The District 71 school board welcomed two new members at the board meeting on April 23. First-timers Joe Kuffel and Kenny Krueger were sworn in, along with Victoria Luz, who was re-elected to a second term.
Joe Kuffel decided to run for the board because “I think it’s a great way to make a difference in our community. Decisions that are made on this board will affect the children in the Culver School community for years to come.”
Kuffel believes strongly that all children are entitled to a great education in a safe, welcoming environment. He also believes social and emotional development is an extremely important part of their education.
“I think this is just as important as high test scores,” he said. “When children have strong social-emotional skills, I believe they thrive later in life. I don’t want that component being lost while striving for a high school rating.”
Kuffel is married to former board member Natasha Kuffel, who stepped down in April after one term. “She really enjoyed being part of the many decisions made during those meetings,” he said. They have three children — two currently at Culver and one attending Niles West High School.
Kuffel believes in community involvement and is now in his third term on the Niles Community Relations Board. He also has coached all of his kids through both the Niles Park District and at Culver.
As a member of the District 71 board, Kuffel has a number of priorities. With 25 years of experience in the building trades, he believes he can make a valuable contribution as the board takes up various planned or ongoing projects, including some infrastructure updates.
He also said, “I want kids to be proud that they are part of Culver School’s sports program. Seeing that we are a small school and the only school in Niles that feeds into Niles West, it is important that we are able to compete at the same level if not higher than other schools that feed into the high school. Providing opportunities for our children to be part of a team experience that they can be proud of is something I strive for.”
Kenny Krueger is following in the footsteps of his mother, Mary Krueger, who served four terms on the District 71 school board. He is one of six siblings who all attended Culver School. Now a parent himself, Krueger has a son finishing first grade and a daughter in preschool. His wife is a preschool teacher in Park Ridge.
Krueger started working for the Niles Park District when he was still in high school, and has now been employed there full-time for 15 years. He is involved primarily with sports activities: lining up coaches, making schedules, reviewing budgets, running camps and programs. “I know a lot of Culver parents already, either through the school or the Park District, and I thought now is a good time to get more involved,” Krueger said. “I would like to stay on the board while my kids are here, which would mean three terms or maybe even four.”
With his sports background at the park district, Krueger has a keen interest in improving Culver’s athletic programs. He agrees with Kuffel that there is a feeling in the community that Culver is not as competitive in sports as some other Niles Township schools.
“It’s my first year, so I’ll take it slow,” he said. “I don’t want to say, ‘I’m the sports guy.’ I know Culver already has a plan in place and I’ll happily support it. But If there’s anything I can do to help with some of the athletic programs, I’m ready to do it. Maybe we can get some after-school activities going with the park district, and I’d be happy to help with that. It’s the idea of boosting Culver pride.”
Krueger has signed up to serve on the school board finance committee. “I’ve always liked math, I’m good with numbers, and I can look at a budget and know what I’m looking at,” he said.
He also opted to serve as a District 71 representative with the Niles Township District for Special Education (NTDSE). His son had a stroke when he was only three months old, and is now on an IEP (individualized education plan) at school. He has been receiving a variety of physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy as he recovers. “He’s doing exceptionally well,” Krueger said, “and I thought my personal experience with special needs students and with NTDSE might be helpful.”