Six candidates seek three Clayton Ridge school board seats

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Jessica Bittner

Sam Brandt

Steve Dikkers

Michael Finnegan

Chris Meier

Jason Reimer

By Caroline Rosacker

Six candidates will vie for three Clayton Ridge School Board seats in the upcoming election on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Elected school board members will serve a four-year terms. Incumbents are Michael Finnegan and Jason Reimer. 

Sam Brandt

1. Why are you running for school board? I have a genuine interest in the school as I have four children in it.  We see things around the country that concern me about the direction of our education system.  I believe the current board and administration has kept Clayton Ridge isolated from those things. I would like to see that continue.

2. What are your qualifications and background? I graduated from Garnavillo in 2000.  I have a B.S. in Construction Management from UNI. I am an Estimator for a company in Des Moines that does construction all over the state.  My career has allowed me to work with other school districts and have seen what their facility upgrades include.  Prior to moving back to Garnavillo in 2017 we lived in Dike where my children attended school.  Exposure to other districts through my career and the community we previously lived in can help bring other perspectives to the board. I enjoy organizing activities that help our students. I started flag football in 2018 and have helped coach many other sports.

3) What is your vision for the school and what changes are needed? My vision is that the school provides training that is relevant to the world students will be going into, in a comfortable environment.  Some of the classroom spaces should be upgraded to align with that vision. 

Michael Finnegan

1) Why are you running for school board? My priorities are first and foremost a quality education for our students. Our students need to have access to a well-rounded education in order to fulfill their dreams after high school. I also want to ensure that our students have a safe, secure, and accessible environment in which to learn. 

2) What are your qualifications and background? I am qualified because I truly care for our school and community. I am ready to listen to all stakeholders: community members, students, parents, teachers, and administrators. I have served on the Clayton Ridge school board for 12 years. I have been involved in many work sessions that have involved improving our district’s facilities and education system. I am a member of the Clayton County Conference Board, and on the Board of Trustees for the Millville Township. I graduated from the Guttenberg Community School District in 1971, and am a self-employed farmer. My late wife, Lynne, and I have two daughters, Michelle and Brianna. Michelle is a teacher at Clayton Ridge and Brianna is a teacher at Hempstead High School in Dubuque. My son-in-law, Chris, is a football coach for Clayton Ridge.

3. What is your vision for the school and what changes are needed? Clayton Ridge has always been a leading school district in terms of technology and on the forefront of new educational trends. I would like to work together to enhance and enrich the educational happenings in our school district to benefit all of our students. This includes an open dialogue of communication with teachers and staff to provide the tools they need in order to help our students be successful. In terms of physical changes, the Garnavillo auditorium needs to be remodeled and updated. The middle school needs a bathroom remodel. The high school needs HVAC upgrade, installation of windows in classrooms, and remodeling of certain classrooms. I believe these upgrades would benefit our students and staff. 

Steve Dikkers

1) Why are you running for school board? It is important for members of a community to give what they can back to the community. I feel it is time to give some of myself back to the school district, community, and students that have meant so much to me. 

2) What are your qualifications and background? I will bring much to the board. I have an undergraduate degree in Physics, and a Master’s Degree in Science Education. I was employed by the Guttenberg Community and Clayton Ridge Community School Districts for over forty years. During that time I was a member of the Guttenberg/Clayton Ridge Education Association (GEA/CREA) and served as president at least three times. I helped negotiate several contracts between the GEA/CREA and the District. In the past I have served on several city commissions and served two terms on the Guttenberg City Council.

3) What is your vision for the school and what changes are needed? I would like to ensure that the best and most appropriate education be made available to our students. As an enthusiastic lifelong learner, I want to help others to find their way along that path. I would also like to help lead the district and community forward into a more sustainable and green future. 

Chris Meier

1) Why are you running for school board? I’m running for Clayton Ridge school board because I believe we have a school district that offers an excellent education for our current students and I’m offering my time and business experience to help the tradition continue. At Clayton Ridge, we should continue to set standards and goals high. Our students and our community deserve nothing less.

2) What are your qualifications and background? With my experience, I will help focus on Clayton Ridge as being in the business of offering the best education and learning environment we can. My experience revolves around working in accounting departments, job costing, and supporting the efforts to maintain budgets. I currently hold an associate degree in accounting and am only several classes from completing my bachelor’s degree. I believe education is a lifelong endeavor. 

3. What is your vision for the school and what changes are needed? Our students, families, community and taxpayers are all stakeholders in one of the most important businesses in the world – educating our children. I envision Clayton Ridge not only continuing to offer excellent opportunities for students and families to be involved in multitudes of activities, but to be fully supported in all aspects. I envision Clayton Ridge taking advantage of as many opportunities as possible for our students’ continued success, while maintaining fiscal responsibility. I envision Clayton Ridge continuing to recognize the need to implement capital projects that will benefit the learning environment, as well as be inviting and welcoming to all.

Jessica Bittner

1) Why are you running for school board? It was suggested to me I run for school board. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made for me to run. I have a vested interest in our schools and it is a way for me to serve my community. I want to listen to the concerns of our kids, parents, staff and community; making sure we hear their perspectives, but also make the decisions that put our resources in the right places.

2) What are your qualifications and background? I have lived in and around Guttenberg my entire life.  My husband, Dan, and I have two boys attending Clayton Ridge. Putting the needs of our kids first and giving them opportunities to grow are important to us. This includes school. I want to make sure our teachers and staff have the tools and resources necessary to build upon the gifts and talents of each student in their care.

3. What is your vision for the school and what changes are needed? Teachers play one of the most important roles in our children’s lives, from their first day of school, to graduation, and even years beyond. I think it is important to make sure we do what is necessary to obtain and keep amazing teachers. As a board member, I will represent and fight for not only teachers and staff, but the community, parents, and most importantly – our students.

Jason Riemer

1) Why are you running for school board? I am seeking a third term on the school board because I believe that with all of the craziness going on in the world, it is important for parents to be involved in the school decision making process. Parents of students understand how to navigate the dynamics of real-world academics and social interactions of their children. As a parent of five kids in the district, I believe that I have great insight into what is important when it comes to decisions made that directly affect our kids.

2) What are your qualifications and background? I was born and raised in Garnavillo, earned a degree from UNI and moved back to the area. I am now a crop farmer with my family near Garnavillo. I am currently on the board of directors for Community Savings Bank. I believe that both farming and being involved in banking gives me a financial perspective that is beneficial to school finance. My wife, Lesa, and I have five kids who all attend Clayton Ridge: Keaton, Lola, Nash, Cruz and Dirx. They are all very involved in activities at the school and Lesa does volunteer work with youth sports and substitute teaches at Clayton Ridge. Having our family so involved in the district gives me a real-world view of how the school operates and makes me easily accessible to parents and teachers. 

3)What is your vision for the school and what changes are needed? I believe we have the best school around and I would like to continue that. First of all, Clayton Ridge has maintained one of the lowest school district property tax rates in the area, even while making major improvements over the last five years. Secondly, our teachers and administrators are awesome! They would do anything for their students and not only care about their academics, but also about making them well-rounded individuals and building them into citizens who contribute to society. While on the school board, I would like to continue to support both of those good things happening at Clayton Ridge.

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