Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Newcomers joining veteran board member to serve Ottawa schools

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 4/3/2013

Bill Allegre said the Ottawa school board still has much work ahead of it — from selecting a new superintendent to improving academic performances and shoring up school facilities.

But Allegre, the only incumbent on the school board ballot Tuesday, said he’s hopeful the fact he was elected to serve a four-year term indicates district patrons are pleased with the direction the board is taking the district.

Bill Allegre said the Ottawa school board still has much work ahead of it — from selecting a new superintendent to improving academic performances and shoring up school facilities.

But Allegre, the only incumbent on the school board ballot Tuesday, said he’s hopeful the fact he was elected to serve a four-year term indicates district patrons are pleased with the direction the board is taking the district.

“I think people are excited about the renewed emphasis on academic performance and facilities improvements,” Allegre said.

Allegre garnered 953 votes to win the school board race Tuesday night. Lynda Alderman collected 894 votes and Tim Catlin notched 584 votes to join incumbent Allegre in filling the three open seats on the board. Board terms are for four years.

Alderman and Catlin mingled among more than two dozen people Tuesday night outside the Franklin County Clerk’s Office at the courthouse, 315 S. Main St., to watch the vote totals come in.

“I thought the results went really well,” Alderman said. “It’s exciting, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility to the kids, teachers and patrons.”

Candidate Russ Wilson also waited in the courthouse hallway Tuesday night to catch a glimpse of the giant board where Janet Paddock, county clerk, was tallying the results. Shortly after 8:30 p.m., Paddock wrote that all precincts had reported, and a disappointed Wilson grimaced slightly. He had finished in fourth place with 394 votes, followed by Richard Jackson with 389 votes and Norman Wooge with 246 votes.

But Wilson remained upbeat after talking with his wife in the hallway.

“I thought it was a pretty good turnout, and I was glad to see that,” Wilson said. “I thought all the candidates were good and would do a good job, no matter who the voters elected. I think we all wanted to do what was best for the district.”

Jackson wished the winning candidates well.

“Sure, you’re disappointed any time you lose, but the voters made their choice, and I’m sure the candidates they chose will do well,” Jackson said. “I wish good luck to those who won.”

Wooge was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Alderman said she thinks it will be important for the board to develop a long-range vision for the district.

“I think the biggest goal right now is to make sure we find a superintendent who is the right fit for the district,” Alderman said. “But I think it’s also important that we develop a vision for the district.”

The new BNSF intermodal facility near Edgerton and Gardner has the potential of bringing new families — and students — to the Ottawa school district, Alderman said. The district will need to be prepared for that growth, she said.

Developing a vision for the district, Alderman said, would be critical to ensuring the district is doing everything possible to prepare students for the future.

Alderman and Catlin will make good additions to the board, Allegre said.

“I think both candidates bring something good to the board,” Allegre said. “I don’t think there is anything wrong with having an advocate for Eugene Field [Elementary School] on the board, even though I know Tim has other things he wants to see get done.”

Catlin — who said he will have children at the elementary, middle school and high school levels in the district next year — has been a vocal advocate for shoring up deficiencies in the facilities at Eugene Field in recent months — including improving the air quality in the school.

“I think Lynda’s experience as a teacher and negotiator will be valuable to the board,” Allegre said.

Catlin said the election results went as he had hoped they would.

Catlin, who also went to the courthouse to await the results Tuesday night, agreed with Alderman that the district needs to develop a long-range plan.

“I think, based on surveys sent out to district patrons, the district possibly could put a bond issue out for a [public] vote in January to build a new elementary school,” Catlin said. “The board will need to have a plan in place beforehand to know how to proceed if the bond passes, or if it fails. The last bond proposal failed 10 years ago. We need to address the overcrowding issue, and the plan can’t be based on just hoping the economy gets better. We need to put together a long-range plan.”

Catlin and Alderman will join the board at its July 8 meeting — the first scheduled meeting after the start of the new school year.

“I’m excited to get started,” Catlin said. “I think there’s a great group of people on board, and I look forward to working with them. I think there are a lot of challenges coming our way, but I think there also will be a lot of opportunities to rise up and meet those challenges, and I think our kids can do very well.”

Incumbents Brandon Jones and Marge Stevens did not seek re-election. Stevens has served on the board since 2001, while Jones joined in 2009.

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