Five seek three seats on Lindbergh school board

Last of two parts

By MIKE ANTHONY

Five candidates are seeking three seats on the Lindbergh Board of Education in the April 8 election.

Don Bee, incumbent board member Bob Foerstel, Kathleen O. Kienstra, Bill Klostermann and incumbent board President Mark Rudoff are seeking election.

Incumbent board Secretary Katie Wesselschmidt is not seeking re-election after serving three three-year terms.

This article will focus on Kienstra and Rudoff. Bee and Foerstel were featured last week while Klostermann, 10733 Kay Berrie Drive, 63123, did not respond to a Call questionnaire.

Asked to identify the most important issue in the race, the two candidates responded:

• “The most important issue is to assist in the smooth transition of its new superintendent, Jim Simpson. This will help Dr. Simpson be an effective superintendent very quickly,” Kienstra said.

• “The single most important issue facing the Lindbergh School District is meeting the largely unfunded mandates of No Child Left Behind and AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) given the monetary constraints of operating a school district with the lowest operating tax levy in St. Louis County.

“Lindbergh was one of only a handful of schools to earn accreditation with distinction from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for a seventh consecutive year. To continue this mandated improvement will require an even greater commitment of community re-sources in an environment where the state and federal governments are underfunding these initiatives,” Rudoff said.

Kienstra, 50, 7365 Navarre Circle, Grantwood Village, is an assistant professor and director of the Radiation Therapy Program at St. Louis University, Doisy College of Health Sciences. She and her husband, Mark, have three children — one who attends college and two who attend Lindbergh High School.

Kienstra, who has not held elective office, said she is seeking election because “I have always been impressed with the integrity and fiscal responsibility of the Lindbergh district, which is due to the intelligence, dedication and hard work of the district administration and current Board of Education members. As my children move on to higher education, I would like the opportunity to serve the district in a beneficial way, applying my knowledge of higher education and adding my experience with the Lindbergh School District.

“I would like to keep students and their education as my priority, keep the teachers and support staff strong, maintain the strong financial position of the district and keep parents, students and teachers united. My goal is to help the district prepare students for their future, helping them become successful lifelong learners and good citizens. It would be an honor to serve as LSD Board of Education member, bringing my own unique professional experience in education to the LSD Board of Education.”

Rudoff, 53, 12838 Tammy Kay Drive, 63128, is associate vice president, Western Trial Division Field Operations, for the Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. He is married to Melinda and has two grown children.

Rudoff, who has served on the Board of Education since 1999, said he is seeking re-election because “it is my desire to continue my service to the Lindbergh community by seeking a final term on the Board of Education. I hope to continue the outstanding work of the board, afford continuity for the new superintendent, and, working with the administration, continue to deliver the district’s performance with distinction.”

The candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:

Superintendent Jim Sandfort is planning to retire at the end of the school year and Jim Simpson has been named the new superintendent. What should be done to ensure a smooth transition?

Kienstra said, “A very important aspect of a smooth transition is the availability of Dr. Sandfort to mentor Dr. Simpson in his move to this position. Dr. Sandfort could also appoint a transition team, consisting of several BOE members and key district administration, to help Dr. Simpson become aware of the district’s issues, policies and procedures. The goal of the team would be to have a transition plan in place to allow for an organized and efficient transfer of information.”

Rudoff said, “Much of the groundwork for the transition has already been laid and executed. A reception and introduction of the key administrative leaders, the press and the teachers’ union was held on Saturday, Feb. 23, followed by a public reception on Feb. 24 where Dr. Simpson was introduced to the Lindbergh community.

“Affording more opportunity for Dr. Simpson to interact with Dr. Sandfort and the present members of the board in advance of his first day on the job — July 1 — will be critical to allow Dr. Simpson to ‘hit the ground running’ when his contract begins. As referenced in the preceding question, I believe that continuity of board membership is critical for Dr. Simpson’s transition.”

Should an Operations Services Center — district warehouse — be constructed on the Lindbergh High School campus?

Kienstra said, “Other location options should be evaluated, and the building should be compatible with its surrounding neighborhood. The district needs this building to be a good neighbor, just as we expect residents and businesses to be good neighbors to the district schools.”

Rudoff said, “Yes. First — I believe that an operations services center is needed not only to centralize inventory and processing of district materials, but also for the primary intended purpose of reclaiming space otherwise usable for instruction. Secondly — the board has considered other options, both on and off the Lindbergh High School campus, and has concluded that the best option lies in one of the two sites on the high-school campus.”

How much of a fund balance should the school district keep in reserves each year?

Kienstra said, “The financial rating agency has recognized Lindbergh’s long history of financial responsibility by awarding LSD an Aa2 rating. In order to keep this terrific rating, the reserve fund balance maintained by Lindbergh will change each year. Major components of the reserve fund are: Cash flow reserve needs — this is necessary to avoid borrowing to fund cash flow; the restricted fund reserve — which is a necessary resource to purchase properties as they are available, such as the three homes near Sappington school; the emergency fund — to cover significant, unforeseen emergency repairs; and whatever additional cash reserve is necessary to maintain the district’s Aa2 financial rating.”

Rudoff said, “The district currently maintains roughly 18 percent of its operating balance — less than three months’ operating expenses — in reserves. I advocate maintaining these levels — at a minimum — and am hard-pressed to advocate any reduction in this level. Four reasons for this position: The reserves can be used to generate investment income for the district — in past years when the interest rates were favorable, over $1,000,000 has been generated in interest income, thereby relieving the taxpayers of the rough equivalent burden of an additional 10 cents to the tax rate; the district can operate without the necessity of borrowing money to meet its current operating expenses without having to divert money intended for the classroom to the bank for interest payments as the consequence of a low operating reserve fund; the current reserve level allows Lindbergh to enjoy the highest bond rating afforded by Moody’s, thereby keeping its bond — repayment — rates low, resulting in lower cost to the district constituents; and maintaining a balance at this level allows the district to respond to catastrophic, unexpected expenses.”

If cuts are needed to balance the budget, what would you propose?

Kienstra said, “Non-essential needs should be prioritized.”

Rudoff said, “I would first look to the administration for their proposal to address the shortfall and not advance an agenda on my own. Should cuts need to be made, I would look to make these cuts in the areas that have the least impact on classroom instruction.”

If additional revenue is needed for the operation of the school district, what would you propose as a Board of Education member to obtain that revenue?

Kienstra said, “I will actively support the district working with Missouri legislators to revise the state school funding formula, which currently diverts much of our tax money away from Lindbergh and other suburban districts.”

Rudoff said, “Additional revenue is not projected for the next two years. As the district has not received an operational increase during my nine years on the board, consideration would be given to an increase when the need arises.”