The general election will be Tuesday, Nov. 3. The race for four seats on the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose School Board saw nine candidates throw their hats in the ring for four open seats. In alphabetical order, the candidates are Adam Bjorklund, incumbent Melissa Brings, David Casey, Eric Ellwoods, Bradley Elo, Amanda Lawrence, incumbent Susan Lee, Stan Vander Kool and incumbent David Wilson.

The candidates were asked to include their thoughts in statements. Each were asked to include a short biography of themselves and their backgrounds as well as their personal and professional experiences. They were also asked to comment on two questions that were asked. (See questions belows in each statement).

The responses received include:

Melissa Brings

Biographical info:

Address: 307 Bradshaw Ave NE; Buffalo, MN 55313

Education: Graduated from Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose school district. Diploma from Rasmussen Business College as well as additional college credits. Formerly MN Life & Health and Property Casualty license holder as well as NASD Series 6.

Occupation: Self-employed. Own and operate Water Boy (lawn irrigation/sprinkler business) located in Buffalo which we established in 1998.

Community Involvement: This is my 13th year of having the privilege to serve on the BHM School Board. While on the board, I have served on many committees/organizations some of which are; Schools for Equity in Education, Safe Schools, Safe Communities, multiple hiring teams, contract negotiations for all but one bargaining group, and more.

1. What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

The school board budget is reviewed and adjusted multiple times throughout the year. Likely surprising to many, school board budgets do not offer a lot of flexibility in spending due to mandates and fixed obligations. That being said, I feel confident with our current budgeting and review process.  

2. What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?  

This particular school year, the most important thing will be adaptability to change. This is unlike anything anybody has experienced and decisions are needing to be made, evaluated and reevaluated on a daily basis with guidance from MN Department of Education and Department of Health as well as local county officials. Again, unfortunately, school districts do not have a lot of flexibility in their decisions as it pertains to how school will be conducted during COVID-19.

Dave Casey

Biographical info:

Address: 519 Amber Lane Buffalo, Mn. 55313

Education: Masters in Education

Occupation: Retired Teacher

Community Involvement: Worked in BHM as an educator for over 31 years. Involved in curriculum design, budget planning and growth. Coached sports and academic teams in our school district. Served as a Police Reserve. Volunteer at the Food Shelf. Participating in City Council meetings and citizen advisory boards. Parent Advisory Board at the University of Minnesota International Adoption Study

1. What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

We are in a time that we have never seen in education. Change and communication will be important.

We need to get the teachers the education, support and supplies they need to be successful. Provide a quality education for students with the dollars available. Funding is always tight and often restricts the ability to do all of the things the District would like to accomplish. This was never more true than today. We cannot lose teachers to budget cuts. We will need to be extremely thoughtful, creative and fiscally responsible.

Equity in education through my lobbing the legislation will be a priority.

2. What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

The most important issue facing education today is providing a quality education for students during these uncertain times. These are uncharted territories, and we need to support, students, teachers, and families. We need to be able to deal with mental health issues. Working with our community recourses will help us accomplish this.

Amanda Lawrence

Biographical info:

Address: Buffalo

Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Communication, Luther College

Occupation: Background in Customer Service and Corporate Training

Community Involvement: President of 877 Scholarship Foundation, Volunteer at Zion Lutheran Church, Member of 100 Women Who Care

1. What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

Reviewing policies to make sure that all resources are being used effectively and efficiently is something we should constantly be doing. When areas for improvement are found, changes should be made. We should make sure things like small class sizes, the physical and mental health of students and staff, and preserving a large variety of programs/classes/activities are top priorities. Increased government funding is essential for both mandated programs and increased per pupil costs due to inflation. Our district families should not have to choose between big cuts that will negatively affect our children’s education or tax increases that will negatively affect our pocketbooks.

2. What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

Obviously, the challenge of this school year for everyone involved is COVID-19. The safety of the students and staff should be the top factor in any decision made while still moving the students’ education forward. Administrators should listen to the experts and watch the data.  These are challenging times for the leaders of our schools and for our families. It is important to remember that although we may have different opinions, we all want what is best for our kids.  

Susan Lee

Biographical info:

Address: 210 Douglas Drive, Buffalo

Education: B.S. with Masters equivalent in education

Career: 34 years teaching in BHM schools

Community involvement: Subsequently nearly 15 years on the BHM School Board;

Other relevant involvements: Representative on the County Health Committee, representative on the Wright Technical Center Board, and served as a Mentor Mom for young mothers and children in the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) program host by our church for the Buffalo community

1. What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

The BHM’s budget has been very well managed. The pandemic is causing major disruptions across the society and economy, and have required the district leadership to focus on the safety of students and staff. Significant efforts have been made to adjust to the various demands of government entities and district constituencies. Being fiscally wise is critical and more difficult in these times than some people may think.

2. What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

Unfortunately, the current pandemic has disrupted our usual functions – as has been the case across society. Many adjustments have been required and those will continue through the current school year. Curriculum, instruction methods, use of technology, student and staff health and safety, and busing are among the areas requiring extra attention and planning. Administrative leaders, staff members, parents and Board members participate in evaluating conditions and adjust as necessary to do what is best for students.  

David Wilson

Biographical info:

Address: Buffalo

Education: 3 undergraduate degrees

Career: 29 years as a financial adviser

Community involvement: Committees at Zion Lutheran Church, president of the Buffalo Area Chamber of Commerce, Buffalo Rotary Club.

1. What adjustments, if any, should be made to the school board’s budget?

School finance remains an issue for schools. We need to have some legislative reform at some point to take pressure off our local taxpayer. The State of Minnesota, by statute, is required to fully fund education. They fall far short of this task. To make things worse, they place millions of dollars of under-funded mandates on the district. This causes us to use up our reserves far too quickly. We continually stay in touch with legislators trying to get them to introduce legislation that will change school finance. As a Board, we will continue to push legislators to look into a new method of paying for education.

2. What is the most important thing you feel students and parents face this school year?

The obvious issue right now is the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a strain on the district both financially and procedurally. We have to make many changes in how the schools look and how they are run. Students, staff, parents and everyone else involved are having to make adjustments and sacrifices. Until this pandemic is under control, we are going to be operating outside the norm. We have a tremendous task force lead by our administrative team that has been working tirelessly since before the end of the school year last June to ensure a safe and effective opening to the 2020-21 school year.

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