Six candidates are facing off for three seats on the Waconia Schools/ISD 110 school board.
Incumbent Dana Geller will try to hold on to her seat, and will face financial planner Luke DeBoer, account manager Amanda Hayford, provider inquiry resolution specialist Mark Murphy, business management consultant Alycia Myers and mechanical engineer Seth Waterthouse in the General Election on Nov. 3.
Each candidate was asked the same questions by Sun Patriot Newspapers, and here are their responses:
Question 1: What prompted you seek election (or re-election) to office?
DeBoer: Short answer: the most recent budget issues. We in the community have collectively wondered why the board and the administration has had to come to the taxpayers multiple times in recent years to fill shortfalls. We’ve been living in a time of robust economic growth (not withstanding the recent quarantine-induced slowdown) and substantial property value – and thus property tax – increases, and yet for some reason there is continuous budget shortfalls. So rather than simply sit on the sideline complaining about it, I thought it prudent to attempt to add value instead by running for the School Board.
Geller: When I started on the school board four years ago, I did not fully understand the importance of the role and its impact on the success of the district. Now in seeking re-election, I grasp the magnitude of what is ahead and feel a strong sense of responsibility to continue the work started. During my tenure as board chair, I have worked diligently towards improving board operations and district transparency. I have helped establish new board governance routines and a more effective Superintendent evaluation process. My goal has always been to leave the district better than when I arrived.
Hayford: One of the main factors in deciding to move to Waconia was the excellent school district. I would like to see it continue to remain strong, for not only my children, but for the next generations as well. Serving in an active, contributing role in this journey is how I can make a difference. I would like to be part of the solution in an ever-changing environment.
Murphy: I am running for the ISD 110 school board because I want to help students and their families get the best education possible while creating the best opportunities for all students. I also want to serve the community that I have grown to love and call my home. In October 2004, I started my own small business in Waconia teaching martial arts to students from 3 years old to adults. I have a passion for kids and helping them become better contributors to our community and brighten their future.
Myers: It is a challenging environment for us all, but especially our children. It requires someone who can address those challenges, communicate respectfully, and be accountable. My goal is to identify and address these changes to help our children, parents, school, and community by addressing these challenges and finding the roadmaps that will work the best. I am someone that is open and understanding all to viewpoints and be held accountable for my decisions. This Board needs members who are like-minded and ready to step up and help the current board with these challenges.
Waterhouse: I am running for school board because it’s important for me to serve and be involved in my community and school. As a father of four children in ISD110, I want to serve as part of our school district’s leadership.
Question 2: What separates you from your opponent(s)?
DeBoer: I’ll provide the residents, parents, and students of the 110 school district with a voice that prioritizes traditional values. Additionally, I generally view myself as a fiscal conservative and have educational and professional experience that should inspire confidence in the area of financial management. Furthermore, I have a current and future vested interest in steering the district in a sound educational direction. My wife and I have 4 children at Laketown Elementary – with another one due for Kindergarten in a few years – and they will be working their way up through 110 school system in coming years. We also are fully a part of this community, being homeowners in Waconia, active members of Oakwood Church here in Waconia, and frequently try to stay local with our business/shopping.
Geller: My opponents would all be coming in as new board members during a very challenging time for District 110. The learning curve for a new school board member is extremely high; on average it takes about one full year before a member can generally understand the fiscal, policy, and governance protocols to a level in which they can be a productive key contributor. I have built a foundation of knowledge through my experience, training provided to me through MSBA, board workshops, and connections with colleagues across school boards in the state of Minnesota.
Hayford: I have a strong passion to get things done, make a positive impact and do what I say I am going to do. Constantly moving towards established goals is what drives me. Sometimes we must be creative and change how things are done. I am one that will find a way to get things accomplished, regardless of obstacles.
Murphy: I have been part of the Waconia community for 16 years. I am a father of three children that have attended school in Waconia, a former small business owner, and a taxpayer in the community. I work in the corporate world for Optum but have had experience in Education working as a substitute teacher in 3 school districts. I earned my Minnesota Teaching License in 2014 and I understand Education from the inside and out. I also have a special needs student that has gone through this school district so I have experience from a parent’s perspective with special education. I am student centered, but also will be fiscally responsible with the ideas I will bring to the school board. I will bring a fresh perspective to the school board by looking at things from all aspects to make the best informed decisions for our awesome students in Waconia.
Myers: I understand that the success of the district is a collaborative effort. Great schools need board members that work as a team to ensure the success for all students. As a past public-school teacher, I advocated for my students every day and collaborated with my community. I will focus on what is most important in this community: our strong educational infrastructure, funding to ensure our students get great opportunities, and develop confident children. I believe I bring the best balance to the WSD110 Board to accomplish the needs of the school, community, and most importantly: our children.
Waterhouse: My Christian values and my ability to solve problems. I think outside the box, yet I understand that solutions need to be practical. I have the ability to effectively enable forward progress when working in a group, especially in a group where the members have widely varying things that they value.
Question 3: What is the most pressing issue facing the constituency you hope to represent? How would you address that issue?
DeBoer: The current School Board and administration is now requesting more funds from taxpayers in the district. This is multiple times this has happened in less than 10 years, and the 2nd in the last few. Though it sounds as though some of the cause of this were outside influences, blaming those outside influences does nothing to solve the problem. I’d like to come in and provide a fresh view of the budget. There are no doubt many issues – both current and prospective – that our district faces, but the most urgent is financial; I believe I can positively impact this area.
Geller: The most pressing issue is financial stability during the pandemic. The district is already navigating decisions necessary to pull out of Statutory Operating Debt (SOD) and needs the support of voters to guide the right decisions for our district’s future. By leveraging my past experience in combination with my ability to strategically provide controls and oversight necessary, I will help move our district in the right direction.
Hayford: I am not coming in with any agenda other than to make sure we are making decisions that are in the best interest of our children and the community both now and in the future. I pride myself in being able to listen to all sides and objectively make decisions based on the facts, which is not always the easiest, most popular decisions.
Murphy: The referendum is the most pressing issue. If it passes, I will do my best to provide ideas that make sense for the students and the district. If it doesn’t pass, I will help in any way that I can to make the difficult decisions that have to be made keeping the students learning experiences as unaffected as possible. Also working hard to get the best return on the taxpayer’s investment in our communities education system.
Myers: The Board has tackled the pandemic and safety concerns affecting WSD110 students and has done a great job navigating these issues while keeping the community informed. The next largest concern is budget/funding concerns to provide support and exceptional future programs/enhancements for our students and teachers. With current budget issues, we need a board that must use mindful strategies to overcome these budget concerns and be transparent. I will address this issue by planning for the future to help set goals for 2021 and beyond. Great Communication will go hand-in-hand so our community is fully aware and always informed.
Waterhouse: The most pressing issue has to be ensuring that our district deals with Covid-19 in a way that is based in fact, appropriately takes public opinion into account and provides the required protection without putting undue financial strain on our district. The biggest thing that I don’t want to see in our district is being held to unreasonable state-mandated regulations, for which the state is unwilling to bear the financial burden. This needs to be addressed by seeking out facts and experts to guide our decision making.
Question 4: What in your background/experience best qualifies you for this office?
DeBoer: I don’t have any political office experience. However, I have a vested interest in establishing a positive future for this school district, and to that end I believe I have credentials and experience to support a spot on the board. To be more specific, my entire professional career has been in one or more areas of financial management, both on a corporate level as well as on a household level, where I am the current owner of The Financial Planning Co. here in Waconia. Additionally, I have substantial educational credentials, including an undergraduate degree in Finance, an MBA with a focus in Tax, a Certified Benefits Professional designation, and the Certified Financial Planner designation.
Geller: I already have four years of School Board Experience, two years serving as the Board Chair. Additionally, my educational background as a former teacher in the Minnetonka district, volunteer on many levels in the schools and role as a mother of three children in the district has allowed me to have the unique lens of someone who can understand how the district operates on behalf of all stakeholders; the students, staff and community as a whole. I have the time to dedicate to the role and will bring my experience on all levels to work for the district.
Hayford: I have been an active part of my company’s EOS leadership team and our local Cub Scout pack. I have been a part of making the best, most fiscally responsible decisions for each of those organizations. I also have previous experience insuring school districts, so I understand the risks schools face. Currently, I work with several districts providing technology and security guidance. My background with various organizations will carry over to the ISD 110 School Board.
Murphy: I have experience as a parent in this school district and have been a volunteer in the band and show choir programs, as well as coached football and baseball for the community program. I started my small business from the ground up developing a strong martial arts franchise location for our community. I am also in my 7th year as a volunteer small group leader for 12th grade boys at Westwood Community Church. I have had a wide array of different experiences in my life and can draw on those experiences to serve on the Waconia school district 110 to make education work and make sense on all sides of the equation.
Myers: I have 5 years’ experience as a public classroom teacher, learning center Director and early childhood Director focusing on building academic confidence for children of all ages. I also have more than 15 years’ experience as a business management consultant. I engage in thoughtful dialogue providing business insights to improving operations. I help businesses succeed by partnering with the owners and their staff to develop internal leadership and help transform into an efficient, well-managed businesses. I will devote my experience, knowledge, and expertise to help Waconia Schools/Board and the community maintain, grow, and develop to its highest potential.
Waterhouse: I am a Mechanical and Industrial Engineer with a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. My engineering background is filled with instances of give and take between competing design aspects, utilizing limited resources to provide for a client’s needs. I regularly communicate with people of widely varying backgrounds and cultures. This provides me with a strong ability to understand people and help them work together. I am an excellent candidate for school board, and I look forward to serving our community.