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Two new ‘at-large’ school board seats on Nov. 8 ballot

By Staff | Oct 21, 2016

Don Armstrong

Since Lee County voters approved the expansion of the school board from five to seven members in 2014, they will have the opportunity in the November election to elect two of four individuals to fill the two at-large seats – District 6 and District 7 – for the Lee County School District board.

The District 6 seat has a nonpartisan runoff between Don Armstrong and Jane Kuckel and the District 7 seat is between Cathleen Morgan and Chris Quackenbush.

District 6

Don Armstrong

* Age: 45

Jane Kuckel

* Residence: North Fort Myers

* Occupation: Manager of plumbing company

* Education: High school diploma

* Family: Single parent with twins, ages 11

Born and raised in Lee County, Don Armstrong previously served on the school board in the District 4 seat before narrowly losing to Steve Teuber in a runoff in 2014.

Cathleen Morgan

* Why are you running:

Armstrong said although he had stayed away from the school board after his term ended, he continued to pay attention.

“One thing I noticed was that there was nobody up there to represent the people. It didn’t seem like the voices were being heard. I decided it was time to put my name back in the ring and be the voice of the people.””

* Platform: No Common Core and no additional taxes.

“I am completely dead set against the tax increase they are trying to push through.”

Chris Quackenbush

“Not every kid is the same. I know that for a fact with having two 12 year olds. My kids were born on the same day, one minute apart, but they learn at two different levels. Common Core treats every child as the exact same. A lot of the states and different counties all over this great nation have started waking up and recognizing the huge issues that Common Core has brought into education. Fifteen states have rejected Common Core because of all the issues and how bad it has hurt the education system.”

* Difference from opponent?

“I’m not part of the establishment like my opponent. She was on the board for 12 years. She was the one that brought Common Core to the district. When she was on the board previously, she slashed the budget by getting rid of arts in elementary school. I was there supporting the arts. I want to bring money back into the classrooms. I am willing to go out and listen to the people. I work for the people and she works for the establishment.”

Jane Kuckel

* Age: 73

* Residence: Estero

* Occupation: Retired

* Education: Bachelor’s in elementary education, master’s in education leadership and supervision, and doctorate in curriculum and education leadership

* Family: Married with one adult child

Hired by the district in 1997 as assistant superintendent, Jane Kuckel has a combined experience of more than 30 years as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent. During her previous terms on the county school board, the district showed academic improvement each year for six years in a row.

* Why are you running:

“I’m running to support the district. I was on the board for 12 years. During that time we had some great successes.”

Those success included going from a “C” district to maintaining an “A” district.

“We put career academies into the schools. We adjusted curriculum so they (students) could transition from one school to another. A lot of things were going well.”

When the school district began going through numerous superintendents and the district dropped from an “A” district to a “C” district after she left the board, Kuckel said her phone started ringing with individuals telling her “I think we need your help back here again.”

She said she wants to help the school board through its transition of going from five school board members to seven. Since Kuckel said she has always been a team builder and mediator it is important to strengthen the people of the board and help the new configuration move forward while supporting Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins.

* Platform: Improve academics, strengthen the board and improve capital funding.

I want to “get the academics back up where they belong and put this district on the map again. That is what draws people to the community and businesses to the community. We want to get that going.”

Kuckel also wants to strengthen and pull the board together as a team, so there is a group of people that trust each other enough to develop procedures that they can buy into.

“Make the board a high performing team with the superintendent in the cabinet.”

“The capital fund has not been funded to accommodate growth. We are between four to seven schools behind and (we are not) able to house the new students coming on board. I feel that I am pretty connected to assist in that area as well.”

* Difference from opponent?

“When he (Don Armstrong) was on the board he went from one superintendent to another, academics dropped (and he) eliminated testing without one bit of conversation. I want to get away from major decision making to data based decision making.”

District 7

Cathleen Morgan

* Age: 68

* Residence: Bonita Springs

* Occupation: Lee County School District board member, District 3

* Education: Bachelor’s in political science and government, master’s in businesses administration and master’s in education

* Family: Married with two adult children

As a sitting school board member, Cathleen Morgan has advocated for strategic educational and operational planning, financial planning and program accountability, and effective board engagement in student performance oversight. Morgan also served two terms on a school board in another state.

* Why are you running:

“I am running for the school board again because I think we have a high-performing superintendent who needs a strong governing team to support him as he makes some of the transformational changes that he needs to make to get the kids back on track academically.”

* Platform: Quality governance, kids on grade level, creativity and initiative in the classroom, financially responsible investments of taxpayer dollars in effective educational programs and efficient operations.

“The education of our students is the responsibility of the superintendent. My goal is to work with the superintendent to have a viable plan to achieve my goals and support him budgeterily and policy to take him towards that goal and evaluate whether or not we did a good job.”

* Difference from opponent?

“I support public education. I believe that the Lee County School District can become a high-performing school district with some transformational change and quality support from a board that shares the same understanding of their roles, responsibilities and goals.”

Chris Quackenbush

* Age: 69

* Residence: Fort Myers

* Occupation: Realtor

* Education: Associate’s degree in real estate investing and construction management with a focus on website programming and stock brokerage certificate from the New York Institute of Finance

* Family: Married with two adult children

A local investor and Realtor, Chris Quackenbush serves on the district’s Continuous Systemic Improvement Committee and participates in the book review and strategic planning committees.

* Why are you running:

“Our school children have been promised an education. We are biblically responsible in teaching our children in which way to go. Our recent failure to do that is causing the problem we see day to day. When we have lost 23 percent points in our math scores in three years, we have to do something to do a better job for our kids.”

* Platform: No Common Core in the classroom, less testing and more learning and local control in education.

“The No. 1 job of the school board is to provide a good education for our children. We have to give our teachers the tools and authority to do their jobs better. Teachers are certified, legislators and politicians are not.”

Quackenbush said although vendors of education would love to sell their shiny education toys, the job of the school board is to listen to reason.

“Instead of going to computerized education, we need to be thinking twice. Studies are showing that students using computers to learn are not learning well. People learn better from books because it is how our brain works. When we remember something (from books), I remember it was on page 10 below the picture. When you are learning from a computer, you can’t flip pages, highlight, or take notes as well. We are spending a huge quantity of our education dollars on something that isn’t working better. Almost half of our students are not on grade level. We have to restore common sense, not Common Core, to the classroom. Common Core is a federally imposed system of education when the federal government does not have a constitutional role in education.”

* Difference from opponent:

“We are almost at polar opposite ends. She likes Common Core . . . voted to keep high stake testing. She wants higher taxes. I think we have so many ways to use our money wisely that we are not doing currently. Decisions have to be made on knowledge and data and that is something I would bring to the board. She (Cathleen Morgan) graded herself as a F publicly on her board performance for the last four years. Why would she want another four years if our schools are failing?”