The spring elections are almost upon us. Come Tuesday, April 7, voters in the North Crawford School District will be asked to select from five candidates to fill three seats on the school board.
Three current board members, Judy Powell, Jim Dworschack and Jesse Swenson will appear on the ballot along with challengers Joey Boland and Carrie Morga.
Carrie Morga, 36, lives with her husband Julio Morga and their three children – Faith, 14, A.J., 12, and Alex, 9 – at 15651 County Road H in rural Soldiers Grove.
A North Crawford graduate, Morga also attended Western Technical College, studying accounting. She is currently a stay-at-home mother and activity leader in her children’s 4-H club.
Morga’s past civic service includes serving for two years on the Crawford County Fair Association Board.
Morga has been considering running for the school board for some time. She found the impetus to declare her candidacy, when she heard that there was consideration of cancelling the school’s spring play.
“My daughter is in the play and loves the program,” Morga said. “I felt it is important to keep this program.”
The theater program is an asset to the school and part of what Morga sees as essential to providing well-rounded, co-curricular programming.
“We have to find ways to maintain programming in the face of (impending) cuts to school funding,” Morga said. “I would like to focus on the full school, promoting and supporting all their programs. The after-school Beyond the Bell, sports, academics, it is important.”
Morga would like to see transportation issues improved. She drives her kids to school to avoid a bus ride exceeding an hour each morning and afternoon.
The other challenger, Joey Boland, 35, lives with his wife Haley Boland and their four children – Alexus, 15, Brianna, 14, Daymian, 12, and Kade, 10 – at 16928 State Highway 131 in the Village of Gays Mills.
Boland, a graduate of Seneca High School, is the owner and mechanic of Boland’s Repair in Gays Mills
Boland’s decision to run for the board came out of conversations he had at school events and what he perceives to be declining morale.
“I grew up in Mt. Sterling,” Boland said. “I always heard people saying how great North Crawford was, how you should take your kid out of Seneca and send them to North Crawford instead. I don’t hear that anymore.
“It’s a great school with good faculty, but there are obviously some issues,” Boland said.
Boland noted that athletic events are much more sparsely attended than in past years. He felt the decline represents a decrease in students and parents attachment to the district.
“I hear complaints about how the money is spent,” Boland continued. “And I would like to know why or how the decisions are made.”
Some creative solutions could be utilized to address some of the issues he hears about, Boland said. He suggested something as simple as involving students in school meal preparations could help address a need for life skills, nutrition education and food quality.
But first and foremost, Boland said serving on the school board was the best way to learn the answer to his own questions, and questions he hears from others, about how the school operates.
The longest serving of the three incumbents on the ballot is Judy Powell, who was elected to the school board in 2012.
Powell, 51, lives with her husband John at 51135 County S in rural Gays Mills. Her children are all graduates of North Crawford – John, 26, Jordan, 24, Jennifer, 22, and Jared, 21.
Powell graduated from Edgewood College and is a Public Health Nurse with Crawford County Public Health.
Powell’s reason for running remains the same as with her first run.
“Education is very important to me,” said Powell. “I want to make sure that the school’s technology and curriculum continue to reflect the district’s mission to prepare students as best as possible for their future.”
“Our greatest challenge is the budget, based on what’s happening at the state level,” Powell continued. “We have to find ways to keep up with the district’s needs with less money. We have to learn to educate within our means, yet remain progressive. We have to continue to plan for the future, as well as respond to the demands of the moment.”
The district will need to be creative as it finds a way to educate with a diminishing budget, something that is particularly challenging for rural communities, according to Powell.
“Many colleges have turned to a paperless system,” Powell said. “That may be one avenue to explore for possible savings.”
The school cannot afford to lose talent and experience, nor should they look to cutting additional staff, Powell felt. She suggested the district might need to look to the administration to find solutions.
“We need our teachers to be able to concentrate on teaching,” Powell said. “We cannot have teachers also run the budget and try to do the administration.”
Powell stressed that she considers it a responsibility to be available and willing to answer questions from district voters, who should feel free to ask board members for more information when they have questions.
Another candidate Jim Dworschack was appointed to the North Crawford School Board in May of 2014 to fill out the term of Miguel Morga, who resigned for employment reasons.
Dworschack, 61, lives with his wife Linda Dworschack and their daughter Willa, 17, at 48244 Norwegian Hollow Road in rural Soldiers Grove. Their son Mattias, 20, is a graduate of North Crawford.
Dworschack, a chemical engineer, attended Iowa State University. He and his family moved to the area in 2003. He also farms a portion of their property.
The Dworschacks homeschooled both their children through eighth grade before enrolling them in high school at North Crawford.
In addition to serving on the North Crawford School Board, Dworschack is the board chair for Mayan Hope, a non-profit school for the disabled in Guatemala and serves on the board of the Nash Car Club.
Serving on the board is an opportunity to serve the community while engaging in a longtime interest in education, according to Dworschack.
“I know I can continue contributing,” Dworschack said. “And with my background in homeschooling, I think it gives me different perspective that I think can be valuable as we look for ways to address current challenges.
“Funding is probably the basic issue the school is facing,” Dworschack continued. “The state has created this deficit issue in two ways, one was cuts to funding to the schools, and the other was by creating a second semi-public school system through the voucher school program.”
Dworschack noted that the district has had its funding cut five years in succession. Additional credit requirements for graduation have exacerbating the situation by forcing the school to expand its science curriculum. And at the same time, costs continue to rise. The school has trimmed its budget accordingly, leaving little room for making additional cuts.
“The school has to have academic programming that meet the needs of a wide range of students, from the disabled to the gifted, which is a challenge for small schools,” Dworschack noted.
Dworschack sees the teaching and classroom staff as assets whose experience the school should seek to retain, which means the board will need to be creative in how they address the shrinking budget.
The other candidate currently serving on the board is Jesse Swenson. She was appointed in October of 2014 to fill out the term of Tina Volden, who resigned for employment reasons.
Swenson, 36, lives with her husband Kurt and their three children – Jack, 16, Nora, 9, and Kate, 8 – at their home at 50196 County Road B in rural Soldiers Grove.
Swenson is a North Crawford graduate who owns and operates two businesses with her husband – Crooked Creek Construction and Simply Creekside, a guesthouse.
“I’ve been involved with the school for some time,” Swenson said. “I took the secretary’s position on the board when Tina Volden stepped down. I was amazed at what I didn’t know. It’s fascinating (being on the board). It is very engaging in terms of what you need to keep track of.”
While she brought her interest in nutrition and a desire to see school lunches improve with her when she was appointed to the board, Swenson said she has tried to approach district issues without an agenda.
“I think it is important to be as open and fair as possible,” Swenson said.
“The budget is the number one issue for the school district,” Swenson said. “Everyone has to work with that. We are going to have to be creative and to look for alternative funding through grants and other resources. Luckily, the district has someone who is good at grant writing.”
Swenson said she hopes to continue helping the school district provide the best education, food, and extra- and co-curricular activities possible for the students.