Archived Story

McAlister, incumbent Lees file for school board

Published 11:03am Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Austin Public Schools board election finally has a couple of candidates.

Carol McAlister and incumbent Dick Lees are the first candidates to file for the three school board spots up for election this November.

McAlister ran for school board last fall and finished last out of six candidates with 2,517 votes. She is a Mayo Clinic researcher who touted her managerial and budgetary experience during last year’s election. Though last year’s candidates largely took the same position on almost every issue, McAlister was the only candidate who said she was concerned about how the proposed $29 million referendum for the new fifth- and sixth-grade intermediate building would affect taxpayers, though she did say she understood the district’s need for more space.

McAlister was the first candidate to file. Lees, Aaron Keenan and Jeff Kritzer are all up for re-election, but Keenan and Kritzer indicated earlier this month they would not seek another term.

Lees said Wednesday morning he wanted to serve a fifth term as he thought he still had a lot to contribute.

“I just still have an interest in the kids and schools, and seeing us progress over the past few years,” he said.

Lees has served on the board for 16 years, previously serving as board chairman two years ago and vice-chairman last year. He said the state-wide switch from Adequate Yearly Progress mandates to the new Multiple Measurement Rating system was “going to be a very positive thing” due to its emphasis on growth over meeting benchmarks.

Before serving on the board, Lees was a science teacher in Austin for more than 35 years, serving as an adjunct instructor at Riverland Community College for another five years after he retired from Austin schools in the early 1990s. He also worked for some time with struggling youth at Mower County Correctional Services.

Though only two candidates are announced thus far, Austin Superintendent David Krenz isn’t surprised.

“We have until next Tuesday for people to file,” Krenz said.

Prospective school board candidates need to be 21 years old and live inside school district boundaries. Krenz said board members need to know they’re part of a seven-person team that creates guiding policies, which means the board isn’t as hands-on with day-to-day operations as a city council or county board of commissioners.

That doesn’t mean board members are powerless, however. They set the tone for the school district and give district officials a direction to pursue.

“You want people to run just to help lead the district,” Krenz said. “To try to put in place the best school district … that we can to provide an educational experience for our kids.”

Prospective board members have until the end of business day Tuesday, June 5, to file. They must go to the district office inside Austin Public Schools to do so.

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