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Five run for three seats on ACGC School Board

GROVE CITY -- Five candidates are running for three seats on the Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City School Board.

The slate of candidates includes incumbents Joel Gratz and Jeanna Lilleberg, both of Atwater.

Longtime board member and past chairwoman Judy Raske is not seeking re-election this year.

The other candidates include Sarah Blom, of Atwater, and Dale Martin and Michelle Randt, both of Cosmos.

The election is Nov. 6.

The candidates were asked by the Tribune to provide basic biographical information and to respond to a set of questions: Why are you running for ACGC School Board, what are the top two issues facing the district and how would you address those issues?

Sarah (Buer) Blom

Age: 27

Family: Husband, David; sons, Landon (9) and Brogan (1), daughter, Kenlie (3)

Career: Registered nurse

Civic involvement: Vice chairwoman on ACGC community education board, vice president on ACGC youth wrestling board, supporter of various ACGC athletics and active member of Bethlehem Lutheran Church

Why are you running for ACGC School Board? Poor communication with the community is something I feel should be addressed, not only to get the community more involved but also more supportive.

What are the top two issues facing the ACGC School District? Money and unity. I've noticed some animosity within our district, and without community support, future levy money could be hard to obtain.

How would you address those issues? As stated above, one of my goals is to improve communication between the school and community members. We recently hired for the new position of "community liaison" which sounds great, but I have yet to hear much about what this position entails or what their goals are. I feel it is important that the community is kept informed about what is happening in their school and that this information is something that is not only easily accessible but also easy to understand.

The money issue is not something I can do a whole lot about as I, unfortunately, do not have a money tree in my back yard, nor can I make the state give schools more money, but I would certainly do everything I could to make sure the budget is followed and people are held accountable. This also ties back into community support, as our district's current levy is due to expire soon and more than likely another one will be needed to replace it. Without a supportive community I highly doubt another levy will be passed -- just look at how many attempts it took the district to get a "yes" on the last levy.

Joel Gratz

Age: 40

Family: Patty, wife of 17 years; and four sons, Andrew (15), Anthony (13), Jacob (7), Joseph (5)

Career: Certified public accountant and partner in a public accounting firm

Civic involvement: ACGC School Board (chairman), Willmar Area Community Foundation Board, Church Council (treasurer)

Why are you running for ACGC School Board? To follow through with the district's promising new opportunities, that I believe my board experience and financial background will allow to be successfully implemented while being fiscally responsible.

What are the top two issues facing the ACGC School District? A) Balancing the needs of students with limited financial resources. B) Increasing student proficiency and academic achievement.

How would you address those issues? A) From a financial perspective, continual review and monitoring of the district budget not only for the current fiscal year but always projecting what the next three to five years will entail. This would include not only the expense side of the equation but also the revenue portion. Keeping our state legislators informed of our educational state and providing funding ideas would also be critical. From the student perspective, maintaining open communication with the faculty, administration, parents and students regarding their ideas and concerns to keep education innovative and effective. Education is at the beginnings of a transformation and will take all impacted parties working together to bring our students to the next level.

B) Continued focus on teaching the Minnesota education standards while using appropriate tools and technology to manage and monitor test score data to identify the individual needs of each student and to refine focus areas of instruction. In addition, increased teacher observations and performance management review to help the faculty members enhance their technical and teaching skills. Provide technology that would allow teachers and students quicker feedback on tests and home work projects so that problem or focus areas can be identified sooner and make efficient use of student contact time.

Jeanna Lilleberg

Age: Candidate declined to answer

Family: Husband and four children

Career: Homemaker

Civic involvement: Leader of Active Acres 4-H Club, National Youth Science Day volunteer, ACGC Boosters, ACGC Post Prom Donations Committee, coordinator or volunteer of numerous events at St. John Lutheran Church in Atwater, Atwater Public Library Summer Reading Program reader, classroom volunteer

Why are you running for ACGC School Board? Four board members are in their second year and one incumbent is not seeking re-election. I feel my experience is important to the board.

What are the top two issues facing the ACGC School District? I think the top two issues are balancing expansion with fiscal responsibility and unifying a fractured district through improved communication.

How would you address those issues? We have already started to address those issues through the addition of a School-Parent Liaison and a district-wide committee made up of administration, teachers, support staff, board members and parents. The liaison is evaluating the communication methods we have in place now and is looking for ways to improve how we reach our parents and community. The other side of that equation is the liaison is making sure parents and community members who reach out to the school are being heard and their questions or complaints are being addressed. The District Leadership Committee encourages input from several different perspectives in order to promote communication and gain insight from each entity of our district. Members of the committee come from other subcommittees within the district and community. The District Leadership Committee is also overseeing learning initiatives like the use of technology in the classroom, curriculum cycles and curriculum development, teacher development, use of standard test data and ensuring that these initiatives are financially sustainable. I think these are important steps in addressing our issues and I would like to see them continue as they have shown to be effective so far.

Dale Martin

Age: 53

Family: Wife, Sue, of 32 years; two sons and daughters-in-law; three grandchildren

Career: Vice president of sales at Uni-Hydro Inc.

Why are you running for ACGC School board? I would like to serve our students and our community by providing a voice to help support a positive education experience for our students.

What are the top two issues facing the ACGC School District? Believe the biggest challenges facing ACGC are continuing to provide a high-quality educational experience for our students while realistically addressing budget issues.

How would you address those issues? First, continuing to provide a high-quality educational experience for our students will require a careful assessment of current practices, procedures and day-to-day activities. This assessment would allow the school board to identify the best practices at ACGC that currently result in positive educational outcomes.

I would work to support the staff and teachers by providing the necessary resources to assist in replicating and enhancing what is currently working. Second, realistically addressing budget issues will require a careful review of the current budget and a realistic projection of future budgets. Working within a clearly defined budget will help the school board prioritize and make decisions that will best support future positive educational opportunities and experiences for our students. Third, carefully reviewing current operating procedures at all levels will allow the school board, the administration, teachers and staff the opportunity to identify areas that can be improved on to provide a positive educational experience for our students.

Michelle Randt

Age: 43

Family: Married to Steve Randt for 22 years; three daughters, Emily (18), Nicole (15) and Madisyn (11)

Career: Licensed practical nurse/health coordinator, employed by Heartland Community Action Agency Headstart

Civic involvement: Volunteered with United Way, member of Peace Lutheran Church in Cosmos and involved in Bible School and confirmation programs.

Why are you running for ACGC School board? 1) I have chosen to run for the school board because I think I can offer new ideas and different perspectives. I have strong beliefs in delivering honest and direct information. I currently have experience with pre-K education, governing boards and advisory committees. Some of my past employment experience has been at public health and in a neighboring school district. My previous work experience helps support my background in working with families and has given me a good knowledge base in education.

What are the top two issues facing the ACGC School District? Enrollment and budget. These issues are loosely related because we are funded by the number of students we serve. With declining enrollment comes decreased funding.

How would you address those issues? We need to look at our parent involvement, and make sure we are doing whatever we can to involve the parents of our students and gather input from those parents about the future of ACGC. We need to have discussions about things such as the four-day weeks and if that is meeting the needs of our parents and students. I would like to see ACGC building strong schools which in turn builds strong communities where people want to live, work and play. Without students to serve, ACGC would not be in business; we need to remember the families we serve are our customers. Keeping them vested in the future of ACGC would be a great place to start.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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