With less than two hours to make it through 12 candidates, the Sturgis Chamber of Commerce hosted an e-Forum for the public to hear from those vying for three Meade 46-1 School Board seats.
All but two candidates, Cody King and Curtis Johnson, were present for the Zoom forum Tuesday evening.
The Meade 46-1 School District is the second largest district in the state by way of geography, covering about 3,100 square miles of Meade County. It’s made up of three elementary schools, six rural schools, two middle schools, an intermediate school and one high school.
The 12 candidates include: King, Johnson, incumbent Joseph Urbaniak, Darrell Vig, Brian Voight, Robert Burns, Holly Good, Shelia Trask, Terry Koonts, RJ Ludwick, Sara Nelson and Jon Swan.
Moderator Francie Ruebel-Alberts picked candidates at random to answer five questions within two minutes with the exception of the last question where candidates had one minute.
Questions included the candidates’ thoughts on policy changes, online learning, the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math) and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and math) programs and what makes them the most suitable school board member.
While many candidates agreed on much of the same ideas — that STEM and STEAM are good programs to have in schools, there needs to be careful watch over the budget and student to teacher ratios in the classroom should be lowered — some varied in thinking, even if only slightly.
Urbaniak, who currently serves as the board’s vice president, highlighted his experience on the board and was the only one to say the district’s policy is archaic and that many changes will need to be made over the next year.
“This is Meade 46-1, this isn’t Rapid or Sioux Falls,” he said.
Vig, a volunteer firefighter, said policies will change as-needed and that they should be changed carefully and not for the sake of changing.
Trask, among others, said communication is key when it comes to policies, whether it be enacting them or revising them. She said if she was on the board, she wouldn’t micromanage staff members and the staff should inform the board if changes need to be made.
Ludwick said it’s the board’s job to support the superintendent and set standards for the schools.
“We’re there strictly to assist the residents of Meade County and the district, and the staff to make sure everyone is taken care of,” he said.
When it came to a question about online learning and possible policy changes, candidates said they understand online learning is now part of the curriculum and here to stay. Most also recognized that many students have fallen through the cracks due to lack-of technology or communication.
Good and Swan both said technology needs to be made available to students, while Voight pointed out the reach of internet is an issue in many rural parts of the county.
Vig, Burns and Urbaniak said students should still be in the classroom, although online lessons could be used in addition to traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms.
Nelson, Ludwick, Koontz and Trask said there needs to be accountability for teachers, students and parents, as well as additional education on technology for all parties to make the most out of the resources available.
At the end, each candidate was asked why those in the Meade 46-1 School District should vote for them.
Urbaniak cited his experience on the board and that he’s been part of a superintendent search before.
Burns, who was a member of the board for 10 years, said he doesn’t have a particular agenda set if he was elected, but brings his experience and knowledge to the table.
Good said she has intimate knowledge from the classroom and wants to be part of the upcoming changes in education, but that people should vote for who they think is the best candidate.
Trask said she’s excited about the challenges being on the board would bring and has a true interest in what students are doing in the classroom, and supporting teachers.
Koontz, who was also part of the board from 1991-2006 and earned the South Dakota State School Board member of the year in 2005, said she brings her previous experience as well as experience as a mother, grandmother and participant in the community.
Ludwick said he’s been embedded in the community for many years, including the rural area. He also said he has students in the district and has a good understanding of what residents and the board are looking for in a board member.
Nelson said her experience in education would be valuable as a board member, giving her insight from a classroom perspective. She also said she’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes and is open to debate and conversation.
Swan said his experience as a former educator would be valuable to the board and that he’d be able to bring understanding of budgets to the board.
Voight said he has a particular understanding with online schooling and has knowledge of budgets. He also said he’s willing to learn about and research topics, and willing to hear other sides of arguments.
Vig said he does his homework on topics and doesn’t come unprepared. He also said he knows how to operate financially and within a budget.
The board election will be included in the June 2 ballot. More election information can be found on the district’s website.
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