GMG school board special election candidate profiles

A reel of 'I Voted' stickers. -Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

The GMG Community School District has a director at large seat for the Board of Education on the March 7 special election ballot to fill a vacancy that arose following the resignation of former board member Stacey Duden. Duden resigned last fall to serve as the board’s 2022-2023 secretary/treasurer.

Two candidates are running for the seat including Kristine Kienzle and Taylor Woehlk, both of rural Toledo. Woehlk was appointed to the seat on Nov. 29 of last year.

Each candidate completed a candidate Q & A for the Sun Courier which can be viewed below.

Candidate name: Taylor Woehlk

Age: 29

Residence: Toledo

Profession: Buyer in Supply Chain at Emerson in Marshalltown for just over 3 years

Education: Graduated high school in 2012 from GMG; graduated from Hawkeye Community College in 2014

Family: Married to my husband Levi for 6 years, son Loren (5 in March, attends GMG), son Charlie (1yr old)

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Candidate name: Kristine Kienzle

Age: 29

Residence: My family and I live in my late grandmother’s house on the family farm that is still actively farmed by my dad. We are about 3 miles northeast of Garwin in Tama County.

Profession: Entering my 7th year of full-time employment at one of Iowa’s Area Education Agencies, Central Rivers AEA. In this position, I serve as a supervisor with a wide lens of roles including accounting, marketing communication, and workflow management. My duties align with the agency’s initiative of building the capacity of schools to implement learner-centered concepts to prepare children for a life well-lived.

Education: Graduate of GMG and Marshalltown Community College.

Ongoing professional development opportunities offered by the Area Education Agency around leadership, this includes:

Agile for Education: a SCRUM framework

Completion of Clifton’s Strengthfinder course

Student Engagement through Authentic Learning Summit (3 years & ongoing)

Disrupting Bias Behaviors- A Deeper Dive Into Bias

ESSDACK INspired Leadership (3 years & ongoing)

Several other opportunities that are not formal trainings and courses as I have continual opportunities to partner and learn more about different content areas

Family: I am a 3rd generation resident and graduate of the district. My fiancé and I are currently raising a 4th generation of GMG graduates as we have 2 children attending school in the district as our son attends the elementary and our daughter attends the secondary building.

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What motivated you to run for elected office?

Woehlk: My motivation for running for this school board position, is to continue serving our students, school district, and community. I want to bring in a new perspective and positive outlook on present and future challenges and tasks, as well as bring back pride to our school and community.

Kienzle: The opportunity presented itself and aligned with my interest in cultivating authentic experiences. I am invested in the GMG district and the mission statement of, “Leading the Way to a Brighter Future,” and the vision statement of, “Every Learner, Every Way.” These values both refer to providing authentic experiences by ensuring our financial health, selecting appointed leadership, the management of resources, and our public support. I am particularly passionate that our statement, “Every Learner, Every Way,” is reflected in our policies and strategies, especially for those who may not have the opportunity to impact change at a seat on the school board.

What do you see as the primary roles and responsibilities for the position you are running for?

Kienzle: I trust that our teams are in place strategically, so I see my primary roles as advocacy, transparency, and accountability. I want to learn more about ideas and strategies that relate to the work and how we can assist with removing barriers for implementation to yield the results we aim for. I would also like to learn more about our quantitative data like FAST & ISASP test scores and how we compare to districts alike. I would love to connect with students who can share examples of the learning experiences in the classroom and how to meet students on their level. In addition, I would like to hear from our educators for feedback and transparency about why they chose GMG and what makes them stay in our district – how can we capitalize on that? I value feedback from our community on how they stay connected with the district and if we are meeting the needs of all. As a board member, it is critical to be actively listening and communicating with all impacted by the decisions we make and policies we implement and adhere to.

Woehlk: I see balancing students, employees, and stakeholders as the main role and responsibility. I want to see that each branch gets the attention they deserve. Number one is student achievement. They are our future. We need to support them academically, within chosen clubs, and in extra-curricular activities – to assist our administration and support them with their needs and interests – to keep the community involved in means of supporting our students and admin team. These roles and responsibilities need to be carried out with transparency.

What challenges do you see a small, rural school district like GMG facing today as compared to school districts in larger cities and communities? What do you plan to do to help meet those challenges as an elected official?

Woehlk: GMG is growing with a statistic of 52% open enrollment. We need to continue to work to make those families feel a part of the community regardless of address. The district helps by having strong communication – providing monthly updates, as well as daily social media updates. Even though we are a small school, we need our numbers to be consistent to keep our small school successful. I plan to help by listening to the open-enrolled families to make sure all their needs are met. We don’t want our students to be just a number. We want ALL our students to be successful and know that every student matters.

Kienzle: As a small district, we are our own best kept secret. We are continually expanding our value as the district population is currently comprised of 52% open-enrolled students which is one of the highest in the state. It’s no secret though that our funding is heavily reliant on student enrollment, I plan to sustain funding by ensuring our monies are spent in alignment with our policies and in the best interest of our students, educators, administrators, and public stakeholders.

Another challenge for a small rural district can be equity and exposure, as opportunities can be limited to the connections in the district. Our rural farming community is strong, important, and so valued, but it is not the future of all our graduates. This is where we can rely on external support to widen our lens and gain insight on things like unfamiliar career opportunities, unbiased and diverse connections to other cultures and communities, and exposure to opportunities that expand further than Garwin and even Iowa as a whole.

Why should people vote for you on March 7, 2023?

Kienzle: I value the opportunity to serve the district and community that has served me.

I have a wide lens of support in the GMG school district as I am a graduate, I currently have children attending in both buildings, my workplace provides direct support to the district, and this position would capitalize on my knowledge and skill set furthermore.

More importantly than voting for me, please vote YES to the two public measures, PPEL and SAVE, and remember that your tax dollars will NOT be raised as it is simply an extenuation to keep doing what we’re doing. This allows our district to fund upgrades with money outside of the general fund. Thank you for your vote in supporting our district, it is not taken lightly.

Woehlk: I currently hold this position and I am motivated to continue to serve my community in this role and want the best for the GMG school district. GMG contains a very family oriented atmosphere, and this district is growing and thriving! My family all went to Garwin/GMG, I graduated from here, and now my kids will attend GMG – that is what stems my passion and pride for this district.