School Board candidates answer a few questions


CRESCO - Sept. 12 is the day polls will be open for school elections, from noon to 8 p.m. Polling places include Featherlite Center, Cresco; Lime Springs Community Center; and Elma Memorial Hall.
At Howard-Winneshiek Community School District (HWCSD), two seats are available. Director District #1 has Alison Holten and Lucinda Yslas running for a four-year term. Yslas was appointed on July 10, 2017 to fill the rest of Director Karlos McClure’s term. In addition, Duane Bodermann (incumbent) is running unopposed for District #4.
Also on the ballot are Merged area 1 Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) for District #1 with Sue Runyan, who was appointed, is running alone.
In Riceville, incumbents Shanna Hale (District #2) and Karl Fox (District #5) are also up for re-election.
The Times Plain Dealer asked questions of the HWCSD candidates. 
Alison Holten
Tell us about yourself and why you are running for Howard-Winneshiek school board.
I grew up west of Elma and went to school in Riceville. My dad Al was a farmer and my mom Ann a nurse. I have one sister who lives with her family near Fredericka and teaches science at New Hampton Community High School. After graduating from high school, I attended Luther College, where I majored in Political Science. 
I am married to Brad Holten, a high school social studies teacher at Fillmore Central High School in Harmony, Minn. We have two children, Kaiya will be a sixth grader at H-W and Kaden will be a fifth grader there. 
I am employed by NICC as a professional sales person. My job allows me to work with business and industries in a six-county area by bringing onsite training, help connect them with area high schools and assist in helping them grow and build a thriving business. 
I serve as co-chair of the H-W Advisory Board. I am President of Howard County Economic Development, Vice President of Howard County Business and Tourism, a member of Cresco Area Business and Industry Board, Cresco planning and zoning committee  and a commissioner on the Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Board. 
I also have served on several committees at H-W, such as attendance policy, 7-12 principal hiring, recent superintendent searches and special education, to name a few. 
Alison Holten
I am running for School Board because I believe that public education is tied to the vitality of our community. Investing in our children means a vibrant future for the counties of Howard and Winneshiek and the Northeast Iowa region. I want our children to know of the opportunities that are available in Northeast Iowa for them after they graduate from H-W. 
Through Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) our children are learning to be machinists, engineers, drafters and occupations that do not have a name yet. It is the job of schools and communities to promote and encourage their hopes and dreams and make it possible for them to carry them out in the area they grew up. The students are the future of Northeast Iowa.
What is the biggest challenge facing H-W and how would you help resolve it?
There are many challenges facing H-W some of them are:
• Financial – The operating costs for the district continue to raise, but money allocated by the State of Iowa does not offset the raising operating costs. The district must look at new ways to raise funds and cut costs without having a negative effect on the students. 
I would use my training in Lean (continuous improvement) to help the district look at its individual procedures and evaluate if there is a better way to do them. I have used this technique with business and industry to help them develop more streamline procedures and save money without cutting staff. 
I would also work with community members, staff, and others interested in the school district to use their expertise to look at new revenue streams for the school district that is not tied to state funding.
• Physical plant — Another challenge is the physical plant, the school buildings, grounds and everything associated with this. When the high school was built in 1969 and the elementary building built in 1993, they were built using the educational concepts and ideas from those eras. Education today has changed in many ways and the school’s physical plant needs to continue and be able to adapt to these changes. 
H-W has done a fantastic job moving in this directions, but there are still challenges. The one issue that worries me the most is the security of the buildings. When people enter either building the first area of the buildings they enter are the commons area. This area is a gathering place for students to each lunch, have study hall and other activities. Even though the outside doors are locked, it would not take much for an intruder to enter the building. 
Unfortunately in today’s society, security is becoming a growing concern in not only education, but also in business and industry. I have worked with area businesses and brought in experts in security to work with the businesses to evaluate their facility and give feedback and recommendations on how they can make their facilities safer. 
I would like to have these experts come to H-W to evaluate the facilities and give feedback on what can be done to make the school facilities and grounds safer for students, faculty, staff and patrons. 
I would also, like to have these experts do an active intruder training for administration, faculty and staff. I have also brought this training to area businesses and have received great feedback on it. This training may have been done at H-W in the past, but it is important to do it again, as the techniques to handle this situation as changed. 
I want to make sure that H-W faculty, staff, and administration have been trained in the most current techniques to protect themselves, the students and patrons either in school or in the community if they are faced with an active intruder situation.
• Attracting and retaining qualified faculty and staff – We need to have a plan in place that will attract the best and the brightest to the HWCSD. Every community in Iowa and Minnesota is competing for the same pool of available teachers and staff and the shortage of these qualified professionals grows daily. 
H-W needs to become an employer of choice to attract and retain quality individuals. I would do this by listening to issues, thinking outside the box to resolve conflicts, look at what other districts and schools are doing to retain their employees and most importantly treat everyone with respect and professionalism. 
I strongly believe that we have tremendous teachers and staff working with our children. We must re-establish morale amongst all district employees and work to return harmony throughout the district. 
Education takes place in the classroom and the board's efforts must focus on enhancing and enriching what goes on there. Teachers and staff spend more time with our children than we do. Our children deserve to be surrounded by caring individuals who work with them to help them achieve their goals and dreams.
How will your experiences help you be a successful school board member?
I will bring to the H-W School Board attributes and experiences that I believe make for an effective school board member. These attributes and experiences have been developed through the boards and commissions I serve on, through my employment with NICC and also what I believe makes a productive member of society. Some of the attributes and experiences are:
Effective Communicator: I believe communication is a two-way street. I am able to present my ideas, knowledge and opinions in a clear, respectful manner so others may understand them. I also am able to listen to other people’s ideas, knowledge and opinions so I can understand their perspectives.
Lean: My background in lean allows me to take processes, evaluate them and determine what, if any, waste can be removed from the process. I have helped organizations save money and or time without cutting their staff, while building a culture of continuous improvement.
Consensus Builder: I am capable of working with others to work towards decisions that all can support, and I am willing to compromise in order to achieve this.
 Relationship Builder: I have been able to build great relationships with leaders in business and industry, education, government, economic development and area communities. I would use these relationships to help develop partnerships and enhance current partnerships that would enhance the education at H-W. 
What would you like to see changed if elected?
I believe the HWCSD is doing a great job educating students and preparing them for their future after high school. 
In order to keep providing an excellent education for the students, we must step outside our comfort zones, not being afraid of the unknown. We need to stop saying we can’t and start saying why not. 
We need to work with each other to develop a vision of what the future of H-W will look like. In order to work together, we need to have open communication between the board, patrons and school employees. I would like to see a listening post held in each of the communities, where the board meets with community members to get their views, thoughts and wishes for the district. I also feel it is important that the board meets with the employees of the school district to get their thoughts and ideas in a non-threating, nonjudgmental environment. 
I have found that when individuals are given a chance to make their voices heard in a safe environment, great ideas and valuable information is gained.
Closing statement.
I believe that a school board must be responsive and receptive to parents, staff, students and the community at large, encouraging an open dialog. The board must take input from all groups and weigh all the facts before making a decision. A board member is a trustee of the community. That trustee must be accessible and willing to collaborate with all members of the community. Anyone who comes before the board has the right to be heard, not just to speak. A school board member must build public understanding, support and participation.
My efforts as a board member would center on serving all of the children in the community; one child is no more important than another. All stakeholders — parents, all district personnel (staff, faculty and administration), as well as students must be partners in this endeavor if we are to be successful. 
In order to provide every child with the education they deserve, the H-W School Board must have a vision, create structures to support that vision, and be accountable to the public. The school board must also advocate for the students at every opportunity, giving them access to technology, excellent teachers, staff and administrator and a safe and inviting environment to learn in.  
I would like to see HWCSD graduate students who not only have the skills to be successful in their life after high school, but also responsibility, leadership and other life skills to promote a well-rounded individual.


Lucinda ‘Cindy’ Yslas 
Tell us about yourself and why you are running for Howard-Winneshiek school board.
As a Crestwood graduate, it allows me to reflect back on the vast history of our school district and see both the changes that have occurred over the years as well as see the bright future and progress that our fine school district has to offer our youth. 
From the newly-constructed sports complex, the college credits now offered to our youth from NICC, to the amazing teaching staff we have in all grade levels, there has never been a more exciting and future-focused time to be a part of HWCSD and to sit on the School Board. 
I’ve always been known to have a “voice,” so I truly felt it was my time to not only get involved, but make a difference by “voicing” those ideas, changes or concerns raised by members of our community.
When thinking about my qualifications for a seat on the school board, I had only looked at my breadth of experiences as a prior student, a current Booster Club member, a member of the Cresco Community (having moved back three years ago, after retiring from the military) and as a current parent of an elementary student, where I stay involved in the Parent Teacher Org. through the redemption program with Box Tops and Labels for Education to dressing up as the “Cat in the Hat” during Dr Suess’s Birthday and by helping in the classroom where possible. 
Lucinda ‘Cindy’ Yslas 
The thought of Cayden (CJ) one day walking across the same stage to graduate from high school that I did all those years ago is a very exciting, yet surreal thought.
As a 1984 graduate of Crestwood High School I went on to attend Lowthian Business College in Minneapolis, receiving an Associate’s Degree in Marketing and Merchandising. I then entered the United States Air Force and bring back to Cresco a 26-year career of academia and education. Receiving my Master’s Degree in Adult Education and training from the University of Phoenix, I also hold my Occupational Certification and am certified in Curriculum Development, garnering an appreciation of the intricacies and demands of making the curriculum (of any age group), meet the needs of your target audience, our youth. 
As a supervisor in the military, I have dealt with stressful situations, financial responsibilities and fiscal budgetary needs, as well as having three decades of leadership experience dealing with a vast array of personalities and individuals.
What is the biggest challenge facing H-W and how would you help resolve it?
Success of our youth as they progress through whatever level of education they find themselves has to be our primary focus at all times. 
From our youth entering their elementary years and feeling welcomed and excited for the challenges ahead of them, to using new tools, I-Pads and technology for learning and testing, keeping their success and growth our focus, is always a must. 
As those same youth transition into middle school and junior high, they have to have the skills to prepare them for the expectations ahead of them. It is easy to forget about this important level. They aren’t the elementary kids who get the bright colors to entice them, the cool new technology to excite them or the pictures in a book to engage them...and yet they aren’t yet the high school kids, who get the college-prep discussions, over-night class trips and graduation planning...they are the “middle children,” who need our attention more than ever. 
They are building their resume to help them eventually toward a successful high school experience through their study skills, their leadership opportunities and their maturity when faced with stressful situations, bullying and friends not always making the best decisions. Our focus has to be on these youth as they become the young adults who represent H-W and our community. 
And finally, we have our high school students, who need support in a very different way. Not only are they our leaders of tomorrow, but many of them are our leaders of today. We owe it to them to prepare them for whatever they wish to do in the future. This may not always be college. There should be no shame if they choose not to attend College right away and choosing to stay in the Howard Country area, providing their skills to the work force here, garnering experience in a technical area or even starting a family. 
We have to give them the life skills to best prepare them for whatever they take on. By investing in them now, we are investing in our future.  For those who do wish to attend college, not all are prepared for all that comes with this new adventure. Do they have the study skills to be successful?  Just because they “did well” in high school doesn’t mean they are prepared for the added demands placed on them by college professors and the self-dedication needed to ensure their work is done and meets college expectations. 
While our teachers already do an amazing job focusing on our students, anything we can do to increase their tools, improve their options and offer the students what they truly need, it is our aim to provide it.  
How will your experiences help you be a successful school board member?
While in the Air Force, I spent over 10 years in both the informal teaching environment as well as four years in the formal “behind the podium” setting teaching middle management and supervisors management and leadership skills, process improvement skills and aerospace studies. 
I honed those skills into what I now present in a similar leadership program as an adjust instructor for NICC in their Small Business Development program. Along with the education, training and military career I possess, I have strong ties to the Howard Winneshiek community as an active member in the American Legion, the Freedom Rock Memorial Park initiative, the Hospital Auxiliary, the Mentoring Program through Helping Services for Youth & Families and the Special Needs Association, allowing me to stay involved in our community and see where needs arise and support can be provided. 
I feel, by being a member of the H-W School Board, I can fulfill this position by applying the much needed overlap throughout the community and the many worthwhile activities that Cresco has to offer day in and day out.  
What would you like to see changed if elected?
With this vast array of opportunities, I have the keen ability to tap into all those affected by our school board decisions and bring not only our fresh ideas to the community, but also draw from these community members their ideas, their concerns and their perspectives of what our community and school district might need.  
We have an amazing school district with amazing teachers, facilities and community support. I would like nothing more than to have H-W and Crestwood be recognized as one of the leading schools within Iowa, to see our numbers continue to grow as more and more students and families seek out H-W as the Destination Education Location of choice.
Closing statement.
By working together, every organization becomes stronger. I truly believe that if we work hard and work together, we can make a difference in someone’s life each and every day. I appreciate your time as you consider me for the position of school board member representing District 1.

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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