Profiles of Bakersfield, Gainesville school board candidates

Ozark County voters will go to the polls April 4 to elect representatives to serve on school boards in Bakersfield and Gainesville. Three seats are coming open on both boards. No election is required in the county’s other districts, where the number of candidates is the same as the number of seats coming open. The Ozark County Times sent questions to the Bakersfield and Gainesville candidates, and their responses were edited and returned to them for approval. Absentee voting continues through Monday, April 3, at the Ozark County Clerk’s Office in the courthouse. For more information, call the clerk’s office at 679-3516.
<strong>Bakersfield candidates</strong>
<strong>Matthew Evans, Bakersfield</strong>
<strong>Present employment:</strong> I have worked at Baxter Lab for 22 years. The last eight years I’ve been an assistant supervisor. I also work on my family’s farm.
Education: I’m a graduate of Bakersfield High School
Education, experience and qualifications: As an assistant supervisor, I have learned to work and listen to my peers. As a board member, I would listen to the administration, teachers and, most of all, to the community and the parents of our children. Our children should be our first priority.
<strong>Challenges and goals:</strong> I am running for board of education to be a new, fresh voice and to make a difference for our children.  It is extremely important to me to see not only my own children succeed but all our students succeed and learn. I look forward to working with the administrators to ensure the excellence of the district. When it comes to the school district, the toughest job will be managing the finances wisely so we can provide strong support to the faculty while remaining economically strong. The school board also needs to make sure that our administrators and teachers have the tools necessary to provide our children with a top-notch education.
<strong>What distinguishes you from your opponents?</strong> I think the board could use some new, fresh ideas. I view service to the school board as a great way to give back to my community. I also have a strong interest in the school district and want to make sure our children get the best education possible. I have been committed to this community for 20-plus years. If elected, as a board member I will continue to be committed to the sustained improvement of student learning and performance. Our district must continue to stay focused on its goals to ensure excellence, equity, college- and post-secondary preparedness and success for every student.
<strong>Personal information:</strong> My wife and I have been married for 22 years and have two beautiful daughters. Abby graduated from Bakersfield and is attending college at MSU, and Dessirae is a freshman in Bakersfield High School.
<strong>Kevin Kuk, Bakersfield</strong>
<strong>Present employment:</strong> I’m a center manager for Lincare Inc., a respiratory supply company.
Education, experience and qualifications: I graduated from Bakers-field High School in 1990. I worked  18 years as a supervisor and then manager at Hodgson Mill, and I’ve worked seven-plus years in sales and management at Lincare. I’ve served on the Bakersfield School Board since 2005
<strong>Challenges and goals:</strong> Today’s challenges are the same we’ve always had: trying to provide the best education we can for each kid without any bias and making sure we have the best possible teachers we can provide for them. We’ve worked hard to do that, and we’ve also accomplished one of our goals by providing a new high school building for our students. I’m proud of that.
<strong>What distinguishes you from your opponents?</strong> I have served on the board since 2005, and I would like to think my years of service on the board speak for themselves. We’re not perfect, but we’ve done our best to make Bakersfield a better place for our students and our residents.
Personal information: In April, my wife, Anne, and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. She is a 1992 Bakersfield grad. Anne and I have pastored Mineral Point Community Fellowship in Caulfield for 16 years. We have two children: our daughter, Samantha, a recent BHS graduate, and our son, Jordan, a BHS junior.
<strong>Timothy Watlington, Bakersfield</strong>
<strong>Present employment:</strong> I’ve been a retail manager for 21 years
Education, experience and qualifications: I graduated from high school in 1994 and completed two years of college in business management. I’ve served two years on the Bakersfield School Board. I’m also a Sunday school teacher at our church.
<strong>Challenges and goals:</strong> I see our school and community growing with the new school. I have faith that our students will continue to make their school a star on the map where they can get the very best education. I also believe this community will stand up for what it believes, and that, as a result, what they want to happen, will happen. The goals our teachers have in place are exactly what they want and the kids need. Our teachers are the very best, and our goal is to give them the tools they need to reach and improve their goals to achieve a greater education for our kids at Bakersfield.
<strong>What distinguishes you from your opponents?</strong> I have four children who attend Bakersfield in fourth, fifth, seventh and 10th grades, and I want the very best education for our kids and all the kids who attend Bakersfield. I am proud to be part of this big-hearted community that has done amazing things for all the kids here. Being turned down for government funding has not stopped this community from accomplishing huge goals, including getting a new, safe school for our kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. I love all of our Bakersfield kids, and I want to see all of them make their dreams come true. I am proud to be a Bakersfield Lion.
<strong>Personal information:</strong> For 20 years, I’ve been happily married to my wife Anna; she is a newly published author who just finished her second book. We have four children who attend Bakersfield Schools. My mom also lives in Bakersfield. I give out two gift cards to students each month as an extra inspirational reward for excellence; the responses I’ve gotten from the kids who’ve received these cards have been a blessing to me. I started the gift card program as a trivia game in the Ozark County Times before I was on the board and, God willing, I will continue with the gift cards as long as I can.
<strong>Mike Zimmer, Bakersfield</strong>
<strong>Present employment:</strong> I am employed with Timberland Forest Products in West Plains.
<strong>Education, experience and other qualifications:</strong> I graduated from Viola (Arkansas) High School in 1993. I currently have nine years of experience serving on the Bakersfield School Board.
<strong>Challenges and goals:</strong> The challenges we face on the school board include keeping up with the constant changes in federal and state school learning policies  while these same organizations keep finding ways to cut funding at every turn. Our main focus is providing a good, quality education for our students while dealing with these challenges.
<strong>What distinguishes you from your opponents?</strong> I have served nine years on the school board, and that time included the process of getting the new high school approved by the voters and built.
<strong>Personal information:</strong> I am very proud of the Bakersfield School District and all of its teachers and support staff. They do an outstanding job with our students every day. I have three children, one of whom graduated four years ago from Bakersfield School and is currently finishing his fourth year in collage. My other two children also attend Bakersfield School – one in middle school and the other in elementary. I enjoy being able to volunteer my time on the school board and give back to our community – and most of all, to our kids.
<strong>Gainesville candidates</strong>
<strong>Corey Hillhouse, Gainesville</strong>
<strong>Present employment:</strong> I’ve been employed at Century Bank of the Ozarks since 1996 and currently serve as executive vice president, working in lending.
<strong>Education, experience and other qualifications:</strong> I’m a graduate of Gainesville High School, and also a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia with a degree in agricultural economics. I currently serve on the Gainesville School Board. I have also served on several boards throughout the community as well as the South Central Ozark Council of Government (SCOCOG) and Ozarks Small Business Incubator (OzSBI), both based in West Plains but having effect in Ozark County.
<strong>Challenges and goals: </strong>Some of the challenges that face our school district are similar to what they were when I first ran three years ago. Funding is the challenge I see for our district. Gainesville School District has had strong reserves in the past to offset some of the burden when state or federal government withholds or cuts funding essential for our district’s success. I believe keeping those strong reserves is important to continue in light of all the regulation changes and uncertainty in the future. Another large challenge for our district is attracting and maintaining quality teachers and administrators. We have a great school district, and selling that culture to prospects for our district is easy if we can convince them to allow us to show them what we can offer as a community. Providing our children a quality and structured education, along with offering extracurricular programs that can help teach life and common-sense values, makes for a well-rounded citizen in today’s world. Some goals for the future of our school would be to continue improving technology and to offer more advanced classes to better prepare kids for higher education. Another goal would be to never become complacent in education and always look for new and better ways to prepare our kids for the future in whatever area they wish to achieve. My goal for the entire board would be to work as a group and give positive direction to the new superintendent and then allow him or her the support and time to implement that direction.
<strong>Personal information: </strong>My wife, Hope, and I have two children, Lauren, 12, and Logan, who will be 10 next month. 
<strong>Jerry Kiger, Gainesville</strong>
<strong>Present employment:</strong> I am employed by the Missouri Department of Conservation as a conservation agent in Ozark County.
Education, experience and other qualifications: I have a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry, so I understand the importance of a good core education starting in preschool and continuing through the entire education process, which should be a lifelong process. I was a petty officer in the Navy. I have worked for the Missouri Department of Conservation for 15 1/2 years. I previously served on Gainesville’s city council for approximately six years. I am currently serving my third year on the Gainesville School Board, and I am a deacon in my church. My experiences through these employment and volunteer positions have shown me the importance of working together as a team to accomplish specific goals.
<strong>Challenges and goals:</strong> The biggest overall challenge of this office will be making the best use of the budget to provide the greatest opportunities for the students at Gainesville. Our more immediate challenge, however, will be retaining our quality administrators, faculty and staff. We have already lost one excellent administrator at the end of this contract year due to certain board members who are more interested in grinding their personal axes than they are in the well-being of the school district. My concern is that we will continue to lose quality personnel due to fear of persecution from board members who let their personal issues dictate their decisions in the board room. Personal differences need to be dealt with outside of the board room, and anyone who is incapable or unwilling to separate the two has no business being on the board. I believe the goal of any school board is to ensure the best possible educational experience for all students, including academics and extracurricular opportunities in a safe and positive environment while supporting the administration, faculty, and staff.
<strong>Personal information:</strong> My daughter, Natalie, attends Gainesville High School and my son, Nathan, attends Gainesville Elementary.
<strong>Tena McKinzie, Gainesville</strong>
<strong>Employment:</strong> I am currently employed at Baxter Healthcare as a technical communicator. I have been employed at my present place of employment for 26 years. Before my employment at Baxter, I was the manager of J-Mart convenient store in Gainesville.
<strong>Education, experience and qualifications:</strong> I hold an associate degree in applied science with a major in mid-management from North Arkansas College. I am a 1983 graduate of Gainesville High School. I have been in supervision for most of my career. In my current position, I work for the VIP manager where I am responsible for improving processes on a daily basis.  I teach and train others how to look at the data and solve problems on their own. I have an accounting background and work each month with inventory. One of the requirements of my job is to have excellent listening and communication skills.
<strong>What distinguishes you from other candidates?</strong> I have no children currently in the Gainesville Schools. With that being said, my son Zach attended preschool through high school in Gainesville and graduated in Gainesville 2016. I have lived my whole life in the Gainesville community. I have a can-do attitude. I believe in standing for what is right. I am not afraid to ask the hard questions. I will stand up for the children and grandchildren in Gainesville Schools just like I stood up for my own child in the past. I work in manufacturing and understand the skills that current high school graduates need  to be successfully employed in that industry.
<strong>Challenges and goals:</strong> Funding issues are a big challenge in the school system. We desperately need more vocational training offered to our students. We also need to better prepare our students for college by improving the computer skills offered in the school. We need to make repairs to our school building, and we need to take care of our teachers and provide them the best place to work. We are working on a tight budget, but I am confident we can make improvements if we all put the educational needs of our children first. I want to be open and honest with the community about the needs of our school. The children graduating from GHS are our future leaders.
<strong>Personal information:</strong> I have been married to my husband, Scott, for 26 years. We have one son, Zach, who is a freshman at North Arkansas College in Harrison, Arkansas. I am the daughter of the late Bill and Mary Walrath.
<strong>David Murphy, Gainesville</strong>
<strong>Present employment:</strong> I’m employed as superintendent for Southern Construction, and I’m also head ultra-running coach for PRS Fit.
Education, experience and other qualifications: I earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and criminal justice from Drury University in 2005, graduating summa cum laude. I am the current president of the Ozark Football Association based in Mountain Home, Arkansas, with the mission of providing opportunities in tackle football and cheerleading to all kids. I bring leadership and team-building skills acquired through my enlistment in the Marine Corps that I use every day in my job. Some examples of these skills include a commitment to integrity, clear and focused communication of the mission, a drive to accomplish tasks while working with others, the ability to view both sides of a debate before passing judgment based on facts and a motivation to inspire others to rise to any challenges before us.
<strong>Challenges and goals:</strong> I don’t see this office as a challenge but rather an opportunity to serve and share in the process. I don’t have an agenda other than to be part of a cohesive unit that is focused on the best interests of all our children and their futures. My top goal is to serve the public and our students in a way that will ensure that Gainesville remains on the path of excellence and continues a relentless forward push as a top-tier district for many years to come.
<strong>Personal information:</strong> I’ve been married to Gayla Hillhouse Murphy for 19 years. We have three children: Aidan, eighth grade, and Ryder, fourth grade at Gainesville Elementary, and a 2-year-old daughter, Harper. My hobbies include running, in which I have competed in distances of 5k up to 100 miles; coaching football on the youth and adults levels; coaching other youth sports, including basketball, baseball and soccer. I am very active in various fundraising activities but have found a real passion for our local Relay For Life and Ozark County Youth Opportunities.
<strong>Marti Kyle Warden, Gainesville</strong>
<strong>Present employment:</strong> I work as a Certified Family Nurse Practitioner (NP) at Baxter Regional Medical Center Emergency Department.
Education, experience and other qualifications: I am currently vice president of the Gainesville R5 School Board seeking re-election. I have a Master’s of Science in nursing degree from Vanderbilt University. My qualifications for this position include my current school board service, professional education, work experience and community networking. My work as a NP for the past 19 years demands a systematic, objective process of caring for patients medically as well as managing developmental, financial, behavioral or social issues. My profession equips me with associates, knowledge and resources that make me an excellent school board candidate. Some of my school district involvement includes the Care To Learn program, coaching youth basketball and softball, guest speaker to students interested in healthcare, and providing free sports physicals for the 2013-14 school year.
<strong>Challenges and goals:</strong> The purpose of the board of education is oversight. Misunderstanding of this primary board function creates unnecessary challenges and strains relationships between the board, the community and the school. As taken from the Missouri School Board Association website: “The most important responsibility of school boards is to work with their communities to improve student achievement in their local public schools. ... Among other things, the school board is responsible for:
“• Employing and evaluating the superintendent
“• Developing and adopting policies and the budget
“• Establishing the overall goals and direction of the school district.
“• School boards are not responsible for the day-to-day management of the school district. That job is left to the professional educators hired by the school board.”
My goal is to conduct board business objectively, within these defined roles, to impact positive student outcomes. In following this process, the best interest of the students and the Gainesville R5 School District is always the top priority.
<strong>Personal information:</strong> I am a 1989 graduate of Gainesville High School and a lifelong Gainesville resident, other than time spent away for college. I have been married to Ken Warden for 13 years. Our children are Shelby, Sarah, Emory, Hadley and Jackson. We attend church at Mammoth Assembly of God, where I serve as director of the Vacation Bible School program.

Profiles of Bakersfield, Gainesville school board candidates

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Ozark County Times

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