EDITORIAL: Kritzer, Keenan, Simonson top strong field

Published 6:09 am Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Austin area voters face a difficult decision. On Nov. 3, they will choose three from a pool of six candidates for the Austin Public School District’s board. Unlike many elections, where all of the choices are bleak, this year’s school board election has an abundance of riches: Six well-qualified, capable candidates. Voters can certainly be pardoned if they have trouble choosing among them.

There are two issues, however, which bear on the race – and which voters should keep in mind as they make a decision. First, this year’s successful candidates will serve on a school board that has at times been bitterly divided. It is a division that needs to be put to rest for the good of the district’s students and residents. While we like to see healthy discussion and disagreement among board members, we – and the community – do not like to see the kind of clear fracture that has divided the board’s debate and influenced its decisions. Simply put, this block nonsense must end, and voters should consider how their choices in next month’s election can help hasten that end.

Second, voters would do well to ask themselves how willing each candidate is to think “outside the box,” as the popular saying goes. Austin’s schools are no exception in facing a variety of challenges in coming years, from budget shortfalls to increased community diversity. It is unlikely – indeed, impossible – that the way things have always been done is going to be a recipe for future success. Voters need to expect that the board elected to represent them will consider all the options and will be creative in meeting future challenges.

Email newsletter signup

Jeff Kritzer, Aaron Keenan and David Simonson in particular impress us as able to meet those expectations. The three would bring to the job a good mix of fresh perspectives and proven experience.

Kritzer is an attorney and partner with Baudler, Baudler, Mause and Blahnik, LLP, has lived in Austin for 12 years and has children in the district. He is also an active member in the community. He is president of the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce and has held board positions with the Riverland Community College Foundation, the United Way, the City of Austin Police Civil Service Commission and the City of Austin Charter Commission. Kritzer is a good fit, someone who can lend an important voice to the board and who can help bring the divisions closer together. “I’m a very open-minded person,” he said in an interview last week. “I’m not going to take sides.”

As a health care administrator, Keenan brings a business background to the race and has lived in Austin five years. He feels a strong education system is beneficial for everyone —even those who don’t have children in school — and said he wouldn’t be afraid to respectfully disagree with fellow board members. “You don’t have to always be right,” he said. Keenan also said he believes he could work with anyone on the board.

David Simonson is an incumbent school board member who has lived in Austin for 38 years. He retired as an Austin police lieutenant after 27 years of service and is in his 19th year as a school board member. Simonson has a proven track record, and to put it simply, deserves a sixth term. “I am there to give opportunities to children,” he said.

While these three are the Herald editorial board’s top choices, we again state that all six candidates are quality individuals who can — and in some cases already have — brought valuable ideas to the board. We hope every voter will choose to cast a ballot in the Nov. 3 election because this opportunity — where every candidate is a good one — doesn’t come around often enough.