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Six River Falls candidates running for school board – RiverTowns


READ MORE: Q&A with the 2 River Falls mayoral candidates

The Star-Observer asked each candidate the following questions:

  1. What makes you qualified to serve on the school board?
  2. What will be your top priority if you are elected and why?
  3. What is another big challenge facing River Falls School District and how would you address it?
  4. What life experiences will you bring to the table?
  5. What sets you apart from your opponents?

Bob Casey

Bob Casey

Bob Casey

Age: 55

Address: 1830 Kimberly Cir. River Falls, WI 54022 (district resident for 27 years)

Occupation: Vice President of Operations, Aladtec, Inc.

Education: Master of Business from UW-River Falls Bachelor of Science – Economics and Business UW-River Falls

Family: Married to Dena (Nelson) Casey 34 years; daughters Kate 31, Megan 27, Mary 19

Civic engagement: River Falls Lions Club-member, board member, President

St. Bridget Church – Council chairs and Trustee Knights of Columbus council 4902 – Chancellor UWRF Foundation Board – Treasurer, Board Chair River Falls School District – Strategic Planning Committee Forward Foundation organizational committee River Falls Chamber- board member UWRF Chancellor’s advisory board UWRF College of Business – various search and screen committees

1. What makes you qualified to serve on the school board?

My 3 daughters are products of the River Falls School District so I know what an asset the school district is to our community. My 27 years of public service in River Falls has given me many perspectives and contact with numerous district stakeholders. During my over 30 years of financial and employee management experience, I have learned to listen, ask questions, give feedback and make decisions in the best interest of stakeholders.

2. What will be your top priority if you are elected and why?

The district is in the 5th and final year of its strategic plan. It is important that we use the information gathered from the recent community survey, input from planning meeting participants along with information from other sources to draft a plan. This plan will help us allocate resources to achieve our mission.

3. What is another big challenge facing River Falls School District and how would you address it?

Improving and maintaining the safety of our schools for students and staff. We need to constantly review policies, procedures and access threats and make changes if needed to ensure our schools are safe.

4. What life experiences will you bring to the table?

My education has played a critical role in the person I am today. I come from a family that has 4 generations of teachers. My wife, daughters and most of my siblings have gone on to further their education. I know the value of K-12 education and the role it plays in preparing students for the next steps in their life.

5. What sets you apart from your opponents?

I have been very active in the community and the district. That has taught me much about myself and others that will help guide my decisions. I am the proud parent of three daughters that have benefited from a River Falls School District education and I want to ensure others enjoy the same benefit. I am an active participant in every organization I worked for and with. I’m not one to sit. I respectfully engage others in an effort to understand the “why” behind issues and gather feedback before making a decision.

Stacy Johnson-Myers (i)

Stacy Johnson-Myers

Stacy Johnson-Myers

Age: 54

Address: 430 Jefferson Street, River Falls

Occupation: Minister

Education: BA, Macalester College, MN; Ph.D., Northwestern University, IL

Family: husband Chris Myers; three children

Civic engagement: Current member of the school board; Active member of First Congregational Church

1. What makes you qualified to serve on the school board?

I bring to the school board:

  • Experience. I have effectively served the school board for three terms.

  • Common sense. I bring common sense leadership based in the community’s values.

  • Fiscal responsibility. I am committed to responsible financial decisions for the district.

  • Education. I hold a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. I am familiar with a wide variety of education issues and remain a lifelong learner.

  • Hard work. I am a hard worker eager to collaborate and hold myself and others accountable for decisions.

  • Support. I am a strong supporter of the district. I authentically care about every student and adult in the district and advocate for their best interests.

2. What will be your top priority if you are elected and why?

My top priority has always been and will always be doing what is best for students. This commitment belongs at the heart of our school district and the school board’s work. While upholding this commitment is multi-faceted, the most important component is making sure to have the best, most-dedicated, diligently-supported teachers and staff working with students. Teachers and staff bring district goals and priorities to life. Without their work the district cannot achieve its mission: the education and support of all students. If elected to the school board, I commit to using the measure of “what is best for kids” for every decision I make.

3. What is another big challenge facing River Falls School District and how would you address it?

In order to effectively educate students, they need to be ready and able to learn. Increasingly the River Falls district is faced with issues that historically have not been at the center of a school district’s mission, including: social and emotional needs of students, safety and security, ever-changing technology, family challenges, achievement and opportunity gaps, and unprecedented demands on teachers and staff. If elected to the board I will listen to teachers, staff and families regarding their needs and ideas, support efforts around equity and inclusion, advocate for additional social and emotional support, seek an increased commitment to outdoor education for all students, and be a careful financial steward to stretch resources to their fullest.

4. What life experiences will you bring to the table?

Education in a variety of forms is at the center of my life. I attended public schools and my husband and chose public education for our children. Professionally I write curricula and work with learners of all ages. I will bring my passion and commitment to teaching and learning to school board service. I enjoy working with other people, collaborating on ideas, imagining what could be and determining how to achieve goals. While not a River Falls native, I was welcomed to the community and am eager to continue serving it.

5. What sets you apart from your opponents?

I bring a deep commitment and history of service to the role of school board member. I have developed relationships of trust and support inside and outside the district. My education provides a strong background for navigating issues facing the school board. I work carefully to discern and articulate the community’s values related to education and bring them to the school board’s work. I have experience as a careful steward of taxpayer dollars, ensuring that district resources are used to their fullest extent to support students. I am familiar with the complicated and interconnected issues facing the district and am dedicated to creative, collaborative decision-making that seeks the very best opportunities for all students.

Thong T. Moua

Thong T. Moua

Thong T. Moua

Age: 44

Address: 544 Kreuziger Road, Kinnickinnic Township

Occupation: Sr. Business Systems Analyst, Vice President – U.S. Bank

Education:

  • Eau Claire North High School – Class of 1998

  • University of Notre Dame – Mechanical Engineering, Class of 1998

  • University of Minnesota Twin Cities – Graduate coursework in Educational Policy & Administration (1998-2006)

  • University of St. Thomas – MBA, Class of 2011

Family: Married with 5 children, all enrolled in the River Falls School District – Jacob’s Ladder, Greenwood Elementary, Meyer Middle, and River Falls High Schools

Civic engagement: Boy Scouts of America – Venture Crew 6 Advisor / Associate Advisor (2002 – Present)

1. What makes you qualified to serve on the school board?

Here are the two biggest reasons I am qualified to serve on the School Board. First, with five children enrolled in the District, I’ll have the community and District’s best interests in mind as a School Board member.

Second, my census profile checks many boxes, the diverse experiences will help the District become better. My family arrived in the United States in 1980 as refugees of the Vietnam War; I was 4 years old. I was a poor child with no parental guidance yet defied the odds to be who I am today. I understand education, because for 31 years, I’ve been immersed at all levels, from the poorest schools to the wealthiest schools.

2. What will be your top priority if you are elected and why?

My top priority is to advocate for the District’s initiatives which are social and emotional support for students and staff, diversity, academic achievement, student and staff retention, and fiscal responsibility.

If we can meet the needs of students and staff, then there’s a high probability we can retain the students and staff and help them grow as students or professionals. If we can communicate to the community the District’s financial needs and carry out fiscal responsibilities with prudence and transparency, then it’s likely the community will continue to support the District financially.

3. What is another big challenge facing River Falls School District and how would you address it?

A concern I have is complacency. The District does well on character education, does well on the State’s District Report Card with an “Exceeding Expectations” score, and does well with finances as evident by the new facilities and school roof replacement costs. Patting ourselves on the back is warranted, but let’s not lose sight that education requires continuous improvement.

The solution is a focus on continuous improvement, looking for ways to continue doing well in strength areas and improving areas the District can never be content with. Character education doesn’t end when students reach a certain grade. School safety is a 24/7 community effort. Exceeding Expectations is not good enough. Let’s shoot for the next category “Significantly Exceeds Expectations”.

4. What life experiences will you bring to the table?

I am a refugee (Vietnam War)

I am a welfare recipient (grew up poor – remember food stamps?)

I am a 12 years old paper boy (Leader Telegram)

I am a 14 years old dishwasher (Chicken Hut)

I am a Husky (Eau Claire North Class of 1994)

I am a Fighting Irish (Notre Dame Class of 1998)

I am a Tommie (St. Thomas MBA Class of 2011)

I am a McNair Scholar (TRiO Programs)

I am a marathoner (Chicago & Twin Cities)

I am a mountain biker (Moab – Mag7 & TWE)

I am a backpacker (Philmont Scout Ranch, Isle Royale, Four Pass Loop)

I am a Mt. Kilimanjaro summiteer

I am a middle class working professional

I am a District parent

5. What sets you apart from your opponents?

My qualifications, priorities, and life experiences set me apart from my opponents. I’m not running for the Board with an agenda. I’m not running for the Board to oust an incumbent. I’m running for the Board because I care about education, for my children, your children, and the professionals that make the District go.

I’m a huge college football fan. Notre Dame always has commercials that ask, “What Would You Fight For?”. Fighting to nurture and support each child as they progress through a social, emotional, and educational maturity continuum towards independence as an accountable adult contributor of society / Fighting to nurture and support each staff as they progress through a social, emotional, and educational maturity continuum towards independence as an accountable educator.

Todd Schultz

Todd Schultz

Todd Schultz

Age: 37

Address: N8186 940th Street, River Falls, WI 54022

Occupation: Community Banker (River Falls State Bank)

Education: RFHS – Class of 2000; UWRF – Class of 2004; Graduate School of Banking – Class of 2012

Family: wife Kensey, and two daughters (6 & 2)

Civic engagement: City of River Falls Plan Commission – 2006-2016; Free Clinic of Pierce & St. Croix Counties (Treasurer) – 2010-2017; River Falls Lions Club Board – 2016-Present; River Falls School District Board of Education – Sept. 2019-Present; Our Neighbors Place Backpack Program Delivery

1. What makes you qualified to serve on the school board?

The main reasons I’m qualified to serve as a board member are willingness to learn and collaborate with others. I have a history of being someone who can be relied on as a positive contributor to any team and feel I bring the same attitude to my role as a board member. I also have a background in banking/finance which lends itself to a good understanding of fiscal responsibility. Additional qualities would include critical thinking, a variety of service on other boards, and a general passion for maintaining a high quality of life in River Falls.

2. What will be your top priority if you are elected and why?

I’m not sure we’re in a position as a district where there is one “top priority” to focus on. In general, my top priority would be ensuring we provide the best educational experience possible for all students in the district, as that is the core reason the district exists.

3. What is another big challenge facing River Falls School District and how would you address it?

The biggest challenge I see for the district right now is how to appropriately address the growing mental health issues in our community (and beyond). The students, teachers, staff, administrators and community are all faced with the reality of the current situation. There is no quick fix for this type of issue, and it likely needs to be addressed in multiple ways. One of the main things we can do to address it is be aware and open to honest discussions about the reality of what people are dealing with. In my experience, this issue has been at the forefront for many of the decisions the board has made recently, and will be considering in the near future.

4. What life experiences will you bring to the table?

I am a lifelong resident of River Falls, so I have attended many of the schools in the district as a student. My experience on a variety of boards – both government-related and civic/non-profit related – provide a good background for decision-making and how to be an effective member of a board. In addition, 15 years as a community banker in town lends itself to a good understanding of fiscal responsibility.

5. What sets you apart from your opponents?

I feel I can represent a demographic on the board that isn’t otherwise captured. My children are just entering the school district, and I’m at a different stage of life than many of the other board members and candidates. When you combine that with my history of civic engagement, and my work experience at a community business, I feel I’m uniquely qualified to serve on the school board.

Maren Valentine

Maren Valentine

Maren Valentine

Age: 41

Address: 363 Old Cemetery Road, River Falls

Occupation: Business Owner, Oso Clean

Education: M.A. Liberal Studies, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee; B.A. Women and Gender Studies, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities

Family: Spouse, Brad; Sons Johan (14), Larsen (13), Owen (10)

Civic engagement: Leadership River Falls Class of 2019, Fitness Trail in DeSanctis Park; Numerous Volunteer Hours with River Falls Public Schools; Numerous Volunteer Hours with River Falls Chamber of Commerce; Member, Hope for Creation Policy Committee; Steward, Adopt A Pond in Whitetail Ridge Corporate Park

1. What makes you qualified to serve on the school board?

One of my passions is to listen to multiple perspectives and to integrate those viewpoints into a broader understanding of my community and of the larger world. My mind is very open to new ideas and I sincerely believe in the importance of being fair. I have confidence in my strengths – which include adaptability, to be strategic, a love of learning, and to see the bigger picture – but I also understand that I do not and can not not have all of the answers. My personal values strongly resonate with the River Falls School District’s mission statement, and I do my best to support innovation and self empowerment in a safe and respectful environment at my home, in my business, and in the community.

2. What will be your top priority if you are elected and why?

This year, the district will put forth a new strategic plan from now until 2025. I hope that as many people as possible give voice to this process so that, as a community, our diverse and collective interests are addressed. Our district has the opportunity to lay out a plan that continues to embrace its current priorities – social and emotional support, increasing connectedness, and addressing achievement gaps – while also integrating pressing issues such as mental health, safety, and the balanced use of technology – particularly with the introduction of social media. Helping to positively shape the next strategic plan to address our concerted goals and challenges, as determined by our community, is a very exciting and humbling opportunity for the school board members.

3. What is another big challenge facing River Falls School District and how would you address it?

We are living in an incredible moment of time where we are connected globally by phones and electronic devices. All of this technology is moving at hyper speed – much faster than we have time to process. It is imperative to step back and digest what this screen-delivered unprecedented connectivity is doing to our minds, bodies, and familial/social relations. There is a place for technology. I want to work to find a way to integrate tech so that it compliments, not complicates, our lives. Positive innovation and advances continue to happen. I will also pay strong attention to the real threats of increased depression, misinformation, social isolation and electronic dependency that may arise with misuse of tech and social media.

4. What life experiences will you bring to the table?

Growing up in the Twin Cities granted me awareness of multiculturalism, shared history, economic disparity, and the importance of being a good person. My liberal post secondary education has been balanced significantly by my private sector work experience. For 15 years I have worked in or alongside the construction/architectural paint industry, including 10 years of corporate experience. Building my own successful company from the ground up has reinforced my senses of respect and appreciation for everyone that I encounter. I understand that just because things seem simple does not mean that they are easy and that deliberate hard work is important. I also understand that it is vital to balance holistic vision with smart goals and action in order to achieve the best results.

5. What sets you apart from your opponents?

My three sons attend River Falls Schools – one in elementary, one in middle, and one in high school. This gives me a sense of what is happening at each scholastic level of the district. I am a small business owner that is invested in River Falls. My participation in the Chamber of Commerce, the SBDC via UWRF, and multiple community organizations sets me apart as a leader of local economic empowerment. I want what is best for the community as well as what is best for the schools – keeping in mind issues of equality, social justice, and environmental stewardship. I ask, and thank you, for your vote on April 7.

Patsy Werwie

Patsy Werwie

Patsy Werwie

Age: 39

Address: 92 Sunwood Valley Ln, River Falls

Occupation: Stay at home parent and seasonal lift buddy at Afton Alps.

Education: I studied art history at UIUC and UW Madison.

Family: Henry, 9, Clark, 9, George, 9, Molly, 5, and last but not least, Dave.

Civic engagement: I helped start the local chapter of Mom’s Demand Action, which advocates for common sense gun violence reduction measures while respecting the 2nd amendment. I have been on the site council and PTO at River Falls Public Montessori Elementary for the past two school years, and a part of the Heartland Montessori community for the past 7 years.

1. What makes you qualified to serve on the school board?

I have the passion to make a positive difference in the educational experiences of our youth and the important jobs of many in our community in supporting those experiences. I have many questions and concerns about all aspects of the RFSD, and spend considerable time listening to parents and teachers about issues they and their students are facing. I would be honored to translate that desire for honest input into positive outcomes for our students, family, and staff.

2. What will be your top priority if you are elected and why?

My priorities are evaluating teacher compensation across the board to make sure we’re competitive and valuing our educators fairly, adequate staffing and supports, special education, safety, and setting our students up for long term success in their lives.

3. What is another big challenge facing River Falls School District and how would you address it?

I think we have a challenge in our culture on the busses. I want the drivers to be free to drive safely, and the kids to neither be bullied nor become bullies on the bus rides to and from school. I hear from parents that they feel they have no choice but to drive their kids to keep them safe and I think our district can come up with more positive solutions that support our students and staff.

4. What life experiences will you bring to the table?

I grew up in a much more diverse and urban environment in Evanston, IL, which trained me to constantly consider marginalized communities and how we can make experiences more equitable and effect positive change.

5. What sets you apart from your opponents?

I have a lot of skin in the game, which means I have a vested interest in making our district even better than it is, not just for my kids but for all their peers. I’m new to this community and I specifically moved here for the schools, which means I have confidence in RFSD, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be critical about how to make it even better. I would love to hear more about others’ experiences in our district; I can’t know about an aspect or issue until I hear about it or experience it for myself



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