Saturday 26 July 2014
 

Two incumbents, two newcomers seek three board seats in Ventura

 

KAMI DYRE
My name is Kamara (Kami) Dyre.  I have been married to my husband, Jay, for 22 years.  We have lived in Ventura for 19 years.  We have three children: Dustin, 21; Debbie, 19; and Nicholas, nine.  I was born and raised in Ventura and graduated in 1988.  I graduated from Hamilton Business College in 1989 with a diploma in the

Executive Secretarial field.  In 2009 I returned to college, attending NIACC, and gradated from the Medical Transcription program and am currently a medical transcriptionist for the Belmond Medical Center.  I am a member of the Ventura Park and Recreation Department Board of Directors; I am a board member of the Ventura Booster Club, and I am currently a co-leader for the Ventura Hustlers 4-H Club.

    Why have you decided to seek election?  I have decided to seek election after being approached by a current board member.  There are going to be a lot of tough decisions coming before the Ventura School Board and I truly want to be a part of those tough decisions.  I want people to know that I am vested in doing what is best for the students of Ventura, as well as the Ventura community.  What I want is to be able to provide the best academic experience possible for the students of the Ventura Community School District.  Our Mission Statement is “To Provide a Community of Opportunity” and unfortunately, due to state mandates, declining enrollment, and 0 percent allowable growth this year and only 2 percent next year, I see those opportunities dwindling.
    Job experience or qualifications you feel relate to your candidacy: I have been an involved member of the community ever since I can remember and I genuinely care about the students and the people of Ventura.  I want to be part of the solution to what we are facing as a district.  I feel the time has come to be proactive instead of reactive.  We need to take control of our future while we still can and while opportunities are being presented to us.
    What is the most important quality you would bring to the School Board?  The most important quality I would bring to the School Board would be my passion for Ventura.  I know that we currently cannot continue the way we are without running into some financial difficulties.  I want to make sure that when we enter into an agreement, it is done with the utmost caution so we don’t overlook anything.
    The Ventura School Board has been exploring the idea of whole grade sharing with the Garner-Hayfield School District.  Do you favor this idea?  How soon would you like to see a shared program begin?  I definitely think that a whole grade sharing agreement with the Garner-Hayfield district is in the best interest of the students of Ventura.  It seems to be the best option for us, not only to keep a school in our community, but to retain staff, administration, and support staff such as our secretaries, business manager, cafeteria, transportation and janitorial employees.  The Garner-Hayfield district’s superintendent and school board have extended an “olive branch,” if you will, to help us provide those opportunities to our students.  They have also proposed a reciprocal agreement to maintain elementary buildings in both districts and send their middle school students to our newly remodeled facility while we would send our high school students to Garner.  Our district has never been approached with a two-way agreement before and for Garner to reach out to us, in my mind, shows their genuine concern for our students and our community, along with going that extra step to ensure the survival of their own community and school.  We currently share several things with the Garner district, including academics and athletics.  Our students are already building friendships with students from Garner and from the personal comments I have heard, it has been nothing but positive.
    If you are not in favor of whole grade sharing with Garner-Hayfield, how would you like to see the district proceed, and ultimately deal with the loss of the state’s budget guarantee in 2014? I am not sure though that going to a whole grade sharing agreement for the 2012-2013 year is what is best.  I think sharing in 2013-2014 will give students and parents time to process the decision.  Students need time to adapt and adjust to the changes.  For those in athletics, they need to know when their last home game will be so they can celebrate accordingly-- for both schools.  Student councils need to meet in order to decide if mascots and school colors will change.  Decisions as far as staff need to be ironed out.  There are a lot of decisions that need time to be made and I am just not so sure that one school year is enough time before classes start in the fall of 2012.  If a timeline could be set as to how all the necessary decisions could be achieved within a reasonable amount of time, I would be open to looking into beginning in the fall of 2012, however, right now at this point in time that is my biggest concern.  If we would move too fast, would things be overlooked and not be able to be addressed?
    Additional comments: Whenever the decision is made, it is going to be tough, as one class is going to be the last to graduate from Ventura High School and one class is going to have its senior year as the first year of a whole grade sharing agreement.  These are things that have to be dealt with carefully and with the understanding of how hard it is going to be for some students.  Change is a part of life that we all need to deal with at some point in our lives.  I just want the people of Ventura to know that this is something that pulls at my heart, as I was one of those that wanted Ventura to be independent “forever.”  Unfortunately, the time has come to realize that in order to do what is right for our children to prepare them for the  next level of their lives, we need to make available to them all the resources possible.

 

DANNY MILLER
My wife, Judy, and I have been married for 26 years.  We have two children, Danielle, a senior and Elementary Education major at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa and Devyn, a sophomore at Ventura.  I am a graduate of Ventura High School and received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Accounting from Buena Vista College.  For the past 23 years I have been an employee of the United States Postal Service.  For the last 12 years I have served as Postmaster in Fertile, Iowa.
    Why have you decided to seek election? I have decided to seek election to the Ventura School Board at one of the most critical times at Ventura Community Schools.  With decreasing funding for schools and ever rising expenditures, there are and will be very important decisions to be made.  As we move forward, we must be careful and not make hasty decisions.  I want to offer my help in that decision making process.
    Job experience or qualifications you feel relate to your candidacy: In 1993 I was asked by Cerro Gordo Mutual Insurance Company to serve on their board and fill the vacancy created by my father’s passing.  Accepting that offer led to a Board of Directors position with Central Iowa Mutual Insurance Company in Story City, Iowa.  I have also served on Ventura’s School Improvement Advisory Committee for several years.  For the past seven years I have been Ventura Booster Club president.  I feel qualified for the position on the School Board based on past boardroom experience and my involvement in the Ventura School system.
    What is the most important quality you would bring to the School Board?  I feel that I have many qualities that I would bring to the School Board.  However, if I had to give the most important I would say that would be, being connected.  I feel such a connection with everything and everyone at Ventura schools.  Having the opportunity to serve on the Booster Club has made it possible to become familiar with so many people.  I have worked with the teachers, administration, coaches, secretaries, cooks and custodians, just about everyone within the school at some point.  I have gotten to know so many of the parents and most important, the kids.  I am honored to say that I am associated with Ventura Schools and I feel connected in a very special way.
    The Ventura School Board has been exploring the idea of whole grade sharing with the Garner-Hayfield School District.  Do you favor this idea?  How soon would you like to see a shared program begin?  I really wish that Ventura did not have to be contemplating whole grade sharing with any school district.  I am afraid that the State of Iowa has forced the issue on Ventura.  This scenario has replayed itself in many small school districts across the state.  I am not sure there is any other option left for Ventura Schools at this point but to whole grade share.  I do feel that this question is jumping the gun a bit, however, since Garner-Hayfield’s community meeting has not been held at the time of answering this question.  I really think that whoever is elected to the Ventura School Board needs to see and hear all of the information before making any decisions. 

With that being said, the key in my mind is what does a two-way sharing agreement between Ventura and Garner-Hayfield look like?  If the Junior High students are in Ventura, and High School students in Garner-Hayfield, our buildings are still being used and the benefits of sharing become obvious to those of us in Ventura.  For now, though, there are too many speculations being made and not facts.  We need to methodically go through the process and make sure that everything is in order one step at a time.  The timing of a shared program is also dependent on several scenarios and again, in my opinion, needs to be researched and carefully thought through.
    Additional comments: None.

 

GENE TOPPIN
I am a graduate of Ventura High School, earned an Associate of Arts Degree from North Iowa Area Community College, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Business at Iowa State University.  My wife is Dana, and my two children are Andrea, who is in her first year at Iowa State University, and Joel, who is a sophomore at Ventura High School.  I serve as the Location Manager at the Five Star Cooperative in Burchinal, Iowa and grain farm with my brother on a part-time basis south of Ventura.
    Why have you decided to seek re-election? I have been blessed on receiving my positions in my career partially due to my education and have also encouraged my own children to receive the best education possible for their futures.  I want to continue making decisions that are best for all of our students’ education in the Ventura School District.  After serving five years on the Ventura School Board, I see the necessity of having consistency and continuity of experienced board members that understand the Iowa school finance and the reductions that have been made in the last few years when making the critical decisions for our students and district in sharing, or not sharing with another district.
    Job experience or qualifications you feel relate to your candidacy: I deal with budgets, supervision of employees, and work with the general public in my personal profession.  Just as I need to be sure my service to the farmers at the cooperative is of the best quality; monitoring the budget and providing quality employees, I do the same as a school board member.  I review and ask questions about the school district’s budget and see that we hire the best teachers for our students.  I serve the general public in both positions and understand the importance of communicating with them.
    What is the most important quality you would bring to the School Board?  I am a good listener and take the information from district residents and share it in discussions with other board members and the superintendent and use this information when I vote on decisions as a board member.  I can visualize the big picture of educating our students in Ventura, in North Central Iowa and in the United States.  We must prepare our students for the global society where they will be living and working.  The decisions we make as board members cannot be made just for living in Ventura, but in careers beyond Ventura.  When I see schools in our state and country having their doors closed because of a lack of funds and lack of student enrollment, I know that I have to act with the school board in making decisions quickly for our students and not the state making them for us.
    The Ventura School Board has been exploring the idea of whole grade sharing with the Garner-Hayfield School District.  Do you favor this idea?  How soon would you like to see a shared program begin?  I favor the idea of whole grade sharing with another school district.  According to the financial figures shared with us as school board members, which included the loss of the budget guarantee in the 2014 fiscal school year, we would be wise to begin our sharing in the 2012-13 school year.
   Additional comments: In summary of my years of experience on the board, being involved in school finance and living in the community all my life, I am a viable candidate in taking our district into the future putting students first.

 

STEVE WATSON
I’m a 1986 Ventura graduate.  After graduation I attended Iowa Lakes Community College in Emmetsburg, Iowa.  I’ve been employed with DuPont for 17 years as a sales representative.  I have been married to my wife, Wendy, for 23 years. We have two daughters, Whitney Jo, 15, and Kelsey, 9, both enrolled in the Ventura School System. I’m a life long member of the United Methodist Church in Clear Lake, and have served on various boards, along with volunteering time for other things in the church.
    Why have you decided to seek re-election?  I have decided to run for re-election to continue to help shape the future of the Ventura School District. We have completed several renovation phases over the last few years, including new science labs, consumer science, computer labs, restrooms, and remodeled all other classrooms, hallways and office. While these renovations have been a great asset, we have a lot of tough decisions to be made in the next few years. School budgets continue to get tighter and tighter every year. I would like to continue to be a part of these tough decisions, to help give all kids bigger and better opportunities.
    Job experience or qualifications you feel relate to your candidacy: In sales, communication and being open minded plays a big role. This carries over into the role as a board member. You need to keep good two-way communications with both school staff and patrons of the district. Being open minded about opportunities and other peoples’ ideas makes it a lot easier to do the research and make good decisions.
     What is the most important quality you would bring to the School Board?  I believe I keep an open mind and look at the big picture when making decisions. You need to make decisions that are best for all kids, both academically and athletically.
    The Ventura School Board has been exploring the idea of whole grade sharing with the Garner-Hayfield School District.  Do you favor this idea?  How soon would you like to see a shared program begin? We, as a board, have studied several options over the last two to three years.  I do believe that a whole grade sharing arrangement is the best option that has been looked at so far.  Some of the other options will work, but are short term options at best.  As for a time line, I believe we need to strongly consider it for the 2012-2013 school year. Schools continue to have fewer kids enrolled in a district every year and that means fewer dollars for their operating budgets. In 2014 the state’s budget guarantee will go away and leave schools with even a much smaller budget to work with.
     Additional comments: I have appreciated the opportunity to serve the Ventura School District for the past three years. I’m also looking forward to the opportunity to serve the district for another four years if re-elected.