Six candidates will vie for three open positions on the Ottawa school board this spring.
Bill Allegre, Tim Catlin and Norman Wooge entered the race Tuesday before the noon deadline, joining Lynda Alderman, Richard Jackson and Russ Wilson, who had filed the previous week.
The general election is set for April 2. The race did not garner enough candidates — 10 or more — to necessitate a primary, Janet Paddock, Franklin County clerk, reported Tuesday.
Incumbents Brandon Jones and Marge Stevens did not seek re-election. Jones is wrapping up his first term on the board, while Stevens, a retired Ottawa school teacher, has served on the board since 2001.
Allegre, 56, currently occupies the third board seat up for election. The board appointed Allegre in March 2012 to serve the remainder of the term vacated by former board member Darrell Bourque, who died in February 2012. Allegre, who previously served on the school board for six years ending in 2005, was selected from a group of four finalists to fill Bourque’s seat. Current candidates Alderman and Wilson also were finalists in that selection process.
With tumultuous times in Topeka over the state’s funding of public education, Allegre said, a strong voice for public education is needed on the school board who can come up with creative ideas about how to use the same state dollars the district is currently receiving to finance the growing costs of running a school district in the future.
“I am a strong proponent for education, and I am willing to battle for the support we need [from the state],” Allegre said.
Currently a pharmacist for Walgreens, 1445 S. Main St., Ottawa, Allegre has served on several committees and boards, including the Ransom Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees, and he was part of a group that sought to bring a YMCA to the community.
In addition to being an advocate for public education, Allegre said, he would like to continue to serve in his current position to address some district needs he has identified since joining the board a few months ago.
“We need to address some shortfalls with the facilities in our district, and I am committed to improving facilities in the district,” Allegre said. “I want to see us continue to strive for academic improvement in the district, and I want to ensure that all teachers and administrators are on the same page with our core curriculum.”
Catlin, 47, has been a vocal proponent of improving facilities in the district, as well. Catlin, the owner of an Ottawa-based marketing company that produces brochures and other marketing materials for home builders, lead patron discussions at several board meetings last spring and summer about growing concerns over mold problems and other facility deficiencies at Eugene Field Elementary School, 702 Tremont Ave., Ottawa.
Catlin held up several photographs for board members of what he said were examples of mold and water damage in classrooms, crawl spaces and a library bathroom at the elementary school at a board meeting last spring. One photograph, date-stamped April 20, 2012, showed a mushroom growing in the corner of classroom 103 at the school.
“If you went into a hospital waiting room and saw a mushroom growing in the corner, you would leave and never come back,” Catlin said, holding up the mushroom photograph. “This is unacceptable.”
In addition to finding ways to upgrade facilities with a limited amount of funds, Catlin said, he thinks the board needs to take a closer look at ways to boost the amount of money being spent in the classroom on education, not day-to-day administrative operations.
“We need to look at the district’s funds to see what we can do to provide a better education for our children and give taxpayers the biggest return for their dollars,” Catlin said. “I think the district does some things well, but there are other areas that I think can be improved.”
Catlin, who regularly attends board meetings, has four children in the school district.
Norman Wooge, 72, is another familiar face at school board meetings. He can be seen sitting on the front row of the gallery on a regular basis.
“I have attended many of the school board meetings, which keeps me informed of the functions of the school board,” Wooge, a longtime rural Ottawa farmer, said. “I have acquired a perspective from a patron’s viewpoint by being active in the school board.”
Wooge said he “strongly opposed” closing Eisenhower Elementary School in 2011, as did many other district patrons, he said.
“Now we can see the repercussions of the Eisenhower closing and the adjustments that are being made to compensate for that closing,” he said.
Wooge, who owns a repair shop in addition to farming, said he likes to keep physically fit.
“I’m 72, but I feel like I’m more physically fit than a 50-year-old,” Wooge said. “I like to read and keep current on events. If elected, I will be proactive with the decisions of the board and be conscientious with the decisions as a member of that board.”
Alderman, a retired Ottawa school teacher, said she could bring insight to the board about how the decisions it makes will affect the students and teachers in the classroom. Also as a longtime educator, Alderman, 63, said she could assist the board in long-range planning.
“I would like to help the board develop a vision for our schools,” she said.
Jackson, a former Ottawa mayor and current chief executive officer of the Ottawa-based East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corp., said school finance would be one of the major challenges for the school district. The state Legislature’s funding of education will have a major effect on what school districts will be able to do at the local level, Jackson, 69, said.
“It will require hard budgetary choices,” Jackson said. “The pot keeps dwindling, so we have to look at how we can best meet our needs with limited resources.”
Wilson has worked at Midwest Cabinet Co. Inc., 1674 N. Industrial Ave., Ottawa, for 19 years, the past 13 in management. Wilson, 45, said his experience in management at Midwest Cabinet would benefit him during the board’s decision-making processes as it tackles a variety of issues — from modular classrooms to budgeting.
A member of the local Habitat for Humanity board of directors, Wilson said several people had encouraged him run, bolstering his decision to enter the race.
“I think a fresh perspective is important,” Wilson said.
The top three vote-getters in the April 2 election each will earn a four-year term on the board.
Doug Carder is senior writer for The Herald. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org