NORTH CRAWFORD - On Tuesday, April 5, voters will go to the polls in a nonpartisan election to determine which two of the current four candidates for the North Crawford School Board will be elected to the board. One position is a three-year term, and the other is a one-year term.
Mary Kuhn is a 23-year veteran of the North Crawford School Board, and has served as board president for the past 13 years. Kuhn grew up in Kentucky, attended college in Iowa, and moved to Crawford County in 1977 where she and her husband Leo raised their five children and ran a dairy farm.
Her grandson is currently an eighth grade student at North Crawford. Kuhn was instrumentally involved in educating him last year, while the school was closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am concerned that the kids lost a lot during virtual schooling last year, and am proud of the fact that the district has hired specialists to help kids catch up,” Kuhn said. “My biggest concern is ensuring that we get the kids caught up and get back on track with helping them to succeed.”
Kuhn said that she is running again, in part, because she wants to be on the board when we finally get past the pandemic.
“I want to be there when we can get back to focusing on getting our kids prepared for careers and college,” Kuhn said. “I want to be hopeful, and to be around to see the positive changes.”
Kuhn said she had attended the Wisconsin State Education Convention in Milwaukee, and had come back with lots of ideas.
“One big idea I got is for the district to work with students, staff and the community to create a graduate profile,” Kuhn said. “What that means is that we would develop a profile of what our stakeholders want to see district graduates look like.”
She said that for her, it’s all about the kids. She pointed out that in small, rural communities, the school is the main thing that is offered to the kids. She said that if what the district is doing doesn’t benefit the kids, then “we’re not doing our jobs.”
When asked about the idea of transitioning the elementary school to a charter school, Kuhn said that she thinks the idea has merit.
“I talked with Holly Roth, Principal at the Solon Springs School District, where they have an elementary charter school, and are transitioning their middle school to a charter school,” Kuhn said. “I think it would give us a lot more options for parents and students, and that would be a good thing.”
The youth, families and staff of North Crawford School District rely on the school board to ensure our school is the heart of our community. Since being appointed to serve on the board in December 2021, I have developed a broad understanding of the challenges and opportunities the school faces. I have really enjoyed the experience of serving on the board, and want to do everything I can to continue this work.
The four priorities facing the school include; 1) physical and emotional health, 2) serve the individual needs of the students and staff, 3) fiscal, enrollment and operational health and 4) listening to the dreams and hopes of each of us.
Given these four priorities I advocate for the focus to be on the operational health of the district. There are decisions to be made regarding an operational referendum. Given that the referendum is still in the research phase, there are decisions that will still need to be made.
Certainly, everyone can agree that in order to be a school we need a roof over our heads, quality staff and a plan to be fiscally responsible. There are repairs that will need to be addressed to our 31-year-old building.
Attracting and retaining high quality staff supports the health of the school and we need to put significant attention to this.
I believe in order for a district to plan to be fiscally responsible we need to understand where we have been, where we are at and where we are going.I look forward to listening to the needs of everyone and appreciate your vote.
Charissa Richter grew up in a small town in central Ohio, and she attended Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she graduated with a Master of Occupational Therapy in 2009.
“After graduation, my husband (Jimmy) and I moved to Colorado, where we spent the last 10 years,” Richter explained. “I was working as an occupational therapist, specializing in Parkinson's disease, and my husband worked diligently, growing our vintage/antique business, called Little Boxes Vintage.”
The two moved to the area in March of 2021. They opened the storefront for ‘Little Boxes Vintage’ in the Gays Mills Mercantile Center in August of last year.
“Last month, I resumed work as an occupational therapist at Gundersen Boscobel,” Richter said. “We have a six-year-old son, Cecil, who attends North Crawford Schools and is absolutely loving it.
“I decided to run for the North Crawford School Board because I recognize the impact that our schools have on our children's future. I am invested in this school district, and I would love to be a part of the process to help the school run as effectively and successfully as possible,” Richter said. “I do not have prior experience sitting on a school board, but I have served on multiple community action committees in my time, working at the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati, and have extensive experience working as part of an interdisciplinary team as an occupational therapist.”
Richter said that her work and volunteer experiences have provided her with the skills that will equip her to serve on the school board.
“I am relatively new to the area, but I have been attending the school board meetings to stay abreast of the concerns and issues which currently face our school district. I believe my background in healthcare will serve as an asset to the school board as we face health and safety concerns in our community,” Richter said. “I would also like to focus on ensuring our North Crawford families and staff feel heard about their concerns, and that their feedback is considered in the decisions that are made. Particularly with staffing shortages and retention concerns, our school staff need to feel appreciated and considered. “
There is an incoming referendum that will address building maintenance and updates that are crucial to maintaining a safe and accessible environment for our children and staff.
“Last, I have been involved in a parent committee that has been assessing the possibility of transitioning to a charter school. I think that endeavors such as this are important to the livelihood of our school and community,” Richter said. “Rather than following what other schools are doing, we should carve out our own path to demonstrate what makes our school district unique and amazing!”Richter says that she is looking forward to contributing as an active member of the community, and would be honored to commit her time and resources to making the school district the best it can be.
Kimberly Blaha was born and raised in Soldiers Grove, to Joel and Bernice Lund, and graduated from North Crawford in 2002.
“I'm married to Beau Blaha, and we have three boys, Deyton, Landen and Owan,” Blaha said. “We live in Soldiers Grove, after moving out of Star Valley a few years ago after one of the devastating floods that had hit the area.”
The Blaha’s son Deyton is currently a junior at North Crawford, while Landen and Owan chose this year to homeschool. Landen will return to North Crawford next year to start his high school career. All three are very active in football, cross-country, basketball and baseball for North Crawford, so they keep their parents very busy, and usually on the run, sometimes in different directions.
“We have a new puppy, Tucker, and the boys love being a big brother babysitter to him,” Blaha shared.
Kimberly Blaha has worked in healthcare since she was 20. From a certified nursing assistant in a nursing home to currently a medical coder at Vernon Memorial Healthcare in Viroqua. She has been at Vernon Memorial for seven years, the last six of those as a medical coder. In addition to working full time for Vernon Memorial from home, this year has had some new challenges, as in addition, she is also a teacher.
“Beau has spent the last 19 years at S&S Cycle, and is very active in coaching North Crawford's middle school football and summer rec baseball,” Blaha explained. “He is well known in the community for all the time he has put in over the years with many groups of kids.”
Blaha described what moved her to run for a seat on the North Crawford School Board.
“I decided to run this year because I want to be a voice for parents and students. I believe all parents play such an important role in our community, for their children, and should have a say their child's education,” Blaha explained. “Parents deserve to be heard. As a parent, I feel like I am often not heard by employees of the school, or by members of the board. I would like to change that. I would like to see parents sitting in on board meetings, and knowing that they are being heard. Parents put their trust in North Crawford to educate their children. I would like to see that continue and expand.”
Blaha said that every child deserves the best learning experience. She wants to make a difference to the school, to the students who go to school, and to those who work at school.
“I love our community and have always been proud to be a part of North Crawford, and I would love to be there to ensure that continues for generations to come,” Blaha said.
Blaha said that in board meeting minutes, months back, she saw that North Crawford enrollment numbers had dropped.“I think that has to be an issue that is tackled. Enrollment numbers were already low. We barely have enough kids to make certain sports teams,” Blaha explained. “When I saw the numbers from last year to this year, and how many didn't enroll in North Crawford, I knew that enrollment was, and is going to continue to be an issue if we don't make a change. I'm ready to be a part of changes and great things happening at North Crawford.”