Five candidates vie for four seats on the CR School board

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Christine Aulwes

Alicia Helle

John Heying

Ellen Johnson

Dennis Roth

By Caroline Rosacker

Note: This is the third in a series of interviews with candidates for Guttenberg municipal and school board offices in the Nov. 5 election. Following are interviews with five candidates for four seats on the Clayton Ridge School board. 

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Christine "Critta" Aulwes

1. Why are you running for the school board? I am running for school board because Clayton Ridge is an integral part of our community, and I want to see our students continue to progress academically and socially to meet their individual goals and aspirations. I believe our children are our legacy and Clayton Ridge Community Schools play a vital role.

2. What are your qualifications and background? I have been a part of this community for 25 years now, having moved from southeast Iowa to this beautiful area for a PTA job at the Guttenberg hospital, and have continued in this area in that capacity, currently at the Guttenberg Care Center.  I married a local man (Brian Aulwes), and we have raised three children, two of who have graduated from Clayton Ridge and have one presently attending in his junior year. I have always loved education and learning, and wanted to know more about school proceedings and that was why I ran initially eight years ago, and am continuing to pursue another term now. I am currently serving as vice-president which I have done for two years, and have also served in various other committees within the structure of the school board.  I have enjoyed learning about school finance and where monies can be used and not used and why, RTI for our students, and the virtual school, where we are providing education to those not able to learn traditionally in a brick and mortar building.  All encompassing the building of relationships in our community to better serve our teachers, parents, and staff but most importantly our students.

  3. What are currently the most important issues the board needs to address? The continuation of meeting the individual abilities and needs of our diverse school population academically, socially, and financially. Continued improvement of relationships within our community, and school with more open dialogue and work for improving transparency to achieve more active participation within our school district. Continued goal development of programming, technology, and workforce development with financial knowledge to better prepare our students for this ever-changing world. We have to continually seek to progress and work toward the betterment for all within our community.

Alicia Helle

1. Why are you running for the school board? I am seeking a second term on the Board of Directors because I am incredibly passionate about maintaining a thriving school district in our communities. I believe that a strong, well-rounded, and knowledgeable school board has a direct correlation with student achievement and retaining quality educators. A thriving school district means thriving communities, which is crucial for rural Iowa. I am running for school board to advocate for our students, teachers, and communities that make up the Clayton Ridge School District.     

2. What are your qualifications and background? I graduated from Garnavillo and now reside in Garnavillo with my husband, Tim, and our two boys: Caden is a freshman, and Caleb is a sophomore in high school. I have a B.S. in education from Clarke University, where I majored in elementary education and special education. I have an M.S.Ed from UW-Stout, along with my reading specialist and educational leadership degree from Concordia University. I serve northeast Iowa schools as a Regional Administrator with Keystone Area Education Agency and work closely with the Iowa Department of Education on state teams. I believe that this gives me a unique qualification and lens when it comes to local and state initiatives. 

3. What are currently the most important issues the board needs to address? One crucial issue for Clayton Ridge, like many rural districts, is sustainability and remaining financially sound. Declining enrollment and budget cuts threaten rural areas annually. We need to continue to be ahead of the curve and explore out-of-the-box thinking to ensure we continue to grow as a community and ensure our kids have access to the best education. Another critical issue is the use of technology. Our district has done an excellent job of keeping pace with the ever-changing technology world. We need to continue to progress and stay up-to-date with the latest to prepare students for living, learning, and working when they graduate. Mental health and wellness are also a high priority for schools today. The state of Iowa has allocated money to ensure teachers are prepared to work with our youth, and we need to continue to support this effort as well.

John Heying

1. Why are you running for the school board? I am running for the school board again in hopes to keep things moving in the right direction and keep the great working relationships between the administration and the board.  We have worked very well together on all of the recent projects, and I hope we can keep that going. I also think it takes an open mind when dealing with a lot issues we face on the board, and I think I am very open-minded. I also would like to follow through with some of the new curriculum and interventions that we as a team have helped to implement and additional work to be done.

2. What are your qualifications and background? I think that being on the board for the past eight years has given me some great experience. I am also a parent of two children who went to (and graduated from) Clayton Ridge so I can understand how it is to have children in school and the issues that arise. I am a district manager for a seed company and understand budgets of my own and in the business world. I also know how to deal with the public on a daily basis. 

3. What are currently the most important issues the board needs to address? Being fiscally responsible is at the top of my list.  An open and honest dialogue with the taxpayers of our district is also essential because they are the people funding our district’s new endeavors.  I also believe we need to give our children the best chance to succeed in any career path that they would choose.  A safe and inviting learning atmosphere is essential for our children’s success. Enrollment is always another issue, but the last couple years we have been very fortunate to have had an increase in enrollment. I am sure that probably won’t always be the case so we have to continually look at ways to make our district appeal to new families and students. 

Ellen Johnson

1. Why are you running for the school board? I am finishing my first term on the board, and I would like to continue. I have learned so much. There are certain issues a member is able to affect, and others, not so much, because of money and both state and federal rules and regulations. A person often “second-guesses” decisions he or she makes, and I have done that frequently but have often come to the same conclusion. I feel the present members work well together, even when we may disagree with each other. In the whole realm of things, everything boils down to how it will relate to the students and what we feel is in their best interests. 

2. What are your qualifications and background?  I have already been on the board for one term. I was fortunate to be a teacher in the district for 33 years, as well as holding offices in the Guttenberg Education Association/Clayton Ridge Education Association. I have served on the Guttenberg Public Library Board and Substance Abuse Services of Clayton County Board. I have been a strong supporter of the school and the students’ activities. 

3. What are currently the most important issues the board needs to address? Small schools are facing many of the same issues, such as declining enrollment and finances. Our enrollment was gradually declining for quite awhile, but, luckily, our enrollment has been steady the last two years. Funding is always an issue; having enough money to support the programs, facilities and activities that are important to the students and the communities. The school is fortunate to have had the support of the public for the most recent votes on funding. 

Another issue is the teacher shortage in Iowa and the country. There are certain areas of instruction where it is becoming harder and harder to find teachers.      

Dennis Roth

1. Why are you running for the school board? Over the years that I worked for the City of Guttenberg, I’ve thought many times about running for the school board. Now that I’m retired and have time, I decided to run.

2. What are your qualifications and background? I have lived in Guttenberg for 70 years, raised my three sons here, they went to school here and now my two grandchildren attend Clayton Ridge School. I worked for the City of Guttenberg over 30 years and have been on the Guttenberg Fire Department for 45 years.  As you can see, the community is important to me, and I have an interest in it.

3. What are currently the most important issues the board needs to address? I want to see a good quality education continue to be given to our students. As for any major issues, I would deal with them if and when they arise.

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