Current treasurer files to return to Albert Lea school board

Published 11:24 pm Friday, August 10, 2018

2 more file as deadline approaches


Three community members filed to run for the Albert Lea school board this week, bumping the current pool of candidates up to four — equal to the number of positions open on the board.

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Candidates who filed include current school board treasurer and Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin and Albert Lea CEO Mark Ciota, Riverland Community College in Austin Alumni Association staff member Kim Nelson and engineer Kalli Rittenhouse. Current school board vice chairman Dave Klatt filed last week.


Mark Ciota

Mark Ciota, who has served on the school board for two terms, said he has enjoyed the position as treasurer, which he has held for the past two years, as well as board leadership under current chairman Ken Petersen.

“I like the idea of continuity on the board, and I like the direction that the district is going,” Ciota said.

Ciota said there are several things within the district he would like to see to completion. He cited the district’s improving graduation rates, the work being done on curriculum and programming for students interested in pursuing other avenues over higher education, AP course offerings and the completion of upgrades to Hammer Complex — a bond for which was approved by voters in May.

While Ciota said Petersen works to keep the board focused on what’s best for students and is well-run, he would like to see better communication among other board members.

“I think, unfortunately, we get bogged down in some procedural issues and small issues that don’t really affect students, but we spend too much time on those types of things, so we just all need to do a better job of avoiding those types of situations,” he said.

Ciota also applauded the district’s management policy and administration for maintaining the district’s financial solvency. He said this allows the board to spend time worrying not about money, but improving student education.

“I am a big supporter, a big believer in the public education system — so I have a passion for it, and anytime that you have a passion for something, you tend to devote your time to that,” Ciota said.


Kim Nelson

Kim Nelson, who served on the Albert Lea school board by appointment after a previous member resigned in 2011, said she wants to return to the school board to substantiate a solutions-driven style. Nelson praised Petersen’s style as solutions-driven as well, but said the board can still increase its effectiveness.

“I feel like, at times, rhetoric gets in the way of solutions and I feel like there has been a little bit of that,” Nelson said of the school board.

As a board member, Nelson said she would work to make sure the district stays “current” in staying abreast of changes in education and being more proactive. She would like to see the school district continue its relationships with higher education institutions and, like Ciota, support children after high school — whatever route they choose. Nelson said she is also interested in working with different cultures, ways of life and family makeups.

“We may have some work to do — and this is just globally — we have some work to do as relates to the welcoming community piece of all,” she said.

Nelson, who is an officer for Albert Lea High School’s girls’ soccer team boosters and sits on the Business Education Partnership Committee, said she likes seeing school board members active in the community. Her own community connections — through work, church, her Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce involvement, her involvement with the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau and her children’s activities — will be an asset to the board, she said. Nelson said the connections help the district by making the community feel like it can relate to a board member.

Nelson said she would like others to have the positive experience she has had sending her two children through Albert Lea Area Schools.


Kalli Rittenhouse

By the time Sputtering Components engineer and mom Kalli Rittenhouse’s two children finish being educated in Albert Lea Area Schools, she will have had 27 consecutive years as a parent of a District 241 child, she said. She has been watching the school board for a few years now.

“It just seems like things have been more contested, and when I see questions being asked of the school board and of the community at large, I don’t, I don’t have the same questions that are being asked, personally, so I feel like I could maybe add a different perspective to the board,” she said.

As an engineer, she calls herself a “systems person,” and during her career she said she has had to solve many problems as part of her job. Although she has no specific issues or projects she would like to address should she be elected, she said she wants to be more involved and help the school district move forward in educating children.

“I feel like I have a good understanding of what it takes to work with people and solve problems,” she said.

Those who wish to file to run for a seat on School District 241’s school board can file through Tuesday. Filing should be done at the school district office.

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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