Meet the District 4 school board candidates

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The incumbent holding District 4 seat on the Westfield Washington School Board will seek to retain her position against a challenger during the Nov. 8 general election.

Candidate Rebecca Ogle, who was first elected to the board in November 2018 and serves as president, is seeking to retain her seat against challenger Jill Woerner. Both candidates were asked about issues facing the district, what improvements could be made and what they would focus on if elected.

Below are responses in alphabetical order based on questionnaires that were sent out to election candidates and have been edited in some cases for space and style.

Ogle headshot 12152020
Ogle

Rebecca Ogle

Age: 48

Education: 1996 Franklin College, Bachelor of Arts in accounting

Occupation: Chief financial officer at safety management group

City of residence: Westfield

How long have you resided in your school board district: Twenty years

Immediate family: Jason Ogle, Owen Ogle and Elliott Ogle

Website or best way for voters to learn more about you: westfieldschoolboardcandidates.com/elect-rebecca-ogle

Previous political experience: Westfield Washington School Board, District 4 – elected in initial 2018 campaign

Why do you want to run for school board?

I’m running to serve our community and to contribute in a positive way by bringing my professional experience to assist with one of the largest businesses in Westfield.

What are your qualifications for this office?

I am a certified public accountant, a certified fraud examiner, a certified construction industry financial professional and a chief financial officer. My professional experience brings business expertise plus sound accounting and finance best practices to board discussions and decisions.  This experience has facilitated many success stories over the past 4 years. Please visit our website for our 2018 campaign COMMITMENTS AND RESULTS report: westfieldschoolboardcandidates.com.

What are the top three issues that your campaign will focus on?

If elected to serve again, my efforts as a board member will focus on:

  1. Protect the assets which make our schools great: qualified teachers and staff
  2. Protect our kids
  3. Proactively manage spending and be a steward of referendum funds, while serving on the Board’s Finance Committee.

What do you see as strengths at the district?

The district is high achieving in academics and extracurricular areas (sports, visual and performing arts, etc.), expanding our instructional offerings to support broader post-graduation pathways. The district has reestablished financial stability and demonstrated stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

What do you see as areas of improvement at the district?

The district has so many positives but there’s always room to grow and raise the bar – continuous improvement with proven sustainable process and procedures

How do you believe public school districts should address diversity, equity and inclusion matters?

It should be addressed without introducing ideologies. Cultural humility is important; understanding and embracing history and traditions of diverse cultures represented in our community and elsewhere, is key to producing successful citizens. Equity of learning has been in place for years via support programs and is important to continue to each child has the opportunity for an education. Inclusion of all students, regardless of socioeconomic status or other factors that are a barrier to learning should be addressed for those students needing support.

How can public schools help student test scores reach pre-pandemic levels?

Test scores can be improved through intervention and remediation programs, especially early learning opportunities. Expanding and adding these programs, especially in the elementary is a current focus of the district.

How do you feel about the district’s efforts to address student safety? What changes, if any, would you like to see made? 

I think the district has implemented sound policies and protocols regarding student safety. The expanded partnership with WPD has also raised the bar for support in this area. Again, there’s always room for improvement but I know this is an active concern of the district and constantly being reviewed.

Something most people don’t know about you?

I grew up on a farm in Sheridan and helped in the field and clean pig barns.

Something you want people to know about you?

I was recognized as one of the IBJ’s 2021 CFOs of the Year, selected as the top honoree among private companies with less than $100 million in revenue.

Jill Woerner campaign photo Slim
Woerner

Jill Woerner

Age: 44

Education: B.S. Secondary Spanish Education from Purdue University,

M.Ed. Educational Leadership and Administration from Anderson University

Occupation: National Director of Education & External Outreach for AFS-USA

City of residence: Westfield

How long have you resided in your school board district: Eight years

Immediate family: Husband, Greg

Website or best way for voters to learn more about you: woernerforwestfield.com

Previous political experience: None

Why do you want to run for school board?

Public schools have always been a hub of growth and community for students and families. Recently, they’ve become polarized and politicized. I want to use my background in education to help bring the focus back to an academic and social environment for the students, teachers, and community members.

What are your qualifications for this office?

I have been in education my entire career. I am a licensed and experienced educator and school administrator who has served in neighboring school districts and at the Indiana Dept. of Education. I am also bilingual (Spanish/English), which will allow more voices in the community to be heard.

What are the top three issues that your campaign will focus on?

  • Prioritizing student safety and academics
  • Retaining and recruiting the best educators to serve the students of Westfield-Washington Schools
  • Fiscal responsibility

What do you see as strengths at the district?

Strong parental engagement and support for district initiatives; high levels of academic achievement and student preparedness; and high number of teachers who are invested in student success

What do you see as areas of improvement at the district?

Recruiting and supporting staff members that reflect our community and innovation and flexibility in initiatives that serve non-traditional learners

How do you believe public school districts should address diversity, equity and inclusion matters?

Westfield Washington Schools’ stated mission is to ensure every Rock is life ready. Students must be prepared to engage with individuals who look, speak, think, and identify differently than they do. Understanding how people communicate, how more than one perspective in a situation may exist, and how those impact personal and professional relationships will increase our students’ ability to be successful in our global society.

How can public schools help student test scores reach pre-pandemic levels?

Every child is unique and learns at their own pace. To overcome academic learning loss from the pandemic, having parents and educators working together to devise an individualized approach for students is truly the most effective way for each student to reach their full potential. Only with this collaboration among everyone who wants students to succeed will students’ needs be met so students can truly focus on their academics.

How do you feel about the district’s efforts to address student safety? What changes, if any, would you like to see made?

Student safety goes beyond locked doors and school resource officers. Student safety also entails ensuring that students of any age and any background can walk through the hallways without ridicule or harassment because there’s been a community of parents and educators that work together to establish a culture of mutual respect and understanding. This requires leading through modeling, listening to others’ perspectives, and intentional consensus-building in a community.

Something most people don’t know about you?

  • If people don’t know me personally, they likely wouldn’t know how much I love to travel the world and spend time with individuals from those countries. These immersive experiences allow me to gain a deeper understanding of people and how they live.

Something you want people to know about you?

  • I am passionate about student and teacher success and believe strongly that those are 100 percent interconnected. When we support teachers and high-quality instruction, we are building a strong future for our kids.

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