Primary set for Feb. 20
By Holly Neumann
On the Feb. 20 primary ballot for the Iola-Scandinavia School Board will be incumbent Kristen Hoyord, Diana Jones and Mike Harbridge.
They are seeking to represent the village of Iola.
Hoyord believes her passion for not only the school district but also the community makes her the best person for the job.
“I love this school district and the Iola-Scandinavia community,” she said. “I am a hard-working individual with goals for my family, my career and for this district.”
She currently serves as the board president.
“In my six years on the board, I have learned a lot about how the education system functions, including budgets, curriculum, regulations and policies, and law. I continue to learn each day,” she said. “With frequent changes at the state level, we are constantly adapting. My experience and background prove beneficial.”
Hoyord has attended workshops and conventions to help her understand the increased responsibilities placed on staff as a result of recent changes.
“This has provided me with the knowledge necessary to help craft district policies and strategies,” she said. “School board members that have studied and served in the last decade are best able to understand the challenges our staff are faced with and how we can equip them to overcome these hurdles.”
Hoyord said she has the district’s best interest in mind, even if that means making tough decisions.
Her goals include completing the strategic plan, writing a mission and vision statement the district and community can relate to, continuing to offer opportunities for all students and starting discussion on agriculture course offerings.
“We need to update our policy book, develop a comprehensive facilities plan and establish a use for the lot by the high school,” she said. “It is important to continue to grow working relationships between the school board, administration and staff. When we all work together, great things happen for our children.”
She wants to assist in creating a comprehensive facilities plan to improve the physical and technology infrastructure for the students.
“One thing that I love about the Iola-Scandinavia School District is the never-ending desire and dedication to place us above the rest,” Hoyord said. “Our teachers are continually learning and bringing new practices and techniques in front of our children, each better than the last. I love that we don’t settle, we are always striving to make things better. There are always changes that can be made, and we learn as we go and implement when and where necessary.”
Hoyord and her husband Jay, both graduates of Iola-Scandinavia, have lived in Iola for the past 13 years. They have three children. She works as a registered nurse.
Jones believes that as the president and owner of JP Media, her experience of running a business is the biggest asset she would bring to the board.
“My skills range from analyzing and understanding financials, to handling human resources, to finding cost-effective means of accomplishing what needs to be done so as to be the best we can be,” she said. “It is important to look at all facets of an item or issue, such as analyzing the financial impact, the effect a decision will have on students and staff and other relevant factors.”
She believes a lack of communication and trust with the community is the biggest issue facing the district.
“I strongly believe this can be rebuilt, and I believe that I have the skills to help bring this about,” she said. “As one person, I will be transparent on issues when I am able to speak openly, without violating confidentiality. As a collective board, I think it is important that decisions that affect parents, students, staff and the community are shared to the best of the district’s ability. The more open we are, the more the entire community can benefit from mutual goals.”
Her goals for the district are to see the district get the best bang for the buck when it comes to bids on referendum projects; to help facilitate communication between the district and the community; and to work together with the board and administration for the good of the district on all items that come up for discussion and vote.
“I believe the strength of a school lies in the ability to make decisions that take into consideration all facets of the district’s needs, ranging from the needs of the students, to the staff, to the buildings and grounds and community,” said Jones. “Education and extracurricular activities offer valuable lessons for students, and I believe it is important to keep these programs balanced and strong.”
She wants to see the security items come together a little faster and see more discussion on what is best for the students at the middle and high schools.
“Currently the middle school and high school students are required to wait in the commons before school starts,” she said. “I’d love to see what the problem is that this strategy solved and see if there are other options that would be a good fit and meet all of the criteria as a solution. I understand that this was the best choice when the decision was originally made, but now that cameras are in place and the district is working towards installing other security measures, I think it is important to re-evaluate to see if this is still the best solution.”
Jones has lived in the Iola area for the past 10 years and is raising seven children.
“There are two other great candidates for this position, and both happen to be friends I really respect,” said Harbridge. “We all want what’s best for our district and our hearts are in the right place. But I think I bring a new perspective, a fresh pair of eyes that will look at things and ask questions.”
He believes his business knowledge and board experience are strong assets.
“I’m trustworthy, respectful and get along with people, even if they have differing opinions,” he said. “I try to look at all sides of a matter and am not afraid of work or making tough decisions.”
Harbridge believes his experience in every aspect of running a business is the biggest asset he will bring to the board.
“I think that’s very beneficial, because the board is making decisions of how tax dollars are used,” he said. “Board members need to think like a business owner and understand budgets, payroll, planning for future improvements and working to attract the highest quality staff.”
He said he has no hidden agendas and will do his best to bring the community together and move it forward in a positive direction.
Running for the school board is something he has considered for years.
“I’ve been saddened recently by the division in our community over changes and recent events,” he said. “We have so many positive things to be proud of. So many wonderful, dedicated teachers and staff, a new district administrator and students who need to see a united community. We need qualified teachers and coaches wanting to work in our district as we have staff retiring. I think I have a lot of experience and knowledge to help move the board and district forward.”
He believes the school board needs to be smart in the ways it spends district money, while finding ways to keep teachers inspired.
“I have concerns about funding and government changes in education, and the long-term effects it will have,” he said. “Many teachers have become disheartened and frustrated with all the various testing, and I’ve heard many say they don’t feel like they have time to teach. Many have opted to get out early by retiring.”
Harbridge is the educational arts manager for Royal and Langnickel Art, based in Munster, Indiana. He works from home and also manages a family online pottery-related business and teaches workshops in his home studio.
“I’d like to see our district the envy of every other school district because we have a happy staff, students that excel, motivated athletes and coaches and a community that’s proud of everything we offer,” Harbridge said.
He and his wife Jeannine have lived in Iola for over 15 years and have two daughters.