School Board- Saint Cloud, Sartell-St. Stephen, Sauk Rapids-Rice

As the 2020 election draws near, we sent out candidate surveys to better understand how our Central MN candidates hope to represent us. Because we are interested in building communities that emphasizes our shared sense of safety in hopes to decrease fear and suspicion of those who are different from us, we focused our questions on these issues. We will share the responses from all candidates who were gracious enough to share their vision for our communities. We hope the information helps you find candidates who will represent you in elected office.

This blog explores the School Board races in the cities of St. Cloud, Sartell-St. Stephen, and Sauk Rapids-Rice.

 

Saint Cloud

Andrea Preppernau

What 3 words best describe how you would serve your constituents? 

Collaboration, Communication, Creativity

If elected, what would be your top priority while in office? 

Providing every student with an excellent educational experience.

Do you support the #BlackLivesMatter movement for racial justice in our country?

 Yes

Do you believe that all people should be able to practice their religion freely and without discrimination in America? 

Yes

Do you believe in full rights and freedom for our LGBTQ+ neighbors?

Yes

Do you believe that businesses should be able to discriminate (both in hiring and in whom they serve) based on sexual orientation? 

No

Do you support the mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19?

Yes

Do you believe that climate change is real?

Yes

What would you do if you heard a friend or family member disparaging someone based on their religion, ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation?

I like using strategic questioning. Asking the person to reflect on what they were doing and why they were doing it.

If elected, how do you plan to build empathetic connections with your constituents?

By building relationships and getting to know people through listening to what they have to say.

If elected, how will you help your constituents feel a greater sense of safety and hope in their community?

By being a positive role model in the community. In addition, we have many great examples and stories of successful students who have graduated from District 742 who can share their own experiences.

If elected, how will you help diverse neighbors decrease their fear and suspicion of one another?

I have the quote from Marie Curie on my office wall, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.” Fear comes from not knowing, not understanding. We have to build relationships with each other in order to overcome these fears. It doesn’t mean we all have to agree, but we can at least try to understand each other’s perspectives. Many times we discover that our perspectives are very similar to one another….we all want our families to be healthy and thriving.

If elected, what are your plans to address poverty and the widening income gap and income disparities? 

We are fortunate in our community that we have many programs that are trying to address the opportunity gaps in our educational system. All students deserve as many opportunities that we can give them so they can flourish! Our school systems along with the many community organizations need to continue working together to address this issue collectively.

Anything else you would like to add?

I look forward to partnering with our community and educators to provide every student in District 742 with an outstanding educational experience!

 

Al Dahlgren

What 3 words best describe how you would serve your constituents? 

Fair, Honest, Transparent

If elected, what would be your top priority while in office? 

The # 1 priority in our district needs to be to bring greater focus to the funding shortfalls that so greatly impact our district. # 1 on that list is the special education cross subsidy followed by the EL cross subsidy. School districts that have high numbers of students with greater challenges and roadblocks to learning are unfairly punished with funding shortfalls in the current system.

Do you support the #BlackLivesMatter movement for racial justice in our country?

 No

Do you believe that all people should be able to practice their religion freely and without discrimination in America? 

Yes

Do you believe in full rights and freedom for our LGBTQ+ neighbors?

Yes

Do you believe that businesses should be able to discriminate (both in hiring and in whom they serve) based on sexual orientation? 

No

Do you support the mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19?

No

Do you believe that climate change is real?

No

What would you do if you heard a friend or family member disparaging someone based on their religion, ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation?

I would let them know I do not condone their behavior. In some cases this has caused friction in the relationship. That is ok.

If elected, how do you plan to build empathetic connections with your constituents?

I always listen to what is being said to me. I make decisions based on facts, not based on outside influences or bias.

If elected, how will you help your constituents feel a greater sense of safety and hope in their community?

There are many ways of achieving this. First and foremost I think we need to continue our efforts to build school communities where all children feel they belong, feel loved and respected. We need to focus on positives in the classrooms. From there, we need to have strong policies that prohibit bullying of any kind and it needs to be enforced indiscriminately. Third, we need safe buildings. I do support our local school resource officer program.

If elected, how will you help diverse neighbors decrease their fear and suspicion of one another?

Your question and how you ask it is part of the cause of these issues. Perhaps a better way to ask it is not to state as fact that ALL diverse neighbors are fearful and suspicious of one another. Many aren’t. Respect that and recognize it. It will go a long way toward inclusive mutual respect. PBIS for Unite Cloud . Also recognize that it is not always “diversity” that is the cause or reason for fear or suspicion.

Every child deserves to feel safe, accepted, loved and respected. We need to establish environments within our school communities that promote respect and acceptance. We need to continue to encourage participation by all members of a school community. Fear goes away when you get to know someone. Participation is key.

If elected, what are your plans to address poverty and the widening income gap and income disparities? 

As a school board member, addressing poverty from an educational standpoint is fair, but we are not like legislators writing laws and enabling direct aid to combat poverty. The best long term solution to ending poverty is to educate all students to their full potential so that they can become educated adults and contributing members to our society. This is done one child, one mind at a time. Challenge every child to reach their full potential, and provide the supports necessary to ensure they are doing so.

Anything else you would like to add?

Asking yes/no questions on a survey like this is very unfair. These are not yes/no questions. At least a comment box could be added. For example, BLM is many things. I support BLM in the effort to recognize racial equity. I cannot check the box yes though when they are funding riots in cities across the country. The climate change yes/no question is BS. Of course there is “climate change”, I do not believe it is man made. I believe the climate change movement is an international political movement. I do not know anyone who does not support a clean and healthy environment. There have been many bad decisions made over the years concerning the environment. Regulations and penalties to address those instances and to prevent future instances are crucial. The movement itself is out of control.

 

Omar Podi

What 3 words best describe how you would serve your constituents? 

100% service my constituents

If elected, what would be your top priority while in office? 

Equal opportunity and fulfill the achievement gap

Do you support the #BlackLivesMatter movement for racial justice in our country?

 Yes

Do you believe that all people should be able to practice their religion freely and without discrimination in America? 

Yes

Do you believe in full rights and freedom for our LGBTQ+ neighbors?

Yes

Do you believe that businesses should be able to discriminate (both in hiring and in whom they serve) based on sexual orientation? 

No

Do you support the mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19?

Yes

Do you believe that climate change is real?

Yes

What would you do if you heard a friend or family member disparaging someone based on their religion, ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation?

I will contact Police department and Unite Cloud

If elected, how do you plan to build empathetic connections with your constituents?

Creating town halls and meeting all my constituents.

If elected, how will you help your constituents feel a greater sense of safety and hope in their community?

Everything they and whenever they need to provide to make sure they are doing great.

If elected, how will you help diverse neighbors decrease their fear and suspicion of one another?

I will create trust and confidence between the communities.

If elected, what are your plans to address poverty and the widening income gap and income disparities? 

I have more experience to utilize and create an opportunity for all.

Anything else you would like to add?

I would be happy if I would see more voters turn out.

 

Scott Andreason

Candidate Scott Andreason did not answer the survey. He did send the following email to us:

“Your survey wants yes no answers. Then locks you in to them. Sorry but the world is not black and white. The world is gray with lots of nuisance. There is more than one side to issues. This survey is very poorly designed. I will not participate in it.”

 

Shannon Haws, Monica Segura-Schwartz, Hani Omar-Jacobson

These candidates did not fill out the survey. They also did not communicate with us at all.

 

To learn more about the candidates, view the link to local media below:

See where St. Cloud school board candidates stand on distance learning, Apollo referendum and more

https://www.sctimes.com/story/news/local/2020/09/25/see-where-st-cloud-school-board-candidates-stand-seven-issues-election-who-to-vote-for/5823122002/

 

Sartell

Taryn Gentile

What 3 words best describe how you would serve your constituents? 

Diligent, Sensible, Responsible.

If elected, what would be your top priority while in office? 

Equity is my biggest concern at this point. Given our current cultural environment, it is a good time to start making changes and doing the right thing. It is important for everyone to understand the difference between equality and equity – equality essentially means that everyone gets the same thing or is treated the same way, but equity means that everyone receives what they need in order to be on equal footing with those around them. And it isn’t just about race. Equity pertains to all sorts of protected classes – race certainly is a part of it, but it can also include sexuality, gender, religion, ability/disability, age, socio-economic status, or any other protected class. To pretend that we do not have an equity issue in our school district is to not only diminish and devalue those students and families that are experiencing inequities, but also to rob our students of the ability to have an educational experience that better reflects and prepares them for the world we live in – the world they will experience once they graduate out of our district and move on to other opportunities.

Do you support the #BlackLivesMatter movement for racial justice in our country?

 Yes

Do you believe that all people should be able to practice their religion freely and without discrimination in America? 

Yes

Do you believe in full rights and freedom for our LGBTQ+ neighbors?

Yes

Do you believe that businesses should be able to discriminate (both in hiring and in whom they serve) based on sexual orientation? 

No

Do you support the mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19?

Yes

Do you believe that climate change is real?

Yes

What would you do if you heard a friend or family member disparaging someone based on their religion, ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation?

I would stop them and let them know what they said was inappropriate and why. I believe in education – it may be that the person did not know what they were saying was offensive and they can learn and change their behavior. If it was said with ill intent, then it is important to make sure the person knows that I am not okay with what they were saying. Being an ally for those who are marginalized means being an ally all the time, not just when it is convenient or when there is someone who is a minority in the room.

If elected, how do you plan to build empathetic connections with your constituents?

I will listen. I believe that listening to concerns and addressing them honestly is the best way to show that I value the opinions of others. That being said, I know there will be situations in which we may not always agree. It is important to me to be civil and respectful and communicate effectively. Even if the outcome is not what was expected or a difference of opinion/idea remains, I want all parties involved to feel respected and heard. I hope that in my respectfulness and in my actions, I can show others that I care about my school district and all the students and staff we serve.

If elected, how will you help your constituents feel a greater sense of safety and hope in their community?

I believe that with the equity audit, we will be able to identify areas that the Sartell-St Stephen School District needs to address in order to ensure an equitable education for all students, regardless of race, religion, sexuality, gender, ability/disability, or socio-economic standing. From the June listening session, it is evident that there are students in the district that do not feel safe in their school, and that is unacceptable. Utilizing the equity audit and the plan created as a result, we will have a framework to address these issues. However, just having a plan isn’t enough. I believe in action, and through implementation of ideas and continuous monitoring, will be able to make progress towards equity for all. I understand that equity is a journey, not just a thing to just be “achieved,” and the school board will need to make adjustments and changes over time to continue to provide an excellent, equitable education for all students.

If elected, how will you help diverse neighbors decrease their fear and suspicion of one another?

I hope to increase transparency within the district towards issues of equity. Often, we are not made aware of an issue unless our children are the ones involved, and I believe this needs to change. The district should monitor equity complaints and be able to provide information around the issue without providing personal and/or identifying information. By providing this type of information, parents can also be more involved in addressing these issues at home as well as providing more color around district actions addressing these issues. Hopefully by providing this information and through district actions, marginalized neighbors will see the district making a genuine effort to do and be better, which will make them feel welcomed and safe.

If elected, what are your plans to address poverty and the widening income gap and income disparities? 

With COVID changing how schools are teaching students and the use of distance learning, the opportunity for larger achievement gaps for those who live in lower income households has grown. The district’s Strategic Plan has a goal to close this achievement gap so there is no disparity in success between those who receive free/reduced lunch and those who do not. I believe it will be important to reach out to these households to determine what the district needs to do in order to ensure student success. We need to be sure we are in contact with these families so that appropriate resources can be offered so the students will be on equal footing as those who are in more affluent households. Especially important will be addressing the needs for those who are distance learning, to ensure all students have access to the materials and resources they need to receive an equitable education to in-person learners.

Anything else you would like to add?

People come to Sartell-St. Stephen to live because our school district is consistently rated as one of the best in the state. We have great programs and great opportunities for students across academics, athletics, and arts. But in order for us to continue to provide a high quality education to our students, we have to make sure we are adequately preparing them for a world outside of Sartell or even the St. Cloud Area. We should take a critical eye to the mission and values of our district: it is time for us to revamp our Value Statements to put equity at the forefront, like our neighboring districts in Sauk Rapids-Rice and St. Cloud Area already has.

Matthew Moehrle, Patricia Meling, Jason Nies

These candidates did not fill out the survey. They also did not communicate with us at all.

 

To learn more about the candidates, view the link to local media below:

Election 2020: Sartell-St. Stephen School Board

https://wjon.com/election-2020-sartell-st-stephen-school-board/

Meet the 4 candidates for the Sartell-St. Stephen School Board

https://www.sctimes.com/story/news/2020/09/09/meet-2020-sartell-st-stephen-school-board-candidates/5762603002/

Sauk Rapids

Olivia Kolbe

Candidate Olivia Kolbe did not fill out the survey. She did send us this email:

“I will decline to fill out the survey at this time. Thank you.”

Tracy Morse, Ryan Butkowski, Mark Hauck, Jan Solarz

These candidates did not fill out the survey. They also did not communicate with us at all.

 

To learn more about the candidates, view the link to local media below:

Meet the 5 candidates running for Sauk Rapids-Rice School Board

https://www.sctimes.com/story/news/2020/09/08/meet-2020-sauk-rapids-rice-school-board-candidates/5691821002/

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