Their reasons for running
Four will be elected to the Fort Dodge Community School District board Tuesday.
Board members Bill Kent, Matt Wagner and Steve Springer filed for re-election.
Angie Tracy, Friendship Haven executive assistant, has also filed for election this year. Tracy is running for the seat opened by board member Kevin Rogers, whose term ends this year.
The terms for remaining board members Stuart Cochrane, Brian Forsythe and Lisa Shimkat expire in 2017.
Polls open at 7 a.m.
Bill Kent has been on the FDCSD board for nine years.
“My background and experience fit well with school board work,” Kent said. “I just feel like this is a good place for me to give back to the community. I’ve lived here for 31 years. Fort Dodge has been good to me and my family. And when I look around at places where I think I can make a difference, the school board is one of those places.”
Kent enjoys how much the board is able to accomplish, including Fort Dodge Middle School.
“I’m especially happy that that was all done with state sales tax dollars versus property tax,” he said. “That was an opportunity the state gave us, at the right time for the community. We were able to get a really nice facility, including the auditorium, which was something the district had needed for a long time.”
The district, though, is not without its challenges.
“Some of those have been-well defined for some time,” Kent said. “The whole state appropriation thing didn’t turn out this year as everybody had hoped. There’s a lot of question about what funding is going to be next year or ongoing. We’re actually in pretty good shape financially because we made some hard decisions a few years ago to cut back some things. Probably in better shape than most of the area schools, financially. But if this funding thing stays like it has been recently, we’re going to have problems again.”
There is also the issue of Duncombe Elementary.
“We got lucky there was a facility available we’ve been able to use, and it certainly looks like it’s going to work just fine for us, but it’s a limited situation. It’s not something we’re going to be able to use long-term,” Kent said. “So we’re going to have to address that building and/or replacement of that building. Preliminary stuff has already started, but that’s certainly going to start in a big way once this election’s over.”
Matt Wagner has been on the board for four years, completing his first term.
“I think we still have a lot of work to do,” Wagner said. “We have a terrific working board. The reality is, when you get on the school board, there is so much to learn, in particular school finance, being one of the big issues. Really, that first term you spend most of the time learning. So I think if … people were only going to be on the board for one term that would be a great disservice to the taxpayers, to the school district. Really, you become a much better board member after that first couple of years.”
Wagner enjoys many things about serving on the board.
“Certainly working with the folks that we now have on the board, the administration, seeing the opening of the new middle school. Just seeing games and positive things in our district, is a source of pride,” he said.
The district faces challenges both with budget and facilities, Wagner said.
“Facilities most recently, obviously with the discovery of structural issues at Duncombe, that’s clearly a challenge for us,” he said. “Budget-wise, of course, the inability it seems of our state Legislature to get those numbers to us in a timely fashion. And obviously every year we’ve been fortunate to have some growth in enrollment, that we really haven’t had to do any cuts for the last several years.”
He added, “Most of the challenges really come back to dollars and cents.”
Steve Springer was appointed to the school board two years ago, following the departure of board member Deb Peterson.
For 10 years, Springer was involved in the district’s booster club and served on the Fort Dodge Community Schools Foundation.
This is first time seeking the seat via the ballot box.
“There’s still a lot to learn,” Springer said. “My big challenge probably is understanding all the finances. It’s not something you’re going to just learn after four years. I want to continue to build on that base and see what more I can learn … and do what I can do.”
As a board member, Springer has enjoyed working with others.
“Interacting with staff, talking to staff, seeing both sides of topics and issues and concerns, and working with the board we have,” he said. “We get along well, with no conflicts or special interests or problems like that. We all work together.”
Springer agrees with his fellow board members on what are the district’s challenges.
“It’s going to be keeping up with upgrades and repairs we need on current buildings, and things we have going on now, with the Duncombe situation,” he said. “We don’t know how bad that is, yet. Obviously it’s serious. We’ll have to find a way to deal with that issue one way or the other.”
Springer understands the importance of Duncombe Elementary to the community.
“I have passions there. I went to school there. My mom went to school there. A lot of my family went to school there,” he said. “It’s just hard to let go of something, if that is in fact what ends up happening. But we have to do what’s best for the district and the safety of the kids.”
Angie Tracy is running for the Fort Dodge school board for the first time.
“I have had a daughter that’s graduated from (Fort Dodge Senior High), and I currently have a son who’s a fifth-grader at the middle school,” Tracy said. “And I’ve been on the Fort Dodge Community Schools Foundation board for five years now.”
Tracy is seeking a seat on the school board because she is passionate about education.
“I would like to help shape education for the students in our community, and would really like to be a part of the group that oversees our district’s education,” she said.
Tracy said she appreciates the efforts of the current board members.
“It’s a crucial time for public education. They’re having to make a lot of decisions, having to do a lot more with a lot less dollars,” she said. “Like the Duncombe School situation that came up here recently. It shows that our buildings are getting older. They’re deteriorating. And big decisions are going to have to be made in short time.”
A concern for Tracy as a parent is making sure students receive the best possible education.
“Making sure we have the right professionals in place that are educating the children, making sure they have the right skills and professional development they need,” she said. “The district has a diverse group of students and we need to make sure that all those needs for all those different students are being met.”
Tracy is excited to be running for a seat on the board.
“I’m excited for the challenge. I’m excited to learn more,” she said. “Being the newcomer, I have a lot to learn. I’m ready to jump in with both feet and do the best that I can for the district and our students and the educators.”