In the Western Dubuque School District, Nicole Stecklein is running against incumbent Mike Rea for the District 3 school board seat. In District 1, Mark Tilson is running unopposed.

Nicole Stecklein

Tell us some background information about yourself.

My husband and I live in rural Jones county between Cascade and Bernard. He farms full-time and I work as an agronomist for a seed company helping farmers across northeast Iowa grow better crops. We are also raising four boys, ages 10, 7, 5, and 2. I love science and science communication. Before COVID, one of my favorite activities was working with teachers and leading different experiments with their classes. I am also an avid runner and love helping out on the farm every time I get a chance.

What are some reasons you are seeking a seat on the Western Dubuque School Board?

Knowing that we have four kids going through this school district, I feel a responsibility to be active in the future of the district. There are a lot of contentious issues currently facing schools across the country as well as budgetary concerns, and I want a better understanding of the inner workings of the school system in general. I want to give parents the voice they deserve in decisions that affect their kids and in turn help parents know what they can do.

In your opinion, what qualifies you for a seat on the board?

I care. I want what is best for my kids and the rest of the kids in the school district. I’m open-minded and actively seek out the opinions of others, especially concerning topics that I am not familiar with. I am also not afraid to speak my mind and speak up for others.

What are the biggest challenges you feel the Western Dubuque School District faces?

Overall, I’m proud of our school district, but there is always room for improvement. The geographical span of this school district offers some special challenges but also unique benefits. A challenge that a large school district can run into is forgetting about individuals. Particularly with educator burnout and days out of school, we need to stay student, teacher, and family-centric to make sure our students do not fall behind. Making sure our teachers and parents are heard helps retain our great educators and keep kids in our district.

In your opinion, what is the role of a school board member?

Just like any other elected official, the number one role is listening. Listening to the parents and communicating in both directions. The thoughts, values, and concerns of parents in the district need to be heard by the board and the administration. Board members also need to be able to effectively communicate why certain decisions are being made back to the parents.

Mike Rea

Tell us some background information about yourself.

I’m married to Bridget Rea. We have five kids — four have gone through the Western Dubuque school district and one is currently in 11th grade at Cascade High School. We have 10 grandchildren, who also will be going through the school district in the future. I am an independent sales rep for Pioneer. I work with my son Calvin and daughter Claire. We farm corn and soybeans, custom farm, sell chemicals and fertilizer. I have served the past four years on the Western Dubuque board and have enjoyed my time serving and have learned a lot.

What are some reasons you are seeking a seat on the Western Dubuque School Board?

I personally enjoy being involved in the financial side of the job. I believe I work with good people to help make the decisions that make Western Dubuque schools better every day. I want to continue to see the district head in the right direction so my grandchildren and children around them have a great school district to have the opportunity to attend.

In your opinion, what qualifies you for a seat on the board?

I have sold seed and have been running a successful farming operation for a long time, which I like to believe has given me good experience in logistics and financials. I have been on church boards and school boards in the past, and I have spent the past four years serving as a member of the Western Dubuque school board. In the past four years, I have learned a lot about the operation of a big school system. I have been a voice and listening ear for District 3. People have been comfortable reaching out to me via phone or email to voice their opinions or concerns. I do my best to listen to them and pass their message along to the superintendent and other board members.

What are the biggest challenges you feel the Western Dubuque School District faces?

The biggest challenges our district faces in my opinion are managing finances, as well as the growth of the different schools and facilities. When a family moves into our community, we need to be able to handle the expansion of the school they are moving into. We need to ensure we are all working together as a team so we can be a better school tomorrow than we are today. In addition, handling the COVID-19 pandemic is a big challenge we are currently facing and will continue to face in the near future.

In your opinion, what is the role of a school board member?

The role of a school board member is to be an advocate for children and parents and make sure what we are offering is the best. We work very closely with the finances so we can continue to provide updates to our schools’ facilities, and ongoing training for our faculty to be able to provide the best education and a positive environment. Another responsibility is listening to the parents’ thoughts and concerns about their child and their child’s school, and pass along these concerns to other board members.

Compiled by Mike Putz