here tonight,” Tourtillott said. “More people probably would have wanted this position if this was technologically friendly.”

Grams, a retired teacher, said he wanted to see the district focus on the children first and the curriculum second.

“I’m very interested in this town, and this (the school district) is the center of this town,” Grams said.

Wendt, in her opening comments, said that being a nurse has given her the experience to work as part of a team, and that she wants to help keep students from falling through the cracks.

Neuthals, who has four students in the district, said she has had wonderful experiences with the public schools and said it’s important to make sure all children are attended to in terms of their education.