Lindbergh, Mehlville voters give nod to district grads

Successful school-board candidates reflect on election victories, priorities

By MIKE ANTHONY

Successful candidates in last week’s school-board elections in Lindbergh and Mehlville are all graduates of their respective school districts.

In the Lindbergh School District, voters elected Kathleen Kienstra, incumbent Mark Rudoff and Don Bee over incumbent Bob Foerstel and Bill Klostermann.

In the Mehlville School District, voters elected Drew Frauenhoffer, Erin Weber and incumbent Karl Frank Jr. over Linda Mooy, Chris Brown, David Bertelsen, Marea Kluth-Hoppe and Deb Langland.

In Lindbergh, Rudoff will serve his fourth and final three-year term while Kienstra and Bee will serve their first terms. Foerstel, who was seeking his second three-year term, finished fourth while Klostermann, who did not actively campaign, finished fifth. Incumbent Katie Wesselschmidt did not seek a fourth term.

“The top four vote-getters are all Lindbergh graduates,” Rudoff told the Call. “What kind of message does that send? To me, it sends a message that there are people that realize the quality and value of the educational experience as afforded by Lindbergh schools, and they are returning to live in the district where they graduated. They believe in the Lindbergh community and they believe in the Lindbergh school system and they want to make sure they’re committed to make sure that this continues. As transient as our society has become with global markets, to me it’s remarkable that you ended up with four Lindbergh graduates that were on the ballot and expressed such a strong commitment to continue to serve Lindbergh schools.”

Rudoff said a motivating factor in his decision to seek a final term was his desire to provide consistency in the transition when Jim Simpson succeeds longtime Superintendent Jim Sandfort, who retires July 1.

“… Frankly, I’m extraordinarily pleased to be re-elected for a fourth term, and I look forward to working with Don and Kathleen as they assume their first term. We have a lot to look forward to in the upcoming years. We have a new CFO (chief financial officer) that we anticipate having to hire because Pat Lanane’s contract expires and he’s indicating he’s probably going to want to retire at the end of the 2008-2009 school year.

“We have the space issues at Sperreng that need to be addressed. The district is experiencing enrollment increases and we need to find additional room to find space not only at Sperreng but within our elementary schools. We need to also look forward to try to move forward that next step for No Child Left Behind and make sure we can sustain our improvement and level of achievement. Those are the major accomplishments and challenges that face us.”

Kienstra, an assistant professor and director of the Radiation Therapy Program at St. Louis University, Doisy College of Health Sciences, told the Call she believes it’s quite an honor to be elected to the school board.

“I am really excited and thrilled and honored to be elected, mainly because the Lindbergh School District Board of Education has always been so upstanding and fiscally responsible and I’m just thrilled to join them,” she said. “They’ve always had a really good direction and a really good working relationship. So with my credentials in higher education, I think I can add a good layer to the board.”

As for priorities, Kienstra said, “First of all, I just need to get myself up to speed on the policies. So the first thing I want to do is just kind of get up to speed on the workings and policies of the school district and the board. The second thing is I think the new superintendent and making sure that he gets mentored and put into his position as easily as possible — just making sure that he’s got the right direction. Of course, already he’s got the talent, but just to make sure that he is comfortable and and is doing what he’d like to do. That’s the main thing — just getting him in place and him up to speed.”

Bee, a retired Lindbergh educator and coach, told the Call he plans to continue the board’s tradition of excellence.

“… It’s quite an honor that I was elected. I’m not going to be going in to do anything any different. I think the board has done an excellent job and it seems like through the years that I have been either a teacher/coach or whatever, the board has done an excellent job. So I’m just there to continue that tradition …,” he said. “I’m obviously new at doing this and I will be soaking up all of the things I can with people like (former administrator and current board Secretary) Vic Lenz and Mark Rudoff. Obviously, I worked with Vic for many years and I had Mark in school and everything else, so their expertise along with the other members of the board will certainly help me out …”

Bee added that because of the great respect he has for Wesselschmidt and her record as a board member, he would not have filed if she planned to seek another term.

In Mehlville, Frank will serve a second three-year term while Frauenhoffer and Weber were elected to their first terms. They will assume the seats previously held by Ken Leach and Cindy Christopher, both of whom did not seek re-election. Frank and Weber are Oakville Senior High School graduates while Frauenhoffer is a Mehlville Senior High School graduate.

Frank told the Call that he believes last week’s election proves Mehlville voters value public education as he characterized Brown, Mooy and Bertelsen as “anti-public-education” candidates who ran on a platform of stating they would never vote to place a tax-rate increase on the ballot.

“Ultimately, I think that this community did what it always does — the community’s independent minded and they made up their minds about what was best for their community by electing independent-minded and highly qualified people with the common goal of public education …,” Frank said. “I think it’s great because there were a lot of sideline pundits that were trying to monopolize the debate over what was best for 11,000 students and ultimately this community did what they think is best for public education, and that means that public education means something to this community by electing what we believe is a new generation of leadership for the Mehlville School District.

“I think it’s great. As it relates to preparing the children of the Mehlville School District for the 21st-century global economy — not only surviving in it — but actually being active participants and shaping that economy, this board really is made up of the closest thing you could possibly get to the sports analogy of a ‘dream team’ for the children of the Mehlville community,” he said.

Frauenhoffer, a human resource consultant and co-owner of IncitePERFORMANCE, said he’s excited about being elected and is ready to get to work.

“I’m really excited now to get a chance to serve on the board and to pay back for all the years that the district in-vested in me,” he said. “People have mentioned to me what a big time commitment this is going to be, but, to me, the investment has already been made in me. So now it’s my turn to pay that back, and hopefully make sure it continues to move in the right direction — not only for my children who are attending school there, but for everybody else.

“… A couple people asked what are my priorities and as I’ve said throughout the campaign process, I don’t really see one single issue because I think there are really multiple things that we need to make sure we keep our eyes on to make sure as we focus on trying to get the best. It’s what are we doing to really develop the students, to enable the teachers and to provide the right learning environment?

“Now that being said, the budget issues — hopefully as an outsider, until I get to be on the inside — I’m hoping what they’re saying is true,” he said, referring to recent projections that the district’s operating-fund balance will fall below the state-required 3-percent minimum in 2010.

“It’s not a crisis. It’s not until 2010 and 2011, that’s where it’s really going to impact it, so we do have time to take an objective, logical approach, not make any sort of rash decisions that could take away from the effectiveness of providing the education that we need to today …

Weber, a research and development lab technician for the Engineered Lubricants Co., agreed with Frank that last week’s election proves the Mehlville community values public education.

“I was thrilled,” she said of her election victory. “It was very close and I know that there was a strong effort on the part of the other three candidates as well. I was just relieved and thrilled at the same time. The school district, in my mind, could have been in jeopardy.”

Among the priorities she cited are wanting to complete the state-required training for members and evaluating the recommendations that soon will be made by the Facilitating Team of the district’s community-engagement program, COMPASS — Charting the Oakville-Mehlville Path to Advance Successful Schools.

Like Frauenhoffer, Weber’s also concerned about the operating-fund balance projections for 2010.

“The budget issue is obviously the most important issue facing the district right now, so I have a lot to learn … Doing research and finding out what’s really going on and what our options are, that’s really important to me,” she said.