There are no fewer than seven candidates seeking three seats on the five-member Winterset School Board next week in the first-ever combined city/school elections across the state.
Of the three seats available, only one of the three – Brenda Clifton – is seeking re-election to a four-year term. Clifton is seeking her third four-year term on the board. Board members James Baur and Kelly Cain opted not to seek another term.
A candidate forum is scheduled for tonight (Wednesday), with all seven of the candidates scheduled to attend. The candidates include Wade Banning, Clifton, James Geoghegan, Kevin Hensley, Julie Knobloch, Kirk Macumber and James Olson.
Following is a brief overview of each of the seven candidates.
Banning is a 1990 graduate of the Woodward-Granger schools.
He’s been in the Winterset community for a number of years, both as a firefighter and an entrepreneur. Throughout his 15 years on the fire department, he’s seen quite a few changes, which he find exhilarating.
“I believe its an exciting time with the school district,” he said.
He’s a big booster of the community.
“I believe in the growth in the community,” Banning says. “When the community and system go hand in hand, it grows.”
He’s had four kids go through the Winterset school system, two of which are still in school.
“I’m vested. I’m committed. When you’re a servant, you’re serving the public,” Banning added.
Over the years, Banning says he has been a big proponent of getting people to move to Winterset.
“It’s a great size of a school to have your kids go to.”
Brenda Clifton is seeking third four-year term on board. She was appointed to fill the unexpired term of a board member, and then was elected to two full four-year terms.
“You don’t do it for the glory, you do it because its the right thing to do,” Clifton says.
She sees her role in interpreting school finance as crucial.
“I think the school finance is very different,” she said.
She said she sees serving one more term, and helping mentor others to understand fiscal oversight.
“I feel like one more term, I’ll have the opportunity to get people up to speed.”
As far as future issues are concerned, Clifton says she feels the school has planned well in regard to the growth that is occurring in northeast Madison County.
“We do have that land set aside,” she said.
“I feel like we’ve been fairly strategic for the district.”
She also realizes the school policy when it comes to student behavior.
“I feel like we’re countering it in the right way,” she said.
“We all would like the students to remain in a healthy classroom environments and continue to learn,” she said, but the school district has to comply with regulatory guidelines.
“I think it’s hard for people to just hear about a room clear.”
Geoghegan is a 1989 graduate of LaCanada, Calif., high school. He’s been in Winterset for about a decade.
He said the summer incident over school behavior hit too close to home.
“We had that flare up, public opinion over the summer,” Geoghegan said.
“One of my biggest things is the whole circle of communication. I’m saying we need to have more trust.”
Geoghegan says he would like to see more communication between the school district and families.
Geoghegan also has several degrees in physics, including a master in both experimental physics and medical physics.
“I don’t like, if a student does A, the discipline needs B,” he adds.
“I just want to ensure the students that have special needs are taken into consideration.”
Kevin Hensley is a 1995 graduate of Tipton, Ind. He moved to Winterset about 14 years ago, and works for the city of West Des Moines. He is superintendent of public services: streets, park services and the like.
He and his family lived in Des Moines before moving to Winterset.
“We loved the area,” he said.
Hensley and his wife have six kids, three of which are adopted.
“We have kids in every school building in the district. 8th grade down to grade school,” he said.
As far as the school board is concerned, Hensley says, “I think there needs to be some ownership in the decisions that have been made.”
He sees the school board as a place to back up what teachers are doing.
“I think one of the perceptions that’s out there is that there has been a lack of support for the teachers.”
As an outsider looking in, he thinks that’s a valuable vantage point.
“I think that it would be good to have somebody on the board that has somewhat of an outside view.”
Julie Knobloch is a 2000 graduate of the I-35 schools.
She and her husband, Ryan, have been married for 18 years and have two children. The two boys, a 16-year-old sophomore, and a 15-year-old freshman, go to school in Winterset.
“My boys are in school and a two nieces and a nephew that will be coming through.
“It’s just kind of been on my heart. I’m not a highly emotional person.”
She says she is pragmatic, and likes to do what is needed to solve the issues.
Knobloch says she’s not bothered that the school board is an unpaid position.
“When you get a raise, and it’s zero percent ... I just want to be able to serve and be a voice for the kids.”
“We’re raising kids to become citizens ... It takes a lot of guidance at home.”
Knobloch says she thinks there may be a lack of transparency as far as the school board is concerned.
“There has been a lack of respect because of a lack of transparency.”
Se says she thinks the taxpayers, the school board and the superintendent all have very different roles, and it’s important to keep sight of that.
“The way you build trust and respect is through communication,” Knobloch said.
“I need people to respect decisions because they’re based on facts. I decided to run, not because of a complaint … but wanting more open dialogue.”
Kirk Macumber is a former Winterset city councilman and a former county supervisor.
He’d be making the trifecta if he can get on the school board.
“It boils down to the schools’ going to have some pretty big decisions and drastic changes in the next [few years].
“I just thought it out for a little bit and think that I can help them move forward with some of those decisions.”
Macumber says he attended some school board meeting this past summer and has some ideas.
He also says the growth in northeast Madison County, is going to be a very real issue.
“The bridge is there. It’s not when it’s going to happen. The school has already got land up there … it’s certainly going to happen in our lifetime.
He says he understands why there was criticism when the school district acquired land northeast of Winterset.
“There was certainly a vocal minority that didn’t understand (the land purchase).”
Macumber says he thinks there’s room for improvement when it comes to communication between the school board and parents.
“If there is one thing I think, you look at both sides and make a decision.
“The education system is constantly evolving. It’s not the same as when my kids went through not even 10 years ago.”
Soon-to-be-former Winterset Mayor Jim Olson has decided to try to keep his public servant hat on for awhile longer.
Olson says he decided to run for school board because he thinks teachers need to be supported by a voice on the board.
“I love Winterset. I love the school. I’m vested,” he says.
“I have three generations of high school graduates ... I think there is a perception that our school district isn’t very good, and since it’s the anchor of our community, I want it to be good,” Olson said.