Left to Right: Zachariah Bell, Dustin Kleinsasser and Robert “Bob” Preuss

Only two school board positions will be on the Ballot for Hot Springs's upcoming election on June 4. 

Three candidates are vying for two three-year terms. Zachariah Bell, Dustin Kleinsasser and Robeert Pruess are each in the race.  

The school board had two other positions opening up, but only one candidate filed for either position. Ryan Walz will be serving a two year term and Petra Wilson will be serving a single year. 

The election will be held at the Mueller Civic Center, June 4 from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The following are questionnaires answered by each of the three-year term candidates. 

Zachariah Bell

Age: 33

Occupation: Contact Rep – Department of Veteran Affairs

Years as a Hot Springs area resident: 3 years

Contact: Zacbell22@gmail.com (605) 490-5252

How will you benefit the Hot Springs School District if elected?

I have 4 children and a nephew in my household (4 old enough to be enrolled in all levels of the school district). I am happily married to my wife Megan of 9 years. My community involvement revolves around youth activities. I coach soccer and football, am the current Vice President for the HSYSA board, and the Committee Chairman for the new Boy Scout Troop that I co-founded.

I have held a wide variety of leadership positions in my life. All things center around basic values in leadership: answers, results and accountability – which I believe has been the problem in recent years with toxic leadership and a board controlled by the superintendent. If I don’t know the answer – I am not afraid to ask or research to find the answer.

What are some current issues the district is facing?

Student/Teacher Ratio – We have a major issue here within the school district where multiple grades have close to a 30:1 ratio. Those numbers do not allow for a proper learning environment. Both our students and teachers struggle because of this. Students that need help understanding something more become lost, and the students who excel are not having their minds stimulated and become bored. For argument sake only 1/3 of the class is receiving the care that they need.

Budget – There is a lot of wasteful spending within the school district. Those funds could be used to better our students and faculty. We continue to pay for conferences and professional development for administration, but not teachers, the ones it would benefit most. If elected, I would be interested in looking at the school districts of Fall River County, to see what resources could be combined to free up more budget for every school. Allowing tax payer dollars to be put to good use.

What do you feel is the role of the school board and its members?

The role of being a member of the school board is simple. As a member you are elected by the community to represent what is in the best interest for the students and teachers. To provide governance to the school district administration and be held accountable for hot button issues like budget and student/teacher attrition. Students leave to find better education – somewhere where the student/teacher ratio is more balanced. Teachers leave because they feel unsecure in their work environment, they can’t fight for their students or their rights without the threat of reprimand. The board and Superintendent have forgotten their roles in recent years.

Why should voters choose you?

My family and I moved to Hot Springs after I finished my military career in Special Operations. We are from the area originally and we wanted our children to be able to grow up in a safe and secure small town as we both had, with a good school district. Under the current board, the superintendent appears to run the show and receives the votes he wants to push his agenda. My goal if elected, with the help of the other board members, is to bring governance back to the board over the administration. To give our children, our future, the best education they can receive, and to give the teachers the resources required to supply them with that education.

Dustin Kleinsasser

Age: 40

Occupation: Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Fall River Health Services

12807 Pine Haven Rd

Hot Springs, SD 57747

I am a single dad of 2 active boys. Joshua is in 8th grade, and Caleb is in 5th grade. I moved to Hot Springs with my family in 1986, and was a 12-year student in the Hot Springs School system. I graduated from HS High School in 1998, and continued my education in 3 different areas (AAS in electronics, AAS in Biomedical Technology, and BAS in Healthcare Administration). I have been back in the district for 14 years now. I am committed to community involvement (baseball, soccer, football coach, Sunday school teacher, past PTA President, referee for Middle School and JV games). I have a vested interest in our District. My family enjoys camping, boating, and golf.

How will you benefit the Hot Springs School District if elected?

My job at Fall River Health Services gives me a working knowledge of collaboration for a common goal of living with budget constraints, and still meeting the needs of the organization. As a Hot Springs school alumnus, I care deeply about the students in our district and want to do all I can to ensure they become all they can be; both academically and with their chosen extra-curricular activities. This collaboration is between the board, administration, and the teachers in the District. I believe I have the insight to help implement policies that will ensure student success.

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What are some current issues the district is facing?

District Morale:

The board needs to be focused on moving our district forward. We need vision. We need goals. All this needs to be achieved while maintaining a well-planned budget that keeps the district fiscally responsible to our taxpayers. We need to make sure programs, policies, and staff is in place to ensure the success of all of our students. We need to make sure all of their needs are being met, all while having a positive working relationship with administration and teachers. We need mutual respect as we are all committed to the same thing; the student’s personal growth and success. Communication will be key. We need to be as transparent as possible so that our taxpayers know what is happening in the district, and how their money is being utilized. I want them to feel free to approach the board with questions or concerns.

Funding / declining enrollment:

The state funding formula and declining enrollment are currently a financial issue in our district. Instead of dwelling on what we cannot control, I want to work on what we can. Is the district spending money the best way to meet our students’ needs? We need to be diligent with the money that the district does have.

What do you feel is the role of the school board and its members?

The bottom line is the board operates the business and sets policy. We hire the superintendent and the business manager that we believe will move the district forward. We are human, and make the best decisions based on the information presented at the time. Board decisions are made based on what we can change or what we can do to maintain or increase our student’s personal growth and success.

Why should voters choose you?

I want to give back to the community that I grew up and live in. I am a good listener and am passionate about my community. You have to be a good listener to hear both sides of the issues. You have to be able to act appropriately with those issues. I try to educate myself on the issues of the district at hand. As a board member, I feel that I will take every opportunity to discuss and advocate for our school and its possibilities. I want to create a district that makes our entire community proud.

Robert “Bob” Preuss

Age: 47

Occupation: Self-employed

Resident of Hot Springs since May 2009

robertjpreuss@hotmail.com    605-890-2451

How will you benefit the Hot Springs School District if elected?

I will benefit the Hot Springs School District by providing Board experience and leadership, dedication to our youth and community and a strong background in fiscal responsibility and stewardship.

I attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Architectural Studies.  Dr. Heather Preuss and I married in 2002, and we lived in Omaha until we moved to Hot Springs ten years ago.  We have three children, Maggie (going into 8th grade), Winston (6th) and Emma (4th). 

I am active in the community in a number of areas, both civic and youth oriented.  I have coached elementary boys’ basketball the last two winters.  For the last ten years I have coached youth soccer.  I am currently President of the Hot Springs Youth Soccer Association and have been a Board Member a majority of those years.  I am a volunteer Board Member of The Mammoth Site and have been the Treasurer the last two years.  This year I’ve become the President of the Black Hills Parks & Forest Association and am in my third year on that Board.  Last year I became a Den Leader of our Cub Scout Pack and have helped found a new Scout Troop of which I am the Scoutmaster. 

This combination of experience, leadership and community involvement shows I am invested in the education and development of families and youth in our community.

What are some current issues the district is facing?

One of the main issues that is affecting the students and the quality of education that they receive is the Student to Teacher ratio.  There are a few grades in the neighborhood of a 30:1 ratio.  Because of this I became an approved volunteer for my youngest daughter’s grade and got to see how much of a struggle it was for all parties. This isn’t fair to the students or the teachers.  In fact, it is causing us to lose some quality teachers, and I fear we will lose students as well.  Which leads to decreasing enrollment, a key factor in the funding calculation.

Another issue that is facing the school district is the lack of transparency and communication.  This has created an environment of uncertainty and suspicion from the families and the teachers.  This translates into uneasiness in the classrooms that is detrimental to the educational process.

What do you feel is the role of the school board and its members?

I believe the role of the School Board is to provide guidance to and oversight of the administration.  It is leadership that sets the tone for the whole of the school.  The School Board is elected by the people of the district to represent their interests, and interests of their children.  They are to be advocates for the further improvement and development of the quality of the school. 

Why should voters choose you?

People should vote for me if they are interested in strong leadership and change.  I will work with the rest of the Board members to promote our school moving in a positive direction; my priorities being supporting our teachers, providing great learning opportunities for our students and righting our financial ship.  I realize I don’t have all the answers, but I hope to ask enough of the right questions so we can then make the right decisions as a group for our school’s benefit.

I will be approachable and available for all parties and will communicate in a respectful manner regarding individual’s questions or concerns.

Thank you for your support and your votes.

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