School board narrows down candidates to 4

Published 7:13 am Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Austin School Board will appoint one of four candidates to its empty seat next month.

Aaron DeVries, Robin Krueger, Jeff Ollman and Lisa Peters will interview in front of the board July 20, before one of them is selected to take Curt Rude’s vacated seat.

The seventh seat has been vacant since March when the board voted unanimously to oust Curt Rude, deciding a defamation suit he held against the district and a former superintendent posed a conflict of interest. The lawsuit was dismissed by a judge earlier this month.

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School Board finalists are:

Aaron DeVries, an Austin Medical Center accountant, ran for school board in 2009 and was knocked out of the running in the primary election. DeVries has two children in the district and has not held public office.

“Having a daughter with special needs in Special Education in the school district gives me a perspective that the board currently does not have,” DeVries wrote in his application.

DeVries said that he has attended board meetings for more than a year, is currently the parent facilitator on the district’s Special Education Advisory Council and will be a member of the Gifted and Talented Education Advisory Council this fall.

The most critical issue facing the board, DeVries wrote, is funding. Renewing the district’s operating levies and communicating financial information to the public, community partners and legislators would be among his concerns.

Robin Krueger, a paralegal consultant, has children in the district. She is the treasurer of the Sumner Elementary Parent Teacher Council, a parent member of the district’s Instructional and Curriculum Advisory Committee and a parent member of the Gifted and Talented Education Advisory Council.

“I am an involved parent that wants the best education system for students, staff and community,” she wrote in her application.

Krueger did not identify an issue that she thought was most critical.

“There’s not one issue that’s more pressing that others,” she said Tuesday. “It’s a balancing act.”

Jeff Ollman, a retired speech/language pathologist, also ran for school board in 2009. His children have graduated from the district and he has one grandchild in an Austin elementary school.

“During the 31 years that I worked in the Austin public and private schools, I worked in every elementary school building and both secondary schools,” Ollman wrote in his application.

Ollman said the most critical issues facing the board are that of meeting the standards of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and facing looming financial shortfalls. He suggested research and visits to successful districts to help with the NCLB issue; and communicating with the community and legislators, as well as considering budget reductions, to address financial issues.

Lisa Peters, Austin Public Schools substitute teacher and tax preparer, has five children in the district. She has not held public office.

“A friend and I were talking about how only one person had applied, and I thought they needed more choices,” Peters said of her decision to run.

If appointed, Peters said working with the district’s budget and maintaining a breadth of classes and programs would be her chief concerns.

“The budget could be a problem in a couple years,” she said. “I don’t want to lose programs; I want to add programs.”

Peters said she would like to see additional advanced placement courses offered in high school to give graduates more competitive edge on their college applications.

The interviews will be open to the public in the city council chambers on July 20. The board will pick one of the finalists to served Rude’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2011. Exact interview times had not been set by press time.