Six vying for four school board seats

Lisa Depies
Geneseo School Board candidates include, top row, from left: Christy Coleman, Curt Frerichs and Marvin Gradert. Bottom row, from left: Ian Malmstrom, Barry Snodgrass and Alan VanDeWoestyne.

Six candidates will be vying for four spots on the Geneseo School Board at the April 7 election.

The Geneseo School District is comprised of all or portions of 14 townships. Only three board members may be from a single township at any one time.

Candidates include: Christy Coleman, Munson Township; Curt Frerichs, Colona Township; Marvin Gradert, Geneseo Township; Ian Malmstrom, Geneseo Township; Barry Snodgrass, Edford Township; and Alan VanDeWoestyne, Atkinson Township.

Because two current school board members, John Puentes and Doug Ford, are both from Geneseo Township, candidates Gradert and Malmstrom can’t both be elected to the board in April.

The Geneseo Middle School/High School PTA will host a school board candidates’ forum from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. March 31 at Geneseo Middle School. The public is invited.

Candidates for the four-year term include:

Christy Coleman

Christy Coleman of Munson Township is a retired nurse and current board member of the Illinois Energy Consortium, which provides low-cost gas and electricity to school districts.

Coleman has served on the Geneseo School Board for the past 20 years, having first been elected in 1989. She is the former director and president of the Illinois Association of School Boards.

“If elected as a school board member, I will continue to work for strong schools dedicated to academic excellence in a safe and caring environment, all while being a responsible steward of the district’s finances,” said Coleman.

“I will take the time to be well-informed and be prepared to make sound decisions that support a quality education system in Geneseo Community Unit School District No. 228.”

Curt Frerichs

Curt Frerichs of Colona Township is a captain/shift commander for the East Moline Fire Department. He has served on the Geneseo School Board since 2005.

“There are lots of things going on in the school district that are currently happening or planned for the near future for the betterment of our students and the facilities in which they learn,”?he said. “I have a personal stake in the district with two children in the elementary schools and a spouse who works for the district as a teacher.”

Frerichs added, “There has been recent work and an audit to review and address literacy needs in the elementary schools, as well as at the middle school and high school. We are constantly dealing with the educational needs and increased requirements for our special needs students and the lack of funding from both the state and federal governments.

“Our facilities are being improved with climate control being added at Millikin School and throughout the remainder of the high school. Geothermal climate control is being installed at Millikin, and future plans are in place for adding it to Northside as well.”

Frerichs said, “Maintaining and upgrading technology continues to be one of our upmost concerns, and we have worked hard to provide our faculty and our students with the technology tools that aid in learning in the classroom. The technology has also allowed us to better serve and communicate with parents and constituents through online access to the District’s Web site, board notes and agendas, faculty and staff blogs as well as School Messenger, which provides the district with the ability for mass calling in the event of an emergency, a school closure or for schedule changes or event reminders.

“We are well aware of the current state of the economy, and how we receive our revenues and we are working hard toward developing a balanced budget plan to help keep the needs and wants of our district in line with what funds we have available. We are also aware that our district is suffering declining enrollment and are doing what we can to try and bring families with children to our community.”

Frerichs said, “As enrollment declines, class size and leveling at the elementary schools becomes an issue. We are always thinking about and planning how we can keep class sizes low to ensure the best learning environment, while balancing that with faculty needs. We have hired the best to run our district, and everyone can take comfort in that, but must also realize we will never stop or be satisfied with what we are doing. We will continue to look for better ways to provide the best education to our greatest commodity, our students. I want to continue to be a part of that, which is why I am running for re-election.”

Marvin Gradert

Marvin Gradert of Geneseo Township is a retired John Deere employee and serves as Geneseo Township supervisor.

He’s served two terms as a Geneseo alderman and has served as chairman of the city’s finance committee, chairman of the utility board, and as a member of the public works committee and water and sewer board.

Gradert served on the Henry County Board for 16 years, including two years as county board chairman. At the county level, Gradert has served on the administration, public safety, finance, communications and building and zoning committees.

If elected, Gradert said he wants to work to provide “quality education at a reasonable cost.”

Ian Malmstrom

Ian Malmstrom of Geneseo Township is a middle school language arts and social studies teacher.

He said, “I hope to use my educational background and familiarity with Geneseo schools to help make the best decisions for the district. I am a 2001 J.D. Darnall?High School graduate and a 2005 Western Illinois University graduate with a degree in education, and I currently have 30 graduate hours in the educational leadership program at WIU.

“I think Geneseo has a great educational system now. However, if you look at the communities our school district serves and the level of parental involvement and support, our schools should be expected to perform at a high level. I would like to see the district become even better.”

Malmstrom said, “Using resources we have available now, I think the Geneseo School District can become equal to the best of the suburban Chicago school districts and be one of the best in the state.”

He concluded. “If elected, I want to ensure the school board is obtaining feedback from district citizens and making decisions after the community has been informed and given an opportunity to be heard.”

Barry Snodgrass

Barry Snodgrass of Edford Township is the owner of Becker & Becker Plumbing, Heating and Cooling in Geneseo. He has served on the Geneseo School Board for 12 years.

If elected, Snodgrass said he would strive to “keep the goals we have set and keep us as close to a balanced budget as we can.”

He said he’d also like to see the district “continue to follow through with our life safety projects to maintain a safe and caring school environment.”

Alan? VanDeWoestyne

Alan VanDeWoestyne of Atkinson Township is a livestock buyer and farmer. He has been a member of the Geneseo School Board for the past 20 years.

“I feel we have an exceptional school district, and?I would like to do what I?can to continue to provide an excellent education for students of the Geneseo School District,” said


“I would also like to continue to work on balancing the district’s budget; maintaining our high quality of teachers, administrators and staff; and continue to update and bring new technology into the district,”?he said.