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School board primary slated for Feb. 19

Five candidates have filed to run for the two open positions on the New Richmond School Board. To narrow the candidates to four, a primary will be held Feb. 19.

To help the public decide who is best for the job, we asked the candidates a number of questions. Their answers are below.

Neal A. Melby

Office seeking: New Richmond School Board

Age: Graduate of New Richmond High School 1958

Family: Four sons, nine grandchildren, eight of whom attend New Richmond schools.

Public service experience: Several years school board member; physician at New Richmond Clinic

Why are you seeking election?: Re-election to continue future development in education for our schools.

What do you feel are the top three issues facing the school district?:

1. Continue to focus "on our kids."

2. Fiscal responsibility

3. Maintain and improve our excellent education process for all children.

Gene Mireau

Office seeking: New Richmond School Board

Age: 52

Family: Wife, Su Ellen, and two children, Amy and Steve.

Public service experience: I worked in the school district for five years.

Why are you seeking election?: I believe that a school board must be responsive and receptive to parents, staff, students and the community at large, encouraging an open dialogue. I feel the board must take input from all groups and weigh all the facts before making a decision. I believe that a board member is a trustee of the community that elects him or her.

I think that a board member must be accessible and willing to collaborate with all members of the community; that includes all district staff. A school board member must build public understanding, support and participation with all within the district.

My efforts as a board member would center on serving all of the children in the community; one child is no more important than another. We are a growing community and have to celebrate that fact. Our schools are here to serve the educational needs of all the children. All stakeholders; parents, all district personnel, and school board, as well as students must be partners in this endeavor if we are to be successful.

A key issue for school boards is to create a long-term vision, mapping a course that provides the necessary opportunities students need to reach their full potential. The board is responsible for establishing and maintaining a structure that supports this vision, empowers the staff, and provides leadership. Education takes place in the classroom and the board's efforts must focus on enhancing and enriching what goes on there.

By working together we can all share in the knowledge and satisfaction that we have provided for the educational needs of all children. We need to build a district where students, parents, teachers and staff feel they are welcome and that they are all important.

Mark A. Struble

Office seeking: New Richmond School Board

Family: wife, Katie, children, Krystal and Marcus

Public service experience: New Richmond Jr. football, t-ball and wrestling coach. St. Croix Valley Special Olympics coach, Fundraiser for American Red Cross, Autism Speaks, Frasier and Minnesota Teen Challenge. Volunteer for Empty Bowls, Feed My Starving Children and The Salvation Army. I am also a veteran of the United States Army.

Why are you seeking election?: I am seeking election because I believe that the children in New Richmond need a new voice to speak for them. Someone who will go above and beyond to make sure that all of the needs for the schools are met without compromising the dignity of the district.

What do you feel are the top three issues facing the school district?:

I believe that the top three issues facing the district are:

1. Ensuring that there are enough teachers and paraeducators in the classrooms that can handle the increasing population growth.

2. With all of the education spending cuts, I want to insure that the staff and students will have the finances available to keep up with other districts with having the latest technological advances.

3. There are many changes happening in our community mainly in the financial, ethnic, marital, special needs, etc. sectors. I want to make sure that every person in our school district has a voice, and I feel that I will be a good advocate for the people of this town.

Esther Scott Wentz

Office seeking: New Richmond School Board

Age: Old enough to vote.

Family: My late husband Jerry and I have seven adult children.

Public service experience: Previously held positions: 12 years St. Croix County supervisor, vice chair St. Croix County Board of Supervisors, Chairman Health and Human Services Board, Chairman Substance Abuse Committee, vice chair St. Croix County Administration/finance/personnel committee, New Richmond Park Board, New Richmond Hockey Arena Board, New Richmond Library Board and currently New Richmond Preservation Commission.

Why are you seeking election?: As an educator with 35 plus years of experience, I bring an insight and experiences that will be valuable assets to the school district of New Richmond.

What do you feel are the top three issues facing the school district?:

1. The fiscal health and stability of the school district.

2. Long range planning and goals.

3. Providing equal opportunities for both teachers and students.

Marty Wold

Office seeking: New Richmond School Board

Age: 48

Family: Married with three children.

Public service experience: Twenty-three years Army National Guard with two active duty deployments to Operation Iraqi Freedom. I currently serve as command sergeant major (CSM) with a brigade headquartered in Minneapolis that supports the Army and State of Minnesota under the direction of the 34th "RED BULL" Infantry Division. 

New Richmond School Board since the uprising of 2006. 

I have been a volunteer coach for youth sporting activities such as Little League baseball, 5-6 grade football, youth boys and girls hockey, and girls softball. 

Why are you seeking election?: I have been part of a great team of individuals who have come together with a combined philosophy to serve something other than self. That is very rewarding. That is why I am seeking re-election. I look forward to the next three years with the same enthusiasm. 

What do you feel are the top three issues facing the school district?:

1. The budget balance: Providing a competitive compensation package to attract and retain quality talent continues to pressure the community contribution at a time when all of us struggle to get by at home and have had to do with less. The economic times and job stressors add to a very difficult transition period for the community. I believe the district's current leadership is committed to a reasonable way forward, committed to a competitive package while taking steps to address unfunded liabilities. The control measures will allow future boards to formulate budget planning in terms of known annuitized requirements; however, those transitions yield little in the short term horizon. On the brighter side, the capital markets have provided very desirable borrowing rates which have allowed the district to save millions on projected debt service; refinancing referendum debt at historically low rates, resulting in very positive effects on the community property tax bills. 

2. The future of curriculum vs. time: The district employees continue to face state and federal demands to change the way districts evaluate performance; the implementation of instruction to meet specific guidelines; and how districts will evaluate instruction. The administration and board continue to drive change to increase our expectations and performance of all stakeholders, however the external demands present risk and substantial cost to implement. The district is maintaining our competitive edge by strict hiring standards, professional development of staff and purchasing hardware and materials through structured implementation. But time is the most is the most valuable resource taxing well intentioned efforts. These demands require time that is not in the schedule while ongoing instruction is maintained. The staff is doing a fantastic job during those difficult transitions and they should be commended. In addition, the competition to move to online learning portals with technology adaptation questions curriculum adaptation demanding more time for evaluation. Continue to ask administration, the community and our board members, what is best for all our kids? We have some control here. These self-imposed and external demands apply pressure to strained budgets, schedules, management and community. The extrinsic risk directly competes with commitment to retain talent and programs. 

3. The Community Commons: The community should actively express input on the way forward with the Community Commons project. The school district currently has a need for some of the space, and may have need in the future for more of the space. The partnership with WITC and all other entities has provided an opportunity to think outside current perceptions and expectations of a school and provided some insight to the possibilities of lifelong learning in New Richmond. It has provided a benefit for the surrounding community and our most valuable citizens. The project is well regarded with the GEN network; however, the question remains, "is the School District best suited for this type of collaboration?" The public's input on this topic is extremely important. Currently the district administration is doing great things within the community networks to seek that guidance, input and feedback to build a plan for the way forward.