To provide our readers with information to help them in their decision-making at the polls for the Nov. 8 Election, we sent out a questionnaire with the same questions to each of the candidates who filed for election to their local school board. Only those races where the number of candidates exceeded the number of seats on the board that are open are featured, including Little Falls, Upsala, Royalton and Staples Motley.
Candidates were asked to introduce themselves and answer the following questions:
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position?
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member?
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office?
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development?
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why?
Lucas Boyd, Royalton School Board Candidate (one of four candidates)
My name is Lucas Boyd. I live between Royalton and Bowlus with my wife Teresa and our six children. Three of my children currently attend Royalton High/Middle School and two attend Royalton Elementary School (our sixth is only 10 months old). I currently serve as the President of the Bowlus First Response Team, and I am a captain on the Bowlus Fire Department.
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? I feel that I am qualified for this position not only because of my experience running the first response team, but because I am a caring community member. I am not scared to stand up for what I believe is right even if I am in the minority. I’ve played a large part in organizing and running “Bowlus Day”. I am not scared to ask the hard questions or to dig for the right answers. That being said I will not give a simple answer to a question unless I have the right answer, and I’m not afraid to say “I don’t know.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? My number one goal as a board member is to get the teachers what they need to do their job. If the teachers need new books, lets do what we can to get them new books. That being said we need to get back to common sense education, reading, writing and arithmetic. I also feel that the teachers need more control over the technology in their classrooms. There is no reason the teachers shouldn’t have 100% control of the electronics that enter their room.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? The main reason I decided to run for school board is because I like what Royalton is doing for the most part, and I want it to stay that way. I’ve seen what other districts not far from here have turned into over the last several years and honestly it’s a little scary. I don’t want to see Christmas parties go away and I see no reason to change the name of Christmas break. We have strong central Minnesota values and I don’t want to see them fizzle away.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? I think the board should have some involvement with curriculum development, but I do not think the board should be over barring with this issue. We have teachers and other staff members well versed in curriculum development. I do think that the board should have the final say in what the final product is before it is given to the children.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? To my knowledge there aren’t any “classes” being taught that concern me at this time. Although I do feel that there are some social issues that are entering the school that I feel should stay out. I feel school is for school and social issues should stay home. I feel that it is not the responsibility of the school to teach or support any controversial social issues. Remember school is to teach reading, writing and arithmetic.
Maria Traut, Royalton School Board Candidate
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? I do not claim to have all the skills necessary but I am invested in learning all I can to be empowered to fulfill this position and give 110% to whatever I commit to. I have carried various leadership roles, and functioned well in many collaborative team environments. I have a unique perspective of being a parent to children who have special needs, I have journeyed through special-education supports, and have become a homeschool teacher to accommodate my children's educational needs. I have been trained as a dyslexia tutor. I also have children who excel within the school district in the standard classroom. I have been a Sunday school teacher, a Vacation Bible School volunteer, a volunteer coach, I managed a ministry called Homework Help to give extra support to children in our community with their school work. I've run homeschool co-op's, been an active volunteer within the school system supporting teachers in their classrooms in whatever form needed over the course of the past 17 years that I've been raising children through the educational system. I believe this experience gives me an ability to adapt my reasoning and problem solving skills to present solutions from the point of view of an involved parent through an educator's lens to bring practical solutions. I am deeply passionate about empowering children and have spent much of my life in various forms to seek opportunities to invest into children.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? My primary goal would be to serve my community by being a voice that represents the parents and tax payers in Royalton school district. That's the most important job as a school board member. I do not have any particular agenda but more-so a servant's heart to bring conflict resolution, problem solving skills and a standard of educational integrity in this unprecedented time of educational crisis in our nation. I'd like to be a conduit to seeing the gap in education close and more children thriving in their education experience, creating and implementing policies that foster more involvement, communication, support, transparency and teamwork between parents, school administration and students.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? I believe the school board should be actively involved in the curriculum decisions utilized within the Royalton school district having final approval of educational direction. Policies need to be created to uphold educational integrity, a curriculum oversight committee built of parents, community members, school staff and school board members should be an ongoing core functioning committee within our district.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? To the degree of research I have done locally, I am not personally aware of classes currently being taught within the Royalton school district specifically that would sound alarm or bring concern. But I'd like to be more intricately involved in the process, become more educated and bring ongoing awareness to our parents and community so that we continue to pursue the narrow path of educational excellence, upholding our small town values as a community to ensure the education our children receive is focused on academic achievement.
Other Royalton School Board candidates: Randy Hackett and Matthew Nelson
Sharon Ballou, Little Falls School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: I am retired and I’m living in Randall. I am involved in community organizations, former business owner. I’ve been on the Little Falls school board since 2007. Held office of commissioner on Region Five Development Commission and past board member of Initiative Foundation
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? My strongest qualification is the training I’ve had through School Board Associations, learning changes, especially with legal issues. Experience over the years working with staff, parents and the community has helped me develop the skill to learn all issues board members are expected to be knowledgeable about.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? Following facts not opinions. Listening or reading about issues is only the beginning. I need verification of what is shared with me.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? Being retired, I’m available for the committee meetings, trainings and school board meetings. I’ve been involved with children/young adults for all of my adulthood through employment and volunteer service. As a former student, plus my own children and grandchildren have attended this district, I feel this also prepared me to continue serving the full district: students, staff, parents and the community. I do not focus on a single agenda or issue. Instead, I believe all points of education are important and need to be considered. Through the years the school district has worked to involve the community more often. That is why we are “Little Falls Community Schools.”
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? I’m proud of what the LF school has accomplished and excited about new educational opportunity goals we hope to reach. Our district has a well organized structure that the board and staff work together in all areas including curriculum. Our final curriculum outline must be approved by the state meeting standards.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? Classes offered do change for a number of reasons, student interest, cost and finding qualified teachers. We are currently looking at our high school population and building more vocational offerings. Local business owners are letting us know what they need in future employees. College is important, however it is not the right road map for everyone.
Cassie Fredregill, Little Falls School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: I’m a mother of four and wife of an Army Guardsman. I was born and raised in San Diego, Calif., where I met my husband who was serving in the Marine Corps. We chose to move to Little Falls as we saw this is a beautiful opportunity to raise our kids and retire.
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? Alongside being a mother of four, I’m a former business owner of my own company. Graduated many life skills coaching and resilience training. As a parent of children in the district, it’s time we gave back our kids futures and push them towards real success.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? Stopping indoctrination on students and teachers with political and ideologies being passed into the school curriculum including CRT, LGBTQ+ and Sourcewell contracts. Focusing on the best education possible and success of students and teachers with more parents and community involvement.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? The Little Falls School Board is lacking in representation of parents of students currently enrolled in the district. We have seen many disruptions in the system with curriculum, grading, bullying and kids getting pulled from public schools. Parents are tired of being left in the dark and lied to. We need transparency. For me I choose not to pull my students because I see the need and want to fix this at our local levels and be involved and encourage others as well.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? I believe that not only should the school board collaborate on it, I believe the community and parents should have an open meeting to build and focus on what is lacking in the school grades and graduation standards and post secondary options. In the best interest of the children and teachers.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? Absolutely! The schools contracts with Sourcewell based out of Staples is destroying our education system. What we believe is social studies is actually a cell class based from Sourcewell, which teaches our children about gender fluidity, healing from racism of being white and nothing even based on what each class is. We need someone willing to fight for our teachers and the students. We are the role models of our kids. What we allow to continue, will. Children should not be in class and be in fear to speak up for the thought of not getting good grades and teachers in fear of speaking out of the thought of losing their job. I am focused on their futures!
Mark Gerbi, Little Falls School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: I have served on the School Board for the last 10 years. In that time, I have witnessed a lot of changes in our schools’ operation, but always with the idea to provide the best education we can for our students. I am a lifelong resident, as well as a business owner in Little Falls. Myself and my son are graduates of this school system. I have a long history working with many groups in our community and would like to continue to serve the residents of our school district, as well as continue to work with our dedicated staff.
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? I have served on the School Board for a decade, giving me a historical look at our school system. I have attended educational conferences, both state and at the national levels. I have served with three different superintendents in our district, which has given me a broader understanding of different types of educational philosophies. In these years of working with our staff, from administration to custodial, the important roles they each play in the education of our children is vital. My work on different community boards also helps me understand the needs of our whole community and how the school fits into those needs.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? My number one goal is to provide our employees with the necessary funds and tools, to get the job done, and then get out of their way. We have a very professional staff who makes educating our students their top priority. I rely on their professionalism to guide our school system to be the very best it can be.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? There is no one issue that I have for serving on he School Board. Saying that, I do have a few things I would like to see accomplished. Improved test scores, making our industrial arts wing a model for others to follow. The possible addition of a district day care I have to work toward. I try to look at the big picture, and I have found that working with other groups helps our schools expand our offerings, as well as keeping our school district financially secure.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? The School Board is involved with curriculum development. We have the final say as to what curriculum is adopted for our schools. The director of training and learning starts the process by meeting with department heads and teachers of the curriculum that is being reviewed. They then review curriculum from different companies and give the School Board their recommendation on the curriculum they have agreed to. A lot of time is taken in reviewing curriculum. I, as a school board member, can attend any meeting of this group to keep updated on progress. We also have to make sure the curriculum we select meets state assessments testing requirements.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? There are no classes being taught in our school system that concern me. I believe our school system and staff does an excellent job of giving our students a well-balanced curriculum and a great foundation of education. We, as a Board and school staff, do our very best to meet the needs of our ever-changing students. Be it new methods of instruction, or a new way to present education topics.
Brad Laager, Little Falls School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: My name is Brad Laager. I was a teacher and coach for 36 years and a school board member for the past 12 years. I have led by being fiscally responsible and promoting an education that will prepare our students for all future endeavors. I believe all students need to be respected, protected and recognized as special people in their own right. I have 45 years of proven caring for students, staff and parents in Little Falls. I believe we must continue to educate with change and compassion that will prepare our students for whatever comes their way.
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? My experience as a math teacher, coach and board member gives me the experience to continue being a good board member. I have approved security by having all schools have double door entrances, hiring a full-time police officer, and hiring two former police chiefs, and a retired police officer as hall monitors. I approved enclosing all class rooms and training for all staff for emergency situations. I approved feeding all children and using paras to pack the lunches and bus drivers to deliver during Covid. We kept our people working and children fed! I will continue to be forward thinking, if re-elected.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? My number one goal as a board member is to give our students the best class offerings in a safe, bully free environment, where teachers can teach and students can learn.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? Having hired a new superintendent, new middle school principal and several new staff members, I feel consistency and experience in navigating the outside influences on our children is a must. We don’t need personal views to create a disruptive environment for our children to have to live in. We have great students and staff starting when the bus driver picks them up in the morning until they return to the safety of their homes.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? The board has hired a curriculum director. The curriculum director secures materials for teams to look at to purchase. Teams of teachers choose, a state standard based approved curriculum, after carefully looking at the secured curriculum. The principals, of each school, research the curriculum suggested and discuss with the team the reasons for their selection. If all are on board, the recommendation is carried to the superintendent. If the superintendent agrees, he brings the cost of the materials for board approval. This process takes about one year. Individual board members do not have the expertise to subvert this process.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? All classes that are being currently taught are appropriate. We provide a syllabus that parents can look at and can discuss with a building principal, if they feel something that is happening in a class is not appropriate. Action can be taken at the building level and proceed to the board level, if an investigation deems that necessary. A better question would be why does our state funding not provide more industrial tech money, so we can partner with local businesses to train our kids for good paying jobs after high school? We added one such teacher this year and I look forward to expanding more. We doubled the amount of agriculture teachers we had and tripled the amount of agriculture students we had. That is what I call success!
Sarah Marrow, Little Falls School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: I am Sarah Marrow, born and raised in LF. I have lived, worked and played in LF my entire life. My husband, Shurod Marrow and I have been together for 21 years and are raising the 5th generation in LF. We have four children who each have different challenges and goals in life. Our two oldest children are now adults, one is a teacher in Arizona and one is continuing her education at St. Cloud Technical College. Our two youngest kiddos are in fifth and seventh grade in the LF school district, they both have developmental disabilities.
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? I am a graduate of the LF School District and recently graduated from the Partners in Policymaking Team with the Governor’s Council for Disabilities. I have researched and learned the laws that protect our children to ensure they are given an appropriate education. I am not afraid to stand up against the system to ensure that our children’s rights are protected and upheld. I will bring my knowledge and unwavering stance to also ensure “all” of our children’s right are protected and upheld. I have stood strong for our children and will do the same for “all” children.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? My number one goal as a school board member is to ensure that our disability community has a seat at the table, that their voices are heard in our school district. In the past eight years I can honestly say that our students with disabilities have been ignored, unheard and outnumbered by our current school board. If given the opportunity to have a seat on our school board, I will be a voice for “all” children, neuro typical kiddos and kiddos with disabilities. It is time our children have a voice in our district.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? As parents we have had to advocate every single year to protect our children’s rights to FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education). We go to yearly IEP meetings, sometimes multiple times a year. We are no stranger to conciliation and mediation. Our voices have been challenged to the level of the school district lawyer attempting to shut us down. But we never, ever give up for our children’s rights. We never back down and our children have never lost a service that we have advocated for. I will bring this strength to ensure “all” our kiddos’ voices are heard.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? I believe the school board, acting on behalf of the children and parents of the school district, should be involved in curriculum development. We always need to be wary of any school board member(s) making decisions about our student’s education that is against what the children and parents want. We need to have a process in place that allows the school board to have a say in the curriculum development and we need to have a process that better allows parents and students to legally challenge the decisions made by the educators and/or the school board.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? There are many classes that concern us as parents and I believe there are many classes that also concern the majority of our students and parents in the school district. We need to have a fresh new school board that has the strength to make some positive changes to what is currently happening in LF. It is time to stand up, speak up and stop forcing our children to be taught lessons we as parents do not approve of. Our values need to be a priority moving forward.
Molly Jean Nelson, Little Falls School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: My name is Molly Nelson and have lived in Little Falls for 8 years. I have been married for over 14 years to my husband, Chester. I have two boys, Colton (12) and Drake (11). I have been with Keller Williams Realty Professionals as a realtor for almost four years.
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? My favorite quote is “Be the change you wish the world to see” — Gandhi. I believe in change. I have served and still continue to serve on many boards and committees in this community and we need to be the change and we need to do the best that we can for the children and for this community. I would absolutely love the opportunity to sit on the School Board for our District.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? I have a few goals. 1. Expand on individual-based learning. We need to find that one passion that makes students want to come to school, stay in school and be present. With this, I would love to introduce a high school volunteer program. 2. Mental/physical health are important. While every student shouldn’t have to run a mile, they should move their body daily. Daily phy ed is imperative. 3. Making LFCS a desirable school district that is not only growing academically, but also in our extracurricular activities.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? No, there has not been one specific issue that has caused me to seek an opportunity to serve on the board.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? I believe that the board should be heavily involved in the curriculum development for our school district.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? There have not been any classes that I am aware or have been made aware of that would be of a concern for me.
Dan Schilling, Little Falls School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: Dan Schilling, District 482 School Board Candidate. Lifelong resident of Morrison County, and 1997 graduate of District 482, Little Falls Community High School, (LFCHS). Husband to LFCHS classmate, Sarah (Kukowski) Schilling, and father to 11--year-old daughter, Hailey Schilling.
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? I am a Retired 20 year veteran of the MNARNG. I am a proven leader, having faithfully served two deployments overseas during my enlistment. I swore an oath to protect our country against all enemies, both foreign and domestic when I joined the MNARNG. My oath does not have an expiration date. Our children are our future, and as such, I will continue to serve my oath, fighting for them to receive the highest quality of education they deserve, free from political or idealogical based biases. Support for me for District 482 School Board, is a vote for our children’s future.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? I will be a voice and advocate for the parents and children of the community. The sole goal of the district, school board and teachers, should never be anything short of providing the highest quality education possible for our children. I will fight to ensure the education they receive, remains free from political bias, and or idealogical based agendas such as, gender fluidity and critical race theory, (CRT). Our education system was created to teach and educate our children how to think for themselves and solve problems, not as a system of idealogical indoctrination that tells them what to think.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? All elected positions should have a two term limit. Whether sheriff, school board, county commissioner, House representative, or Senate, elected offices were never meant to be career positions of power that dictate. They are representative positions. As such, those elected should represent their constituents issues, while bringing forth their ideas they have to offer that will benefit the community during their tenure, then move on, for new representatives to serve. The current school board representatives up for re-election no longer have children in the school district and have a combined 40 years of service on the school board.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? All curriculum should be reviewed/screened, approved and voted on by the school board representatives and require a minimum 2/3’s board approval to pass. School curriculum should also be 100% free from any/all political bias and/or federal or state government dictated idealogical based agendas. Teachers found instructing individual lesson plans infused with non-school board approved idealogical based information, such as covering gender fluidity, equity, (not equality) CRT, or LGBTQ+ should be placed on immediate suspension without pay and investigated. Our schools are for our children’s education, not their indoctrination.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? As the father of an 11-year-old daughter, the school district’s health and sex ed materials that were distributed were most concerning to me. Fourth grade girls received literature at 10 years old that covered obscene levels of sexual details and illustrations. It also covered masturbation, conveniently explained as the exploration of the intimate parts of their body, especially the genital area. It is not OK to distribute this type of material to 10-year-old girls, prior to having the parents’ consent. Materials such as these, distributed to children without their parents permission, literally steal a child’s innocence.
Mike Klasen, Upsala School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: I recently moved to the Upsala area in 2019 with my wife Randi and our four kids. I grew up in Melrose where my parents still reside. I am employed by MnDOT out of St. Cloud where I am a project manager administering road construction projects. I am an active member of our local parish here in Upsala and am currently a member of the parish council. In my free time I enjoy fishing with my kids, pitching fast-pitch softball in Freeport and getting to know people around Upsala, which really makes me feel at home.
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? I have been in a number of leadership roles, from managing large construction projects to sitting on school and parish councils. I have always been involved with the local community organizations because I recognize the value of these organizations. But they need good people running them in order for them to be successful.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? My top priority as a school board member is to represent the values of this community, ensure our students are reaching their full potential and to ensure our students are making healthy decisions in life. However, what that looks like is probably a bit different from others. I feel the current situation in our schools is not conducive to promoting moral excellence in our youth. We can see this in the erosion of our societal values throughout our country. If we can resist some of these cultural shifts in our families and schools, then I feel our kids and society has a chance.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? Over the last year, I and a number of concerned citizens have been to a few school board meetings bringing a number of issues and concerns forward. Most recently, these concerns were about some books that were being presented in some of the classes regarding LGBTQ ideologies, anti-Americanism, suicide and racial disparities. After several lengthy discussions at these meetings, I felt we were not getting anywhere. Therefore, I felt I needed to run for the school board. I am not afraid to ask tough questions, make a decision or stand up for what I feel is right. I also know when not to make a decision if I feel I don’t have enough information.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? While I don’t think the school board should dictate curriculum specifically, I think there should be a general consensus of what is acceptable and what isn’t. If there is an issue that is concerning to parents, I believe it is up to the board to weigh in on certain aspects of the curriculum, for which the issue lies, and it is their job to act as sort of mediator between the parents and the teachers. I feel parents do have a say in what is being taught to THEIR kids in public schools.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? I don’t really have an issue with the classes being taught, however some of the content being presented to our kids in some of the classes is questionable. I also realize it is a tough situation for our teachers as well. With that said, I feel it is going to get tougher and tougher to find teachers in the future as Governor Walz is planning to completely restructure the Minnesota teachers licensing standards. This will force our teachers to implement these catastrophic ideologies in our schools for which many teachers will not implement and thus their careers could be in jeopardy. I also feel the school board has a strong collective voice in opposing these new standards.
Dan Klein, Upsala School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: I am married to Brenda and we have two kids, Abby and Austin. I work at Magnum LTL as a freight CDL Driver. I have helped with youth sports programs over the past nine years.
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? Through my past work experience, customer service and communication is crucial. As a board member I will listen respectfully to opinions and concerns brought to my attention and work to find a solution.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? My main goal is to ensure that the quality of education is and remains a priority. We need to ensure our students are receiving the best education possible to allow them to thrive during and after their time at Upsala.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? There wasn’t one specific issue, I was looking for a way to be more involved in the school district as well as the decision-making process.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? There should be oversight to ensure the curriculum is not influenced by personal views.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? I think the content of what is being taught in some classes is concerning.
Dean Peterson, Upsala School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: I am a 63 year old lifelong resident of the district. I and all our children are graduates of and two of our grandkids attend Upsala Area Schools. In further education, I earned a bachelor’s degree in math and computer science. My brothers and I own Upsala Motors and I have worked there all my life selling and repairing vehicles. I have served over 25 years on the Upsala School Board. Our daughter Anna teaches kindergarten here. I am proud of and thankful for our school
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? I have personal assets that I feel are uniquely gained through years of parenting, running a business and serving on board positions at the school, church and other business groups. There are so many changes in everything now and people are so polarized. A lot of those experiences and perspectives I have gained prove valuable when approaching new problems and opportunities.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? Everything comes down to doing what is best for kids. The reality is that it needs to happen within a budget. It isn’t always clear and there are always differences of opinion on what “is” best for kids and how to get there. My number one goal is to do this job in a way that fosters the best possible results and happens in an atmosphere of openness, honesty, kindness and mutual respect.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? There are always trends and fads coming and going in education. Colleges should be training teachers based on data driven and proven methods but often their ideology gets in the way. I believe in teaching phonics and memorizing basic math facts in K-3 for example. When I saw our own kids weren’t being taught those things I was concerned and that’s when I first got on the board long ago.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? The main role of the board is to hire effective administration and staff and let them do their job with some guidance. The content, scope and sequence of the curriculum is mainly determined by them. Of course, we are ultimately responsible for the result, but hiring quality professionals and giving them some room to do their job will usually give you great results. Many years ago we had some issues with ineffective administration. Then you had the board micromanaging out of necessity and that is a bad scenario all around.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? I have no problems with the classes here. Recently, we have had some concerned parents approach us about some high school reading options and we are working with them in the curriculum material review committee. There will be differences of opinion as to what is and to what ages certain topics are appropriate. I advocate for modesty here pre-K through 12. You do read about crazy stuff like “Drag Queen Story Hour” happening elsewhere but schools are locally governed and there are some big city districts where nothing surprises me anymore.
Trevor Soltis, Upsala School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: I am a community member and father of two former graduates of Upsala Area Schools, with my youngest a current sophomore.
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? I have been an active community member and volunteer in our district, with the past eight years serving the Upsala School Board. It is important to me as a father of three daughters to show involvement and volunteer in our district to bring success and togetherness with all members.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? As a school board member, my number one goal is to listen and gather all great ideas, voices and involvement that bring a community together.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? There has been no specific issues that have caused me to seek office for the next term. I believe it is a great duty as a parent and community member to focus on student achievement, building positive relationships throughout the district and monitor its progress using data.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? I believe school board members’ involvement in our curriculum allows us to make informed decisions, communicate with community members and develop relationships with our teachers, staff and administration in our district.
James Warga, Upsala School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: I’ve been a part of the Upsala community for my entire life as much of my family has grown up here. I am married to my wife Samantha and we have six children who attend/attended Upsala Area Schools, many of whom are involved in extra curriculars and other after-school activities. I’ve mentored and volunteered to work with youth in our schools and churches for many years.
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? I’ve served on many boards and committees over the last 15 years working to better the community and our student leadership throughout this community. I’ve worked with children of all ages and love connecting with them at their level. I know the importance of structure in a school setting and feel I can effectively work with staff and students to ensure this is the case.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? As a board member, my goal is to support our faculty and listen to the students. I want to support the faculty by helping them provide a safe and attainable curriculum for the students. I want to ensure that students have what they need to succeed in a school setting and more importantly, their life after high school.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? No, but there is some concern with the current curriculum and some of the other issues students face with extracurricular activities.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? As the board is made up of parents, grandparents and concerned community members, I believe it is the board’s duty to ensure that the curriculum is as relevant, accurate and fact-based as possible; making sure the students are meeting state standards, but also ensuring the curriculum is teaching morals and ethics.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? No, not at this time. However, there is a broad spectrum of different curriculums that have raised concerns, especially with all the online capabilities that the students have access to.
Bruce Drone, Staples-Motley School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: I have lived in the Staples-Motley School District most of my life and in the city of Staples for 38 years. I am retired after 32 years as a custodian, boiler operator, maintenance worker for the Staples-Motley School District. I have a high school diploma and a two-year Staples Technical School diploma. I’m a past member of the Staples Historical Society and served as the Society president for a few years. I’m a past member of the Staples City Council and am a volunteer member of the Staples Planning and Zoning Board. I’m a volunteer member of the Staples City Board of Adjustments and a member of the Montrose Cemetery Board.
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? I was on the Staples City Council and learned how public office works. I am presently a volunteer member of the Staples City Planning and Zoning Board. I have attended 90% of the Staples-Motley School Board meetings since 2019, so I am well-informed on what the School Board is doing and is planning to do.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? My number one goal is to see that education has the major priority in the Staples-Motley School District, not extracurricular activities as the majority of the present board members believe.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? I have two major issues that caused me to seek a school board office. 1. Because the School Board chopped the C-grade level to a D-grade level, so anyone could be in extracurricular activities. 2. Because the School Board is borrowing money from the state to remodel the present building and build new buildings without voter approval that the taxpayers will have to pay back.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? It should be the top priority for the School Board to be involved with the development of the school’s curriculum.
Erich J. Heppner, Staples-Motley School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: I live in Thomastown Township with my wife Katie and our son Henry. I have served as the Director of Student Life at Central Lakes College since 2008. I believe that my time working with students has prepared me to enter public service because I have been on the front lines seeing how local graduates are prepared for college and for entering the workforce. Career and technical education, as well as college readiness, are deep passions of mine, and I’d like to do my part to help future Cardinals be the best in both the classroom and on the job.
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? I serve on a number of local boards and committees, including LEAP, Staples Tourism Board, Staples Historical Society, Wadena County Planning and Zoning, Thomastown Township Board, Region 5 Development Board, Innovative Schools Project, and I coordinate the monthly Ruby’s Pantry food distribution. For me, serving on a board means more than just attending meetings. It’s about having important conversations and considering the needs of my neighbors to come up with community-based solutions to the problems at hand. I am ready to serve and do my part for the betterment of all students.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? Teachers and staff need the tools that are required to successfully educate, and students need to have resources and support to successfully learn. Now more than ever, it is the time for great creativity and innovation in education. I am particularly passionate about advancing career and technical education; developing a realistic infrastructure improvement plan; and improving the ease of access and use of technology. As a school board member, I can help propel our district forward. My top goal is to help bring our communities together to provide a premier education and future for our most valuable resource, our children.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? I am running to change the narrative and instill more pride in our schools. When I speak with some senior members of our communities, they reminisce about how great our schools once were. While some things have certainly changed, we still have just as much to be proud of. Our classrooms are hubs for learning, the skillsets being acquired in the fine arts are phenomenal, student clubs are finding innovative ways to enhance their learning, and our Cardinal athletic teams continue to perform at a high level. From where I’m sitting, I see young men and women of character crossing the graduation finish line, and it makes me proud to live here.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? It’s important to note that per State policy, curriculum development is the responsibility of the superintendent. That being said, Overseeing the superintendent is a critical function of the school board, as it is the only position that directly reports to the board. School board members need to ensure that the superintendent leads the district towards the mission, vision, and values the board has established. The superintendent is able to create a District Advisory Committee. I am a proponent of such a committee because it gives parents an opportunity to help shape what’s being taught in our classrooms.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? I am not concerned with what is being taught in our district. I am a very plugged-in community member that watches school board meetings, reads the minutes, and visits routinely with school leadership. Additionally, I am blessed to have many friends that teach in our schools. After conversations with our teachers, I can tell you that it’s difficult to walk away without a sense of pride as you realize how much passion and care they pour into educating our children. As a board member, it would be my goal to find ways to support our staff as we work together.
Ryan Wright, Staples-Motley School Board Candidate
Introduce yourself: Born and raised in Staples and a 2008 graduate of SMHS, I have spent the majority of my life in our district. Minus five or so years in the Fargo/Moorhead area for college, and even then, Staples has always been my home. My wife, Liz, and I have been married for 9 years and have three kids ages two, four, and six. We enjoy the outdoors, reading, pressing cider in the fall, gardening, watching our favorite movies, and spending time with family and friends.
1. What past experience makes you qualified for this position? I believe that I bring many experiences that have prepared me to be a competent addition to the Staples-Motley School Board. As a father of three school-aged kids, I have a commitment to the children we serve. As a former substitute teacher in our schools, I have insight into the world of our staff. As a 2008 graduate of the district, I understand the challenges of our past. And working at Central Lakes College in Staples, I see what collaboration is possible to give our students significant opportunities.
2. What is your No. 1 goal as a board member? One of my main desires if elected to represent our district would be to continue being part of building trust in the district at all levels. Trust is in short supply in our society, and my hope is for Staples-Motley to be an example of how all stakeholders within a district can have confidence that even in disagreement, we believe that the intentions of those in our district are genuinely good. By committing to transparency when possible and listening always, we can move forward in good confidence that we move forward together.
3. Is there a specific issue that caused you to seek office? There is no specific issue that caused me to seek office. Every child deserves the best from every adult, and every adult has the power to serve in some way. We should all ask ourselves what our role is in doing good for those to whom it is due (our kids). It is in my power to serve every child in our district as a school board member, and if elected, I would strive to do just that.
4. How involved should the board be with curriculum development? Members of a school board have limitations and clearly defined roles within any district in our state. To the best of my knowledge, curriculum development is not one of those roles. I’m a firm believer that parents carry the greatest influence and responsibility in raising their children. I expect parents to not only advocate for their child’s education but to play an active role as a partner with both teachers and administration. I encourage anyone with questions to be courageous and courteous enough to first bring their concerns to those directly involved.
5. Are there classes being taught that concern you? Why? I am not aware of any courses being taught within the Staples-Motley school district that are of concern. Whether it’s ignorance or there truly are none, my resolve is the same. What and how I teach my children at home carries greater significance than any public school. I admit we live in a fractured society with competing values, and many concerns have some merit. But I believe that public education is a reflection of society, and if we hope to resolve our issues within education, we ought to look at the condition of our own homes and hearts first.
Kyle Reese, Staples-Motley School Board Candidate - This candidate did not respond to our requests to take part in this question and answer series.
Chandler Trout, Staples-Motley School Board Candidate - This candidate did not respond to our requests to take part in this question and answer series.
Shelly DeCamp, Staples-Motley School Board Candidate - This candidate did not respond to our requests to take part in this question and answer series.