WORTHINGTON — Four seats are up for re-election on the District 518 Board of Education, and five candidates are running for those spots — all four incumbents and one challenger. The Globe sent an election questionnaire to each candidate.
Joel Lorenz (incumbent)
Occupation: Grain farmer
What qualifications do you have for the office of school board member? I have served on on both operational and instructional committees since elected to the board and served as chairman for four years. I also served as building committee chair when Prairie Elementary School was built, along with several other committee assignments over the years.
What is your top priority in school board government? Providing the necessary curriculum and facilities to meet the students' and staff's needs to meet graduation standards. Maintaining an adequate fund balance and prioritizing spending to address student and staff needs .
With the WE.L.L. project no longer a possibility, what ideas do you have for a space for adult basic education and community education? The school board is currently looking at options to address this issue. I am open to looking at an existing building in the community or building a new facility on district-owned property. Funds committed to the W.E.L.L. project are available for this facility. Meetings are currently being held to address this issue.
Linden Olson (incumbent)
Occupation: Retired farmer
What qualifications do you have for the office of school board member? I have served on the Worthington school board for the past 16 years serving as chair, treasurer, clerk and on numerous board committees in various years. I have also served on the MSBA (Minnesota School Boards Association) board for six years. I have testified at Minnesota House and Senate Education committees advocating for more equality in funding public schools.
I also have made it a priority to visit our schools and talk to teachers, administrators and staff to get their opinions on school topics. Before becoming a school board member, I served on several local, state and national boards, committees and task forces.
What is your top priority in school board government? My top priority is to have district policies in place that provide students a welcoming, stimulating, safe, equitable learning environment along with the academic, co-curricular and extracurricular opportunities that provide abundant chances for them to become productive, contributing members of whatever community they choose to live. With the policies in place, the board has oversight responsibilities to make sure the policies are being carried out the way the board intended.
With the W.E.L.L. project no longer a possibility, what ideas do you have for a space for adult basic education and community education? With the disappointment of working with the city and county for several years and recently all parties deciding to cancel the W.E.L.L. project, the need for a facility to house the programs presently at the old West Learning Center remains a priority. One option is to continue working with the W.E.L.L. parties to find another possible site. There could be a substantial cost savings if the partnership could find something soon. The old West building has not met the needs of the district for several years, and the cost of upkeep keeps increasing. If nothing works with the W.E.L.L. partners, then the district needs to find a site on their own or build a suitable facility on the district-owned site west of Crailsheim Drive that now houses the Learning Center and where the new Intermediate School will be built.
It is important to keep the public school system up to date because schools are one of the main factors that keep a quality school staff and attract and retain families and businesses to a community. Often when schools are not kept strong and vibrant, school enrollment drops, schools close, businesses are shuttered and property values drop. The investment in the public school system is an investment in the future of the community. Healthy schools really do make healthy communities.
I look forward to continue serving on the Worthington school board and would appreciate your support on Nov. 3.
What qualifications do you have for the office of school board member? I attended District 518 and graduated in 1980. While attending Worthington High School, I was Vice President of the FFA, which I believe showed me how to work as a team member and helped to provide leadership skills that will help with being a board member.
I have been on the Elk Township Board and an elder at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Rushmore.
Holding all of these different positions has given me the opportunity to view how different regulations are handled and how to handle different situations as they arise, all of which I believe will help me with the position of being a school board member.
What is your top priority in school board government? To make sure that ISD 518 gets all of their state funding and the Ag to School tax credit stays intact.
With the W.E.L.L. project no longer a possibility, what ideas do you have for a space for adult basic education and community education? We need to take a look at all different kinds of options, including the possibility of remodeling of West school or purchasing of another building or just building a new facility on the school campus. I also feel that we need to involve more than one consulting firm to get different views and opinions on what we could do. We need to do this without any school referendums or lease levies.
Steve Schnieder (incumbent)
Occupation: I am a professional engineer and have worked for Nobles County as the Public Works Director for over 37 years.
What qualifications do you have for the office of school board member? I have been a resident of the school district for 58 years. I attended the local schools and community college before graduating from the University of Minnesota. I have been involved in various organizations in the community throughout my life. I have served the public on the school board for 23 years, and I am currently the board clerk. I also serve on the board of directors for the Southwest West Central Service Cooperative, which provides educational services to school districts in this area.
What is your top priority in school board government? Returning all students back to the schools full-time in a safe environment is my top priority. Working within the current state guidelines has not allowed the district to have students attend full-time as we had all hoped. Getting the schools fully operational with no restrictions is everyone’s goal.
With the W.E.L.L. project no longer a possibility, what ideas do you have for a space for adult basic education and community education? It is unfortunate that the legislature did not pass a bonding bill and that funding for the W.E.L.L. project was not being included. The city, county and school keep exploring opportunities to work together, reduce costs and find outside funding for projects. With the county dropping out of the project, the benefit of working together to receive state funding is no longer viable. I do believe that there are still opportunities to work together with interested entities in the community, even if it is on a smaller scale.
Finding open space large enough for a facility in the community is difficult. The options are to remove existing buildings to make room to build, find an existing building that could be remodeled, or build new. Each of these options have a cost, concerns and impacts on the community. Finding the right location is challenging.
I believe the best options are to either find a building that can be purchased and remodeled, or to build a new building. Purchasing and tearing down existing buildings is costly and disrupts the community. Buying a building or build new both have advantages and disadvantages that would need to be carefully evaluated before proceeding.
With construction costs being down, this is a great opportunity to meet both the short- and long-term space needs of the district that have been an problem for so many years.
Brad Shaffer (incumbent)
Occupation: Finance Director for Southwestern Minnesota Opportunity Council, Inc. (SMOC)
What qualifications do you have for the office of school board member? I have been on the District 518 school board since 2007, 13 years. This year I am completing my second two-year appointment as chair of the school board. I have also served four years as treasurer. I have been working in the financial field for over 30 years as a public accountant, tax accountant, business accountant and now a non-profit accountant. I also have a master’s degree in business administration. I believe that my background in finance, as well as my ability and desire to see all aspects of a situation before making a decision, is extremely helpful in being an effective school board member. We have seen some significant changes over the last 13 years. Increasing population, state educational mandates, fluctuations in funding and now COVID. I believe that my education and experience give me the background necessary to navigate these changes, as well as the ones that will occur in the future that we may not even know about yet.
What is your top priority in school board government? I believe in efficient and effective spending. The funding we receive, whether from the state or from property tax, actually comes from our taxpayers. We need to be very thoughtful and responsible when spending. At the same time, we need to make sure our students are being taught thoroughly and appropriately. It is difficult to achieve both, so there are times when there is a need to spend more than you would like, in order to achieve the educational results that are expected. These are difficult decisions to make, but they need to be made. The new intermediate school is a prime example. Our student population was creating some educational issues in all of our schools, which affected all of our students, due to overcrowding. The only way to solve overcrowding is to create more space. That is the reason for the intermediate school. It, along with the addition to the high school will ease the pressure in all the buildings, therefore increasing the educational opportunities for all of our students. This was a difficult decision, and took several years to finally come up with a plan that would work the best, but the money that will be spent will provide the results that we expect. I have had four children attend ISD 518 school since kindergarten. Two have graduated and two are still in the high school. Watching them learn and grow in this system through the years makes me appreciate what we have and makes me want to do even better in the future, for all of our students.
With the W.E.L.L. project no longer a possibility, what ideas do you have for a space for adult basic education and community education? We need to go back to the drawing board, so to speak. The W.E.L.L. project was originally proposed as an attempt to solve some of the issues that were occurring for the city of Worthington, Nobles County and District 518. We had hoped that the collaboration could solve the selected issues, but also keep everyone’s costs down. Unfortunately, things didn’t progress as we had all hoped they would, so we need to develop a different plan to take care of our issues. I’m sure that everyone has a thought on how to solve our issue with adult basic education and community education, so we need to look at all options. The West Learning Center building is in pretty poor shape. Many people would like to move all of our programming out of that building. That might be the best option. The people who work in adult basic education and community education, as well as the people who utilize those opportunities need to be able to do so in a safe environment. They deserve that. Hopefully, the school board, working in conjunction with school administration and community leaders can come up with an idea that is not only workable, but also affordable. We are in the very early stages of developing a new plan, and until I see all the data, I simply can’t say what the best option is. Building a new building, purchasing and remodeling another building or something else are all on the table. I’m committed to working through all the data and helping to find the right solution.