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Challenger, two incumbents seek three Ellsworth School Board seats

Ellsworth School District voters will see a challenger and two incumbents are on the ballot for three school board seats available in next Tuesday's election.

The candidates are: Susan Beck, and incumbents Dan Kaler and Doug Peterson.

They were provided with questionnaires by the Herald. Following are the questions and the other candidates' responses.

Please give a brief description of yourself. Include information such as age, family, where you live and for how long, and list any educational, life or public service experiences which you believe will assist you in the position you're seeking.

BECK: Susan Beck, age 49. I grew up on a dairy farm in Shawano. I met my husband Dave while we were attending UW-River Falls. We moved to Ellsworth in 1998. Our daughter Mattie is in the fifth grade at the Middle School. I have been employed by Rodli, Beskar, Krueger and Pletcher S.C. in River Falls since 1990. I am a member of the Ellsworth Community School District Strategic Planning Committee and the Ad Hoc Facilities Committee. I have been involved with the Hillcrest Parents' Club and I am a parent volunteer.

KALER: I recently turned 65, and Caryl, my wife of 44 years, and I have lived in Hager City for seven years. I have been actively involved in public education since 1970--six years as a middle school social studies teacher, 10 years as a building level administrator, 21 years as a district administrator, three years as an educational consultant, and three years as a school board member. Caryl and I have two adult children. Sara is in her 12th year of teaching in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District. She currently teaches English Language Learners. Matt is a psychologist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Minneapolis. Our grandson, Freddy, is excited to start kindergarten next fall.

PETERSON: Doug Peterson, 42 residing in Village of Ellsworth, married (Jodie) for 19 years with two children, Blake (14) and Carter (10).

If you are a challenger, explain how and why you chose to seek the position and what areas particularly interest you; if you are an incumbent, discuss the committees on which you have served, review any accomplishments to which you feel you have made a particular contribution and share your intentions for involvement during a new term.

BECK: The experience of serving on the above-mentioned committees along with volunteering at school made me realize the importance of getting involved with the ECSD. I received encouragement from my family, friends and members of the Ellsworth community to seek a position on the Board. I support the leadership of our current Board and our District Superintendent. The areas of particular interest to me revolve around the ECSD and the Ellsworth community working together for the success and safety of our students.

KALER: I feel that it is an honor to be a member of the Ellsworth Community School District School Board, and I have enjoyed serving in that capacity for the past three years. During that time, I have served on the communications, personnel, and budget and finance committees. I am currently school board treasurer, and chair of the budget and finance committee. I am particularly proud that our district continues to be fiscally sound and very well managed. The Ellsworth Community School District has a reputation for delivering quality services in an economical manner. I am proud and feel that it is an honor to be working with a dedicated school board and superintendent that made decisions and took action to adopt operating budgets each of the last two years that did not require us to levy the maximum, as authorized by community voters.

PETERSON: I believe that as we transition into more technologically based education, we need to offer more opportunities to the students. This includes wireless communications within our facilities, use of shared district owned devices and openness to allowing use of personal devices. While it is understood that all students may not have personal access to personal devices, use of lab time during and after school hours is offered. Use of technology is essential in teaching our students to be prepared for today's workforce as well as being ready to thrive in an ever changing society that relies more and more on the use of technology in every day activities.

To what extent should the school district accommodate students without access to the technology needed for classroom teaching innovations and what do you envision this to involve?

BECK: In a perfect world, every student would have access to the technology needed for classroom teaching innovations. This issue has been addressed by the Ad Hoc Facilities Committee. It was discussed during the recent School Board meeting. It is a concern of mine. The space and financial requirements to solve it are complex.

KALER: School districts always have and must always reflect what is happening in the broader community. We have experienced technology playing a more significant role in our daily lives and most importantly in nearly all businesses, careers and occupations. With the thought in mind that we are preparing our future workforce, we must make putting technology into the hands of all of our students a top priority. I believe that the day is rapidly approaching when textbooks as we know them will become obsolete. Our textbooks and teaching tools will only be available electronically. When that happens, I believe that it will be essential that we supply our students with ipads, laptops or some form of computer. We need to accommodate all students, including students who do not have access to the internet at home. We have already expended the time available to students for access to media centers and computer labs, and we need to further expand the times when these facilities are open. I envision us doing so by altering the work hours of some staff members, and by relying on volunteers in our community. I also propose that we take steps to add wi fi service to our fleet of buses so that students can be connected to the internet while riding to school and while riding home in the afternoon/evening. I am confident that students would turn their commute into productive time.

PETERSON: I thank the members of the ad hoc facilities committee (I was also a member) for the time and input shared to date as well as their continued support in sharing our findings. The ways students are taught is ever evolving and we must find ways to use/adapt our facilities to meet the challenges we are faced with. The demands that are placed on our students and facilities today do not always blend well with the practices that were in place in education and construction in the era that most of our current facilities were put into service. We are also faced with an ever changing social climate that demands having our facilities be safer environments than when they were put into service. There are also many more opportunities than ever before for finding/using energy efficient means in how we operate our facilities.

What are your thoughts about the ad hoc facilities committee's findings in three areas: insufficient educationally appropriate space; inadequate building access, safety and security; and aging facilities, mechanical infrastructure and transportation?

BECK: I serve on the Ad Hoc Facilities Committee. I am in full support of the findings of the Committee.

KALER: I am very pleased and impressed with the work of the ad hoc facilities committee. This committee, made up of parents, citizens, school board representatives and staff members, followed a process to evaluate our facilities. Their report to the school board was very thorough and convincing that the time is right to hire professionals to provide us with the assistance and guidance we need as we seek to address the issues that we are facing with our aging facilities. The ad hoc committee is dedicated to remaining active to help guide the decision making in the coming months. The committee feels strongly, as does the school board, that we provide school environments that are safe, secure and equipped to help our professional staff deliver the quality education that our students deserve.

PETERSON: If elected, I look forward to continuing to serve the residents of the Ellsworth Community School District in an ethical and fiscally responsible manner. I understand that the choices that are made by the School Board impact not only my children, but the children and grandchildren of others. I also understand that the cost ramifications of operating the School District not only comes from my pocket, but also the pockets of every individual taxpayer within our School District. Thank you in advance for your consideration and trust.