Three seek seats on Monticello School Board

Bud Johnson

Mandy Norton

Craig Stadtmueller
Staff report

     There are three people running for the Monticello Community School District Board of Education.

     • Incumbent Bud Johnson, At-large

     • Mandy Norton, At-large

     • Craig Stadtmueller, At-large

     If elected, each of these candidates will serve four-year terms. Voters can vote for no more than three candidates.

     Keith Stamp, incumbent, of Monticello is also running for Director of District 1 for Kirkwood Community College.

     School board elections will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 12 at the Berndes Center in Monticello. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Bud Johnson

     Personal history: I am a Wartburg College graduate, earning my BA in 1976 in business administration and economics.

     Family: Wife, Georgia. Two adult daughters, Meredith and Whitney.

     Work: I am the owner of MinnTex Citrus, the Eastern Iowa Sports Facility, and B.E. Fitness & Training Center.

     Why did you decide to run for school board? I decided four years ago to run, to add an outside voice to the board, one without an agenda, but wants to improve the education system in Monticello. I am asking to be re-elected to the board, to continue the positive changes the board has made and restart the dialogue of improving our school facilities.

     What particular skills/experiences qualify you to serve as a school board member? As a business owner, I have gained valuable finance experience and the opportunity to visit hundreds of schools every year, not only seeing facilities, but visiting with teachers in three different states.

     In what school/district activities have you been involved? I am a former Monticello Athletic Booster Club member and was the co-chairman of the committee to rebuild the track in 1999. The Shannon Elementary ball field improvements were under my jurisdiction, and I have donated and planted over 30 trees on school property. As a school board member, I currently sit on the negotiation team for the district.

     What do you see as the current challenges facing public education in our state? In our nation? Obviously, funding is at the top of the ladder from the local schools to the state universities. School vouchers for choice are getting attention at the national and state level. People keep talking about the need for vocational programs as employers try to hire qualified workers. We need to better inform our students that there are good paying jobs out in the work force that don’t require a four-year college education and also might keep a student out of tens of thousands of dollars in college debt.

     What are 2-3 strengths of which our district can be proud? Our district has been blessed with a fairly low turnover rate with our teaching staff. This provides continuity for students and for the administration. The current SOP (Strategic Operating Plan) has been implemented and serves as a guide for our district as we move forward. The groundwork for the 1:1 initiative for student computers has been laid and is ready to proceed.

     The district currently has no long-term indebtedness, which is good as it opens the door for a building/remodeling project. It currently receives almost a million dollars a year in SAVE funds from the state, which is the penny sales tax money. This fund balance will be almost $3 million by 2018. These sales tax monies cannot be spent in the general fund.

     What are the needs that our district must prioritize and address? Why do you see those as needs? The school district needs to stay on a sound financial footing. We had to suspend curriculum spending several years ago because of our financial situation. When I was first on the board, our ending fund balance was projected to be around $500,000 from a high of $2 million several years previously. Granted, the State of Iowa had a zero growth for schools for a year, but you still might have to cut back if you don’t have as much coming in. we are slowly clawing our way up and hope to have an ending general fund balance of around $800,000 this year.

     Our district school buildings need to be maintained and certain code violations in the older buildings will need to be addressed. All of our buildings lack a good secure entrance, and if we can develop a master plan with a phased-in approach, then the district will know what needs are short-term fixes and which are longer term.

     What is your position on the future of the school facilities within the MCSD? The easiest reaction to facilities is to look at the worst item you have and try to fix it. However, in the big scheme of things, this might not be the most prudent. The middle school gets a lot of negative attention because of its age and layout. But who said a middle school has to be grades 5-8? Why not 6-8 or 7-8?

     Monticello’s Kirkwood campus was not even a thought when the high school was built, but it has dramatically changed our high school. We have over 100 students taking classes at Kirkwood and it costs the district over $200,000 annually.

     We need to imagine education 10-20 years down the road while we take a hard look at ALL the buildings in the district. If buildings are imagined as to what could be changed, then also staffing needs could be examined. With some sort of a new building vision, could we reduce or rearrange the current staffing/overhead levels and still have quality results?

     A quality school is important to our community. It is one of the largest employers and people might choose to live here and commute to Cedar Rapids or Dubuque if our school is the standard they desire. We owe it to the next generation to provide a quality education to compete in the work place, a work place that is changing in front of our eyes.

Mandy Norton

     Personal history: I graduated from MHS in 1999. I received my AA degree from Kirkwood Community College.

     Family: In 2001, I married Billy Norton. We have a son, Riley, 13, who’s in eighth grade at Monticello Middle School; and a daughter, Addison, 8, who’s in third grade at Carpenter School.

     Work: Oak Street Logistics, Brokerage Sales (2010).

     Why did you decide to run for school board? I want to see our district maintain, improve, grow and provide the best education for my children, all of the current students, and to the future generations of Monticello.

     What particular skills/experiences qualify you to serve as a school board member? I am a parent of two school-aged children and recognize that education is a top priority. I believe that living in this community my entire life and attending the school district myself, I know what parents want for their children’s education and can provide firsthand insight as to what the district needs.

     In what school/district activities have you been involved? I am in my second year with the Booster Club, have volunteered for some of the PTO duties, and have done my own school supply drive for underprivileged kids. This was my third year doing that. Also, coaching elementary rec volleyball.

     What do you see as the current challenges facing public education in our state? In our nation? Money is always a factor, and I think it always will be.

     What are 2-3 strengths of which our district can be proud? The current superintendent! He is very passionate about his job and wants to make our district one of the best. Also, our numbers. Our numbers seem to be steady and maybe even growing, which means younger families are coming here or staying here after graduation. Keeping graduates here to raise a family is something to be said.

     What are the needs that our district must prioritize and address? Why do you see those as needs? With a child in the middle school, I hear/see a lot. I feel there is much improvements to be made there, not just the building itself. I feel that the school has lost track of the “Responsible, Respectful, and Safe” motto.

     More families are picking private school for their K-6 education. Sacred Heart used to be for the Catholic families. Now, any family, catholic or not, are choosing that for their elementary education so their kids are in the public school “madness” seven years less. This shouldn’t be happening. Public education should be just as great as private, the only difference being class size.

     Update our middle school and elementary schools–open up tours to the entire community. Most baby-boomers in Monticello haven’t seen the inside of the middle school since they graduated. Sure, it looks like the same sound structure on the outside, but the inside… not so much. Everyone that questions if a new school is really needed should have the opportunity to tour the school.

     What is your position on the future of the school facilities within the MCSD? I strongly support a new middle school and a new or updating of the elementary schools. The (now) middle school needed many updates when I was there, and I don’t feel much has improved over the years. The elementary schools need to be upgraded, or a new building. When we have to cancel school for certain grade levels because a boiler is broken and replacement parts are hard to find, that indicates to me that we need an improvement.

Craig Stadtmueller

     Personal history: I was raised on a farm west of Monticello. I graduated from Monticello High School in 1990. I earned a BA at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., as well as a UNIX/C/C+ Programming Certificate at the Illinois Institute of Technology. I have a graduate degree in theology from Moore College in Sydney, Australia.

     Family: My wife is Lisa Stadtmueller. We have a daughter, Jessica, 11, and a son, Brandt, 7.

     Work: I am an administrator and adjunct instructor at Kirkwood Jones County Regional Center.

     Why did you decide to run for school board? My decision to run for school board was motivated by a desire to help serve the school district that I attended, my children attend, as well as the community that I call home

     I am convinced of the critical impact that an excellent school system can have on both student achievement, as well as the vibrancy of our community. High performing schools that promote student success through academic achievement, character development, skills acquisition, competition, and effective preparation for entering the workforce or pursuing post-secondary opportunities bring vitality, community pride, and prosperity to the city.

     A high-quality school district provides well-prepared citizens while also serving to maintain and attract families, small businesses, and skilled workers who invest in the community and its well-being. Potent ingredients constituting the seedbed of new opportunities made more real in a technology-driven 21st century. The school district is a key unifying and energizing force in our community.

     These dynamics also strengthen the school and further its ability to accomplish its stated mission of striving for educational excellence while challenging students with experiences intended to produce in them such virtues as empathy, life-long curiosity, and innovation.

     When brought full circle, the connection between school and community is strengthened. Communities that value and connect with their school district are communities that support school administration, staff, and most importantly, the faculty. Allowing them to effectively do the hard yards of daily instruction–and who, with the increasing support of parents and reinforcement from the community, and enabled to engender in their students other virtues that are leading indicators of success including integrity, responsibility, accountability, and grit.

     I am encouraged by the faculty, staff, and administration of our district who are working very hard each day to ensure the success of our schools and students. I would like to do my part to encourage and help these individuals do what they do best by serving on the school board.

     Growing up in this community, I have personally benefited from this district and the many teachers and administrators who saw me through, and it’s my turn to give back. I want to be part of helping continue the Monticello School District’s valuable legacy to my children, my community, and future generations to come.

     What particular skills/experiences qualify you to serve as a school board member? Working with high school students as an instructor and administrator for the last nine years. During that time, I have also worked closely with counselors, principals, and superintendents from seven other area schools. Those experiences have opened my eyes to many of the challenges that students and districts encounter, as well as best practices that have promoted student success.

     I possess a conviction for persuading students to pursue challenging experiences that enhance both career and self-awareness, thereby informing and promoting successful career planning.

     I also served on the Monticello Public Library Board.

     In what school/district activities have you been involved? Our family is active in the district participating in PTO events like Walk-a-thon, Color Run, and Fun Run. We frequent school sporting events, musicals, and graduation. I routinely assist Monticello High School students with career exploration, career advising, and dual-credit enrollment through the Kirkwood Academy program. I’m also active as a Monticello rec league youth football, baseball, and soccer coach.

     What do you see as the current challenges facing public education in our state? In our nation? There are several challenges facing public education. Schools are challenged to meet the needs of an ever-growing population of students who face numerous obstacles to success. Districts need to support teachers so that they have the necessary authority and control to create an effective learning environment in the classroom. We must ensure the education is relevant to ever-changing job skills and requirements.

     What are 2-3 strengths of which our district can be proud? We have great students in our district. Our students have the potential to positively impact our community and beyond. Further, our district possesses excellent teachers and administrators who work hard and are committed to student success. Finally, we have a community that wants to support the school district.

     What are the needs that our district must prioritize and address? Why do you see those as needs? Our district needs to continue striving for educational excellence as stated in the mission statement, and continue to innovate in meeting the challenges our district encounters. The job market has changed in recent years and the school needs to remain technology relevant, providing students with access to technology and education that provides them with employability skills. Our district needs to prepare students for jobs after high school that requires technology skills; this is where much of the demand in the labor market currently resides nationally and locally. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) classes and experiences need continued emphasis to prepare students for the careers of today and tomorrow. We need to make sure that all students in the school district are being challenged academically and, as mentioned earlier, our teachers need to be supported so that they spend their time doing what they do best–teach. They need to be granted the trust, authority, and control necessary to bring reality and an effective learning environment to the classroom. In order to accomplish this, teachers must have the full support and reinforcement from administration, parents, and community.

     What is your position on the future of the school facilities within the MCSD? I’m prepared to evaluate and learn more about the condition, usefulness, and potential of the district’s current facilities; it’s important to have facilities that help accomplish the school’s purpose and meet students’ needs. I would like to visit updated and new facilities in other districts while considering what options best suit the need of our district and provide a fiscally responsible solution.


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