River Falls prepares for School Board election
Screen capture from the school board candidate forum held on March 15, 2018. Photo courtesy of the City of River Falls.
As the residents of River Falls prepare to vote on Tuesday, one portion of their ballot will present a lot of choices. With six candidates and seemingly endless issues, the School Board election is a hot topic among some residents but support appears to be lacking in UW-River Falls students.
Mike Miller, candidate for the School Board, said that he hopes that students will vote on Tuesday.
“UWRF students will benefit from strong public school districts,” Miller said. “Today’s UWRF students are tomorrow’s River Falls School District parents.”
Six candidates are running to fill four soon-to-be vacant seats on the School District of River Falls’ School Board during the April 3 election. Candidates include business leaders and educators from River Falls and the surrounding area. Each candidate was given the opportunity to respond to questions that would be put into a portfolio of each candidate.
Andrews has a background in the private sector of business. He said that this experience gives him a different perspective that will allow him to assist in budget management, work collaboratively with other board members and manage projects in an efficient manner.
“My goal will be to dig in deep into the budget numbers to make sure we are maximizing the limited funds we have,” Andrews said. “This is nothing new for me as I have a history of being provided with a fixed budget and finding ways to get the highest number of top priorities accomplished effectively and efficiently, without just being cheap.”
Andrews said that he wants the River Falls School District to be a district that strives to be a leader among local districts, both in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“It is very important that we are not just comparing ourselves to the rest of Wisconsin,” Andrews said. “We also need to make sure we are also out pacing the folks on the other side of the St. Croix River.”
One of Andrews’ goals is to communicate with as many members of the district as feasible.
“I have received a lot of feedback over the past few months that people within the district do not feel like they have a voice,” Andrews said. “I find that very disturbing, and I want to make sure that everyone knows that they can come to me and provide me with input and feedback.”
Holbrook also brings a varied perspective to the board since she is both a coach and instructor at UW-River Falls and a parent of students in the district. She said that both of those responsibilities would benefit the board and the district.
“Being on the School Board isn’t just administrative – it impacts children, teachers and parents every single day,” Holbrook said. “Board members should have direct contact with our schools.”
Holbrook wants to use her perspective to help the board set policies that are not only inclusive but also ensure the students in the district succeed. She said that it is important for any board member to approach their duties with more than a single goal or issue in mind. Rather, they should work to set up all district personnel and students for success.
“Creating a better, safer and more flexible environment allows our schools to do some of the things they can’t currently do,” Holbrook said. She hopes that she can help create plans to increase staffing and update facilities to best accomplish this goal.
Holbrook said she hopes that students will vote for her because strong school boards affect the community they live in. She also said that her experience as an educator provides her with a varied perspective.
“I have experience and a full understanding that something that looks effective on paper may not be the best for teachers and students that are actually in the classroom on a day-to-day basis,” Holbrook said.
Miller has been on the School Board for nine years and is a local business owner. His wife is a teacher at Meyer Middle School.
“I am running for the board again because I feel like I have some unfinished business,” Miller said. “I was on the ad hoc committee that determined the facility needs for our current referendum.”
Miller is a graduate of River Falls High School and has had three children in the district, his youngest a junior in high school. He has also been a volunteer coach at the high school for 16 years, and currently operates both a business and commercial real estate in the city.
He said he views the duties of the board as both diverse but also very pointed: “To oversee the implementation of the policies, procedures, budget and strategic plan … to (also) be a conduit between school district and the tax payers of the school district.”
His overall goal for the district is to graduate students who are versed in a variety of areas and have the opportunity to find and explore their passions. Miller’s goals for the future of the district are centered around the facility referendum and continuing to prepare students for the work force.
“With the successful passage of our building referendum, we will address the many maintenance items that our facilities require,” Miller said. “We will have 21st century classrooms that offer both students and staff the opportunity to prosper. We will have secure schools where everyone feels safe.”
Information to contact Thompson was not readily available at the time of publication after numerous attempts to contact the district and city clerk. However, the questionnaire provided by the River Falls School District provided his answers to several questions.
“My vision for education in the community is to provide and support a structure that encourages and facilitates our community members to discover their passions and develop their skills,” Thompson said. “This vision is based on recognizing that the things we are passionate about may change through stages of life, and we need to develop skills to pursue those passions.”
Thompson said that teachers are key to the district and need to be supported so that they can best support their students.
“Key teachers in my life inspired me to follow my dreams,” Thompson said. “Those teachers were right, and the confidence they expressed in me helped me to find my passion – understanding how our physical world works.”
Tuchtenhagen is running for re-election after serving on the board for a number of years. During his time on the board, he has worked on adding 4-year-old kindergarten and kept the district on a positive financial path. He has also had three children graduate from the district.
He is running with several goals in mind. First (and most importantly), to continue to ensure students are successful, he said.
“One way we do that is by supporting classroom teachers through pay, working environment, advocacy and encouragement,” said Tuchtenhagen.
Tuchtenhagen’s other goals include: remaining financially stable, especially with limited increases in state aid; continuing to develop trust with the River Falls community through transparency; and getting the current referendum passed to put some money toward much-needed facility improvements.
He also hopes to continue to engage the entire River Falls community to gain even stronger support for the district.
Tuchtenhagen said he is dedicated to maintaining a close relationship between UW-River Falls and the school district.
“I (am) very connected to UWRF since I worked there for many years. I understand the issues that the school district and (the university) have in common,” Tuchtenhagen said. “There are many opportunities for UWRF students to connect with our schools and vice versa.”
Wells-Mangold was appointed by the school board to fill a board vacancy in November and is running to continue the work he started. This work includes retaining and attracting effective teachers, implementing the strategic plan and advocating for inclusion and equality in all schools.
Wells-Mangold said that he brings a different perspective to the board due to his home life.
“I also have the youngest kids enrolled in the district of any candidate,” Wells-Mangold said. “I obviously want all families and students to feel like they are well represented, but I think other young families will look and see that my family has experiences that are similar to theirs at this point in their lives and possibly see me as someone they can connect with if needed.”
One of Wells-Mangold’s goals is to help the district work to increase diversity and continue efforts for inclusivity in the district. He also said he hopes to assist the district in implementing the various aspects of the referendum, should it pass.
Wells-Mangold said that while he has personal feelings toward many of the issues the board handles, he always reminds himself that he is working on behalf of the community. This means upholding the school district’s values and beliefs.
“It is really important to me to be a board member that works to make our district and community better,” Wells-Mangold said. “In the end, that’s really what we all want for River Falls.”
Wells-Mangold also said he thinks that UWRF students should vote for him because he understands the experiences college students have and wants to work to make the city a place graduates want to stay.
“I’m the product of a public education, I worked my way through college and my priorities are to provide the best opportunities I can for my family and to make the place where I live better,” Wells-Mangold said.