Herald Journal - Voters' Guide 2010
Herald Journal / Dassel-Cokato Enterprise Dispatch / Delano Herald Journal

Dassel-Cokato School Board

Three people have filed for positions on the Dassel-Cokato School Board; Kevin Bjork, Rebecca Clemen, and Richard Tormanen.

Kevin Bjork

Why are you running for this particular office?

As a parent and a taxpayer, I have a vested interest in seeing our students be successful and our schools be effective in giving students the opportunity to develop to their full potential.

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

The first issue is the economy and the impact on the state budget. The reality is, school districts will likely see reduced student funding over the next few years.

The board and administration have done a good job holding down costs. We’ve been able to maintain an adequate fund balance, which will give us some latitude to make cost reductions without abruptly cutting curriculum.

We’ll be challenged to continue to find ways to reduce costs, while continuing to improve performance and offer a solid curriculum.

The second issue is the challenge of preparing all students for some type of post-secondary education, whether that be in the trades or four-year colleges, or programs in between.

This is becoming a requirement of the job market. This has been a focus of the board and the administration and it should remain so.

We’ve been successful in raising student achievement in math and reading, and we’ve expanded our curriculum to address students’ post-secondary interests. We need to continue these efforts and we need to develop better methods to measure our effectiveness.

Why should you be elected?

I have learned a great deal about the complexities of public education in my first term on the board. I have been diligent and have worked hard to represent the community.

I would like the opportunity to leverage that experience for another term.

Rebecca Clemen

Why are you running for this particular office?

I am running for the Dassel-Cokato School Board to serve my community in helping to preserve and strengthen our schools, and position them for continued success in the future.

Through my passion for public education, I want to help our students achieve educational excellence and grow into well-prepared citizens.

I have a familiarity with the needs of our students and staff, and a deep desire to help make a difference in the educational experience for all children of our district.

I feel, with my educational background and recent employment with an international business market, I will bring leadership, experience, and commitment to excellence to the school board.

Over the years, I have learned to work with many different individuals and divergent groups.

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

The most obvious issue facing our school district at this time is the financial pressures of our current economy. The delinquency of state funding commitments and a general decrease in educational spending are creating a strain on the budgets of public educational institutions.

Unless addressed, these pressures threaten to seriously affect student learning at all levels of the Dassel-Cokato School District.

The second issue I feel strongly about is attracting and retaining quality teachers.

As a community, we have a duty to expect the very best for our children. By providing our students with quality teachers, we can provide them a rich curriculum that teaches fundamental skills, promotes critical thinking, and seeks to nurture and address the unique needs and interests of our children, including the arts, technology, and athletics.

It’s important for Dassel-Cokato to produce academically strong and confident graduates who are prepared to compete in life after high school.

Why should you be elected?

If elected to the Dassel-Cokato School Board, I will do my part in keeping our schools financially responsible, academically strong, and producing graduates that can compete successfully with the very best.

I will bring a valuable perspective to decision-making in our school district. I will demonstrate an ability to ask the tough questions, and maintain a cooperative and mutually respectful dialogue between the school board, teachers, staff, students, and community members.

It would be an honor to represent the communities of Dassel and Cokato.

Richard Tormanen

Why are you running for office?

It has been an honor and privilege to serve on the Dassel-Cokato Board of Education for a total of almost 14 years. I still have my health, and with the encouragement of my wife, Anne, family, and community members, I decided to run again.

Education is a key factor for the success of our children’s and grandchildren’s future. I feel that I can continue to serve and contribute to the needs of the students in our school district. Working as a volunteer with children in the community and at school has been very rewarding.

Serving on the school board for four terms has given me the experience to deal with many challenges and issues. I have served on the board through the state and federal mandates of Outcome Based Education, The Profile of Learning, and, now, No Child Left Behind, and Standardized Testing.

All of these mandates have presented our district with challenges since their underlying motives have not always been about educating our children.

Serving through these initiatives has given me a broad picture of what is happening in public education today and will help in making the right decisions for our students in the future.

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

One of the biggest issues facing our school district will be lack of revenue to maintain current levels of funding.

The current system of funding public education is broken, and the legislature must take steps in this session to correct the inequities and inadequacies.

Inadequate state funding has forced increased reliance on voter-approved property tax referendums just to maintain basic programming.

In 2007, the voters in our school district passed an operating levy allowing the district to maintain smaller class sizes and to restore class offerings which had been dropped.

With no increase in the general education formula for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, the district became more efficient and, yet, provided academic excellence to all students.

The district maintained sound fiscal policies, and strives to continue, even in these challenging economic times.

The total revenue in 2009-10 of $6,873 per student at Dassel-Cokato School District ranks 290th, compared to the state average of $8,219.

We are a low property wealth district that has to pay almost four times more to generate the same revenue as a similar taxpayer in a high wealth district.

There needs to be greater taxpayer fairness by increasing the equalization factors for all levies. Using equalization, the property taxes on two levies of equal size paid by taxpayers in different districts with equal property values should be the same.

Another issue facing all school districts is the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires each district use standardized assessments, MCA-II in reading and math to measure Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).

Schools must increase student-achievement in gradual increments, until all students achieve 100 percent proficiency by 2014.

If a school building or subgroup does not make AYP, it must take corrective action. Each consecutive year AYP is not met, the corrective actions required become more severe.

If the law is not changed, all schools will eventually fail, because it is impossible for 100 percent of the students to test on grade level in math and reading.

The goal of school districts is to delay not making AYP until the law is replaced or changed.

Our district has begun using MAP Testing, which allows for deficiencies to be corrected with each student and the curriculum. This requires the district to spend more resources on math and reading, taking away from other areas.

Forcing all students to be proficient in higher math is unrealistic. The resources required to teach some students other skills would be much better spent. Students having difficulty with higher math may look at themselves as failures and give up on education.

Why should you be elected?

I have a passion for students and education. Education is more and more important for the success of each child in our global environment. I have the experience of serving on the CAC for Technology, Q-Comp, Certified Negotiation, Wellness, community education, SEE, and other committees.

As a retired businessman, I have time during the work day to be available. I have a good understanding of the community’s culture and traditions, which must be taken into account when making public education decisions.

If re-elected, I will continue to serve faithfully and do the best I can for our students with the revenue available at the time.

© Herald Journal Publishing, Inc.