Meet the 2013 St. Paul School Board candidates

Patrick Larkin
news editor

In the Nov. 5 general election, five candidates will vie for three open St. Paul School Board slots, including two incumbents and three challengers.

The hours of voting in all 97 polling places will be from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To find your polling place, visit www.rcelections.org.

Those not currently registered to vote can do so at the polls, or beforehand. Information on how to register can be found at http://www.co.ramsey.mn.us/elections/RegisterToVote.htm.

For information on what’s required to do same-day registration, visit http://www.co.ramsey.mn.us/elections/Election_Day_Registration.htm.

For more information about the general election, contact Ramsey County Elections at elections@co.ramsey.mn.us or at 651-266-2171.

John Brodrick

Brodrick, 69, is a widowed grandfather with two adult daughters, both of whom graduated from Como Park High School.

Brodrick has been on the St. Paul School Board for 12 years.

He has a master’s degree in education from the University of Minnesota.

Brodrick said his experience as a student, teacher, coach and parent in the school district makes him a viable candidate.

While working on the school board, he has “prided (himself) on being accessible to students, parents and teachers.”

If reelected, he said he would work to “assure that the promise we made in our Strong Schools, Strong Communities initiative is fulfilled.”

“Every school in every neighborhood must be a quality educational environment,” he added.

Brodrick said that he heard from residents and parents that academic achievement for students is a top priority.

“However, everyone agrees that for children to succeed they must feel accepted and safe,” he said.

Terrance Bushard

Bushard, 64 is single and never married, with no children. He is retired from a career in the printing industry. He earned a bachelor of science in business from the University of Minnesota.

If elected, Bushard said he’d develop a 10-hour course for high school seniors called “The Meaning and Importance of Financially Accountable Politics.”

He said this would be to inform students that “politicians have distributed some serious financial disadvantages to them,” namely debt.

“This plan differentiates me from the other candidates,” he said, “and voters should vote for me if they see value for the students in my planned course.”

Greg Copeland

Copeland, 59, is a widower with one adult stepson who’s working as a carpenter. Copeland said he works as a public administration consultant, and is the former Maplewood city manager. He was ousted from the position in 2008.

Copeland has a bachelor’s degree in political science from St. Leo University in St. Leo, Fla.

Copeland said he stands out as a candidate because he’s an East Sider -- “there has not been any member of the St. Paul School Board from Ward 6 or Ward 7 for years,” he said.

He also said his past experience as president on the Payne-Phalen district council and on the city’s Capital Improvement Budget Committee play into his potential as a candidate. Copeland was ousted from the district council in 1996.

Copeland said that if elected his priority would be to “ensure every student who works hard can graduate” and go on to pursue higher education. He cited the 2011 graduation rate from St. Paul Public Schools of 64 percent. “It is unacceptable to allow 36 percent of our St. Paul children to leave high school without a diploma,” he said.

If elected he would address this by spending the majority of the district’s general fund budget in the classroom, he said.

Copeland said that he heard from constituents that the district needs to create vocational and technical education opportunities that can help students get jobs. He also said people want safe schools, and suggested that more school resource officers be hired.

Jean O’Connell

O’Connell, 60, is married to John O’Connell and has two kids ages 29 and 32 who are both graduates of the University of Minnesota.

O’Connell is a St. Paul School Board member and a former 3M employee.

She graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a degree in math and general science, and a minor in chemistry.

O’Connell said her background at 3M “in leading change and quality improvement” brought perspective to her time on the school board. She said that in working on the school board, “I have a greater understanding of the complex funding of our schools, the diversity and needs of our children, and the professionalism and dedication of our staff.”

If reelected, O’Connell said her primary focus would be to address the achievement gap between different groups.

“I believe our teachers and administrators have good plans in place to see that gap narrow significantly in the coming years, including a focus on racial equity in all we do,” she said.

In addition, she said it’s important for the schools to evaluate the Strong Schools, Strong Communities strategic plan, which is in its third year, to see what’s working.

She said she’d heard from constituents that top concerns include the achievement gap, graduation rates for students of color, plans for technology rollout, and neighborhood safety.

Chue Vue

Vue, 45, is married to May Yang and has five children ranging from a 20-year-old attending the University of Minnesota to an 8-month-old. Vue has three kids currently enrolled in St. Paul Public Schools, including an 18-year-old at Harding High School and 6-year-old twins who attend Dayton’s Bluff Elementary.

Vue has never held public office before. He is an attorney and practices at the United Legal Law Firm, LLC.

He is a graduate of the William Mitchell College of Law.

Vue said that as a parent of St. Paul Schools kids, he wants to “be a voice for parents.”

He said his experience of going through the public education system and going on to college and law school serves as a helpful point of reference as a candidate.

Vue came to United States at the age of 10 as an immigrant “with literally nothing,” he said, “not even any formal education.

If elected, Vue said his priority will be “to work with the current boards, administrators, teachers and other stakeholders to close the achievement gap.”

In addition, he said he’d invest in early childhood education, special-education programs and English learner programs, “because these programs work.”

He said issues that residents and parents were bringing up included rising property taxes, a lack of voices at the school board and district level, student discipline and student safety concerns.

Contact Patrick Larkin at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com.

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