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District 621 and 282 School Board elections to be held Nov. 5
School Board elections for Mounds View Public Schools and the St. Anthony-New Brighton School District will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
Voters will elect three residents to serve four-year terms on the Mounds View School Board. Four candidates are competing for those three open seats.
There are three seats open on the St. Anthony-New Brighton School Board. That race is uncontested, as there are just three candidates.
Mounds View candidates
Incumbents Jon Tynjala, Marre Jo Sager, Greg Madsen and challenger John Hakes will be vying for the three open seats on the Mounds View School Board.
Hakes first ran for a seat on the board in 2011 and said, although he believes Mounds View is a renowned independent district, he sees room for improvement. He said he would like to see the school board do even more to address student achievement.
Hakes, a Shoreview resident, has a son and daughter who attend schools in ISD 621. He said he has been heavily vested in the success of the district since his now 15-year-old daughter was born.
He has volunteered on district’s curriculum advisory committee for many years, and said he would like to see the committee have the ability to make recommendations to the school board.
“I would like to see the profile of curriculum and performance raised,” he said. “Education has always been a passion area of mine. There’s always ways to improve upon.”
Last year, Hakes completed a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota -Duluth in Advocacy and Political Leadership, where much of his study focused on K-12 education.
Sager was first elected to the school board in November of 1992 and said her desire to serve the community has not wavered over the years.
“I continue to be just as energized every time an election comes,” she said.
Sager is a lifelong community resident and Mounds View High School graduate. Her son graduated from Irondale and her niece is currently a student in the district.
In addition to serving on the school board for over 20 years, Sager has been a school board liaison to Valentine Hills Elementary and Chippewa Middle schools. She is also a PTA member.
Sager has more than 30 years of experience as administrative officer at the U.S. Geological Survey in Mounds View.
“I feel that I bring a lot of strategic planning experience to the board and can continue to bring new and innovative things to the table,” she said.
Sager said she wants to see innovative programs like Early College and STEAM to continue to be utilized. The Early College program allows high school students in ISD 621 to earn free college credits on campus while working toward their diploma. STEAM (which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math) is a magnet program designed to enhance learning for middle school students in the district. Sager said conservative budgeting and efforts to maximize state funding would be crucial to ensuring that such programs continue to thrive.
New Brighton resident John Tynjala said he is hopeful he’ll have the opportunity to serve a third term on the board.
“I think it’s rewarding work,” he said. “You really get the chance to do something you believe in.”
Tynjala, a New Brighton resident, has two daughters who attend Irondale High School. He said he’s proud of the work the district has done in providing opportunities for its students to succeed, and added that Mounds View has helped make this possible through programs like STEAM and Early College.
Tynjala said these types of programs are geared toward students in the middle 30 - 70 percentile range academically.
“I think it’s the direction school’s should go -- offering those chances for the middle to have post secondary success.”
Tynjala said universal ACT testing for high school juniors has also helped students who rank in the academic middle with college and career readiness.
“The growing achievement gap among students is something all districts will have to deal with,” he said. “It’s important we make sure we have programs like STEAM and Early College to provide opportunities for our students.”
Tynjala added that he is also proud that the district is reinstituting foreign language classes in its middle schools and will be providing free all-day kindergarten next school year.
Greg Madsen was appointed to serve on the board in 2008 to fill a seat vacated by board member Noreen Thompson, and was reelected one year later to serve a full four-year term.
“I’m an enormous fan of this school district,” the longtime Arden Hills resident said. “It’s a very high functioning board and a very high functioning district.”
Madsen said more than 20 years of experience as an educational lawyer representing school districts — though not Mounds View due to a conflict of interest — has been valuable during his time on the board. He said there are great leaders and an impressive group of educators in District 621 who are dedicated to seeing students succeed.
“I feel like my job as a school board member is to let (teachers) do their jobs. We help guide them, but not be complacent and rest on their laurels,” he said. “It’s truly impressive, this administration and group of educators are driven to improve upon what it is we’ve done.”
Madsen said he believes programs like Early College are important for Mounds View to sustain as the cost of higher education continues to spike skyward.
“The thing you fear is that people will get priced out of the post-secondary market,” he said. “…The simple fact that a student in our high schools can potentially get two years of free college coursework completed by their high school graduation is great.”
An uncontested race in District 282
There are three candidates running in an uncontested race for the St. Anthony-New Brighton School Board.
Barry Kinsey has been a resident in the Village since 1985, and has had three children attend public schools in the district through graduation.
“I believe one has to enjoy public service. My father used to say ‘don’t complain, get involved.’ I do that,” he said. “My criteria is that I have to feel like I’m making a difference on the board. I believe I am.”
Kinsey has served on the school board since 1990, and has served as chair, vice-chair and treasurer. He has also been active in education outside of the district. He was a founding member of the Joint Powers Board of the West Metro Education Program and spent several years as ISD 282’s representative to the Association of Metropolitan School Districts.
“The two things we always have to watch out for are managing finances and providing a good education at a good value to our taxpayers and I believe we’ve done that,” he said.
Leah Slye is seeking a third term on the board. She has lived in St. Anthony with her husband Terry since 1986. The couple has raised four children, all of whom attended and graduated from schools in the district.
Before joining the board, Slye volunteered at all three of the district’s schools, served on the Blue Ribbon Finance Committee, and was the chair of the district’s Curriculum Review Committee.
“I just highly value education,” she said. “We’ve become a very desirable community because of our strong school district… I want to be a part of the continuation of that in the future.”
Slye referred to awards the school district has received in recent years as a testament to its quality schools. U.S. News, for example, ranked St. Anthony Village High School (SAVHS) the third best in the state in its 2013 Best High Schools report. Newsweek also ranked SAVHS eighth in the state.
Additionally, the district has received awards for excellence in finance and accounting from the Minnesota Department of Education annually since 2008.
Slye added that financing will always be a challenge for just about any school district, but she said she is proud of the how the school district has handled its finances.
Longtime school board member David Evans is not seeking another term on the board, which he has served on since 1996, making room for newcomer Laura Oksnevad. Evans taught in the district for 32 years and was the head wrestling and assistant football coach for many years.
Evans said he supports Oksnevad.
“I’m very impressed with her interest in education,” he said.
Oksnevad has lived with her husband Bjorn and daughters Sonja and Elise in St. Anthony for two-and-a-half years. Sonja attends kindergarten at Wilshire Park and Elise is in preschool.
“I have a history of getting involved with our schools and community. When I heard there might be an opening on the school board I knew it was a great opportunity to advocate for early childhood and elementary education -- a demographic that is not represented on the current school board,” she said.
Oksnevad worked as a prenatal nurse educator (RN) before deciding to take a break from her career to care for her two little girls as a fulltime stay-at-home mom.
Oksnevad said one challenge facing the district in the next four years would be asking residents to vote to approve the continuation of funding through the district’s operating levy for another 10 years. She said stable funding sources are crucial to providing students with the high quality teachers and classes the community has come to expect.
“I am proud to call this community home and am running for school board because I have a passion for education and want to continue the positive trajectory of our schools,” Oksnevad said.
Joshua Nielsen can be reached at email@example.com or 651-748-7824.