Meet H-W school board candidates
Thu, 10/07/2021 - 2:07pm admin
The Nov. 2 election will be for city offices of mayor and council members and candidates for school board directors. This week, the Times Plain Dealer asked the candidates for Howard-Winneshiek School Board to answer questions about their abilities and intentions.
City election candidates will be featured next week.
The seats of Alison Holten (District 1) and Duane Bodermann (District 4) are up for re-election. Bodermann is stepping down after serving the district since filling a vacancy in October 2015. Lisa Kammerer and Tom Williams are looking to fill his seat. Holten appointed in September 2017 and will run again. She has two competitors, Jon Hayek and Nikki van den Heever.
Questions asked included:
• What assets do you bring to Howard-Winneshiek Community School District?
• What are the challenges facing How-Winn, and how would you address them?
• What are the best features of How-Winn?
• What goals do you have?
Hello, my name is Jon Hayek. I have lived in Cresco my entire life, except for a few years while going to college, which is over 40 years. I am married and have four kids, one in college, one in high school and two in junior high. I have been working for Cresco Food Technologies for 16 years, in many different roles, working as an Operator, in our Lab, as the Production Manager and now as the Quality Manager. I have previously sat on the board for the First Lutheran Church, for two years, and over the last year-and-a-half, I have been on the Theatre Commission. Being on these two boards gave me the opportunity to help make them run smoother with decisions on operations or help with work around those facilities.
A few of my goals that I would like to work on, that are also challenges that I see for Howard Winn School District are:
~ Masks being worn at school – With all that is going on in the world and here in Howard County, I believe it is the choice of the student or parents on who is wearing masks. I do not believe we should force those who are not compromised to wear one if that is not their choice.
~ Preparing our kids for the future workforce or college – The development of our kids needs to help them for the future, so that they are able to balance a check book, sign their name, receive a college degree and to hold a job. I think these skills and others need to have more focus, but we also need to allow them to fail so they can learn and become better at whatever they are doing.
~ A place to feel safe – I would like to help improve our safety protocols. Having more security or just working more with the kids to make them safe from bullying so they can focus on their learning and not on their safety.
I believe we have very caring teachers and helpful staff to make our kids the best they can be in the future. Our extracurricular activities the kids are involved in, like band, choir, FFA and sports, are great programs and help them achieve excellence.
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I am Alison Holten, and I am running for the seat on the Howard Winneshiek School Board representing District #1. I have lived in Howard County all of my life, growing up on farms near Elma and now residing in Cresco. My parents are Ann Sullivan and the late Alan Sullivan. I am married to Brad Holten, who is a social studies teacher in the Fillmore Central School District in Harmony, Minn.
Brad and I have two children, Kaiya is a sophomore, and Kaden is a freshman, both attending Crestwood High School.
I am employed by Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) as a sales professional. I work with business and industry throughout NICC’s district providing training to upskill their workforce and help them with solutions to be competitive locally, nationally, and worldwide.
I currently serve on the Howard Winneshiek School Board. In the four years I have served on the board, I have missed fewer than five meetings, including regular and special meetings and work sessions. My time on the board has taught me the importance of listening, asking for feedback, asking questions and looking at issues with an open mind with no preconceived thoughts or ideas. When I vote, it is in the best interest of the students at the time of the vote based on the information I have obtained on the subject matter.
I serve on the board with no preconceived agenda, but to do what is in the best interest of the students and the school district. I am supportive of our school staff. I hold them accountable when needed, but I also celebrate and acknowledge their accomplishments.
My family and I make it a point to attend as many school functions as possible. I feel it is important to be supportive of the students not only in academics, but also in the activities in which they participate. Being a school board member is more than attending a monthly meeting, you need to be active and visible in the school community.
There are several challenges facing Howard Winneshiek School district. I will address three of them.
~ School financing. School financing can be hard to understand. It is based on buckets of money that can only be used for certain expenses in each bucket. Money cannot be transferred from one bucket to another bucket. There may be money in the PPEL bucket to pave a parking lot, but not enough money in the general fund to hire more staff.
At the end of the fiscal year, school districts must have a balanced budget, or they risk the state taking over. The state of Iowa in 2021 increased the state supplemental aid (SSA) to public school district by 2.4%. This increase did not offset the increase in salaries; overhead costs, such as heating, cooling, and lights; or the increase in cost of supplies.
One of the jobs of a school board member is to be financially responsible with taxpayer money and money received from other funding sources. I will make sure the expenses are being used in the best interest of the students to create the best possible learning environment for them.
~ The second issue is safety. Each day students pass between Crestwood Elementary/Junior High and Crestwood High School to attend class, eat lunch and other reasons. The area between the buildings is an unprotected driveway and parking area with vehicles traveling throughout the day. Along with traffic, students are exposed to weather conditions such as snow, sleet, rain and cold which can make the passing between buildings dangerous. When a safety assessment was done of the Howard Winneshiek Campus by a safety consultant, he noted students going between buildings was a major concern.
I would address this problem, by supporting the connection of the two buildings. This would eliminate students having to go outside to go from the Crestwood Elementary/Junior High and Crestwood High School. The addition would also allow existing space to be repurposed into educational space. The district does not have to go to a bond sale to get the addition completed, because the district would borrow against the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) dollars to pay for the construction. The building would be built without increasing property taxes.
~ The third challenge is staffing. Howard Winneshiek School District has been fortunate to have an excellent staff; most have been in the district over 10 years. The love and support the staff has for the students is second to none. The education the students receive at Howard Winneshiek is outstanding. The challenge comes in filling positions when vacancies occur. Fewer individuals are choosing careers in education, making filling teacher and administrative openings very competitive. It is hard to find bus drivers to drive regular routes, drive to activities and sub drive. Filling openings for paraprofessionals, cooks, custodians and other support personnel is also becoming more difficult.
Howard Winneshiek needs to become a district of choice when openings occur. We need to continue to develop a culture where individuals are excited to come to work — an environment where they are respected and appreciated. One thought is to have a place where students, parents and other staff members can submit how a staff member has helped them or inspired them. These submissions would be spotlighted and celebrated.
The staff of Howard Winneshiek is second to none. They encourage the students to work towards their dreams, and they demonstrate that all things are possible with determination, hard work and a supportive environment. They show students how to turn the “I can’t attitude” into “I can do this.”
Another great feature of the district is the partnership Howard Winneshiek has with Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC). High school students have the ability to attend college classes at the NICC Center located on the Howard Winneshiek Campus.
Last year 187 Crestwood High School students took 1,796 college credits, saving parents over $950,000 in college tuition. The students are also able to participate in the College and Career Connection program. In this program, career coaches partner with students to determine what they would like to do after high school by exposing students to different careers through job shadowing, internships, career mentoring, and more.
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Doing better is never enough when it comes to our future - our kids. My name is Nikki van den Heever, and I’m running for a school board seat in the Howard-Winneshiek School District, Zone 1. I grew up in Elma, attending Howard-Winneshiek schools and graduating in 1997. I left the area for my education and training, and returned to be a member of this community and to help take care of that community.
I live in Cresco and work in Radiology at our local hospital. My husband and I have two children attending Howard-Winneshiek Schools and I am very invested in ensuring that our school district will be a safe, healthy and successful place for years to come.
I am passionate about giving the best care to our community. I do that in my career and feel that becoming a school board member will further allow me to care for the community. I believe that I can bring a fresh set of eyes and ears to the school board. I pride myself in being a good listener and being able to look at all sides of a situation before forming an opinion. I can guarantee you that my motivation is based on wanting what is best for our students, and nothing else. I would be honored to have the opportunity to work with H-W to achieve the best for our students!
We have seen many changes in the years since I’ve graduated. In order for students to thrive, our schools have had to change as well. I want to help H-W continue to grow and thrive for the future of our great community. I want to be involved in making decisions that will help our teachers, administrators and students succeed. Students, more than ever before, need an environment in which they feel safe and cared for while receiving a quality education. This takes on different forms for different situations, and we must consider these needs a priority as we navigate plans for all students to succeed.
Crestwood has exemplary students, teachers and staff. We are so lucky to have our schools, and they need our support! Having my children go to a school that I also attended gives me a sense of comfort and familiarity that not all parents can enjoy. I think they also do a great job of welcoming students from different places in our country and beyond. The small amount of culture diversity that exists in our school system helps our children learn and grow in acceptance of other cultures. I believe this is very important and will continue to be important in our children’s lives.
The biggest goal I would have for our school board would be to work TOGETHER to ensure that our school is succeeding to the best of our ability. I would like to see ideas brought to light that allow all of our students to learn and grow. I believe we need to embrace our differences and diversity and come together to create a safe space for everyone. We could do better to identify areas of need, and work together to fill these gaps.
Why am I running for school board? Because we need to do our best for our students, and I want to work hard for them and you.
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I am Lisa Kammerer. I have been married to Jon Kammerer for 21 years. We have five kids (a senior, a sophomore, two sixth graders and a fourth grader). We made Cresco our home in 2007 when Jon joined Regional Health Services of Howard County.
My current jobs are Chaplain for Howard County Hospice, Activities Coordinator for the skilled care unit at RHSHC and Deacon in the Lutheran Church serving Burr Oak & Hesper Lutheran doing family ministry. I hold a degree from Wartburg College in Youth and Family Ministry, Camping Ministry and Parish education.
I have served on many non-profit boards, church councils, parent committees and volunteer in community organizations. I have worked with youth in a school setting, church setting and in our community.
I have many gifts that will help me serve as a school board member. I am excellent at listening, empathizing and collaborating with others on solutions. I think outside the box, so I excel at coming up with new ways to solve problems, and I am action oriented. I have a lot of experience with large budgets and leadership. I have the skill to incorporate the consensus, needs and priorities of the community into strong policies.
I have a unique perspective as a parent due to the experiences of my family. We are a transracial adoptive family, and we have children who have excelled at academics and children who need extra support. I also have experience with both private and public schools.
I love being in Howard County, and I love the opportunities that our students have in our community. I love that our students can be involved in so many opportunities in our schools and communities — from music, art, speech, sports, theater, volunteering, job shadowing, college classes and more. I also love the dedicated and talented staff at our schools.
As a school board member, my goals would be to facilitate communication and participation between the community, school and families. I feel that transparency and communication is vital to school success.
Every person has a right to easily access information and stay up-to-date on how to be involved in our school. I also feel we need to do more educating and celebrating of diversity in all forms. I want to implement student and teacher involvement in creating a plan for our school to educate and celebrate differences. I will insist on equity for all students regardless of race, gender, religion, nationality, identity, physical or mental challenges and socio-economic status.
Our school should be a place where all of our students feel seen, heard, valued, encouraged and challenged. I will do my best to implement procedures and policies that ensure our students are heard and treated fairly and receive a quality education that will prepare them for the future.
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My name is Tom Williams, and I am running for a seat on the Howard – Winneshiek School Board, District #4. I live just south of Cresco with my wife Dana, my daughter, Lydia, and my son, Mitchell. Mitchell is in sixth grade and Lydia is a freshman, both in the Howard-Winneshiek School District. My oldest daughter, Caitlyn lives in Texas with her six-year-old daughter, Madilyn.
I moved to Cresco in 1996 after being hired as an EMT with the (Then) Howard County Hospital. In 1999 I was hired as a Police Officer with the City of Cresco. I stayed with the hospital on a part-time basis. During this time I became an active member of the First Congregational Church in Cresco and helped out with the Youth for Christ Ministry.
In 2005, I left Cresco after accepting a position as a State Trooper with the Iowa Department of Public Safety. I was assigned to District #4 in Denison, residing in Harlan, Iowa. In 2010, I was re-assigned to District #8 in Mason City, assigned to Howard County, where my family and I currently live. I have been the District’s Public Resource Officer for the past two years, as well as a trained Crisis Negotiator for the past 11 years. I currently work at Regional Health Service as an EMT on a PRN basis, and have recently become a, “Behind the Wheel,” instructor for the Driver’s Ed classes at NICC. I also remain an active member of the First Congregational Church.
I have served the citizens of Cresco and Howard County in many capacities over the past 25 years, minus four, when I lived in Harlan. I wish to continue my service to this community as a school board member. My Christian faith is very important to me. Many decisions I make in life are guided by my faith in the Lord, along with my biblical world views. I have dealt with and talked to many people throughout my law enforcement and EMS career. I have talked with people as they have gone through the highest of highs and lowest of lows. As a negotiator, I have talked people out of extremely bad situations. I believe with my strong faith and law enforcement experience I can bring an objective approach to the issues facing our school district.
I believe Cresco is a great community to live in and to raise a family. I also believe the Howard-Winneshiek School District is a great school district for kids to learn and grow. It isn’t perfect, no school is, but with your vote, we can continue to make it a safe place for kids to learn and give them every opportunity possible to succeed.
During my career as a State Trooper I have spent 11 years as a trained Crisis Negotiator. During this time I have learned how to actively listen to people. I have faced very stressful situations where people’s lives have been in peril. I have been able to talk with these people and have worked through these situations to reach a peaceful resolution. I feel I can help address issues facing our school district with an open mind and active listening skills. I can listen to the issues and help address each one according to the appropriate need.
Some of the challenges I see facing our school district are a steady, to declining enrollment; our geographical area can be a challenge; providing for the increased need for mental health support; updating buildings; retaining and keeping a strong staff; and doing all this while being fiscally responsible. As it is in many places, everyone is being asked to do more with less. I have seen this first-hand. Whatever the challenge, we need to keep the vision up front. We need to help the staff members meet that vision, again, all while being fiscally responsible.
I believe the best features of Crestwood are the students and staff members. I have had nothing but positive experiences with teachers and staff members. Lydia and Mitchell have great friends as well. I have had the opportunity to go on many field trips over the years, getting to know many kids in the school district. I have also coached flag football and helped out with baseball and YSF football.
Being in law enforcement, and being the Public Resource Officer, I have had the opportunity to teach blocks of instruction in Driver’s Ed classes, as well as instructing the “Behind the Wheel,” portion of Driver’s Ed. I have had the opportunity to engage in conversation with many students in the school district. We really do have a great group of kids!
As a Public Resource Officer I go to all of the school districts in District #8, as well as helping other PRO’s in other districts and assist with school bus inspections. Each school district’s busses are inspected every six months. Everyone should be very proud of our former and present transportation directors and bus drivers. I have seen many school busses in many other school districts that have been unacceptable. It is very obvious to me that the transportation director and bus drivers take pride in their jobs. The busses are always clean and in great condition, and the student’s safety is their number one priority. The bus drivers are always diligent in reporting school bus violations, when someone runs the flashing warning lights and/or the stop arm on the bus, potentially endangering our students.
My main goal is to provide students with a safe place to learn and give them every opportunity to succeed.
It is important voters realize that for a write-in vote to count, the ballot has to be filled out correctly.
a) Name needs to be spelled correctly. (Voters can carry in a piece of paper with the spelling so they don’t need to memorize the spelling of a candidate’s name.)
b) Next to the write-in name, the circle on the ballot needs to be filled in.
c) Make sure the write-in name is in the correct Director Position on the ballot.