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Centre school board candidates speak out

Staff writer

Several Centre board of education members are up for re-election, and three individuals are running for the first time.

Jesse Brunner and current board member Amber Peterson are running to represent the Tampa area. Peterson has been on the board for four years and serves as the board representative on the Centre Foundation board.

“I feel we’ve done some good things, and I want to continue to be a part of it,” Peterson said.

She has two children in the district and one who graduated last spring.

Peterson serves on the Tampa Trail Stop grocery store board and is a member of the Tampa PRIDE committee.

Peterson’s major concern is to help the board maintain the level of education the district wants for its students while managing budget cuts.

Brunner has been off the board for four years after serving eight years, including six on the negotiating team. He said several teachers and board members asked him to re-file.

He runs a business and said he has more time now to devote to the board.

“I take serving on the board seriously,” he said. “I’m conservative, and I feel I have good business sense.”

He doesn’t want to see taxes increase. He said he hasn’t been involved with the board while away but thinks there may be ways in which district operations can be streamlined or downsized through natural attrition.

Incumbent Terry Deines and Michelle Hajek are running to represent the Lost Springs area.

Hajek has been married to Brett Hajek for a year and has a child in kindergarten.

“I have a vested interest in keeping the school system going,” she said.

She thinks she can bring a new perspective to the position. She wants to make sure the board does things to keep families in the district and maintain its enrollment numbers.

“It’s important to look at the overall picture,” she said.

Deines touts his eight years of experience on the board as an advantage when dealing with the financial future of the district. He said it took him four years to learn about everything involved in managing a school district.

“We’re doing a good job and we need to keep it maintained,” he said.

Deines has children in the district and is concerned about the need to increase test scores. He said the board needs to hire good teachers and provide the programs and training they need to help students increase their scores.

Deines has served as the district’s representative to Marion County Special Education Cooperative for six years.

“It’s been fun,” he said. “I really enjoy doing it. It would be tough for a new school board member to take on the challenges facing us.”

Board president Mark Heiser is running for a fourth term from the Ramona area. He is unopposed. He has served as president for two years and was vice president before that.

“I’ve enjoyed serving on the board,” he said. “It’s been a good experience learning how a school board functions.”

He wants Centre’s students to have the best schooling possible. He said the No. 1 challenge facing the district is figuring out how to use state and federal funds and supplemental local taxes wisely and to make the money go as far as possible.

He said Centre’s virtual school is important and needs to continue to grow, but he wants to make sure it doesn’t take away from the brick-and-mortar students. He said the online learning program helps adults get their GEDs and provides extra income for the district, taking some of the pressure off taxpayers.

Anita Svoboda of Lincolnville is running as an at-large candidate. She will replace Steve Jirak, who is resigning.

“I would like the opportunity to be on the inside looking out,” she said. “The perspective of a patron standing on the outside looking in can be very different from the ‘big picture.’ I would like the opportunity to see the ‘big picture’ and have input on the direction our school is heading.”

Svoboda’s husband, Steve, graduated from Centre and they have two children who attend there. She has been involved in the district since her children started kindergarten, with the Parent Teacher Organization, various class activities, and coaching t-ball and baseball, to name a few.

Svoboda is aware the budget is going to be of great concern going forward. She hopes to bring fresh thoughts and ideas.

“I care about our school, our kids, our teachers, and our administration,” she said. “The board has done a good job, and I would like the opportunity to bring new insight to the board.”

School board elections are Tuesday with polling places for Centre board members at Tampa Senior Center for Ramona and Tampa, Lincolnville Community Center for Lincolnville and Lost Springs, and Delavan Community Building for Burdick. Elected board members will begin their terms July 1.

Last modified April 2, 2015

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