Herald Journal - Voters' Guide '08

Five seek positions on Dassel-Cokato School Board

Five candidates are vying to fill three positions open on the Dassel-Cokato School Board, including Dr. Tracy McConkey, Irene Bender, Jenny Lee, Mark Linder, and Matt Cron. All are four-year terms.

Dr. Tracy McConkey

Why are you running for office?

I am running for office for a few reasons. We have lived in the communities of Dassel and Cokato since 1992. We have two children who have had successful years in the DC school system and are continuing their education further, and we have one child still in the school system. They have had great experiences, both in their academic pursuits and extracurricular activities. Running for the school board is a way that I can serve and give back to the communities that have supported us both through our business and also friendships.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

Due to our current economic situation, which will have a definite impact on our school funding from the state, we need to be wise about our budget and the way we spend, both now and in the future. Also, our community, that financially supports our school, needs to be more informed and represented. As board members, we need to communicate with the people we are serving, listen to their concerns, and this should then reflect how we vote.

Why should you be elected?

I feel that I am qualified to serve on the school board because of my background and experiences I have had. I grew up in a family of educators. My father was a principal, and my mother was an elementary teacher. I have two brothers and a sister who are teachers, and who are currently working in schools. I, on the other hand, have been in the business/health care world for 21 years. I know the importance of staying within a budget and making wise decisions. In the past, I have also served on various boards, which has given me the experience and knowledge on how to successfully run an organization.

Irene Bender

Why are you running for office?

My life experiences and work in the non-profit sector have given me a commitment to serve my community. I have the time and energy to help build strong schools for future generations. Living in the community for thirty years I know the importance the school district plays in the lives of students and keeping stable property values.

Two of my children graduated from Dassel-Cokato. During those years I served on the Curriculum Advisory Committee and was active in Band Boosters. I enjoy taking Community Education classes and have been a volunteer in the Title 1 Program for the past four years. The achievement of the students is celebrated by their teacher, the para educators and the other volunteers. In 2006, I was honored and humbled to receive the Partner in Education Award.

After my three children received their degrees, I reached my goal of graduating from Metro State University. In recent years I have served on three boards in the area and have worked for two boards during eighteen years in the museum field.

This is an excerpt from a letter a student gave me . . . “You are a good friend to have because you care for us and you are so kind and giving.” I want to live up to that student’s words.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

The economy is foremost in the minds of the country and our community. This is the time to invest wisely in education so students are prepared for the workplace and are able to compete in the global marketplace. This is also the time for prudent fiscal planning and continued building of the reserves.

This is also the time to continue to develop creative opportunities to meet the needs of all learners within budget constraints. As a school board member I will make decisions that would reflect the best interests of the students and the educators. The recent passage of the levy shows community confidence in the district. I will work to build trust and help create a positive atmosphere in the district. I support long-range planning so the district can continue to provide a well-rounded educational experience for students at all levels.

Why should you be elected?

Serving on the board of education is a commitment to education that is most important to schools and our community. I can make that commitment. I will study the facts, seek input from staff, administration, the community, ask questions and then base my decision as to how the students’ education would be impacted. I will work with the board to reach a consensus. I would then support that decision to move forward to help build great schools and strong communities.

Jenny Lee

Why are you running for office?

I am running for the ISD 466 School Board because I feel it is important to be involved in our children’s education. I have grown up in this community and have been very proud to say I am a graduate of Dassel-Cokato. My husband and I knew we wanted to be in the Dassel-Cokato community when our daughters were of school age because we want our girls to receive an excellent education.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

MCA-II tests and graduations standards are a big concern of mine as the new requirements have put added pressure on the district without the government outlining additional funding to schools to accomplish their goals. I just read in the Sept. 29 issue of the Enterprise Dispatch that Sara Nelson, a math teacher at the high school, has taken it upon herself to create a course syllabus for a prep course for juniors on the MCA-II test. I was glad to see that the board approved that course. This is just one example of the wonderful teachers we have in this district; I want to make sure the board continues to support these types of initiatives.

An ongoing issue for the board is the proper spending of the levy dollars. I believe the current board has made good choices as to where that money is spent and I would like to ensure that continues. The education of the children in these communities will always be a priority of mine.

Why should you be elected?

I think I should be elected to the school board because I am an open minded listener and thinker. I believe the education of our children is one of the most important priorities in the community. Our daughters will graduate from Dassel-Cokato and I want to ensure that they and their classmates and future graduates have the best education they can. I think we have a very strong district and I want to make sure that continues.

Mark Linder

Why are you running for office?

I believe we have an excellent school district and to preserve and improve, where possible, is my motivation to be on the school board.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

1. Budgeting and managing the assets entrusted to the district is one of the current, and I believe, potentially larger issues going forward due to the economic conditions and deficits of the federal and state governments. Prudent and prioritized spending will be a key for the district to stay competitive and attractive to the community. Because I owned and operated my own business for over 23 years, I have had to make some tough spending decisions and prioritize the allotment of capital for the long-term good of the organization.

2. The organization is only as good as the sum of the individual parts is certainly true in our school and that has been a big part of the success of our district. Administrators, teachers, support staff and volunteers make up the sum of the parts of our district. Keeping good staff in all positions is key for us to achieve the success we all want for our school and its students. I would work hard to hire the best and the brightest and keep the relationship between the board, administration, teachers, support staff and volunteers healthy and good.

Why should you be elected?

I believe I would be an asset on the school board as I am morally and fiscally conservative and have operated and grown my own business for more than 23 years to a successful practice. Our school is one of our communities’ most prized possessions and valuable assets and should be led with the community in mind.

Matt Cron

Why are you running for office?

I believe that the current school board has done an excellent job over the last several years. Now three members of the school board are not running for re-election, so I am running to do my part and see that the school system continues to run smoothly and keeps its high standard of excellence in academics.

What do you think are two major issues at this time and what do you propose to do about them?

1. Budgets. This is always a huge issue. Everybody wants and needs more money, but there is only so much money to go around. I want to make sure that the teachers have everything that they need to do their jobs and to do it with excellence and yet make sure that the money that is appropriated is being spent properly.

2. No Child Left Behind Act. I had a lot of reservations about this when it was first enacted by the federal government several years ago. I think that the intentions behind the law were good, but I don’t know any teachers who like the legislation. Most of them have said that what it causes them to do is spend more time preparing kids for the test and less time teaching kids the fundamentals. If our state does not meet the minimum requirements then the state will be fined a large sum of money, and with budgets the way they are we simply cannot afford that. So I see that in the near future the school board may have to make some tough decisions about how we want to try to influence the State concerning the direction of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Why should you be elected?

I am big on education. I am a firm believer in the well-rounded and well-grounded individual. If our school system can continue to produce this kind of student then our communities of Dassel and Cokato, and ultimately our state and nation, will be a much better place. It is my goal, as a school board member, to represent the local tax payer to make sure that the money that is collected from them is spent properly to produce well rounded and well grounded students that will become great citizens in our community and making our good communities that much better.