Three seek two School Board positions

Two positions on the Clear Lake School Board will be decided in the Tuesday, Nov. 2, General Election.  

Incumbent Chyrl Bergvig is seeking a third term on the Board.  Tony Brownlee is running for a second term and Greg Southgate is running for the first time.

The candidates reponded to a series of questions provided to them by the Mirror-Reporter.

Each candidate for Clear Lake School Board was given the following questions:

1) Please provide a a briefly worded personal and professional profile.

2) Quality teaching is the heart of improved learning. What policies or supports would you like to see enacted that could help teachers help all students learn at high levels?

3) Many good causes compete for limited funds.  Regarding school finance, what would be your main priorities to receive adequate or additional funding?

4) There are several “hot button” issues which school boards across the state and country have been facing in the past year, such as bullying, curriculum content, diversity, mask wearing, etc.  Would you like to explain your position on any of these issues?

5) Other comments:

Chyrl Bergvig

Chyrl Bergvig

1.)  I graduated from Fort Dodge High, then attended Iowa Central Community College receiving an AA degree.  I continued my education attending Parsons College majoring in physical education. After graduation I was a study hall supervisor at Lincoln Central High School in Council Bluffs, then I was employed by the Winnebago Public School in Nebraska as physical education and health teacher for 6-12 grades.  After a year I returned to Fort Dodge to attend ISU for a Master’s Degree in school counseling.  While receiving my Master’s, I was employed by Fort Dodge Lab.  After receiving my Master’s I was employed by the Graettinger School District as school counselor K-12, P.E. teacher and coaching duties.  After seven years I moved to Hawarden, Iowa working at West Sioux schools as H.S. Counselor and coach where I stayed for eight years before coming to Clear Lake to serve. as high school counselor and coach. I spent 17 years in the district as counselor and assistant principal after completing my administration certification from ISU. I retired from the Clear Lake district in 2009.  Currently I am on the Clear Lake School Board serving my second term.

2.) I feel appropriate training and in-services need to enhance teacher education.  I feel all staff will be involved in the team-teaching model.  All students will benefit; one teacher can give extra help and another can enhance learning in that subject area. Educators need to have access to new and improved hands-on teaching tools. STEM (science, technology, English, and math) is a must for all students to be successful.  As far as staffing, hiring of interventionists which will be paid by the ESSER Funds. These teachers will be assigned a grade to assist with remediation for students.

Each school district needs to have consistency for students and staff.  I feel my priorities for policies are as follows:  Finance, Curriculum, Professional Development, and Technology.  It is a requirement to update all policies in a timely manner if so, I see higher levels of learning will take place for ALL students.

3.) School finance is a number of different categories.  I feel the general fund is a priority.  This is the fund we pay our daily bills.  As a board member, I feel this will be one of my responsibilities to look at the bills each month and question the amount or what the bill is covering.  Overspending the general fund is like writing a check with no money in the account.  Spending authority is another area of school finance, the school district does not have the cash on hand but this account always has the amount of money the district can spend.  The Physical Plant and Equipment Levy fund is a priority to me because it pays for repairs to the facilities, equipment, and some computer information systems, to name the major areas.  I find with adequate funds, working on the Board is less stressful.  I came from school districts that had to cut staff, programs and activities and that puts a strain on all parties involved. The Clear Lake district is in a great position with funding but the Board needs to continue monitoring every area of spending.

4.) I feel bullying is very important for a school district to address using policies, handbooks, and presentations yearly for students, staff and parents.  Bullying should never be overlooked or tolerated.

As for curriculum, it must be aligned K-12.  All staff needs to work toward that goal using professional development.  The Board of Education is responsible to provide the time and materials to help each academic area to reach the curriculum goals establisheded by the staff.

    I know masks or no masks are a hot button in schools.  To be honest, I feel masks should be an individual and family’s choice.  Whichever they choose, no one should be criticized for their decision. As a school we need to continue to monitor the cases in our district, if need be, the Board can change their policy at any time.

I also feel the shortage of substitute teachers, bus drivers, para-educators and some teaching positions will force schools to develop new ways to recruit.  This might include hiring bonuses, increased pay, give the candidate all years of experience. I see districts will have to look outside the box.

5.) In conclusion I have enjoyed and learned a lot about what the School Board’s duties are to keep a school, educational experiences and finances running. I have served the district for two terms as a Board member.  There are a number of areas I would like to see through completion. Another term I will be able to see them completed. One major project is the Wellness Center and Atrium area as far as facilities.  Secondly, the professional development focusing on the K-12 math curriculum as well as the PLC instruction.  I want to thank the community for the opportunity to serve on the school board and the district. Serving as a Board member has been a much different learning experience than what I was involved in as Counselor and Administrator for 35 years with 17 years in Clear Lake.  I would like to have the opportunity to serve the school system and community for one more term.  Thank you for allowing me to serve the Clear Lake District and community.

Tony Brownlee

1.) My name is Tony Brownlee.  I was elected to serve on the Clear Lake School Board in 2017 and am seeking re-election.  My wife Amy and I live in Clear Lake and have two children: Reese, a freshman at Clear Lake High School, and Isaac, a seventh grader at Clear Lake Middle School.  Professionally, I am the President of Kingland Systems, a global software company headquartered in Clear Lake.  In our community, I serve as a volunteer coach for the Clear Lake track and field teams, serve as the president of the Clear Lake Wellness Center Board, and I’m a member of Zion Lutheran Church.  I also serve on advisory boards for Iowa State University where I gain a broad appreciation of educational issues and trends.  I truly enjoy my work helping our Clear Lake schools improve, attending as many school and community activities as we can, and the quality of life we have here in Iowa.  

2.) I am proud of the hard work of our teachers and administrators who ensure a high level learning for all of our Clear Lake students.  Our work is never done though, and I have been impressed how our team at Clear Lake digs in and comes up with new learning techniques, invests in training, and improves our classroom experience for our students.  As a board, it is critical that we support these efforts while also establishing strategic goals for the district, putting education at the forefront of those goals.  I would like to see continued support for special education as well as continued funding for classroom coaches and teachers to help kids get the extra help they need.  I also support new programs that prepare our students for the workforce as well as funding for programs that provide additional challenge for those students preparing for college.    

3.) As a school board, we review the financial condition and outlook of the district at every board meeting.  I believe consistent financial oversight is a critical practice that provides us the ability to use our funds in a balanced way that can help so many different programs.  In the past four years, I have supported new programs across many disciplines from agriculture/FFA, to apprenticeships, to technology.  We have hired new teachers, given our teachers strong increases, and invested in classroom and school technology.  We have also invested strongly in our facilities, building the preschool, remodeling key areas in our elementary, middle school, and high school, modernizing our athletic complexes, and creating an innovative partnership for our new Wellness Center.  As I look to the future, I think our facilities are in good shape, and we should focus our funding on our teachers, upgrading our curriculum, and continuing to invest in technologies that will improve the learning environment for our students.

4.) If we have learned anything in the last few years, we have learned that there are always new issues, concerns, and ideas to consider.  Things change quickly and regularly.  I am not going to take a position on any particular issue in this response, as all of the issues are multi-faceted.  Rather, I will explain the approach I take.  First, I always listen to those with concerns and try to understand their perspective.  I research extensively to understand what other districts may be doing, not just in Iowa, but around the country.  More than anything, I look to our administrators and teachers for their guidance.  They walk the halls, work with the students, and see the real situations in our schools that most of us do not see.  As issues arise and the board makes decisions, I take all of this input into consideration and try to put our teachers and administrators in the best position to help our students learn in a safe, productive manner.  

5.) I truly enjoy serving on the school board.  It is rewarding to foster an environment where young people can prepare for their future.  Watching our students walk across that stage at graduation is one of my favorite days of the year.  Not only does our school serve the students, it also serves our community.  It is my core belief that strong schools are the cornerstone of our Iowa communities.  When families think about where to live, they look first at the local school.  When people consider taking a new job or starting a new business, they pick communities with a strong school.  When people in a community talk about what makes them proud, they almost always reference their local team or young person doing something amazing.  For Clear Lake to thrive, our school must thrive.  Our school is a big part of what makes Clear Lake, Clear Lake.  As a business leader, parent, and proud Clear Lake resident, I would be honored to continue my service to our students, our teachers, and our community on the Clear Lake School Board.   

Greg Southgate

Greg Southgate

1.) I am a resident of Clear Lake, Iowa. My family and I moved here in 2009 and are proud to call this community our home.  Since 2009 I have been employed by Christensen Farms in various roles all involved with pork production.  I currently hold the position of Marketing Manager for the North/Central Iowa region.  I was raised and educated in England and graduated from the Royal Agricultural University with a BSc (Hons) in International Agriculture, Land & Business Management.  Additionally I have served on the Clear Lake Fire Department since 2009 I’m privileged to hold the rank of Lieutenant/EMT-B and love the camaraderie this service brings.

2.) Support is the key word here.  This question needs to be put in front of our teachers and their responses need to be listened to and acted upon by our Board and Superintendent.  The teachers and our para educators are positioned to be the most informed as to what is needed to help all students thrive in our schools.  Our teachers and Principals need to take the lead here - our Superintendent and Board then need to try to move heaven and earth to obtain the resources they need to accomplish this.  Let the Board and Superintendent listen to our teachers, work with them, foster the culture where we are all pulling in the same direction for the same purpose and watch our schools blossom.  Put educators first, morale will improve within our school buildings and our kids will reap the rewards of this.  I guarantee that, if successful, I will want to hear from our educators regularly.  There will be open lines of communication and these will be honest lines of communication – for the positives and the negatives.  Only that way can we hope to influence and foster a positive culture amongst our school district.

3.) We must put quality education first and foremost.  In my opinion, you can have all the shiny new things in the world, like the Wellness Center, but if our quality of education isn’t where it needs to be then we are failing our students and this community.  If we need more teachers so our existing workforce isn’t stretched so thin – then we need to hire more teachers.  If we need to pay our para educators more so they become fully invested and see it as a career then that is what we need to do.  Put this in the hands of our teachers and Principals – they know what they need so let’s fully support them.  We cannot continue to travel down the path of poor communication.  The board needs to be receptive to receiving input from our educators and vice versa.  If we cannot have open and honest communication this district will fail our students.

4.) There is not enough space here for me to answer any of the above topics adequately.  These would be great questions for the forum on the 28th.  Needless to say this past year has been a challenge for everyone.  This has not been helped by the social and political turmoil that has impregnated every aspect of life over the last year, it seems.  My belief is that if you take all the polarizing political aspects out of the listed issues and replace them with down to earth common sense, then a lot of these issues go away.  If people were not so quick to be offended, were able to call a spade a spade when voicing an opinion whilst realizing that not everyone will agree – well then I believe a lot more common ground could be reached.  Some school districts nationwide have pandered to these extremes.  I don’t believe our district should.  We need to focus on providing a quality education to our students. That should be our only agenda.  Let the idiots in  those other parts of the country worry about themselves and their misguided ‘priorities’ while we focus on the Clear Lake students and the Clear Lake community.

5.) I am thoroughly looking forward to the upcoming weeks.  I want to encourage everyone to get out there and vote, even if they are not voting for me.  I am utterly new to this process but I am more than happy to learn the role so, ultimately, I can add value to the school board if successful.  I have my opinions, my concerns and I will speak my mind.  People who know me well in this community can attest to that.  I’m running for this, not solely because I want to vent my opinions, but because I can see great opportunity for this school system.  I’ve said all along that if we can send our educators to work with smiles on their faces every day then the students and district will benefit enormously.  If we listen to our educators, put them first and are receptive to their voices then this whole community will be the real winner. Let’s improve the dialogue within our education system, eradicate all the personal agendas and return Clear Lake to providing highest standard of learning to its students.  

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