Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Candidates for Ottawa school board emerge

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 1/18/2013

A retired elementary school teacher this week became the first person to file for the Ottawa school board race.

Lynda Alderman, who taught first grade at Eisenhower Elementary School for 31 years, will seek one of three positions that will be open on the board in 2013.

A retired elementary school teacher this week became the first person to file for the Ottawa school board race.

Lynda Alderman, who taught first grade at Eisenhower Elementary School for 31 years, will seek one of three positions that will be open on the board in 2013.

Alderman filed on Monday. Since then, two other Ottawa residents have stepped forward to file: Russ Wilson on Thursday and Richard Jackson Friday.

School board members Bill Allegre, Brandon Jones and Marge Stevens will see their terms expire in 2013. All three seats are four-year terms. Individuals interested in seeking one of those seats need to file by noon Tuesday with the Franklin County clerk’s office, 315 S. Main St., Ottawa. The clerk’s office will be closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The general election is set for April 2. If a primary election is necessary, it would be Feb. 26.

Lynda Alderman

“I told everybody a year-and-a-half ago when I retired from teaching that I would run for the school board, and I’ve had several people ask me to run,” Alderman, 63, said Friday.

School funding is one of the biggest challenges on the horizon for the Ottawa school district, Alderman said.

“I think, the way the Kansas budget appears to be going, financial issues perhaps will be the most problematic,” she said. “Education doesn’t appear to be getting much of a bump.”

As a longtime school teacher, Alderman 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 veteran educator, Alderman 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.

Alderman said she is willing to devote the time and effort needed to be a good board member.

“I have the time, and I am willing to do the work,” she said. “Actually, I’m really excited about running for the board.”

Russ Wilson

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.

“I am a problem solver, and problem solvers tend to think logically,” Wilson said of one of the strengths he would bring to the board if elected.

 Wilson and Alderman were among four applicants interviewed to fill the remainder of Darrell Bourque’s four-year term. Bourque, who died in February 2012, was elected to the board in 2009. The board selected Allegre to finish Bourque’s term, citing his previous experience as a school board member.

Wilson said he is ready for another go at gaining a seat on the board.

Wilson, who is a member of the local Habitat for Humanity board of directors, said several people had encouraged him run, bolstering his decision to enter the race.

“I think a fresh perspective is important,” Wilson said.

Richard Jackson

Jackson, former Ottawa mayor and current chief executive officer of the Ottawa-based East Central Kansas Economic Opportunity Corp., said he filed for school board because he wanted to continue his public service.

Jackson, 69, who will wrap up his term on the Ottawa Planning Commission in May, agreed with Alderman that 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, who served 12 years on the Ottawa City Commission, 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.”

Jackson said his budgetary experience with the city commission, ECKAN and a number of boards would be a good fit for tackling the school finance challenges the district currently faces. The four-time Ottawa mayor and past president of the Kansas League of Municipalities said his planning background also would benefit him if he is elected to the school board. Jackson said he also has been involved with a number of boards and committees that have dealt with youth-related issues and served youths, including the Ottawa Recreation Commission.

School safety, in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting, also should be a priority, Jackson said.

“We need to look at ways to make our schools safer,” Jackson said. “And we need to continue to work to provide students with the education they need to be successful once they graduate from Ottawa High School.”

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