By MARK EVANS
David Bova and Geri Diesel emerged from a field of four active candidates to win the Ste. Genevieve R-II School Board race April 6.
Bova, school board president, retained his position with 617 votes (29.8%), while Diesel received 547 votes (26.4%). The third-highest total was Jamie Naeger Ballew’s 465 votes (22.4%). Larry Pfaff got 403 votes (19.4%).
BOARD MAINTAINS EXPERIENCE LEVEL
Although board vice president Joan Huck opted not to seek another term, the school board retains a high level of experience with Bova reelected and Diesel added. Diesel spent 15 years in the R-II system, the last five as Ste. Genevieve Elementary principal.
“Geri has years of experience in public education, so she’ll come aboard with a lot of knowledge already,” Bova said. “She knows, being an administrator, what it takes to work with other administrators, to get a plan done. Being on the board, you’re just one of seven; you have to work together to get anything done. She has that experience. She knows what it’s like to run a school building, to be a teacher. She’s had children attend in the district, so she’s been a parent.”
“I am very excited and eager to serve our community as a board member and to be a part of the important work the R-II district is doing to provide a high-quality education to all students,” Diesel said. “As a teacher and principal for many years with the district, I have a keen understanding of the programs our district provides, the challenges students and staff face, and the long-term goals our district is working hard at achieving. I look forward to building on our district’s many accomplishments while meeting the needs of ‘now’ by working with board members, administration, teachers, staff, and parents to always keep students the first and most important priority.”
Bova agreed that the election seemed to show general satisfaction with the direction the district is headed. So did the campaign itself, in which none of the candidates really criticized the way things were being done.
“I think most people are happy with the school district and the education it offers and how the district handled the past year,” he said. “It’s been difficult, but we took a cautious approach and I think it was received well.”
The district opted to shut down live classes on March 18, due to COVID-19, but was able to provide graduation ceremonies and prom during the summer. This school year a blended approach eventually gave way to full five-day live learning.
Bova also appreciated the positive tone of the campaign, in which the challengers seemed eager to join a successful team, rather than campaigning on making sweeping changes.
“I was very happy about that. There’s obviously been opportunities this past year to do things differently, but we took the cautious approach,” he
said. “I think parents and kids and taxpayers were happy with that. I think, not only did no one run based on being upset, they ran because they wanted to make it even better. It was nice.”
“I think everyone who ran, ran for the right reasons,” Bova added. “Geri definitely ran for the right reasons. She cares, and she’ll definitely be a great addition to the board.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic presented an entirely new set of challenges for all,” Diesel said. “I believe that our district is doing an outstanding job of tackling the challenges, but there is still much work to be done. I will be meeting with Dr. [Julie] Flieg and board president David Bova to discuss various data points for the school year and the plans in place to help all students reach necessary achievement levels – both academic or social-emotional. This will involve a review of budget and funding, staffing and technology needs, projects/programs and a discussion of how to address current concerns.”
Diesel plans to hit the ground running.
“I plan to visit our students, teachers and staff in all buildings, staying up-to-date on the learning, events, and extra-curricular activities in our district,” she said. “I want all students, families, teachers, staff, and community members to know that I am available to listen to questions, ideas or concerns, and will always do my best to guide them to the appropriate individual or resource to address the situation.”
She also plans to plug into the state political apparatus to keep informed and in contact with funding sources.
“I will be contacting our Missouri House and Senate education committee members to advocate for funding and guidance for public education, and plan to sit in on some Jefferson City legislative meetings as soon as possible (if allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions) to learn more about legislative bills and actions currently facing public education,” Diesel said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Julie Flieg, superintendent of schools, thanked Huck for her years of service.
“We want to thank and recognize Mrs. Huck for her years of service and her dedication to our students, our families, and our staff,” Flieg said. “During her time on the board, Mrs. Huck always advocated for what was best for our students. We will miss her presence on the board of education, but we wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors.”