Alwood School Board Candidates

by Mindy Carls correspondent

David Althaus

Incumbent David Althaus, Alpha, is one of five candidates running for three seats on the AlWood school board.

Althaus has lived for 27 years in Alpha, where he and his wife Angie have raised their children Sam, Annie, Grace and Lucas. He said they moved to Alpha primarily because of the great reputation of AlWood schools.

Election Day is Tuesday, April 6. The winners will serve four-year terms.

Education

Althaus graduated from Mendota High School in 1985. He received a degree in agricultural economics and marketing from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in 1989.

Work, volunteer and political experiences

I’ve had the honor of working for John Deere’s Construction & Forestry Division for 32 years. For the last 14 years, I have been the Global Trade Show and Event Manager, also serving on various industry advisory boards.

I’m also very thankful to be active with Alpha United Methodist Church and have been active with the AlWood Scout Troop in the past.

I am a passionate but humble leader and facilitator, with experience helping diverse groups of people work together to achieve common goals.

Why are you running for this office?

I’m running for re-election to the AlWood Board of Education for a fourth term. With my 12 years of active board member experience, along with participating in numerous Illinois State School Board Conventions as a voting delegate, I will continue to benefit the district’s students, families and taxpayers in the years to come.

My wife and I have raised four children in the district who have thrived in academics, arts and sports teams, which has helped us build strong relationships with families in our communities. These relationships form a strong base for me to represent the needs of these students and families into the future.

What do you want to accomplish if you win?

I want to focus on the following:

1. Apply my board experience in leading the search in the coming years for a new district superintendent.

2. Work to ensure the diversified needs of ALL students are met depending on their future academic and career goals.

3. Be more actively involved with the CO-OP Board to encourage our boards of education and administrations to work together for the best interest of ALL our kids and communities.

What would you like to change?

In the next four years, I would like to explore these opportunities for change:

1. Explore options to bring back more course offerings in “life skills” courses like home economics, the trades and business/finance.

2. Encourage collaboration with surrounding school districts to share expertise through teacher sharing/online courses.

3. Work to provide more visibility to the AlWood Academic Foundation and promote more community involvement, increasing its impact on students in our District.

Leigh Brinson 

Challenger Leigh Brinson is one of five candidates running for three seats on the AlWood school board.

She is a native of West Chicago who now lives in Alpha with her husband Jim and son Logan.

Election Day is Tuesday, April 6. The winners will serve four-year terms.

Education

Bachelor of Arts, Northern Illinois University.

Master of Business Administration, Robert Morris University Illinois.

Work, volunteer and political experiences

Higher education industry:

Knox College, Director of Student Financial Services (2017-present).

Robert Morris University Illinois (1999-2017). Vice President for Student Financial Services (2007-2017). Campus Director, Waukegan Campus (2005-2007). Director of Education, Naperville Campus (2003-2005). Career Services/Academic Advisor (1999-2003).

Northern Illinois University (1996-1997). Administrative Assistant, College of Health & Human Services.

Community involvement:

Village treasurer (parttime), Village of Woodhull (2020-present). AlWood Bridges PTO, president (current volunteer). Alpha Community Team (current volunteer).

Why are you running for this office?

I am excited to run for the AlWood Board of Education, because I believe the elementary school students need to have more representation at the district level. Currently, there is one member out of seven that has a child in the elementary school.

What do you want to accomplish if you win?

• Influence the curriculum to improve test scores to exceed state standards.

• Involve the community in selecting the next superintendent.

• Ensure that all students, at all levels, have a voice.

What would you like to change?

• Incorporate the needs, priorities, and consensus of the community when approving policies.

• Improve transparency and accountability.

• Improve the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) curriculum

Scott Francis

Incumbent Scott Francis is one of five candidates running for three seats on the AlWood school board.

Francis grew up in Woodhull and still lives there.

Election Day is Tuesday, April 6. The winners will serve four-year terms.

Education

I graduated from AlWood High School in 1980 and received my BA degree from the University of Illinois in 1984.

Work, volunteer and political experiences

I am currently a Senior Process Architect for the ITWorks Division of the Cerner Corporation, a partner of the Genesis Health System, which provides and supports the Genesis electronic medical record.

While my children were younger, I was a youth coach for baseball, basketball, flag football and soccer.

Our family has also volunteered for various organizations through our places of work. I am a past Clover fireman and was an EMT for the Tri-County Ambulance Service.

In addition to being a member of the AlWood School Board for the last 12 years, I am also a board member of the Clover Manor in Woodhull.

Why are you running for this office?

I would like to continue serving on the AlWood Board of Education to maintain what our great district has been able to accomplish over the last 12 years. There are many issues that we will face over the next four-year term. I have always considered myself a voice of the community, bringing both concerns and praise to the attention of the administration and other members of the board.

My oldest son started at AlWood in 2006 and my youngest will graduate in 2023. I have dealt with every aspect of the AlWood district as a parent and then asked to address situations as a member of the school board. I feel this experience helps to communicate with other parents and community members when issues are brought before the Board.

I also want my past experience to continue our cooperative agreement with the Cambridge school district for our various sports teams. These cooperative efforts are not only for sports, but also to continue to work with all of our surrounding school districts to find opportunities to share resources.

I want to support and assist the AlWood school district to be the best it can be.

What do you want to accomplish if you win?

The AlWood district is emerging from a very unusual and unexpected last 12 months. I want to maintain the safety and well-being of our students and staff during the transition back to normalcy. Also, during this transition, continue to offer the best possible educational opportunities for all of our students, from pre-K through grade 12.

Our community has many concerns associated with our school district and I want to continue to listen and express these concerns to our administration. I will attempt to educate myself, by using the information available, and use a collective voice to present all sides to the board, so a discussion can take place and an agreed-upon decision can be made to move forward.

The AlWood board will be challenged with the selection and hiring of a new superintendent when Shannon Bumann retires from the position. This is a long process and the board has started discussions on what would be best for AlWood. I hope to continue to engage an executive search team to assist with a national search for the superintendent to lead our district to success, a district that our students, alumni, teachers, staff, administration and community are all proud to call AlWood school district 225.

What would you like to change?

I would like to challenge both our elementary and junior/senior high school to improve our school report cards, by increasing all of our school scores and rankings. This year and last year are difficult to measure properly, due to the pandemic, but we must not allow our students and staff to remain idle. We must challenge our students to be the best they can be, looking for areas within the schools that need attention and address them, so our district can meet and exceed the rankings of other schools of our size.

I would like to continue to improve our curriculum. Utilize the talents and experience of our teachers to offer new classes. As I stated earlier, work with other school districts to share resources, offering different classes and opportunities to better prepare our students for college or a specific trade. This may also mean working with Black Hawk College to offer more AP (Advanced Placement) classes, to prepare our students that are college-bound or want to be better prepared for life.

An area that I want to continue to change is our financial status. One of the most important responsibilities of a member of the Board of Education is to be fiscally responsible and to continually monitor the budget of the school district. I want to continue the change to a more financially stable district. Over the last few years, the AlWood school district has become stronger financially and this is something that I am very proud. Our facilities are in outstanding condition, our teacher salaries are very competitive and our district strives to make sure that the students are provided everything that they need to receive a quality education.

Heather Poppy

Challenger Heather Poppy is one of five candidates running for three seats on the AlWood school board.

She grew up in Manito, a town about the size of Orion, and now has a Lynn Center address.

Election Day is Tuesday, April 6. The winners will serve four-year terms.

Education

Bachelor of Science in Foods in Business, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Master of Education in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration, University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont.

Work, volunteer and political experiences

For the first 21 years of my career, I worked in higher education helping students achieve their goals. I worked at colleges such as University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont; Marycrest International University in Davenport, Iowa; and for the last ten years of my education career, I was at Knox College in Galesburg.

I held a variety of positions in college administration, but the most rewarding was when I was an associate dean of students and director of career development at Knox College. I helped students discover which career was best for them and develop skills to find their first job. Every day I saw the best side of students and I was able to help them find their path in the world.

Since leaving my position in education nine years ago, I have focused full-time on building our family farming business. My responsibilities are on the managerial side: government compliance and regulation issues, insurance benefits, payroll, contract production, feed logistics, accounts payable, etc. As a small business owner, I understand the importance of careful stewardship of our tax dollars when creating a school budget.

I am a graduate of the Illinois Farm Bureau Agriculture Leaders of Tomorrow leadership development program. I have also served on the Education Action Team for Illinois Farm Bureau and was elected to serve as the chair of the Action Coordinating Council of the Illinois Farm Bureau Action Teams.

Being a business owner has afforded me time to volunteer with organizations that are important to me such as: • AlWood Bridges when my children were younger, • AlWood Music Boosters (currently serving as president),

• Lynox Loyals 4-H club co-leader, • Henry County Farm Bureau Board (and serve on their Education Committee), • Volunteer with my daughter’s church youth group, • Serve as a teacher for my church’s religious education program.

Although I have never run for political office, I have had the opportunity to meet on many occasions with state and national legislators to advocate for local issues that are pertinent to our community.

Why are you running for this office?

My children are third-generation AlWood students, so I have a vested interest in the future success of AlWood. We are fortunate that our district has the small classroom setting that can provide the educational experience that our students deserve. I believe that I bring a unique combination of education and business experience to the table that would allow me to contribute to the board and be an advocate for our students. If elected to the school board, my guiding principle will be to do what is the best for the students of AlWood.

What do you want to accomplish if you win?

I am running for AlWood Board of Education to ensure that we are good stewards of taxpayer dollars while keeping quality teachers and staff. I want to find ways to keep open communication between administration, school board and community. I want to focus on outcomes of an AlWood education, looking at how well AlWood students are prepared for life after graduation, whether that is college, technical school, military service, or the workforce.

What would you like to change?

Obviously, the first and foremost change would be to get back to a pre-Covid way of life with full-time in-person learning and extracurricular activities. Our students are missing out on great opportunities and learning experiences.

I would like to see better communication between the administration and community. We are a small district, and we need to capitalize on our size, and that includes keeping constituents in the loop on key issues. In my experience, many misunderstandings could be avoided with better or more open communication.

I am not seeking office to make drastic changes — I want to build on what currently is in place to create the best learning environment for our students. My style is to observe and listen and make changes based on facts and figures. I intend to gather information from all parties and make a logical decision that best serves our entire district.

Amber Wirt

Challenger Amber Wirt, Alpha, is one of five candidates running for three seats on the AlWood school board.

Election Day is Tuesday, April 6. The winners will serve four-year terms.

Education

Bachelor of Science in Education, Western Illinois University (2002).

Work, volunteer and political experiences

Special Education teacher, Moline School District (2002 - present).

Board of Directors, GiGi’s Playhouse Quad Cities (2010 - 2017).

Why are you running for this office?

I am running for the AlWood school board because I have four children that attend the AlWood schools, so I have a vested interest in the success of our district. With a passion for education and 19 years of teaching experience, I believe that I can give valuable input to the board and will have a positive impact on the overall quality of education at AlWood.

What do you want to accomplish if you win?

If I am elected to the board, I believe that my job as a board member will be to ensure that the interests and values of the community are heard, not just mine. I will advocate for what is best for ALL students. I believe that we can always do better. I will be open to collaboration and compromise to move our district forward.

What would you like to change?

I am not coming with an agenda of things I want to change, but rather want to make an impact on the overall quality of education in our district. I would be honored to have your vote.

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