Election 2022: 9 People Vying for 3 Seats on Sartell School Board
SARTELL (WJON News) - There are nine people running for three open seats on the Sartell-St. Stephen School Board. Nathan Crowe, Katie Hilger, Kris Lawrence, Ryan Dale, Emily Larson, Molly McCann, Scott Wenshau, Jen Smith and Amanda Byrd are all looking to represent the school district.
Amanda Byrd is the lone incumbent in this race. She says she hopes to continue to be an experienced voice on the board. Byrd feels her experience and knowledge will play a key role as the board navigates the next phase of their district-wide improvement plan.
The building referendum that passed to build the high school in 2016 was part one of this process. We always had a part two and part three in this plan. Part two is essentially a new HVAC system for Riverview and a stadium at the high school. I think over the next four years we will need to come up with a comprehensive plan on how to address those needs within the district.
Bryd says she prides herself in being a critical thinker and asking the tough questions in order to make the best decision for the students.
Katie Hilger is a new face running for school board. She says her passion for public schools and kids is what drove her to run for school board. Hilger says as a parent and former teacher, she wants to strengthen the relationship between the school district and community.
One of my main goals is to make sure the students, teachers and community feel valued and heard. I want them to know their opinions really matter and their input in what we do is essential.
Hilger says one of her strengths is her ability to look at a problem from multiple viewpoints and understand where all sides are coming from. She says the district has an excellent reputation and hopes to be a part of guiding that academic success.
Ryan Dale and his family have lived in Sartell for 11 years. He says he wanted to have a more active role in the community and felt the school board was a good place to start. Dale says he would like to continue to grow and develop the district's special education programming.
One of our children is on the Autism spectrum and between the support staff, educators and specialists in this district, that's the reason my kids are successful. There is only going to be more families that will need assistance and I think special education is going to be a big focus in the future.
Dale says the district has done a great job in recent years handling increased enrollment and upgrading the different school buildings to meet the needs of students.
Molly McCann is a substitute teacher. She says being inside the school walls gives her insight into what's working and areas that need improvement. McCann says if elected she would like to see more initiatives focused on social/emotional learning.
I know from teaching in the Sauk Rapids-Rice School District, they have specialized teachers who do a rotation of social/emotional learning. Our teachers here do a great job of incorporating that into their classrooms everyday, but I would really support an initiative putting a stronger emphasis on that especially in the lower grade levels.
McCann says she has a passion for working with kids and building relationships and feels she can be a voice for students and parents.
Jen Smith says her desire to run for school board grew in recent years. She says as a parent with a child who is dyslexic, she became frustrated there were not enough resources for the district to give her son, and other students, the help they need. Smith believes the school district is moving away from traditional education and wants to put parents back into the equation.
Out kids need to get back into the basics of reading, writing, math, and science. They need to grasp on the bare bones of education and leave a lot of the political ideologies at the door.
Smith says she's passionate about advocating for all students and wants to work to bring those necessary resources and services into the schools so students have what they need to succeed.
Scott Wenshau says if you asked him, he'd be the first to tell you he never imagined running for school board. He says as a father he's seen firsthand the harassment and bullying happening inside the school walls. Wenshau says his goal is to bring transparency back to our schools.
I don't know why some school board meetings are not made public, certain topics can't be discussed, or the fact it feels like you need an act of Congress just to figure out what's happening in the classroom. There is an accountability issue here and we need to make some changes.
Wenshau says his background in the military and law enforcement makes him an effective leader and problem-solver. He says he wants to work with all sides to make sure our students feel safe going to school.
Emily Larson says she moved to Sartell because of the reputation of the school system. However, her interest in the school board developed over the last 18 months following displeasure with some of the district's decision-making. Larson says after reviewing all of the district's policies, she feels there needs to be more actionable procedures for topics like bullying.
Kids have stated many times, that bullying is happening but not being reprimanded. A lot of that goes back to does the staff even know how to proceed and I don't see anything laid out where they would know what steps to take.
Larson says the schools are the backbone of the community and parents and the community at large needs to get more involved in what's happening within our schools.
Kris Lawrence says she's running for school board because she wants to look out for student needs. She says her goal is to bring a sense of unity between the school district and community. Lawrence says with kids dealing with multiple stressors, her goal is to make sure our schools have the resources to support them.
I think there are a lot of mental health and emotional health issues we could address better. I know our social work and counseling staff is overwhelmed because there is a significant need and not enough bodies to go around.
Lawrence says she's excited about the district's new Strategic Plan and how it will move the district forward. She says if elected, she won't be afraid to voice her opinions while listening to all perspectives to make a well-rounded decision.
This is Nathan Crowe's first attempt at local politics. He says while he may be unfamiliar with school policies and procedures, he's no stranger to how to take the framework of the rules and work with others in order to reach a goal.
In my work for the Stearns County Attorney's Office I have to work collaboratively with different groups with lots of different interests, and we have to come together to find a solution that is the most effective for everyone involved.
Crowe says he's an advocate for better communication, not just with parents, but with the community about decisions approved by the board and the reasons behind those decisions.