Seven candidates are vying for three seats on the Westonka school board this November. The candidates each submitted biographical information and candidate statements to the school district, which in turn shared them with the Laker Pioneer. Biographical information was compiled from the submitted forms; candidate statements are unedited.

Here are the candidates in this year’s Westonka school board election:

BRIAN CARLSON

Brian Carlson has lived in the Westonka school district for 6 years and has served on the Westonka school board since 2018. He and his wife, MWHS teacher Molly Carlson, have two children, one at Grandview Middle School and one at Shirley Hills Primary School.

Carlson graduated from Bloomington Jefferson High School, obtained his B.S. in Marketing and Communications from Minnesota State University-Mankato and earned his Master’s in Business Communications from St. Thomas. He now is a senior director of market access for Inspire Medical Systems.

While on the school board, Carlson has been a part of its facilities, finance and technology committees and has served as the board’s liaison to the Minnesota School Boards Association.

Carlson is co-president of the Westonka Youth Basketball Association and now coaches Westonka’s youth basketball and flag football teams. He also has volunteered through the United Way for Feed My Starving Children, Bridging.org and Project Linus.

Candidate statement:

I have served on the Westonka School Board for the past four years and have truly enjoyed giving my time to our schools. I love being an active member of our small but growing community and I have a strong desire to continue helping our school district grow along with it.

My involvement on the school board is not due to political reasons or single-issue causes. I simply like the idea of volunteering to help our community and, most importantly, help Westonka students succeed. I believe our school district is one of the hidden gems in this area and I’m honored to have been involved helping build that positive reputation.

We moved to Minnetrista six years ago, primarily because of the advantages we felt the Westonka District offered our children. The tagline “small school advantages, big school opportunities” continues to resonate strongly with our family and our children have had an extremely positive experience here.

My wife Molly has been a teacher/coach here for 22 years and we often say, “our kids are so lucky they get to attend school here.” Through our respective roles, we are both committed to ensuring a successful and positive educational experience for the children and families who attend school here.

Finally, through my experiences as a business professional, I’m able to add a well-rounded perspective to the school board. Throughout my career, I’ve navigated many unique and challenging business situations in the medical device industry.

My approach on the school board has been to ask critical questions while thinking objectively about how to best accomplish our goals. I believe the key to managing through difficult situations is the ability to think strategically but also develop realistic plans to solve problems or capitalize on opportunities. I look forward to continuing to serve the Westonka community.

LOREN D. DAVIS

Loren D. Davis of Mound has lived in the Westonka district for 46 years and has served on the school board since 2014. He and his wife, Kristin, have seen all three of their sons graduate from MWHS, and Davis is himself a MWHS graduate.

Davis earned his B.A. from St. Olaf and his Master’s of Divinity from Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul. He is now pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Navarre.

Davis was a member of the Shirley Hills Shared Decision Team (1998-2002), a three-time Wolf Ridge chaperone and a coordinator of the Wolf Ridge program. He volunteered for the Grandview bathroom remodeling project, coached seventh- and eighth-grade baseball and has been an announcer/scorekeeper or volunteer for MWHS soccer, baseball and hockey. Davis participated in and helped coordinate the high school Baccalaureate Service for 16 years, has served on the Westonka School District Athletic Task Force and was a high school Varsity assistant baseball coach (2014-2019).

Davis coached baseball with the Upper Tonka Little League for 10 years, also serving as a board member for 4 years. He was president of the White Hawk Youth Baseball Association for 6 years, coaching for 4. Davis also coached baseball with the Mound American Legion and soccer and basketball with Westonka Community Ed. He has also coached for the Mound Westonka Hockey Association and served 3 years on its board.

Davis was active in the Mound Westonka Ministerial Association for 24 years including 6 years as president; has participated in WeCAN’s Sleep-Out for the Homeless; has been volunteer chaplain for the Orono and Minnetrista police departments since 2011 and has been a member of the Westonka Food Shelf board of directors since 2013, currently serving as its president.

Candidate statement:

The Westonka district has a slogan that declares “Small School Advantages, Big School Opportunities, Real-Life Success Stories.” This has been true for myself and for my family.

I grew up in the Westonka School system, attending Shirley Hills Elementary School and Grandview Middle School, and graduating from the new Mound Westonka Senior High School in 1975. I returned to the Westonka area with my wife in 1993, and our three sons were able to attend these same Westonka schools, and to have the same quality educational and extracurricular experiences that I had. I have a long history in the Westonka community, a deep pride in the Westonka schools, and a great appreciation for the strong educational foundation I was given in the Westonka schools.

With my long history here, I am willing to continue serving on the Westonka School Board, to give my best effort to help advance the district philosophy, and to insure that all current and upcoming students have the same high quality educational and extracurricular opportunities that I and my three sons have experienced.

Having worked the past 28 years as the pastor in a small congregation in our community, with many larger congregations nearby, I understand the need to be competitive with larger neighboring districts while having fewer resources available. Also, because I grew up here, and because, over the last 28 years, I have served in a wide variety of ways in our school district and in our community, I believe many people, from senior citizens to young families and youth, know me and are comfortable sharing their perspectives, ideas, and concerns about the school district with me. I would work hard not only to be a strong advocate for the schools, but also to be a strong, accessible representative for the community.

KATIE HOLT

Katie Holt of Mound has lived in the Westonka school district for almost 5 years. She and her husband, Mound council member Jason Holt, have students at Grandview and Shirley Hills. Holt graduated from Eagan High School in 1999 and from St. Cloud State in 2004. She has been a parent volunteer at her children’s schools, helping out in the classroom, the book fair and on field trips.

Candidate statement:

I am running for school board to become more involved in the day-to-day workings of the district/classroom, to expand my knowledge of the same and assist other parents in accessing information relative to their child’s education, classroom workings/activities and district information.

RACHAEL MYERS

Rachael Myers of Minnetrista works in human resources consulting and has been a classroom volunteer for Westonka schools. She and her husband, Chris, have two children who graduated from Edina High School and two now enrolled at Hilltop Primary and the Early Learning Center.

Myers graduated from Eveleth-Gilbert High School. She obtained her Associate’s degree from Mesabi Range Community College and her B.S. in Business Management (human resources emphasis) from St. Cloud State.

Myers has volunteered with Feed My Starving Children, Meals on Wheels, the United Way and the Boys and Girls Club.

Candidate statement:

Our family moved into the Westonka School District 2.5 years ago. Our new neighborhood was bustling with children, and we instantly fell in love with the community. It did not take long to notice that the children in the community, including our own, were thriving in the Westonka School District. I have heard countless success stories from parents and students who enthusiastically share their experiences and beam with pride when discussing the Westonka schools. My family and I echo their enthusiasm and are thrilled by the opportunities offered within the district.

I am running for the Westonka School Board because I am passionate about children and about the critical role education plays in the development of untapped potential in our future leaders. I will support curriculum that prepares students for a profession that meets their desires and needs from trade school to college academics. As an HR professional as well as a small business owner, I have had the opportunity to work in many different and challenging environments with individuals of varying backgrounds, skills, and abilities. My professional experience will make me effective at problem-solving while building collaborative relationships with other board members, the community, teachers, and parents.

As a board member, I will be dedicated to advocating for top-tier academic programs and activities. I will remain committed to community engagement and will encourage open dialogue and transparency. I will also be fiscally responsible as it relates to the management of district funds while seeking funding sources that do not impact taxpayers.

I am thrilled about the prospect of joining the Westonka School Board where I can do my part to ensure Westonka continues to be a district that meets and exceeds expectations and provides our students with an exceptional education.

KATHLEEN OLESINSKI

Kathleen Olesinski has lived in Mound for 4 years and has been active as a PTO volunteer, school Mystery Reader and Wolf Ridge trip volunteer. She and her husband, Brian, have two students at Grandview.

Olesinski graduated from Brecksville Broadview Heights High School in Ohio. She obtained her B.A. in Economics and Psychology from Denison University and her MBA from Cleveland State University. She now is a regulatory compliance consultant for Silicon Valley Bank.

Olesinski has volunteered with WeCAN and with her church, Our Lady of the Lake. She has supported various sports teams and has been involved with Westonka Community Theatre.

Candidate statement:

When we moved to Minnesota from Ohio we could have lived anywhere. I chose Mound and Westonka based on a comparison to our Ohio Schools and several conversations with various school staff members. I moved to Westonka for the schools!

There is nothing more important in our children’s’ lives than a good education. Good schools set our children on the right path for the rest of their lives! I am dedicated to making sure not only my children but all the children in our community receive the best possible education.

GREGORY SNYDER

Gregory Snyder is a 14-year resident in the Westonka district. His two daughters graduated from MWHS, and his son is currently at MWHS. Snyder works Essentia Health in Vascular and Interventional Radiology.

Snyder graduated medical school with a board certification in Radiology (subspecialty in Vascular and Interventional Radiology). He is now pursuing a Master’s in Public Health from George Washington University.

Snyder has been involved locally with Music in the Park.

Candidate statement:

Dear Neighbors and Fellow Parents,

Thank you for considering my candidacy for Westonka School Board. My family has enjoyed the high quality of Westonka Schools for the past 14 years, during which time two of my daughters have completed their K-12 education and my son is now entering grade 10. As such, I have “36 student years” of experience as a parent in the Westonka district and this has given me significant familiarity with the people, programs and quality.

In 2007, It was this superb quality (as routinely reflected in the annual rankings) that served as the key factor in our decision to move our family into the district. We knew that our children’s education would be uncompromisingly outstanding. I will state wholeheartedly that, by-and-large, we have been very satisfied with our experience and the policies executed by Mr. Borg, the teachers and staff.

Unfortunately, in 2021, like many other aspects of our lives, educational curriculum and sometimes even boards themselves seem to have become politicized and diligent parents are now well-advised to (at a minimum) be aware of the changing curriculum, history, influences and possible unintended consequences that may be involved in some of the newer educational materials being promoted which could alter our educational focus and standards.

I have spent decades participating in and leading state and national medical boards and am well versed in board function, rules, politics and etiquette which will allow me to be an immediately effective board member. I am also a medical doctor, able to understand and synthesize ever-changing critical COVID data as we discuss district response to vaccines and child masking. But most importantly, I am a parent first and I will insist on only what is best for my kid, as well as yours. Thank you for your vote.

GARY W. WOLLNER

Gary W. Wollner has lived in the Westonka district for 31 years and has served on the school board for the past 12 years. He and his wife, Lori, have four daughters, three of whom are MWHS graduates.

Wollner graduated in 1980 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Retail/Marketing and is now a self-employed sales rep.

Wollner coached in the Westonka Youth Basketball Association for 22 years and was its president for 4 years. He was also president of the Basketball Boosters for 4 years and has served 16 years on the Community Ed. Advisory Council. He was a PTO member while his children were in school and part of the Wolf Ridge Planning Committee.

Wollner has volunteered with WeCAN and Westonka Food Shelf, Community Ed., Sojourn Women’s Center and Spirit of the Lakes.

Candidate statement:

As the election for the Westonka School Board nears, it is with great anticipation that I am running for a fourth term. Serving these past 12 years, I feel that I have helped move our schools, students and community in the right direction, which has made Westonka Schools one of the best in the state.

It is my goal to continue to serve our community by using my experience and willingness to listen to help make decisions that give every student the opportunity to achieve his/her goals.

I have always been able to put in the time and effort that is required to be a good school board member. Being part of the Facilities Committee, Policy Committee and Teacher’s Contract Committee has given me a well-rounded perspective as a board member. I feel that I am a school board member who listens to what the community, students and parents have to say. I make every effort to return parent phone calls and respond to emails. Earning the trust of administration, teachers, students and parents has always been a high priority for me. Communication is a key component in making the best decisions for our schools.

As Vice-Chair of the School Board, I have always lived by one phrase, “Do what is right for teaching and education”. I believe that if we live by that rule, it will ultimately give every student the best opportunity to be successful in school and in life. Education is a continuously-changing environment as technology and teaching evolves to help students grow. My 12 years of experience and continued commitment will help Westonka school continue to move forward.

I look forward to serving our school and community for four more years with the promise of always giving 110%.

Go White Hawks!

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