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Ruthven-Ayrshire race lands eight applicants

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Four positions with the Ruthven-Ayrshire school board are up for grabs in the upcoming Sept. 13 election.

The seats currently filled by board members Dave Forey, who is not seeking re-election, Ray Grandstaff, Matt Graves and Lisa Berkland are being sought by the race's three incumbents and Tracy Enderson, Jordan Gray, Regina Evans, Kathryn "Katie" Meyer and Joey Cother, who have also filed papers to fill one the board's at-large positions. After careful reconsideration, Larry Conlon does not believe he has enough available time to do a good job as a Ruthven-Ayrshire school board member and wishes to withdraw from the election.

"Unfortunately, it is too late to get removed from the ballot, so I ask that people please vote for the other qualified candidates," he said.

With nine applicants on the ballot, one encouraged voters to "consider the qualifications of candidates and vote for the good of the Ruthven-Ayrshire school district."

Each of the Ruthven-Ayrshire candidates are featured today. Their answers to questions posed by The Daily Reporter staff appear below.

Voters in the Ruthven-Ayrshire district may cast their ballots from noon until 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13 at the Social Center, 1503 Rolling St., Ruthven.

Friday is the last day to submit an application and have an absentee ballot mailed. Following Friday, voters may cast ballots in person Monday, Sept. 12 at the Palo Alto County Auditor's office or vote absentee from 8-11 a.m. Sept. 13 at the Palo Alto County Courthouse.

The day of the election, voters may register at the polls, provided they have proper identification proving their identity and residency.

The Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors will canvass election results, as well as absentee votes, Friday, Sept. 16 at the courthouse in Emmetsburg.

Q. Why do you think you're qualified to serve as a school board member?

Enderson A: I have been in accounting for 18 years, was the booster club treasurer for three years and have been president the past two years. I am open-minded enough to realize there are more views than my own and also am humble enough to listen to them. I believe I have good listening skills and am willing to be that voice to bring community concerns to the table.

Gray A: I feel I am a qualified candidate because my husband and I have a daughter who attends R-A school, as well as two younger daughters who will attend R-A in the future. I have a vested interest in our community and school district. I grew up in a small town and know firsthand the great opportunities and benefits children receive from attending a small school.

Evans A: I have been involved in a lot of activities in the school and community and am very interested in seeing our school succeed and watch the children thrive. I chose to run out of concern for activities that are going on in the school. If elected, I would like to help solve those issues.

Meyer A: I was previously employed at the school and would like to continue to be involved with the school and think that I can offer a good "ear" and listen and also am willing to put in the time needed to be a valuable asset to the school and the board.

Cother A: I live in the R-A district. I chose to run to help ensure that our school stays open for as long as possible. I would like to see the whole school running, not just the elementary. I would like to see my daughters graduate from the same school that their mother and grandparents graduated from.

Q. Why have you chosen to run again?

Berkland A: I've been a board member of the R-A school district for the past nine years. During that time, I've participated in numerous board member trainings including state convention, Lighthouse workshops and financial workshops. I have a bachelor's degree in Home Economics Education and a master's degree in Education. My work as a 4-H youth development specialist for Iowa State University Extension has put me in a unique position of having contact with multiple school districts and education agencies over the years. I have also had training in facilitation, conflict resolution and mediation through my employment as well as led, facilitated and participated in countless meetings.

Deciding to run for another term on the board wasn't an easy decision for me. In the end, my family and friends persuaded me to continue the hard work we've been doing and attempt to see it through. I truly believe that students at R-A are deserving of a world-class education and that as a board we should never settle for mediocre. Our worst enemy is to ever feel like we've attained our goals or that we are doing "good enough."

Grandstaff A: I decided to run for re-election because I care and feel my qualifications include:

Willingness and drive to work for better student achievement: Most important, I want a quality education for all students at R-A school. We need our kids prepared for the job market of today and we must push for better student performance and the best teachers possible.

Experience: Ending my fourth year on the board, I have attended 100 percent of school board meetings, conventions and Lighthouse training. I come to meetings prepared and I study board packet material presented. I visit the Iowa Association of School Board website to research and keep current.

I received the Academy of Board Learning Experiences school board training certificate for in-depth leadership training.

I address direct concerns brought to me and base answers on facts.

I voted for budget cuts to reduce spending so R-A school is not spending more than our revenue. These cuts were made and this will be an important year to make sure the cuts will work without affecting the education of R-A students.

Over $20,000 has been spent out of the general fund for R-A school district lawyer meetings with union lawyers to set up the teachers' master contract. I have been on the negotiations committee representing R-A school and have attended 100 percent of the negotiations meetings when representatives are asked for. We need to ensure R-A has the best possible teachers and that they are treated fairly.

I have attended legislative town meetings to voice my concerns. I attended county conference board meetings, REAP meetings and legislative meetings representing R-A school district.

Graves A: I have decided to run for another term because I have learned a lot about our district during the last three years on the board. As a board member, it is important to have an open mind and good judgment on all of the issues that we may face in the future and to be able to look at those issues and have discussion in order to make sound decisions that are good for our district. I believe I can bring that to the table for another term.

Q. What have you accomplished as a board member?

Berkland A: First and foremost, one board member never accomplishes anything alone. I have been honored to be a part of a really great board team over the years. We have been willing to shift our focus to student achievement over the past four years through the help of the Iowa School Board Association's Lighthouse project. They helped us see how we, as a board, really could make a difference in student achievement by: having high expectations; ensuring adequate supports and resources are available; holding the system accountable; aligning policy, planning and practice; nurturing the board/superintendent team as leaders for improved learning; and understanding the instructional improvement core of district work that ensures student learning. Even though we are on the No Child Left Behind watch list, we have made some good improvements in student achievement.

In addition, as a board, we have supported making several building improvements over the years, kept up with technology changes and managed our finances in such a way that we are still going strong.

Grandstaff A: My accomplishments as a board member are listed as my qualifications in my answer above. I have also worked with the board to make some tough decisions this year. We have listened to direct comments and concerns, based our decisions on facts and voted for the good of the students and R-A school district.

Q. What do you see as the major challenges of the district? Rank them.

Enderson A: 1. Improve our ITBS scores and making sure we have the right staff and tools to ensure a quality education.

2. Keeping the budget balanced.

3. Increase enrollment.

4. To secure the feeling in the community that the school board is dedicated in keeping the doors open.

Gray A: I feel our major challenges are:

1. Our financial situation, finding ways to cut costs while still providing a quality education and opportunities for our children.

2. A declining enrollment.

3. Regaining a positive view of our school district from our community.

Evans A: The communication between staff and administration.

The loss of staff.

Meyer A: We had a pretty tumultuous year last year with all of the staff changes. We need to reunify and refind a common goal. That goal needs to be our children and our school.

Grandstaff A: 1. Student achievement test scores and NCLB federal requirements on student proficiency.

2. Make sure budget cuts work and the quality of education is not hurt.

3. Keep factual information available so the community is informed of what is going on. Keep communication open.

Berkland A: My greatest desire for our district is security. Currently, we have three threats to that security.

1. Student achievement

2. Finances

3. Apathy and in-fighting

Cother A: I will work to try to ensure a future for our school. I would like to make sure that students continue to have equal opportunities in music and art.

Q. What would you like to change?

Enderson A: I would like to know that the community is informed of truths. I would hope if someone had questions, they would call me and be secure in the feeling of the question being answered honestly. The community needs to trust the school board again. They need to work together for the success of our students.

Gray A: I would like to see changes made that allow the people in our community to voice their opinions and play a hands-on role in making positive changes in our school district. I would hope everyone could have their voices heard and feel their opinions are important and are taken into careful consideration when making decisions.

Evans A: Keep our staff and get the communication back.

Meyer A: I hope everyone realizes that the parents, staff and community want and need to be involved. The school is the heart of our community and unifies us all. We all need to be able to work together on that common ground.

Grandstaff A: More parental involvement and more community involvement at school activities. More tutors and volunteers. I think people who are concerned about our kids, school, town and community take pride in it and look for positive ways to promote it and improve it. Of course, more funding. More resource teachers to help with classes with high individual education plan workloads. I would like to see a technical facilitator at R-A school so we could take the frustration out of technology, fix computer problems, train and assist staff with computer program problems. This would save a lot of class time and help students and staff greatly. More attention given to needy students and more challenge for the rest.

Berkland A: I would like to see all board policies available on our website and continue to make board decisions more transparent and understandable to the public. We'd like to offer a series of community educational events in the next year that would help everyone better understand school finance, how the board works and open meeting laws.

Cother A: If elected, I will listen to the teachers when it comes to making fiscal decisions concerning the students. After all, they are the frontline individuals with the insight to help us make the right decisions concerning students.

Q. What would you like to see as district priorities?

Enderson A: We need a staff that can trust each other and are committed to working together for the betterment of our R-A student body. Giving the students the education and life skills to succeed in this world should be top priority.

Gray A: I would like to make it a priority to find creative ways to cut our budget without sacrificing our children's education or extra-curricular activities. I would also like to make it a priority for the school board, faculty, administration and community to work as a team to provide the best education possible for our children for many years to come.

Evans A: Keep our school.

Meyer A: Our school is now on the Iowa Department of Education's "watch list" for reading comprehension. I know that actions are already being taken to rectify that situation.

Grandstaff A: I want to see R-A off the School In Need of Assistance watch list. We need to continue to make reading our priority to increase student performance.

I want to see more time spent on education at our board meetings. Our priorities are, and have been, on student achievement, quality employees and financial health.

Berkland A: This summer, we were notified by the Iowa Department of Education that our 7th-12th building is now on the NCLB watch list for reading. As we get closer to 2014, when all students are required to be proficient, the pressure is continuing to intensify and we must push hard toward high student achievement. Pushing for that is not comfortable work because it makes some staff feel like we don't value their previous work. But even our most excellent staff person can get even better and benefit by learning new skills and techniques to reach today's students. The future of our district depends on it. Our No. 1 priority should be to get off the watch list.

Our second priority is to continue to monitor our financial status and make decisions that will keep us a viable district long into the future.

Cother A: If elected, I will listen to parents and teachers during school board meetings and my free time. School board members are elected officials, there to serve the public. So, as a school board member, I will listen.

Graves A: I believe the main priority of the district needs to remain as is, about the students. As a board, we need to strive to provide a quality education for our children that readies them for college and the workforce. In order to do so, we need to provide our entire staff with the time and resources needed. It is also important as a board member to know that because education comes first, it is imperative for R-A to continue, or start, new discussion with neighboring districts about opportunities available to share costs, staff and/or students in order to keep the quality of education as high as possible.

The candidates

* Tracy Enderson, 45, serves as an accounting leader for MaxYield Coop. Enderson and her husband, Bruce, have three sons: Tyler and his wife, Dallas, Trevin and Taylor. The couple have two grandchildren: Jayden and Caleb.

* Jordan Gray, 27, works as a registered nurse. Gray and her husband have a daughter who attends Ruthven-Ayrshire School, as well as two younger daughters who will attend Ruthven-Ayrshire in the future.

* Regina Evans, 38, owns Body Works Vinyl Graphics, Ruthven. Evans and her significant other, Rick Marlow, have four children between them: Jake, Samantha, Jasper and Cody.

* Kathryn "Katie" Meyer, 44, is self-employed. Meyer and her husband, Loren, have three sons: Zach, Dylan and Jack.

* Larry Conlon, 40, resides at 1906 Rolling St., Ruthven.

* Ray Grandstaff, 55, is a farmer. Grandstaff and his wife, Barb, have two children: Katie and Nick.

* Lisa Berkland, 44, works as a regional 4-H youth development specialist. Berkland and her husband, Curt, have two children: Mackenzie and Matt.

* Joey Cother, 36, is an AGP employee. Cother and his wife, Kris, a Ruthven-Ayrshire High School math teacher, have two daughters: Hunter and Ashlynn.

* Matt Graves, 32, is self-employed. Graves and his wife, Mashelle, have three children: Victoria, Matthew and Kinzie.

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