Two incumbents will face three newcomers next Tuesday for two seats on the Union R-XI School Board.Incumbents Jennifer Slay and James “Jim” Borgmann are each seeking another two-year term on the board. Candidates Karen Tucker, Donald “Doc” Quaethem and Aaron Brockhorst are seeking a first-time seat.

The Missourian sat down with each candidate to discuss their goals as school board members and where they envision the district in the future.Following are comments from the candidates who are listed in alphabetical order.

Aaron Bockhorst

Bockhorst, 32, brings a broad range of experience, both as an educator and a public servant. Bockhorst has been a firefighter both in the capacity of a volunteer and as a full-time employee since he was 16, starting as a junior volunteer with the Beaufort-Leslie Volunteer Fire Department. 

He has worked as an EMT and was a volunteer firefighter in Union. He is currently a full-time firefighter with the city of Ferguson in St. Louis County.Bockhorst is a firefighter and emergency medical technician instructor at Jefferson College in Hillsboro and also teaches at the St. Louis County Fire Academy.He has been married for 13 years and has two children.

“I feel I would be a good school board member because I know the struggles that parents and teachers have,” he said. “I have experience as both.”Bockhorst said even though he is new to the political arena, his experience as both a parent and a teacher gives him a general idea of how school boards work and having two children attending school in the district gives him a stake in the district’s future.If elected, Bockhorst said he would like to see improvements in school safety and security, with a focus on expanding anti-bullying campaigns.“

A lot of violence in our schools can be traced back to bullying,” he said. “I have ideas for a bigger project that would prevent bullying at schools.”Bockhorst, a Union High School graduate, said he also has a big interest in school athletics. 

“I played high school football and track,” he said. “Some people may put athletics at the bottom of the list, but I’ve seen what happens when school districts make cuts to these programs. When the athletic programs go away, academics suffer.”

Along with athletics, Bockhorst is interested in creating some after-school fitness programs for students.“I’ve talked to some of the owners of local gyms and they said they would be willing to work with us,” he said.Bockhorst, who lives at 767 Crider Lane, has lived in the Union area all his life. He graduated from East Central College with an associate’s degree in emergency medicine and took his firefighter training through the University of Missouri Fire Training Institute. He is also a graduate of the St. Louis Fire Academy.

Jim Borgmann

Incumbent Borgmann, 61, is just completing his first term as a school board member, but he has 12 additional years experience, as he served on the Union School Board from 1988 to 2000.Borgmann, who resides at 2430 Krenning Road, has lived in the Union area all of his life, and has worked at Hall Bros. Lumber for 41 years.

He has been married nearly 39 years and has two grown children and three grandchildren.Borgmann said he has a vested interest in the youth of the Union district, as he has raised two children who are Union High School graduates and has a 1-year-old grandchild who will someday be a Union student.

“I’m going to do whatever I can to help the youth in this community,” he said. “Student success is what it’s all about.”

Borgmann is a strong supporter of the Proposition KIDS, a no-tax bond increase that will enable the district to make necessary repairs to its buildings and improve safety measures.

“(District officials) are doing a good job now keeping the buildings up,” he said, “but the next few years are critical. If the bond doesn’t pass, we’re still going to have to do something."

Borgmann said if he’s re-elected, he will do everything he can to ensure the success of student academics continues on an upward swing.“

Student success is what it’s all about,” he said. “We have to give them the best education for their abilities.”

Student safety is also on the top of Borgmann’s priorities.“It’s unfortunate that we have to worry about that, but necessary,” he said.

Donald “Doc” Quaethem

Quaethem, 31, is running for the board because he likes to be involved with his community. He is not running on any platform and doesn’t really have an agenda of what he would like to accomplish if elected, he said, but would serve on the school board with an open mind.

“I don’t have any expectations because I don’t know what to expect,” Quaethem said.

Quaethem does have experience with community service, however. He is the neighborhood chairman of his daughters’ Girl Scout Troop and is active with their softball team.Quaethem grew up in Labadie and graduated from Washington High School in 2000. 

After being in construction for 15 years, Quaethem is now working for a heating and cooling business in St. Louis. Quaethem lives at 16 Somerfield Drive with his wife, two daughters and a son.

Jennifer Slay

Slay is seeking a second term on the board and would like to see the board continue with efforts to endorse programs that will help Union students prepare for life after they graduate, whether it be in college or in the work force.

“I don’t think students are as prepared as well as they could be for college,” she said. “College is not the same environment as high school. We need to make sure they are prepared.”

Slay said she also is excited about the board’s recent decision to back the Work Force Ready Community program, which offers testing and certification for students entering the work force after high school.During her first term, Slay said the board has had to make some changes in the administration at Union, including hiring Superintendent Steve Bryant, a decision Slay said was wise.

“I have a lot of confidence with what he has done with the budget and finances,” she said. “In a time when cuts are being made at the state level, Steve has prepared for that. He’s doing a real good job.”Slay said if elected, she doesn’t have an agenda, but will continue working with the board to ensure policies are followed and goals are met.

“We have a pretty good board,” she said. “I’m happy with the direction we are heading. I really care about our kids and want to see them get the best education that we can provide for them.Slay, who lived in southern California before moving to Union 17 years ago, is married and has three grown children.

Slay, 49, lives at 458 Grandview Farms.

Karen Tucker

Tucker, 62, is new to the political arena, but not to the Union School District.

She is a former Union teacher, assistant principal and principal, working for the district for 30 years before she retired in 2007. Tucker was a speech and language therapist throughout the district and served in administration at Central Elementary and still attends board meetings as often as she is able.

“I like to stay on top of things,” she said. “I still want to be involved.”Tucker said she doesn’t really have a political agenda, but just wants to do something to help the district and its students. “I can give a lot of insight contribute to changes that will come,” she said.

Tucker has already contributed to her community and to the district. She has served on the district’s professional support team, was an early childhood education process coordinator, has been an election judge for the county. 

She currently delivers Meals on Wheels and is active in her church, Zion Church of Christ in Union, where she’s been a member for 30 years. S

he also is a member of the Kiwanis Club in Union.Tucker has a Bachelor of Science degree in speech pathology and communication disorders from Murray State University, Murray, Ky., and has a master’s in administration from Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar.She has been married for 31 years and has two grown daughters who are Union graduates.Tucker lives at 512 W. Main St.