Six candidates vie for At Large

Howard-Winneshiek Community School District has and will be facing some huge decisions in the next few years because of state budget cuts and declining enrollment. Three new board members will be voted in on September 13.

Last week, District 2’s candidate Scott Fortune, and District 3’s candidate James Kitchen were asked to answer some questions. This week, the six candidates for At Large will answer those same questions. They will join current members Karlos McClure and Duane Bodermann.

Please show the candidates who are running that what they believe is also important to you, the voter. Try to make it to the polls on Tuesday, September 13.

Polls are open from noon until 8:00 p.m. at the Lime Springs Community Center for Forest City, Chester, Oakdale, Saratoga and Howard Center townships and the cities of Lime Springs and Chester. The last day to vote on an absentee ballot at the Howard County Courthouse is Monday, September 12.

Following are the questions asked of the candidates:

1) During this stressful economic time with budget cuts a major issue, why do you want to be elected to the school board?

2) What ideas and assets can you bring to the board to keep the district fiscally strong?

3) What would be your first priority in being a school board member?

4) What are your thoughts on keeping the satellite elementary schools open?

5) Anything you would like to add?

Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

Doug Berg, Cresco, At Large

Why running?: It is important to have the best school system possible for my son and all that attend the Howard-Winn school district. I feel I can be objective and I will do what is best for the majority of children, parents, teachers and administrators.

I’m not afraid of making difficult decisions and I feel I have lot of skills that can be useful on this board. I have no conflict of interest with serving on the board. I simply want to help the district provide the best education possible to the students within the financial constraints of the budget. I want to make sure that decisions are made objectively, fairly, soundly and responsibly.

Ideas and Assets: I have an associate degree in computer science and bachelor’s degree in information systems I have been a computer analyst/programmer for approximately 30 years, the last 14 years at Featherlite. As an analyst, my job is to ask a lot of questions and create computer solutions that make people’s jobs easier and more efficient and save the company money. I feel I can use these skills on the school board to help make good decisions.

First priority: As a school board member, my priority would be to help provide the best education experience possible to the children and the parents of the district. Equally important is the financial impact on the community. I am well aware of the tax situation in the district and I will be mindful of the financial impact my decisions have on the citizens of the district.

Satellite elementary schools: In my opinion this seems to be the most controversial item facing the board. My son went to Lime Springs elementary, K-6. We were fortunate to have this experience. There are a lot of benefits to attending a satellite school.

If at all possible I would like to see these schools stay open. I recognize keeping the satellite schools open have advantages beyond educational benefits as it affects the core of each of these communities. However, keeping these schools open must make financial sense too. There is a point of diminishing returns. I promise to keep an open mind and be objective on this topic.

Anything else?: I invite anyone to contact me before or after the election. My phone number is in the book.

Narren Brown, Cresco, At Large

Why running?: I currently serve Iowa State University as a research assistant, assessment specialist and instructor. I am also a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. My educational background, my interest in curriculum development and implementation, and my desire to serve my community are the reasons that I sought the district 1 seat in 2009 and the reason I seek the member at large seat today. The stressful economic times or budget cuts have nothing to do with my desire to be elected to the school board.

Ideas and Assets: Prior to beginning my academic career in 2006, I managed restaurants and hotels. In that profession I had to both write and adhere to budgets. When my budget experience and educational background are coupled with my grant writing and data analysis skills, I believe that I will provide a unique and well informed perspective to the board. These are a few of the assets that I will bring to the board that I believe will help keep the district fiscally strong.

First priority: My first and only priority is to assure that the Howard-Winneshiek school district delivers the best education possible for the children of our district. An education that provides the opportunity for our graduates to be competitive locally, nationally, and internationally.

Satellite elementary schools: In the fall of 2009, I served on the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee. We were tasked to cut $1.5 million from our budget. As a committee, we presented the school board with several recommendations and the projected savings associated with each to choose from. The option that was chosen by the school board then did not providing the savings our district needed.

Since serving the district on the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee, I have served on the Student Environment & Success Committee as a member of the Resource Sub-committee and attended many school board meetings. It is my understanding that our projected budgetary short-fall is still large. If elected, I will do all I can to save both of the satellite schools, but I will not sacrifice the needs of the entire district for the sake of any one community.

When the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee made our recommendations to the board the only options that both made sense and saved the required $1.5 million, were to close Ridgway and Elma. In the year plus since the committee disbanded, I have not seen a plan that would be as effective.

Carol Foley, Cresco, At Large

Why running?: Regardless of the economic down turn or declining enrollment there will always be major decisions to be made when operating a large business.

It is the Board’s responsibility to ensure that every student in this district receives the best education possible while being accountable to the taxpayers for every penny spent with that goal in mind. Since I am retired, I believe I have the time and energy to research and talk with taxpayers and share the information gathered with the board. Working together we can find solutions to our districts issues.

Ideas and Assets: There may be ways to consolidate or share between schools or districts. Without studying past board minutes I don’t know what’s been suggested or even tried. I don’t know what the finances really look like, how much we need to save. We all know cuts have to be made to make up for the cut in state funding.

During my 18 years in Radiology at RHSHC budgets were a #1 priority while focusing on the best patient care. I owned the Cresco Laundromat for 12 years and had to spend wisely.

First priority: My first priority is education, the best for every child. I was appalled to learn we have students in grades 9-12, who could NOT read, or were way below their level, of course their math skills were in the same sad shape.

Somehow these students “slipped between the cracks.” This cannot happen. In addition to struggling students, our advanced students are not being challenged either. In the next (four) years I would like to see our programs evaluated for effectiveness and determine a plan of action to help students achieve at higher levels. It’s no wonder our test scores have dropped.

Satellite elementary schools: The satellite elementary schools have been under discussion for the past 10 years. The physical plants themselves are costly to keep up and maintain. You have duplication of services, janitorial, food service and secretaries. Add declining enrollment to the mix and you come back to finances, can we pay the bills and have funds left to educate? The board will have to stop discussing and act on feasible options. Any decision will be difficult.

Anything else?: I was born and raised in Howard County, graduated from Notre Dame H.S. in 1958. We returned to Cresco in 1974, all three children graduated from Crestwood and I have two granddaughters currently attending.

I worked for RHSHC for 18 years, was on the Variance Board for the City of Cresco for six years, and was president of the Hospital Auxiliary for the past three years. I am an active member of Notre Dame Parish.

If elected to the At-Large position I would be the only woman on the board.

I urge you to exercise your right and privilege to vote for the candidates of your choice, please vote on Tuesday September 13.

Cindi Grover, Cresco, At Large

Why running?: I feel with an ever changing economy I can offer positive and open minded ideas and strategies to help continue the school board moving forward in a positive manner. I believe working as a team member is a crucial part of any successful board.

Ideas and Assets: With the ever-changing political and budgetary climate, I feel we need to evaluate all possible budgeting avenues. Once we have accomplished that we need to make sure that we’ve got the best of value out of all of the district’s assets.

I have served on other boards, such as Iowa Soybean Association, Howard County Extension Council and others. I know how a great board working together can accomplish great things by strengthening the community as a whole.

First priority: My first and foremost priority shall be maintaining an openness to new ideas no matter what the source. As I previously said, a great board can accomplish great things by offering their own individual ideas and having long term goals that need to be addressed. I shall be a positive conduit to bring forth the cares, concerns and ideas of the community.

Satellite elementary schools: I feel each and every school is an integral part of the community. Before we close any school we need to make sure that it makes good financial sense to the school and the community.

Anything else?: I feel Howard Winn Schools has great teachers, dedicated staff, and amazing students. They deserve a school board that is going to represent and lead them in a positive way through the economic challenges we will be facing in the future.

Tom Platte, Elma, At Large

Why running?: I want to be involved in the decision making process regarding our current budget crisis. I have the time it takes to be on the school board, to set priorities, and help establish long-term sound financial planning with keeping in mind on what is important for all the children and patrons of the district.

Ideas and Assets: I have been involved with budgets for town councils, church boards, community clubs, and I am a former Howard-Winneshiek Board member for nine years (93-02). I also ran my own business for 25 years before going back to college. Ideas come from many sources. It is important to listen to others.

First priority: We need to address the current financial problems, provide accurate information to the public and brainstorm ideas to help stop declining enrollment.

Satellite elementary schools: The elementary schools are an asset to their community. I would support the students and the towns they live in so these communities will continue to grow and be part of the districts financial long-term solution.

Anything else?: I graduated form Crestwood. My kids graduated from Crestwood and I have lived within the district for over 45 years.

Kim (Hudecek) Soukup, Cresco, At Large

Why running?: I don’t believe that economic conditions should be a reason “to” or “not to” make a decision to serve on the school board. I have wanted to serve on the school board for the past several years and the timing is best now.

I feel with my past experience working in the educational environment (I have served at all centers when I served the Howard-Winneshiek District ranging from kindergarten aide, to special ed aide, to school secretary), attended Crestwood Junior High and High School, as well as my children attended the schools at Ridgeway and Cresco. I have an excellent feel for the educational needs of the district.

I have also served as an educational advisor through a Department of Education grant in the district. In all of the areas, I worked closely with teachers, students, parents and administration and have an understanding for the needs and concerns for those involved.

Ideas and Assets: I believe the quality of having “common sense” is a big asset and when I mentioned to people I was running for the board, that is the first thing that was said, “finally someone with common sense.” I have been dealing with budget cuts throughout my career, as well as budget management while serving within several organizations. I have served on several boards that are fiscally strong and believe my leadership skills can be utilized as a board member as well.

First priority: Open and honest communication. It doesn’t matter whether that communication is within the board, the administration, the parents, teachers or students. It is primary to the success or failure of the board as a whole. One of my primary goals as a board member is to visit each school on a monthly basis; observing, listening and learning what the needs are in our district.

Satellite elementary schools: I served at Ridgeway Elementary School for many years as well as working at Elma and Lime Springs and saw first-hand the outstanding education and cohesiveness among students, parents, teachers and businesses. I believe if at all possible satellite schools should remain open. They bring vitality, jobs and educational excellence to each community they are located in.

Anything else?: Be involved, get out there and vote for your candidate that will best represent you, your family and the needs of the community that you live in. I am honored for your consideration and the potential of serving you as a Howard-Winneshiek School Board member.

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