Election Preview: Experience, not one issue, defines Austin School Board race

Published 7:32 pm Friday, November 2, 2012

The issues surrounding the race for Austin Public School Board are, well, educational.


Educational experience, that is.

With the district in the midst of a new school project, an expanded Woodson Kindergarten Center, more students coming to the district every year, and a commitment to increase diversity, technology-based education and create individual education plans for students, Austin Public Schools has no overarching issues to define its school board election. Instead, elections between Bruce Quitmeyer, Mary Jane Kestner, Carol McAlister, Dick Lees, Kathy Glowac and Don Leathers for three open board seats may come down to who has the most experience in education.


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“I think it definitely helps,” Lees said. “[Former teachers] are familiar with the problems involved, and with direct contact with students. We have that experience.”

There are four board candidates without substantial classroom experience this time, as community members and parents Quitmeyer, Glowac, Kestner and McAlister hope to help decide policy for Austin schools.


Quitmeyer is a client manager for The Nielsen Company, the TV and radio ratings experts and also serves as a business consultant for Hormel Foods Corp., helping employees identify business problems and create solutions. He also serves on two Vision 2020 committees.

Of the four candidates who aren’t former teachers or administrators, Glowac arguably has an educational leg-up on the competition. Her mother was a teacher in Austin, and she worked as an accountant for the district for five years, retiring in December.


Kestner has a history of public service, teaching Sunday School classes for more than three decades and working as a special education paraprofessional for six months at Woodson, along with being a member of several local volunteer groups.

McAlister is a Mayo Clinic researcher with more than 23 years of experience, serving as a budget planner and an administrator. She has served on the Wee Learning Center Board of Directors and has volunteered in Austin schools before.


As for the two former teachers, Lees and Leathers, Lees worked as a science teacher in Austin for more than 35 years, with five years teaching at Riverland Community College, while Leathers taught high school English for 33 years, mainly at Glenville/Emmons Public Schools. Lees has been a board member for more than 16 years and is seeking re-election, while Leathers serves on various education associations.

Experience in the classroom isn’t necessary to become a board member — a strong belief in public education along with various administrative and teamworks skills are what makes a good board member, according to the Minnesota School Board Association — and each candidates has experiences that could serve them well in a policy-setting situation.


“My outside experience gives me a broader perspective on all the issues going on,” Glowac said. “It’s the school board’s responsibility to make sure [teachers] have the tools they need, and the good people that are supervising thme need to keep quality in their employees.”

Only three candidates will be elected come Nov. 6, and board members will serve four-year terms.