10/21/2012 4:05:00 PM School board forum set as election nears
By David Richards
In the most contested local race of the Nov. 6 election, three incumbents and three newcomers are all vying for four seats on Byron's school board.
On Monday, Oct. 29 in the Byron High School multi-purpose room, a forum for the school board race will be held beginning at 5 p.m. In the format, candidates will receive six questions to answer. Each candidate will have a maximum of two minutes for each question.
Three of the four incumbents have refiled, including Chris Douglas, Peggy Morris and Matt Prigge. Brian Krings is not running for re-election, Non-incumbents include Allan Jorgensen, Tessa Olive and Barb Rutgers.
All seats are four-year terms and are at-large, meaning the top four candidates who receive the most votes win.
Douglas is finishing his eighth year on the board. He was born and raised in Byron, graduating from Byron High School in 1985. He moved away in 1990 and returned in 1999. He works as a business analyst in Media Support at Mayo Clinic.
Douglas, who has two kids in the district, praised the district's use of technology, which includes the iPad pilot program for seventh graders and the "flipped" classroom at the high school.
"We need to take the teaching to the next level where we get the students to have the natural desire to learn," he said. "In the short term, I'd like to see more of this expansion, this type of curriculum and teaching. In the long term, we really need to start developing a five-year strategic plan on how we can develop this type of education and really prepare our students for their future."
He also said that in his eight years on the board, he's gained valuable experience.
"I've learned the district quite well," he said. "I understand that the role of the board is to guide and oversee the direction of the district without micromanaging."
Jorgensen moved to the school district in 2005 and into the Byron city limits two years later. He has a son who graduated from Byron High School last year and also has a 12-year-old daughter.
He's worked for the Minnesota National Guard since 2006.
He graduated from high school in South Dakota as well as from South Dakota State.
In the short term, the goals should be on making sure the kids are getting a good quality education, keeping up with national standards and staying on top of test scores, results and that sort of thing.
For the long term, the emphasis should be on keeping up with the time and technology, and making sure there are adequate resources available for the students to be competitive with the rest of the high school graduates.
Jorgensen has four years city council experience from South Dakota.
"I'm approachable, I listen to people and I'm looking forward to being the constituent's voice on school-related matters," he said.
Morris has served on the board for the past two years and has lived in Byron for 15. She owns Morris Concrete with her husband and has one daughter in the seventh grade.
"It's such a great district," said Morris, shortly after filing for re-election. "There are so many things going on that I would like to see go through and keep the greatness going."
Morris said she is very excited about the iPad and robotics programs in the district.
"I've been very active in both the elementary and the middle schools," she said. "I believe the greatest gift we can give our kids is a great education, and I will do my best to make sure they get that great education."
Olive has kids in first and fourth grade and has lived in Byron for 13 years. She said she'd bring a different mix to the board as a mother of elementary school students.
"I'm a vested member of the Byron community," she said. "We built our house here 13 years ago knowing that when we did have kids, they would go to school here."
Olive said the most important issue in the short term will be focusing on growth in the district with open enrollment being a hot-button issue, while in the long term the focus should be on maintaining excellence throughout the district.
"We're doing an excellent job," she said. "We just need to continue with our excellence in education."
Olive works as the advertising director for Community Connection Media, which is a division of Schmidt Printing.
Prigge has been a board member for 12 years and has lived in Byron all of his life, graduating from Byron High School in 1983.
He works for an agriculture chemical distribution company and has two teenagers in the district.
"I guess I felt I owed it to the new superintendent to run one more time just to help with continuity in general," Prigge said this past summer. "I enjoy it too. I have no complaints doing the job.
Prigge has enjoyed witnessing all the changes that have happened at Byron Public Schools over the years.
"It's been exciting to watch Byron build a new school, and it's been fun to see the accomplishments the kids have achieved due to the hard work of the teachers of the teachers who have limited resources."
While Prigge is the board's chair and an incumbent, he knows his re-election isn't a sure thing.
"It would be presumptuous of me to say I deserve another term," he said. "I'll leave that up to the voters."
Rutgers is new to Byron, but not to the school district. Her family moved from Rochester in June, but her five kids have been in Byron schools for five years.
Rutgers spent 10 years in nursing, then took time off to raise her children and will return to nursing in November.
She said the most pressing issue facing the district is the influx of students and taking a hard look at open enrollment.
"I think if we keep getting residents in Byron, we have to look at it because space is an issue right now," Rutgers said.
Rutgers added that she has a daughter in one of the district's flipped classroom, which centers on watching lessons online at night at home and then doing homework in the classroom with teachers available for one on one instruction.
She would like to see that program expand.
"I would love to see that more," Rutgers said. "It's going to benefit them because they will be learning what they need to in terms of technology."
She added that she's passionate about people of all ages, especially kids as well as the community.
"My slogan is 'keeping Byron the best' because we are known to be one of the top districts in Minnesota, if not the country, and I love the administration and want to do right by the employees of the district."