With the April 2 election on the horizon, six Ottawa residents who are vying for three seats on the Ottawa school board are scheduled to participate in a candidate forum tonight.
The 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. forum is planned for the Franklin County Board of Commissioners’ chambers at the Franklin County Office Annex, 1428 S. Main St., Ottawa.
To give voters an opportunity to learn more about the six candidates before the public forum — or for those who cannot attend tonight’s event — The Herald asked each candidate to share a little about themselves and why they are running.
The six candidates are Bill Allegre, current school board member, and challengers Lynda Alderman, Tim Catlin, Richard Jackson, Russ Wilson and Norman Wooge.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the candidates’ responses to The Herald’s questions.
NAME: Lynda Alderman
FAMILY: I am married to David Alderman. We have two grown children and four grandchildren.
OCCUPATION: Retired teacher, having taught first grade at Eisenhower Elementary School for 31 years.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN OTTAWA? I am a lifelong resident of Franklin County except for the years from 1967 to 1978 when I was in college, and we were living in California.
WHAT MAKES THE OTTAWA SCHOOL DISTRICT GREAT? The excellent, caring, and dedicated teaching staff is what makes this school district great.
WHAT WOULD MAKE THE SCHOOL DISTRICT BETTER? I believe this district needs a curriculum director. Curriculum is the rock on which quality, effective education is built, and USD 290 has been without one for too long.
REASON FOR RUNNING: Education is my life, having been a teacher for 31 years. Though I retired, my interest in education and educational issues did not. Being on the school board would take me to a new and different level of involvement.
KEY PLATFORM: I want to do two things: 1. Listen to the patrons of USD 290; and 2. Help establish a vision, a road map, a blueprint for this district that will take us into the future.
LIFE PHILOSOPHY: “Love the journey, not the destination. Today is the only guarantee you get.” — Anna Quindlen
NAME: Bill Allegre
FAMILY: I’ve been married to Stephanie Allegre (a school social worker at Olathe South High School) for 34 years. We have three daughters: Adrienne, an attorney in Denver; Jenna, a social worker also in Olathe; and Eliza, a senior at KU majoring in speech pathology.
OCCUPATION: I’m a pharmacist, the former owner of Allegre and Briscoe Pharmacies and currently employed at Walgreens in Ottawa.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN OTTAWA? We’ve lived in Ottawa since 1981 when we came to purchase Reynolds Drug Store.
WHAT MAKES THE OTTAWA SCHOOL DISTRICT GREAT? USD 290 has many things that make it great: we have highly trained and motivated educators, we have the support of parents and the community, we have some outstanding facilities and access to technology, and we have bright, inquisitive students. Plus we have a state champion basketball team.
WHAT WOULD MAKE THE SCHOOL DISTRICT BETTER? Our district could be better if we could establish equity between our elementary schools. The difference between the newer and older schools is apparent and needs to be addressed. Our district could do a better job of aligning our curriculum across the district and as children progress through the system. There are some holes in our staff due to resignations and retirements that need to be filled with enthusiastic, dedicated professionals.
REASON FOR RUNNING: I’m running for school board because I care about the youth of Ottawa and consequently, the future of Ottawa. Public education in Kansas faces a tenuous future. Federal and state funding are being driven down at a time when we should be making a strong commitment to our kids. I feel we’ll need some experienced hands on the board to deal with funding challenges in the near future. I’ve served almost seven years in my two stints on the board and feel I have a good grasp of opportunities and pitfalls we may face in school finance. I’m dedicated to doing what’s best for our students and rewarding and acknowledging our best educators.
KEY PLATFORM: I don’t know that there is one key issue that I’m concerned with, although upgrading our facilities must rank high. Increased implementation of technology in the classroom, higher expectations for teachers and students, fair compensation for our educators, assurance that no kids are slipping through the cracks in USD 290 — these are all things I feel strongly about.
LIFE PHILOSOPHY: My primary philosophy in life is based on my Christian faith: to love the Lord with all my heart, mind and soul and to love my neighbor. I try to bring humor and encouragement to any endeavor I’m part of but I’m passionate about serving those in our community who don’t always have a voice. I’ve been blessed in so many ways in my life that I think it only follows that I should try to pass that on through public service.
NAME: Tim Catlin
FAMILY: Married with four daughters. Next fall we will have a daughter in high school, one in middle and two in elementary school.
OCCUPATION: Owner of TLC Marketing Company, producing marketing materials for the homebuilding industry nationally.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN OTTAWA? 11 years.
WHAT MAKES THE OTTAWA SCHOOL DISTRICT GREAT? The district is home to a great group of educators that love teaching kids, and it shows. The district is supported by a city that understands that schools are the foundation of that community.
WHAT WOULD MAKE THE SCHOOL DISTRICT BETTER? The district needs to do a better job of planning long term and consistently sharing that view with the residents of Ottawa. Confidence needs to be increased between the school board and the public. I plan to do my part to increase that trust by helping to articulate a long-range plan based on the current and future needs of the district and by actively working with the rest of the board to communicate that plan to the public. There also needs to be an intense focus on curriculum. In the search for a new superintendent, we need an individual with strong curriculum credentials.
REASON FOR RUNNING: I got involved by coming to school board meetings because of maintenance and environmental issues at Eugene Field Elementary School. I quickly discovered the lack of long-range planning is what led to those issues. I will be an advocate for students, teachers and schools, and work to encourage parental engagement and community involvement.
KEY PLATFORM: Putting kids and educators first. Every decision the board makes needs to have the “how will this affect kids’ educations” litmus test applied to it. Making sure the taxpayers are getting the best return on their investment and the students of USD 290 are getting the best education possible. In these tight fiscal times, the district needs to accomplish more day-to-day with the money currently at their disposal.
LIFE PHILOSOPHY: You get out of life in direct proportion to what you invest in it.
NAME: Richard Jackson
FAMILY: Married to LaDora Jackson for the past 17 years; 4 children: Sonya, Richard, Jr., LaVonna and Damon; nine grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
OCCUPATION: Chief executive officer of East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corporation for the past 44 years.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN OTTAWA? 49 years.
WHAT MAKES THE OTTAWA SCHOOL DISTRICT GREAT? Students, teachers, administrators, parents and the community as a whole.
WHAT WOULD MAKE THE SCHOOL DISTRICT BETTER? To get parents of at-risk students more involved. Raise the recognition of the honor students, etc. to the same level as the athletes are recognized.
REASON FOR RUNNING: To continue my community service. I believe my past experiences being on the Ottawa City Commission, Ottawa Planning Commission and the Ottawa Recreation Commission will allow me to bring a different prospective to the school board. Also, the board should reflect the diversity of the community.
KEY POSITION: My platform is based on the three M’s: 1. Make sure we are using all resources wisely, not letting our wants get in the way of our needs. 2. Make sure we provide a safe haven for our students to learn, grow and thrive. 3. Make sure we are providing life skills opportunities for students that will allow them to be successful when they graduate.
LIFE PHILOSOPHY: I believe we all have a personal responsibility in shaping and guiding the world we live in. We are either leaders or followers.
NAME: Russ Wilson
FAMILY: Tori Wilson (wife), Kelsi Wilson (daughter), David Wilson (son).
OCCUPATION: Production manager, Midwest Cabinet Co. Inc.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN OTTAWA? 27 years.
WHAT MAKES THE OTTAWA SCHOOL DISTRICT GREAT? I believe that from the top to the bottom this district cares about the education of the students.
WHAT WOULD MAKE THE SCHOOL DISTRICT BETTER? I’m a fan of technology. If we want our children and their children to stay competitive in the world they are going to graduate into, we must equip them with the knowledge of the technology that exists in that world. I think we are making strides in that direction, but we must work more diligently at that goal.
REASON FOR RUNNING: I believe my experience with making critical decisions effecting both short- and long-term outcomes will come in handy. Having a school board made up of people from different backgrounds will help hold everyone accountable to looking out for the common good of the district as a whole, rather than viewing one area as more important than another.
KEY PLATFORM: Technology and equitable education for all students.
LIFE PHILOSOPHY: You may have to grow old but that doesn’t mean you have to grow up! Stay young at heart!
NAME: Norman Wooge
FAMILY: Wife, Karen, of 50 years. Two sons, David and his wife, Stephanie, and Dan and his wife, Anne.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN OTTAWA? In rural Ottawa since 1966.
WHAT MAKES THE OTTAWA SCHOOL DISTRICT GREAT? The educational leadership. The teachers and staff. The best teachers wanting improvements.
WHAT WOULD MAKE THE SCHOOL DISTRICT BETTER? Better graduation numbers. Better understanding of the children at risk. Free lunches for all of the children. The school board needs to have study sessions before the board votes on issues.
REASON FOR RUNNING: We can do better, I am sure. By running, the candidates are heard by our community. Important changes are in order so that we can move comfortably in the future.
KEY PLATFORM: As a member of the board, I will add a perspective aided by my vast experience of life.
LIFE PHILOSOPHY: I learned the FFA creed many years ago. It started out by the words: “I believe in the future.” The FFA Motto: “Learning to do; Doing to learn; Learning to live; Living to serve.” I live by this philosophy.