Board of Education Recap: 3 Interviewed for Vacant Seat

The Board of Education for Lowell Area Schools held an approximately two-hour work session on Monday night using the GoToMeeting video conferencing platform. While the board heard updates on the district budget and operations, the main piece of business was to interview three candidates who applied to fill a vacancy on the board created by the retirement of Jim Turner.

All Applicants Parents, Active in Community

Each of the three candidates was allotted 20 minutes for their interview. The current Board of Education members took turns asking the same eight questions of each candidate. These questions covered topics such as the candidate’s background, their reason for wanting to be on the board, the biggest challenges they see facing the district and how they would proceed if they held a different opinion than the remainder of the board.

“We aren’t looking for any one thing in particular,” said board member Pat Nugent during the meeting. He added that it was a bonus that all three applicants have children currently enrolled in the district. Currently, Dan Stephens is the only member with a school-age child.

Other members of the board said they were looking for a candidate who would bring some diversity of thought to the board and who would be able to speak their mind.

The three candidates for the board are:

Amanda Rogers: As a real estate agent with Rogers Real Estate Group, Rogers said she knows how important a strong school district is to housing prices and the local economy, and she would like to be part of ensuring area schools remain successful. She has daughters enrolled in Lowell Middle School and Lowell High School and sees the COVID-19 pandemic and growth in the district as the biggest challenges to be addressed by the board right now. Rogers previously spent four years on the Impact Church board. She also holds positions with the Lowell Area Recreation Authority, Lowell Rotary Club, Alpha Family Center and the local Girl Scouts Service Unit.

Amanda Schrauben: A resident of Lowell since 2003, Schrauben said she is looking to give back to the community and that led her to apply for the vacant position. She described herself as a “quiet leader” who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind but also preferred to work behind the scenes instead of front and center. She is currently a member of the Lowell Planning Commission, Lowell Area Community Center Committee and the Bushnell-Cherry Creek Elementary PTO. She previously served as both the vice president and president of the PTO. Her two sons both attend Cherry Creek Elementary School, and Schrauben said the biggest challenge to the district is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jessica Curtis: Curtis is a graduate of Lowell High School and a member of the Class of 1999. She said it was important to give back to the community and as a parent, she wants to be involved in the school district as much as possible. Curtis has been a member of the Lowell Education Foundation Board for eight years and has also been active in the Athletic Boosters. She has children enrolled in Murray Lake Elementary and Lowell High School and said the COVID-19 pandemic was the biggest challenge to the district right now. She added that it was important for the district to be transparent in its decision-making.

After the interviews were complete, the board agreed to hold a discussion of the candidates during a special meeting on November 30. They will also make their selection at that time.

“We have three strong candidates who have served the community different capacities,” said Nate Fowler, interim superintendent for Lowell Area Schools. Board member Laurie Kuna agreed. “It’s nice to have three good candidates,” she said. “[Selecting one] is going to be a challenge.”

Other Board Business

For the remainder of the meeting, the Board of Education received a number of updates, including some good budgetary news. While there had been a concern that state funding would be reduced this year, the district was held harmless by the state and also received some extra money from the federal government.

That helped the budget to the tune of $2.6 million. However, the district has spent $1.3 million already for extra substitute teachers, enhanced technology and personal protection equipment as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the government providing free meals this year, the board was also told the food service budget has an excess that will likely need to be spent down to comply with federal regulations. It is planned to use some of this available fund balance to pay for renovations to the middle school cafeteria.

The board will vote on amendments to the budget at the November 30 meeting. At that time, they will also elect officers, hold a closed session review of Fowler’s performance and decide whether to select a new permanent superintendent internally or conduct an external search.

The next meeting for the Lowell Area Schools Board of Education will take place on Monday, November 30, at 6pm. It will be held virtually to comply with current public health orders.

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