Tri States Public Radio Staff
Fri September 4, 2009
Election: Keokuk School Board
Keokuk, IA – Tuesday's election will be the first in which Iowa school board members are elected to four-year terms.
That additional time commitment did not stop five residents from running for three open seats on the Keokuk School Board.
The three open seats on the Keokuk School Board currently belong to Wilson Davis, Julia Logan and Tyler McGhghy. At least two of those seats will soon belong to someone else.
That's because Davis and Logan are stepping down. They served more than 25 years, combined, on the Keokuk School Board.
McGhghy is the only incumbent in the race. He is being challenged by newcomers Roger Kokemuller, Chris Lindner, Jennifer Seitz, and Alka Khanolkar.
Tyler McGhghy wants a third term on the Keokuk School Board because he wants to continue to help the district move in the right direction. He feels he brings a common-sense approach.
"A lot of data is thrown at us," says McGhghy, "a lot of would of, could of, should of, but it is like, what is best for the district.' We are run locally, we are not run by the state or federal government. It is up to us to make sure that we meet those expectations and I think common sense is more of a way to go about it."
McGhghy works as a family counselor at Midwest Academy in Keokuk. One of his top priorities is encouraging more parental involvement.
"A lot of parents have the excuse, I work two jobs, I work three jobs,'" says McGhghy, "it only takes the question of how was school today?' to have that student realize, hey, my parents really understand and want me to get an education.'" I think that is something, as a district, that we have lacked in for a while and now the challenge is getting the parents involved."
Mcghghy also wants to see more work on a standard curriculum and educational strategy for the Keokuk School District's elementary schools.
Roger Kokemuller brings a different type of experience to the race. He retired five years ago after working for 31 years as a public school teacher and administrator.
Kokemuller has several reasons for running for a seat on the Keokuk School Board.
"Two of them would be the two grandchildren I have that are going to start school in Keokuk," says Kokemuller, "and I want to make sure they have the same opportunities for a quality education that my children had when they went through the school system."
Kokemuller says he would ask questions when needed and would encourage residents to attend school board meetings so they know what is going on within the district. He would also like to see a shift in priorities when it comes to large-scale projects.
"We need to approach academics and fine arts with the same vigor as athletics," says Kokemuller, "not that athletics need to be ignored, but we have spent a lot of time, money, and energy updating and upgrading athletic facilities. I think it is time to take a look at other things."
Kokemuller says the tight budget will dictate what happens with facilities throughout the Keokuk School District.
Chris Lindner says the school board will have to look at every aspect of the district to make sure the budget priorities improve student education. He says he entered the race because his own children and his nieces and nephews are currently in school and he wants to make sure they get a solid education.
Lindner feels he brings business and management skills to the race as well as a willingness to listen and keep an open mind.
"I feel that I am a very partial person," says Lindner, "I will listen to both sides and concerns. I might be on one side on one thing, but if someone gives me some good points, I can change my tune too."
Lindner is a farmer who lives a couple of miles outside of Keokuk. He says the school board must make sure it finds the resources to provide the equipment each student needs to succeed.
"We are wanting them to do homework and do everything," says Lindner, "but yet we might be short on something. That just gets everyone behind from the start of the year."
Lindner says providing the proper equipment is just one step in the process of getting Keokuk's schools off the state's watch list. He says that should be the district's top priority.
Jennifer Seitz agrees, adding that remaining on the list would put the district at risk of losing state resources or facing government intervention. She says she is running to make sure that every student receives the same education.
"I am just there to make sure everything is fair, " says Seitz, "right across the board. Everyone is equal and I don't care what background you come from. Everyone is the same and should get the same education."
Seitz is the parent of a 6th grader and a 9th grader and is the president of the Hawthorne Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization. She says one of her own priorities if elected is making sure she is available to all.
"I am going to be open anytime," says Seitz, "email, stop by my house, holler at me at Wal-Mark, call my cell phone. I am willing to listen to anyone and hear their concerns."
Seitz says the Keokuk School Board must also make sure the district keeps up on technology.
Alka Khanolkar says the district must also continue to embrace the Iowa Core Curriculum as it will help students compete in the global marketplace. She says she is running for a seat on the Keokuk School Board because she has a passion for education and literacy. "I believe that all the students in our community deserve the best educational system," says Khanolkar, "in order to achieve their maximum potential in educational excellence."
Khanolkar is currently working on her teaching certification through Iowa Wesleyan College. She says one of the biggest challenges facing the Keokuk School District is the widening gap between its high-achieving students and its low-achieving students.
Khanolkar says one solution would be to reach out to other districts to see what programs they are using.
"We have to bring instructional coaches into the classroom," says Khanolkar, "as they will be able to guide the teachers and serve as role models in the classroom."
Khanolkar says the district must also make sure it is providing a safe environment for students.
Tyler McGhghy, Roger Kokemuller, Chris Lindner, Jennifer Seitz, and Alka Khanolkar all feel they are the best option for the three open seats on the Keokuk School Board.
The three new members will be joined on the panel by Mike Steinkruger. He is running un-opposed to fill out the final two years in the term of Dave Barrett, who is stepping down after being named Van Buren County Engineer.