11/2/2012 3:50:00 PM Six candidates vie for four spots
By David Richards
The Byron Education Association sponsored a school board candidates' forum at Byron High School Oct. 29. More than two dozen school staff, students and members of the public turned out for the event that was held in the BHS multi-purpose room.
"I think it went really well," said Tara Boldthen, moderator for the event and Byron High School social studies teacher. "I think the candidates were well prepared and realistic in their responses."
The forum featured the six candidates who are vying for four seats on Byron's school board.
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.
In the forum format, candidates received six questions to answer. Each candidate had a maximum of two minutes to answer as well.
Questions ranged from what talents each candidate would bring to the board to the school's open enrollment policy as the school district continues to grow.
As far as what talents each candidate would bring, Jorgensen, who's worked for the Minnesota National Guard since 2006, said he would bring the ability to work with a variety of people.
"I would bring great communication and problem solving skills," he said. "I work everyday with people to help solve problems and it's not always easy and there are things you have to work through."
Morris said she likes to have an open viewpoint and said she's gained valuable experience from the Morris Concrete business she owns with her husband.
"I'd like to think we know how to run a business and to run budgets and to work with employees," she said.
Olive, who has said she'd bring a different mix to the board as a mother of elementary school students, added that she is open-minded as well.
"And I'm approachable," she said.
As a high school football and basketball player, Prigge said enjoyed being able to help his fellow athletes by way of a block if they needed it.
"I always received a lot of satisfaction helping other people be successful, even if it's helping someone change a tire on the side of the road. As a board, we need to help remove roadblocks for teachers and administrators."
Rutgers said she's passionate about the community and would bring drive to the position.
"I'm a team player," she said. Parents, students and teachers, I believe, can come to me. I believe in dealing with tough issues head on and coming to a consensus and a conclusion.
Douglas, who works as a business analyst in Media Support at Mayo Clinic, said his job and his experience as a board member the past eight years is valuable.
"To me, data is very important," he said. "What works, how is it working. Can we measure it? As a board, we need to look at that data, but then get out of the way and let the teachers do their job.
On open enrollment, the amount of non-Byron residents the district allows, most of the candidates voiced their approval of the issue and agreed there should be a limit.
Olive said it should be managed closely.
"There may come a time where it might not make sense fiscally, but we need to continue to monitor it."
Prigge also said open enrollment needs to be looked at, while also noting that it also contributes financially to the district.
"But we can't continue open enrollment if it's going to change our class sizes," he said.
Rutgers said there should definitely be a limit.
"I do feel there needs to be a cap," she said. "There can be resentful feelings from residents when enrollment numbers get high. It's a balancing act."
Douglas said there are good reasons to continue open enrollment, point out first that it's a state law, but agreed it should be looked at.
"We are in the process of re-evaluating it," he said. "People are still moving here like crazy."
Jorgensen said open enrollment is a good thing.
"It can benefit parents; give them options, and benefit the school district."
Morris said she's seen the advantages of open enrollment work for Byron schools.
"We have been able to offer programs that we wouldn't have been able to offer in the past," she said.
The local, state and national elections all take place today, Nov. 6.
Boldthen said the forum was made possible because a number of people, including school custodians, time keepers Emily Pearson and Kris Haeussinger and Mary Fremarek, in charge of technology.