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Questions and answers with board candidates

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Tim Burke

Who are you?

Married to Patty Norman. The couple has two daughters, both students at Farmington High School. Burke is a public relations manager for Allina.

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Why are you running?

Burke said he's unhappy with the way the current school board manages the district.

"I think I can help it be better managed," he said. "I think there's an extreme lack of transparency in how they operate. I think there's a tremendous amount of fear among some employees about any kind of open disagreement with administrators on any type of issue.

"I think academically our district does very poorly and they don't know why and if they do know why they haven't explained it out loud."

What would you most like to a accomplish if you're elected?

"First and foremost, the activity of the school board I'd like to see become more transparent," Burke said. "There would be more discussions on the record so everyone can hear the questions that are raised and hear the answers.... Why is it that the school district won't discuss in an open meeting whether or not they intend to renew the superintendent's contract before this current board expires?"

Carol Kappes

Who are you?

Has two children with husband Gary, one in eighth grade and one in ninth at Farmington Middle School West. Works as a dental assistant.

Why are you running?

"I have a strong interest in students and their learning ability and achievment," Kappes said. "I feel with my background and my knowledge I could help them." Kappes is involved in the community education advisory council, the instructional program review committee and the communications advisory committee.

What would you most like to accomplish if you're elected?

Kappes hopes to see overall progress in her first term.

"I'd like to see the school make a large amount of progress. I've seen them make a lot of progress in the last eight years I've been here."

Kappes wants to see students happy to be at school and learning. She wants students to see their teachers as role models.

"A lot of that has to do with how teachers manage the class," she said.

Julie McKnight

Who are you?

Current school board chair. Along with husband Kevin McKnight a 1978 graduate of Farmington High School. Two sons both graduated from FHS, one in 2003 and one in 2006.

Why are running?

McKnight chose to run for re-election to finish the job she started in her previous terms.

"We've done a lot of great things but we're in the middle of a lot of great things," she said. "I just want to finish them out."

Among the projects McKnight hopes to see through: "Strategic planning, I think, is critical. The professional development. We're just really putting together a more rigorous professional development plan. The student achievment -- we've made progress, but we have a long way to go. Those are the kinds of things that I'd really like to see be great."

What would you most like to accomplish if you're elected?

"We've done so many new things since we've started," McKnight said. "I would be thrilled if we could get those to be more solid. There's always opportunities. I want to be as open as possible to what comes."

Jim Peroutky

Who are you?

Farmington resident since 1995. With wife, Sue, has three children in the district in 11th, eighth and fifth grades. Works for Thompson Reuters.

Why are you running?

To help keep things running smoothly, he said.

"I think the boards recently have done a fantastic job," Peroutky said. "There's been a lot of real tough issues that they've had to make decisions on. I just want to keep that going. I wanted to step up."

What would you most like to accomplish if you're elected?

Peroutky has three main goals in mind for his first term. First, he wants to make sure teachers have the resource they need to do their job.

"I want to work with the teachers and find out what's going on," he said. "I definitely respect the teachers in this community."

Second, he wants to make sure there are opportunities for all students.

"I think sometimes we focus more on the college-bound students -- AP classes and things like that," he said. "But the vocational (students) -- construction and things like that some students go into in their life -- I'd like to make sure those students are supported."

Finally, Peroutky wants to work on bringing up MCA scores in the district.

""I want to make sure we work with the parents," he said. "What are the options (for students who struggle)? Are there community ed classes for kids who aren't making the standards? (I want to) work with parents and give them options."

Kimberlee Simones

Who are you?

Simones is a system support employee for Health Partners' home care hospice and geriatrics. She and her husband, C.J., have been in Farmington since 1996. They have three children, a 10-year-old in fifth grade at North Trail Elementary, a 14-year-old in ninth grade at Farmington Middle School West and a 2008 Farmington High School graduate who will attend the University of Wisconsin-River Falls this year.

Why are you running?

For Simones, running for school board is a matter of putting her money where her mouth is.

"I tend to think that one shouldn't talk about things unless they're willing to do something about it," she said. "There obviously is a lot of talk in the community about different things that have gone on. I just feel like I should step up.

What would you most like to accomplish if you're elected?

"My big thing is I believe that the school board is truly an advocate for the taxpayers," Simones said. "That's kind of their role. It takes, obviously, the district administration and it takes the teacher's union. It takes all of them but I think the school board should be watchdogs for the taxpayers."

Julie Singewald

Who are you?

Farmington resident for 12 years. Along with husband Bill has three daughters, an 11-year-old at Farmington Middle School East and a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old at Farmington Elementary School. Works as a clinical laboratory scientist.

Why are you running?

Singewald got encouragement from friends but said her experience on a district budget committee helped her make the decision. She initiated a discussion of restoring teachers aides in district schools, only to see the idea ignored later.

"They basically told me the teacher's assistant model was no longer being pursued.... That it was a dead issue and that it wasn't up for debate," Singewald said. "I was very honored to be asked to sit in on (the commitee) but when the decision had already been made it was a waste of my time. Even if the district was going to pursue a different model it would have been nice if they had validated my concerns.

"I didn't appreciate being asked what my opinion was and then being told my opinion didn't matter. I think that's a frustration a lot of people in this district have had. I'm hoping that's something that, if I'm elected, I can promote a change in that."

What would you most like to accomplish if you're elected?

"I would really like to see the public trust the district and that they're making good choices," Singewald said. "I'm not saying all the choices in the recent past have been all wrong, but I feel like there's this giant elephant in the room. Everyone seems to be worried about talking about stuff.

"It's like when they talk about the levy -- are they really spending our money wisely? There's this whole mistrust right now. I know the lawsuit from the city and the district was three years ago now, but it's still like a festering wound in this community."

Veronica Walter

Who are you?

Farmington resident since 2001. Guidance counselor for the past 13 years at Burnsville High School. A 1989 graduate of Lakeville High School.

Why are you running?

Walter said friends who have children in the district encouraged her to put her name on the ballot.

"I decided to run because of my concern about the decision making process that has been going on in our district," she said. "There have been some definite questions in terms of judgment -- from the new high school to the sportsplex... It comes into question when our school district has a lawsuit against our city.

"I really see Farmington schools at a crossroads."

What would you most like to accomplish if you're elected?

Walter said she likes the professional learning communities that have been implemented this year at Farmington High School and she'd like to see more done to encourage teachers to work together. She also hopes to see better communication from the district to residents.

"I would love to see a much more fluid communication system between the school and the decisions made," she said. "I think that there's gaps that have left some people wondering, well, how did these decisions get made?"

Bruce Westover

Who are you?

A stay-at-home Dad who has a 5-year-old son and two 1 1/2-year-old daughters with his wife, Julie. He previously worked in telecommunications.

Why are you running?

For Westover, it was the combination of a number of issues that made him decide it was time to "put up or shut up."

"It kind of all started back with the sportsplex. (But) I didn't really solidify my candidacy until earlier this year when I noticed the school board was not really listening to the public by adopting the artificial turf on the new stadium when they already have a perfectly good stadium that's downtown.

"The test scores aren't the biggest thing, but it doesn't hurt. I feel like I've heard an awful lot from local residents that although the students may do well in school they're not prepared for college and a lot of them drop out."

What would you most like to accomplish if you're elected?

Westover said he's heard from people who do not feel like the school board listens to residents. And he wants to make sure the structure is in place to allow students to succeed.

"I'd like to accomplish some stability. I'd like to be able to gain the trust back of the parents.

"We need to see if Mr. Meeks is living up to his end of the bargain," he said. "I want to go into the classroom and see how the students are being taught and see if the students have the tools to get the job done."

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