CHISHOLM — Candidates vying for a seat on the Chisholm School Board shared their views during a forum last week.
The Chisholm Chamber of Commerce and Chisholm Community Education co-hosted the event held at the Chisholm Senior Citizen Center.
Six of seven candidates participated in the forum. They included: Incumbent Pat Kestly, Jaclyn Corradi Simon, Kim Giermann, Shelly Lappi, Cindy Rice and Todd Reinke. Incumbent Ione Tomasetti was absent due to attending a Range Association of Municipalities and Schools (RAMS) meeting.
Before diving into a series of six predetermined questions posed by moderator Steve Potts, the candidates made their introductions. Audience members were given an opportunity to submit questions, two of which were selected by Potts. None of the questions were provided to the candidates in advance.
Lappi is a lifelong Chisholm resident and is a Chisholm High School graduate. She is currently employed as a sales representative for Fraboni’s Wholesale.
Giermann works in education. She has two children who are Chisholm graduates, and another still in the district.
Reinke is employed at U.S. Steel’s Keetac plant. One of his children graduated from Chisholm and the other currently attends. He moved to Chisholm in 1990.
Simon is a lifelong resident of Chisholm/Balkan. She graduated from Chisholm High School and Hibbing Community College prior to continuing her education. She is an attorney with an office in Hibbing.
Rice is a retired school district employee of 32 years. Born and raised in Chisholm, she raised her children in Chisholm. One of her children is now a teacher in the district.
Kestly moved to Chisholm after graduating college. A third generation educator, she said all of her three children graduated from the Chisholm School District.
Candidates found common ground in wanting to find ways to increase enrollment, seek increased funding, and retain students and teachers. A need for communication at all levels is also something candidates talked about.
Lappi said her first goal would be to educate herself in order to get a clear vision of the district. One of her goals would be to raise enough money to retain and attract teachers, and to keep up with technology and stay competitive with other districts.
Giermann’s goals include ways to attract and retain students and teachers. To do that, she said she’d like to find a way to secure students who live in town and are not currently enrolled and keep the students who are. She recommended introducing unique and innovative new programs.
Communication within the school was also encouraged by Giermann.
Reinke said he’d like to see increased enrollment and increased participation in school programs. He also mentioned maintenance of the district’s aging buildings and keeping teachers’ wages competitive with other districts.
Simon said it’s important to identify the cause of declining enrollment in order to find a solution. She suggested introducing alternative programs and utilizing technology in the classroom. She said it’s important to help the district identify its goals and vision and formulate a mission statement, and follow it in all parts of the schools.
Rice said she too would need to educate herself on the workings of the school board. Working in the school for many years, she said she felt communication needs to improve with everyone. A way to keep and retain students is to ensure the district is keeping good teachers in the district, Rice said. She added that it’s important to get the community involved in the schools, and help them to understand their importance.
Kestly said she first ran for school board because it’s important to offer students the same type of education her students experienced. She also talked about the importance of communication and marketing the district, which she experienced while working on the district’s strategic plan. Kestly also touched on the topic of treating all students, faculty and staff with dignity and respect.
All of the candidates named the school functions they have attended, and said they intend to be visible at school functions in the future.
There were no clear cut items identified by candidates to be reduced or eliminated, or which programs are underfunded and need more support.
Rice said being new to the board, she would need to educate herself on all of the programs before making any recommendations on reductions. Listing the many components of education, including academics and extra-curricular, Rice said she feels they are all important.
Kestly said she’s known for thinking “outside the box” and looking at ways to be creative and collaborative. She mentioned combining resources through Education Innovation Partners (EIP) and College in the Schools as options for collaboration.
Lappi said it’s difficult to determine where cuts should be made until she knows more. The main aim is to prepare students for the future, she said. When talking to current students, Lappi said she’s surprised at things that have gone away.
Giermann said she feels all education is underfunded at both the state and federal level. She stressed the importance of a well-rounded education. Chisholm does “a pretty good job” of supporting its school, she opined. If at some point cuts do need to be made, she said due diligence and making good decisions are important.
Reinke said he wouldn’t want to see anything cut.
Simon agreed with other candidates who feel it’s difficult to determine any cuts without knowing the costs. She also talked about the importance of a well-rounded education and thinking outside the box.
“There’s always ways to be more efficient and use money in a better manner,” she added.
Candidates were asked to identify one thing they could do to improve the quality of education in the schools.
Kestly said she’d want to ensure a way to bring back the components of food and consumer science classes (FACS). While substitute teaching FACS, Kestly said she found a lot of learners lacked those concepts. She noted there are about 60 other things she would revive.
Lappi said she would like to find funding to improve sports facilities, enroll more students to fill a team and keep the Bluestreaks going.
Giermann talked about Bluestreak Pride. She said she’d like teachers, students and community members to be proud of the school, and show pride in one’s actions and how one portrays himself/herself.
Reinke said he would like to address low participation in school activities. He’d like to see an increase in the number of students involved in activities, and an increase in the community in school programs.
Simon stressed the importance of keeping class sizes down and student-to-teacher ratios smaller than average, and to retain teachers.
Rice said she’d plan to be more involved in the school and offer an open door to teachers, students and everybody. Communication and involvement with the board is lacking, she said.
Candidates shared their ideas on how to combat bullying at the elementary and high school levels. Several felt that education on bullying needs to start at home.
Reinke said he feels bullying isn’t more prevalent today versus when he was in school.
“Kids are going to be bullies,” he said. “How do you stop them from doing that? I have no idea.”
Simon said it’s important to educate kids on diversity and inclusivity. She also acknowledged there’s no magic solution to bullying.
Rice promoted leading by example.
“If we don’t want our kids to be bullies, then we shouldn’t be bullies,” she said.
Kestly cited respect as her favorite word in teaching. Being inclusive and treating everybody with dignity are tools to combat bullying, she added.
Lappi said she had experienced bullying firsthand and talked about the need to educate parents, teach kids to be respectful and to help out kids being bullied.
Social media is what makes bullying different now, said Giermann. She also mentioned the district has taken steps to eliminate social media during the school day, citing it as a positive move.
The General Election is Nov. 6. The top three vote-getters will serve a four-year term.