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District 518 candidates discuss issues at forum

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District 518 candidates discuss issues at forum
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- Candidates for the District 518 Board of Education were asked about open enrollment, the effects of increasing enrollment and challenges of the district's diversity during Tuesday night's candidate forum at Minnesota West.

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The event was sponsored by the Government Affairs Committee of the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce.

Moderator Chad Cummings asked the four candidates, vying for three open seats, how they would address concerns about open enrollment.

"I kind of like the idea of open enrollment because it gives everyone the chance to do what is in the best interest of their child," said incumbent board member Mark Shepherd. "Students open enroll in and out of the district. All we can do is offer a variety of classes and activities to the students, which I think we do."

The other candidates, Scott Rosenberg, Betty McAllister and incumbent Lori Dudley, agreed, saying the district should publicize the variety of extracurricular programs and opportunities it is able to offer because of its size.

They were also asked about rumors of a new high school building -- something that could become necessary if the district must absorb smaller, struggling districts on its borders.

"We have not officially as a board discussed a new high school," said Dudley, an eight-year board veteran. "We may get to that point, if our enrollment keeps increasing like it has the last few years."

That would create a problem, she admitted, but she expressed confidence the district could make the situation work.

"My personal opinion is I'd rather wait as long as possible before it's made certain that we'd have to build a new building," said Shepherd, who made the same point in board discussion about the recent middle school addition.

Candidates also addressed the district's wide ethnic diversity, citing efforts by the district to improve or expand English as a Second Language programs, but also offer programs to provide English-only speakers or advanced students with a quality education.

"I don't see our Englishonly students as being held back (by too-easy curriculum)," said McAllister, a retired schoolteacher in the district, adding her two daughters felt the local diversity was an asset.

"I don't plan on being a rubber stamp through this process," said newcomer Rosenberg, who has children in the district. "Fiscal responsibility is going to be an issue. I'll admit I don't have the background that the other candidates do, but I am willing to learn."

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