Challengers gearing up for local school board electionA brief look at the six new challengers who filed to run for the upcoming District 833 School Board election.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Among the 10 candidates who filed for the Nov. 3 District 833 School Board election, six new faces have thrown their hats into the race for the four available seats.
Four of the challengers — David Kemper, Mike Thissen, Laurie Johnson, Edward Nowak, live in Woodbury and bring with them a variety of career backgrounds ranging from business to education.
The other two challengers, Walt Lyszak and Gina Taft, are residents of Cottage Grove. Lyszak is a former principal at Park High School.
Incumbents Tracy Brunette, of Cottage Grove; and Marsha Adou, of Woodbury are running for re-election.
Current board member Denise Kapler, of Woodbury, initially filed for re-election, but withdrew her name before the ballot was finalized. Board member Ellen Ayers, of Cottage Grove, chose not to run again.
Katy McElwee-Stevens, Newport, and Alberder Gillespie, of Woodbury, are also running. Both were appointed to fill terms and ran unsuccessfully for new terms two years ago.
Briefly on the challengers
David Kemper, of Woodbury, currently has three children in District 833 and said he’s running for school board as a way to be more involved with their education.
“I just wanted to get more involved with my kids,” he said.
Kemper brings with him experience in management and economics, but also the experience of his wife who was a special education teacher for District 833.
“I’m looking forward to being able to offer a new perspective,” he said.
Kemper said his family has gone through four boundary changes in the past, so he felt that this was his chance to step forward and work towards setting new goals and addressing the new changes in the district.
“I want to help achieve great excellence in the school district by setting new goals and establishing more stability,” he said. “I’m excited about serving parents.”
Mike Thissen, of Woodbury, said he is running for school board because it was a way to get involved and hopefully make common sense decisions for his children in the district.
“I’m just throwing my hat in the ring and seeing what happens,” he said.
Even though Thissen has no previous experience in education (his wife is a teacher) he said he wants to make an effort to give as much transparent information to the families in the district as possible, all the while making good, common sense decisions.
“More things need to be said rather than just thought,” he said.
Thissen said he thinks he could give a good perspective to the school board as a parent looking in.
Laurie Johnson, of Woodbury, said she is running for school board because she felt it was a great way to get involved and give something back to the district that educated her three children.
“I wanted to step in and use whatever skills I have to make improvements,” she said.
Johnson brings with her past experience in various business ventures and a great amount of people skills.
Johnson has also been trained in home schooling.
Johnson said her biggest goal on the school board would be to address the below average students and figure out, how to bring District 833 to its highest potential.
“It’s a very well to do area, great kids, great teachers, great parents, but something is missing,” she said. “We need to step back and take a look at what it is we are using that works — the way to push forward is to build on that.”
Edward Nowak, of Woodbury, said he is running for school board because he felt that his experience in management could prove beneficial on the school board.
“I was thinking I could bring some of my management expertise to a school environment,” he said.
Nowak has also had past experience as an adjunct teacher at a community college.
Nowak runs a manufacturing plant out of White Bear Lake and said he felt that his experience with overseeing people would be useful.
Nowak said he doesn’t know any of the specific issues in the district that need to be addressed, but he will research them and than make a plan of action.
“Continuous improvement is a way to ratchet up your expectations,” he said. “I believe my education and experience will be a benefit to the managing of the school district.”
Walt Lyszak, who was principal at Park High School for 19 years before retiring last year, said he's running for school board because he thinks it would be beneficial to add the perspective of a professional educator. He spent 42 years in education, 31 of those as a principal.
"I see education as a vocation, it was never a job," Lyszak said. "Because of that, I see myself as still being able to contribute in some way to education."
Lyszak said one of his big concerns is developing a better way to bring kids who have failed out of school back into the system.
Note: Gina Taft could not be reached for comment before press time.
- Judy Spooner contributed to this article.