Fargo-Moorhead News

QA with Fargo school board candidates ahead of June 11 election

Washington Elementary in Fargo, N.D., on Thursday.
Amy Felegy | MPR News

The League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley hosted and moderated a forum with Fargo Public Schools Board of Education candidates ahead of the June 11 election.

Candidates include:

Below are candidate responses to questions submitted by the audience.

Statement from candidate Jason Nelson, who was unable to attend the forum

Nelson: Thank you for the opportunity to provide a written statement. And I apologize I’m unable to attend today in person because I have another obligation at this time. I’m excited to be a candidate for the Fargo public school board this year. With a background in public safety, as a parent of two Fargo public school graduates, married to a Fargo public school teacher and a deep understanding of our community, I believe I am well suited for this role. Having roots in the Red River Valley for generations, I moved from Omaha, Neb., to pursue my education at NDSU. I earned degrees in business administration and sociology with a criminal justice emphasis. I later obtained a master’s in business administration at the University of Mary.

My wife and I chose Fargo as our home after graduation due to its vibrant community and numerous opportunities. My career in law enforcement began at Cass County Sheriff’s Department followed by 16 years with the Fargo Police Department. Throughout my tenure I engaged with the community on various initiatives and collaborated closely with educators and administrators within the Fargo School District. Progressing through the ranks from patrol officer to investigations lieutenant, I gained invaluable experience in problem solving and community engagement.

Transitioning to Sanford Health several years ago, I continued my dedication to our community’s wellbeing in my role as senior director, overseeing facilities and security. I prioritize the safety of staff patients and their loved ones. This responsibility coupled with my background in law enforcement has provided me the opportunity to be a part of something greater, fostering problem solving and continual improvement.

Fargo’s uniqueness is evident in its community spirit, something I’ve witnessed firsthand from my experiences with the Fargo Police Department, and Sanford Health. I’m passionate about contributing to our community’s growth and believe my diverse experiences make an asset to the Fargo public school board. As we approach election day, I look forward to hearing from students, teachers, parents and our community. Your support, trust and vote on June 11 would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Opening statements

Gullickson: Thanks for having us. Thanks for providing this opportunity, thank you to the league and to the sponsors. I am Nikki Gullickson. I am married to Greg Gullickson and I have three kids within Fargo Public Schools. I am currently serving on the board and and enjoying that opportunity. What brought me to this role was a number of things, but first of all, probably my PTA experience.

I came up from the elementary level when my oldest daughter started and I served at the city and the state level. And I’m now serving at the national level advocating for our kids. And we go to the Hill each year and we visit with our senators and ask them for their support to further programs for our kiddos.

Holden: Hi, my name is Seth Holden. I’d like to thank the League of Women Voters for this opportunity. Mostly I’d like to thank our community for its overwhelming support for our schools and our teachers and staff and students and public education as a whole. It’s that community support that I think helps make Fargo Public Schools one of the greatest districts.

I ran four years ago because I firmly believe that public education is the most important thing that a society can provide its citizens and in four years that hasn’t changed. I think what has changed is that, first, I was given the absolute privilege to be able to serve my community and work with some amazing people at Fargo Public Schools. I think Fargo Public Schools is an amazing district. Like anything in life, there’s always room for improvement. But I’m very excited for what’s coming to Fargo Public Schools and I’d be humbled for the opportunity to continue that work.

Dodd: I’d like to thank the League of Women Voters for this event. I’m really excited to be here. My name is Ryan Dodd. My wife and I are parents of three kids. Quick shout out to my wife for taking care of all three tonight. We have a second-grader in the school district and a kindergartener starting in the fall.

I currently work in real estate, but I used to be a teacher. I taught middle school band, I taught high school band — both for three years — and I also spent a couple years as a substitute teacher. Our public schools faces some serious challenges. Teachers are frustrated because they’re given impossible expectations to achieve. They’re burned out, they’re leaving the career. Students are changing quickly. And with mental health issues on the rise, I think we need to make sure our schools are safe spaces.

All that said, I’m optimistic that we're headed in the right direction. And I think the future is bright for Fargo public. I’m looking forward to helping build a culture that gives teachers and students exactly what they need to thrive.

Ollenburger: Hi there. Thank you to the League of Women Voters for hosting this wonderful event and to the sponsors. I’m Allie Ollenburger. I’m a lifelong Fargo resident and a proud partner of Spartan. I’m a strong supporter of our public education system. And I have two kids currently in the system today. As a U.S. Army and Afghanistan war veteran, I’m no stranger to service. And I’m here today ready to answer your questions and hopefully to secure your vote on June 11.

Morgan: Hi, I’m Dawn Morgan. I want to thank you all for being here. It’s so important and those who are listening or watching from home, it’s very important that we are engaged in the public, the public wellbeing and however that we can do that is, to me, something that’s highly admirable.

I have grown up in a family that were involved with public service. My father was a National Weather Service meteorologist and my mother, a teacher in the Fargo public schools 25 years. I graduated from Fargo Public Schools as did my son ... We were just speaking a minute ago about how much respect there has always been for education in this community, and also for the teachers and the people who are involved … thank you for being here. And thanks to the league.

Campbell: Good evening. My name is John Campbell. I have been married for 24 years. We have two kids. Both [my spouse] and I graduated from Fargo Public Schools; both of our kids graduated from Fargo Public Schools.

I started my career in nonprofit and went into business and then switched back into nonprofit and ended up as a dean of students for a small school in the Fargo-Moorhead area, and learned what a small school struggles with and started to look at some of the things that the larger schools had, and some of the culture, some of the teacher concerns, student-centered or person-first type structures and things like that, and hoped to bring with the Fargo area approval my nomination to the school board.

Nelson: Thank you. Thank you to the League of Women Voters. My name is Kristen Nelson, she/her. I’m running for school board because I want to ensure our district remains centered in serving and respecting all students. I’m a mom of a fifth-grader. I have a degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in leadership. My background in education and knowledge and leadership, organizational theory and strategic planning gives me a unique perspective and ability to bring new ideas to the board.

Public education is the key to success for kids and security of our future. I’m running because I believe my experience and skills will be an asset to advancing the mission of educating and empowering all students and allowing them to succeed. I can bring new ideas and perspectives to our district moving forward. And I hope to unify the board and leadership with a district staff to create a culture of trust and respect. I would be so humbled if you vote for me, June 11.

Mohror: Hi, my name is Paul Mohror. I want to thank the League of Women Voters and the sponsors for putting this event on, it’s very awesome. And I’m glad that everybody showed up here today. And also, you know, to the people who are watching online … I think you’re the people that I want to represent.

I spent 30 years in leadership, 10 years of it in the military and 20 years of it as a civilian doing an oil production management. I’ve been to several school board meetings in the past year, year and a half. And the one thing I really want to bring to the back to the people is a communication aspect. I want to be there — my two daughters have graduated from North [High School] and they got an excellent education.

But I want to be there for the parents, because sometimes, you know, a parent gets very busy in their life, and they just can’t find the time to do it. And so I want to be that person who, you know, will be that advocate for them. So I would appreciate your voting for me.

What do you think the legislature’s top priorities should be for public education and Fargo Public Schools next session?

Gullickson: Well, I think at the utmost it should be for protecting public education. Not that I’m against other types of education. I appreciate that those choices are out there. But our public education systems are here to serve all children. And there are different parameters, as many may be aware, that private schools versus public schools have to work with. Funding is set up differently. I really believe that it should be advancing education and protecting our public school systems so that our teachers can do the job that they want to do: serving our kids. Thank you.

Holden: From the North Dakota legislature as a whole I think obviously funding is key. We need funding. I think everybody can agree that teachers should definitely be paid more than they’re being paid right now. And most of that funding comes from the state legislature, making sure that public dollars do not go to private hands and keeping public dollars in public education is something that the legislature needs to make sure that they adhere to when it comes to Fargo Public Schools. I think this also relates to other districts around the state, but you hear a lot coming from the legislature about local control, but we don’t see a lot of follow through. With that, there’s a lot of control coming from Bismarck. But in the same breath, they’re saying local control, let’s keep districts able to control themselves and make some decisions for themselves. Thanks.

Dodd: I think we need to explore opportunities for the state to help fund some of the district’s biggest challenges. I think that the biggest challenge that the district faces is teacher recruitment, teacher retention. And if there’s any way we can collaborate with the state, and get funding from them to help with that, I think that’s incredibly necessary. Teachers, as we know, are having a hard time right now. We put impossible expectations on their shoulders. They deserve better pay, greater support, more defined roles. Teacher pay is a big part of keeping teachers around, alleviating the burden is something that’s very necessary to to keep them around. I think another thing that we should explore, that I think we funded before, I think the federal government funded universal meals, but I think the state should look into taking up that task, because I know a lot of other states have taken that up. And I think, what could be more important than feeding kids?

Allie: I think obviously, echoing some of the sentiments of some of the other folks before me here, which is obviously access to education and the proper funding to support that this last legislative session, they actually denied the bill to actually feed our children. And I think that that is, you know, it’s a core thing. If you’re hungry, you’re not going to be able to learn. I think that is something that should be absolutely considered. I think that Fargo has the long range plan, and we have a need for adequate access to improve the overall educational outcomes of our kiddos. I think that the dollars should be looked at to ensure that we have the right facilities in place, the right additional needs for these kids to be able to support proper education.

Morgan: Education is a core value. We know that from the immigrants who came to North Dakota, I would like to see the state more pro-education, public education, more supportive of higher education, of education in general. Instead of saying, ‘Well, you can slip off in this direction or that direction.’ I love the idea of curiosity and encouragement of those students to follow their dreams and follow that star and find their way into other circumstances, which is the example of the people who settled North Dakota came here and look what’s happened.

Campbell: From the North Dakota state level, looking at the data that has been provided by the school districts, or legislation would be able to draw the conclusion that the money has to be spent. The data shows that for the best education for our kids, the dollars need to continue to be sustainable and correct. From a local standpoint, having the local school districts have oversight of that money. There is leadership in those school districts to do that. And to be able to relinquish that, that control over that, lets them do their job. And again, I would echo a lot of the sentiment that has been said by our colleagues up here, moving forward with funding that is sustainable and in the right amount. Thank you.

Nelson: First and foremost, public dollars should stay public. That money needs to be invested in our school districts in North Dakota. We need to protect public education so we can ensure a bright future for all the learners of North Dakota. I agree with what others have said about funding universal free breakfast and lunch. Our level learners, they cannot learn if their bellies are empty. Teachers do need resources to do their jobs. Obviously, they’re not going to be able to provide an adequate educational environment if they don’t have the resources to do so. But I also believe in expanding public pre-K so we can get our littles the best start that they can as they go into public education, and they’re ready to go right away to kindergarten.

Mohror: I think the legislature’s top priority should be to stay out of the way. Teachers know what their students need, teachers see those kids every day. And they like to talk to their kids, find out what’s going on in their lives. If a kid does need to have meals, you know, help them get on the right path so that those kids understand where to go communicate with the parents so that they can come back and say, ‘Hey, this is the way you need to go in order to get it.’ Public education is a great thing. I mean, I do think that there are maybe other methods you can get an education now [like] homeschooling. But me myself, I grew up in a public education, my mom taught public schools, and my wife teaches public school. My daughters graduated, you know, from here, and they have a great education. So I think that public education should just be supported by the legislature, but only in the minimal amount that’s needed.

What, if any, is your experience working with the state legislature? And how will you advocate for Fargo Public Schools at the state level?

Holden: I have not actually had the opportunity to work too closely with the state legislature. We do have a board level, we have a governmental affairs committee and the board trusts the work of that committee. I guess, if I were to be reelected on the board, and I was part of that committee, I would strive and work very hard to lobby the legislature for what we need as a district and what I think state and public education needs as a whole. And if I were not on that committee, I would support their work and their endeavors and do anything that I can do to assist them in their work. Thanks.

Dodd: Yeah, same. I’m a newcomer. So I don’t have any specific experience with the government operations and stuff like that. I do know that the Fargo Public Schools and the board makes lobbying efforts on teachers’ behalf, on the board’s behalf when the legislation is in session, and I think I’m just going to use the rest of the time to kind of emphasize what I think we should go after, again, whatever funds we can find to help support teachers, in their efforts to retain our experienced teachers, I think is a power of paramount importance. And then just other efforts to support students in the same way, the universal lunch again. We had it a few years ago, it expired and oh what a shame. But I think North Dakota can take that up, and we can find a way to fund it, like so many other states have. Thank you.

Ollenburger: As a candidate for school board, I don’t have any personal experience working with the legislature from a board member perspective. But one of the things that, in terms of being able to work with others, I think there’s always that opportunity to find common ground and understand what you know, are those key interests of whoever you’re lobbying against or working with. You know, specifically in North Dakota, you have a lot of very financially conservative folks. And so understanding where their dollars are going and what their dollars are being spent towards, I think that we can do a great job showcasing the immense amount of opportunities that we have for our students here in Fargo. And so I would start with that finding that common ground understanding and work with them as well as supporting the Fargo School Boards representative to the legislative. They have a rep that goes there during the during the open sessions. I don’t know the special terms.

Morgan: The legislature is very important. I don’t have immediate experience, but I do have the experience of listening to others and reading a lot about opinions and the law and what is pending. And also the possibilities of how people think — that’s one of the reasons I’m actually running for this position is not so much that I want to get involved with the state legislature, but I’m very much interested in how things are run and where the influences come from that cause decisions to be made in smaller districts. So I think it’s really important that we’re well informed and that we are connected to the legislature and that we support the candidates there too, who share our points of view and dreams.

Campbell: I do have some experience working with legislators as the director for the Fargo Moorhead Coalition to End Homelessness. And one of the things that I’ve learned through some of the leadership in that group is having relationships with our state and our local reps is that are guiding these bills or this legislation and things like that. So, one, it would be starting with relationships. And that’s more than just a touch and go type thing. It’s having an understanding too. I’ve learned that most of them want the information, but they don’t get it. And so they don’t know what they don’t know, and finding a way to get that data, those voices heard. And again, echoing what everybody else had said, making sure that we’re electing folks that have similar ideas, or are in the mission for the kids and for the teachers, whether it be free lunches or safety in the school, or teachers pay.

Nelson: I do have quite a bit of experience, working with legislature, submitting written and oral testimony, things like that. I’m the vice chair of my district in South Fargo. And I have developed pretty significant personal working relationships with several legislators around the state. And I really find it gratifying to advocate and activate folks who want to get involved in the legislative process, but don’t know how. Like John said, our legislators do want the information. They don’t know everything. So they do need folks like us to reach out to them. And to give them that information. Reaching out is valuable, it’s not scary. And we need to be involved in the legislative process.

Mohror: Again, I think it kind of gets back to a communication aspect. I have not dealt really too much with our law or law or legislation here in the state. But when I was in the military, I did do a lot of stuff with government contracting. And I understand there’s a certain amount that you have to go through and say, Hey, there’s needs, there’s wants, and there’s things that you would like to have. I described it as: We don’t buy $1,000 hammers, or you know, $700 toilet seats. And so the idea is to go in and express what the needs are. And then to come back and say, ‘Okay, this is where we think that the best solution will come from.’ And not always is it the lowest bid on anything, but to be able to communicate what you’re looking for and how a certain solution better fits in with what’s going on, as opposed to whichever’s the cheapest. I’ve dealt with that kind of level before.

Gullickson: On a personal level, I have worked to build relationships with those legislators that I am familiar with, and to be able to build that personal rapport there. Likewise, there are several I don’t know. I’m reaching out to them and trying to build those relationships as well. Likewise, I’ve had the honor of working on several different state task forces, which has allowed me the opportunity to meet people statewide and to build relationships that way. As I mentioned prior, through my PTA work, I have worked with our senators clear through the federal level. And so on the board level, we do have, as Seth mentioned, the committee and we get together as a group, we decide what the priorities are going to be. It might be what’s most urgent or what’s most necessary, and then we work together as a group on those particular issues.

What is your experience negotiating contracts, especially with organized labor associations? And what would you continue doing, stop doing or otherwise when negotiating with the Fargo Education Association?

Dodd: Well, first of all, I’m highly pro-labor unions. I think they’re an important part of our industry, and they’re important part of our educators’ lives. I think if I were on the board, I would be a good negotiator. It is actually something that I do in my work as a realtor — demands that I be a really good listener that I am a communicator, and that I negotiate fairly. I’m a supporter of labor unions. I think that gives me a good footing. I haven’t worked directly with labor unions in the past as far as negotiations go. But yeah, I think I have a skill set that would put me in a place to negotiate fairly with all parties involved. Thank you.

Ollenburger: In my day to day work, I do have experience negotiating contracts with labor unions. At Microsoft, as somebody who has attended the FEA and scoreboard, negotiations or teacher negotiations, one of the biggest pieces that I have seen as a witness to them is the lack of listening. There’s a lack of listing and understanding on both sides. And I do think that a change in the overall format of how we actually go through negotiations would be would be beneficial. Since the last two sessions have not gone very well, I do think that the FEA does bring an immense amount of great work to all of our busy educators. I think that they take that collective voice, they bring it forward and they advocate for the teachers’ best interests so that they can provide that quality education. So I do think that my experience in my day to day job would be very beneficial in bringing that to the future negotiations.

Morgan: It’s essential that administration and the union work together. I think, just from observing from reading the newspapers, that’s part of the problem is perceiving one as opposed to the other. There are always a couple sides to every story. You have the budget and then you also have the needs of those who are involved with the budget to be treated well and honored for the work that they do. And so whenever there’s this not listening, or this somehow dishonoring whatever the negotiation is about, this sense of needing to work together. I’m looking forward to actually hearing more about this. It’s apparently something that happens every two years, which seems to me must take up an awful lot of time on both sides. But I think that the idea of looking to the other’s point of view and having compassion for one another is very important.

Campbell: Clarifying points, clarifying terminology is more of my negotiating style. Transparency is another one, knowing what we’re working with on both sides, understanding where each each side is coming from, we talk about listening, and then really setting the foundation of what that negotiation is going to look like. Being able to have time to step away, and come back and have constructive feedback from both sides and things like that, and really understand what both sides are. It’s one of the things that I enjoy is working through where there has previously been conflict and building that rapport in that culture, it does not have to mean that negotiating time is a stressful time. It could mean that it’s a time where we’re hearing each other.

Nelson: Like Ryan said, I’m very pro-union and very pro-work that they do. But from a leadership standpoint, you, we need to work to understand both sides and like John talked about, transparency. Everybody needs to know all the details on both sides to really get a good idea of where everybody’s coming from and what positions may be there can be a little compromise and movement on try not to make it emotionally personal, to muddy the work that both sides are doing so they can come out on the other side with a good solution.

Mohror: As a leader, I’ve been on a lot of different things and negotiating contracts. I’ve dealt with the union or the United States government and their employees. I have also been involved with different production unions. We only listen to respond. And we don’t listen to understand. And I think that’s where our problem is — everybody gets their little guard up, and says, ‘Okay, I want to react to what they’re gonna say,’ instead of sitting back and saying, ‘Okay, what is that person really trying to tell me?’ Because I think for the most part, the school board and the Union are looking at the same goal, we want the students to get the best possible education possible. And as long as we keep that little goal out there, we get all our different speeches towards that goal.

Gullickson: I have had the honor of serving on the last two negotiations rounds. And I would say that many things that people have offered here are very similar. We do all want the same things, we want the best for our staff, and we want the best for our students. The mud in the water is trying to sort out what’s available in the budget, and trying to figure out what works for the district and what works for everybody involved. One thing I am happy to report is that this year, the legislature did approve some good dollars to come through to our teachers and we pass them through, we all want the same things. There are many districts that didn’t — they offered a fraction of that percent. And we have been working with different formats. We’ve been trying different things. We’re trying to work in the off years trying to understand each other better and do more work. We’ve also sought training in the past.

Holden: To answer the question directly, I have a lot of experience in negotiating contracts. The past two years, I’ve been the chair of the negotiations committee for the district. One of the first things I noticed when I became a board member, and the first negotiations is how that system doesn’t work. And so the last negotiation cycle, the board and the FEA, worked tirelessly to come up with a new system of negotiating to where we got away from traditional bargaining and became a more collaborative unit, where we sat and listened to each other’s problems, tried to collectively and collaboratively solve those problems together. And it’s a system that even though that there were bumps in the road, I think we made massive strides in trying to change how we negotiate with the FEA. I don’t want to call it negotiations, I want to call it collaborative bargaining, because that’s what we’re really striving to do is to listen to each other and be collaborative, and then come up with solutions together.

Will you support the plan presented by the Long-Range Facilities Committee? Is there anything you would change in that plan?

Ollenburger: As it sits, I do think that there is definitely a need to work to improve some of the facilities that we have. And I think that the Long-Range plan, as it sits today, does provide the answers to all of those questions. Is it perfect? No. Is it make everybody happy? No. But I do think that in this process, they did do a good job of bringing in a lot of different collective voices to the to the table. I think we can utilize that plan to actually overcome some of the trust issues within the community and Fargo Public Schools and actually start building bridges and relationships to repair that.

Morgan: One of the reasons that I’m running is that I’ve been involved with planning with the city of Fargo for many years. I’m on the planning commission currently. I think that we’re just kind of getting started and one of my greatest concerns is that — I mention often that Fargo has a limited potential for growth, which is basically down to where the diversion is. That will be Fargo. And so for the city, for the school district and the parks to work together on planning and anticipating what the school district in this case is going to look like, is of the greatest importance. To assume that it’s going to be or stay where it is right now is unrealistic. And so I think that the plans that we’ve seen should be taken only as plans, and a lot more time needs to be given to allow them to develop, and especially with the collaboration of the two larger entities in the city of Fargo.

Campbell: There would be a caveat that I would place on it. I would agree that it’s not perfect. I support many parts of it. The concern that I have is the folks that are still not on board, and what does that look like and how can we help either educate and continue or to change, minimally, to take into some of the concessions that others are having. I think they have value in their in their concerns and things like that. And I feel like they need to be heard. So personally, I do support, but I would like to see some of the stakeholders be able to have an opportunity to either strengthen the plan, or change it or tweak it a little bit to continue on, so that we have buy in from our community.

Nelson: I sat on the steering committee for the long range facility plan. It was a long process. And I think we ended up somewhere really, really good. That was able to take into account concerns of every not every, but many, stakeholders across the city, especially on the north side. We had to add an additional meeting at the end of the planning process, because we didn’t land on a place where we could all agree on something. And our last meeting, we ended up in a really good place for in relation to Madison and that neighborhood up there. It’s so vital to keep that school up there as a community hub. And I do believe that we have a plan that will go before the board at that as people learn about it more people will like.

Mohror: I too was on the Facilities Committee. And I would say that it’s a skeleton. There’s a lot of things that are out there that have some potential. I mean, everybody understands that some of these schools are over 100 years old. And that, you know, at a certain point, they’re going to need to have some support in order to get them into the next 100 years. But what disappointed me a little bit was how everybody heard that $750 million cost. Well, what I didn’t understand was why is it the school buildings are also going to be failing after 20 years. I think there was a lot of questions that still needed to be answered. I mean, this is a very complex issue. It’s a little disappointing, we did get a lot of really good input from different things. We went up throughout the community and sat at the schools and had people communicate with us. But until they actually start to see the dollars in the things that are going to affect them personally, I don’t think that the people in the community really understand where we’re going with this.

Gullickson: Several people will be happy to hear that Fargo Public Schools does plan very closely with the city and with the parks, and they’ve worked on those plans together. As you’ve heard, it isn’t perfect. Everybody doesn’t love the idea. But we understand that it is necessary. The dollars are going to have to be spent in one fashion or another. Are we going to repair and bring up to speed the buildings that are old? Are we going to be able to offer educational opportunities to our staff by investing in new schools? And it isn’t a check we’re gonna have to write tomorrow. We’re not knocking a bunch of schools down and putting all new schools up tomorrow. This is a long-term plan. I’m very proud of FPS because our superintendent has worked hard with neighborhoods with people who have come forth with concerns. They have gone out and they have done presentations so people understand they have altered the plan when people have had concerns. I know that this plan has gone through several iterations.

Holden: This is kind of a difficult question to answer. I do kind of have a rule that I like to make sure that I don’t 100 percent make my mind up on an issue before I have an opportunity to have everything presented to me and to have discussion with my fellow board members. However, given the work that has gone into this Long-Range Facilities Plan, the great work that Cooperative Strategies has done and how much work our community has put in to making sure that we have a plan — like everybody said, in like any other plan, not everything is perfect in it. But the work that has been done and the work that the community has put in, also the need for a Long-Range Facilities Plan so that we can make the best decisions possible with taxpayer dollars is vital. And so given those three things, it would be hard for me, almost impossible for me, not to support it.

Dodd: I’ve attended the public meetings, I’ve answered surveys and I’ve been on the district website. I’ve seen data and reports on the site. My kids will be in the district for the next 15 years. So this is pretty important to me. And it has been nice to see parts of the plan change over the months. And I think that’s because the community showed up and gave great feedback. And I hope that continues to be country with this to be true with this difficult topic because school closures are incredibly emotional. On one hand, these neighborhood schools are expensive, as you heard, to maintain and repair, heat and cool. Building new schools will benefit the taxpayers long term most likely. And of course, there’s a lot of upgrades and experiences that will be new and great for students and educators. So yeah, on the other hand, the neighborhoods will change hopefully for the better. But you know, you hope some of these older neighborhood schools continue to have an anchor in their neighborhood. I just hope the community continues to be engaged so that we can work through and find an acceptable solution.

Physical safety is a big part of school these days. What do you propose to reduce disruptions and safety issues so that teachers can focus on teaching?

Morgan: What a difficult question. I don’t know the answer. To me, it always seems like if there’s too much chaos, if there’s too much conflict between people, students in particular, if there are too many people that feel uncomfortable in the circumstances that they’re in, that the entire body of people is affected by that. I don’t know what the solutions are. I would like to hear more. All I know is I think part of it is the behavioral issue — how it is that we can put in place parents anticipating behavior needs to be addressed before children start school. I remember reading recently about three traits that children should have before they enter school. And I don’t know whether that kind of public education is possible. But I would certainly encourage it.

Campbell: One of the things in my personal experiences, is the kids are coming to school and so they’re possibly having behaviors, or there’s some safety issues and things like that. They’re going to the most trusted area, which is our teachers. Sometimes it’s sleeping, sometimes it’s anger, but they’re telling somebody some of the things that are that are going on in their lives. And I think it’s an opportunity for our teachers, our social workers, our principals, our dean of students to understand and start to look at ways to wrap services around for those kids. We have the resources in our school, a lot of our schools, and to continue to know that education is number one, but when a student is having a behavior issue or there’s an incident or something going on, there’s another side of it, there’s other students that are that are affected, and having the skill set to manage both the person that’s having the behavior, or the conflict, and the other that experienced that trauma, is an opportunity for our schools to you know, step in and continue that care.

Nelson: This topic is incredibly complex. And as we say, in the early childhood world, behavior is a way for kids to say that they need something, that they need help and they just don’t know how to remedy that. So mental health supports to start, I think, our entire state all the school districts should have the resources to invest in expanded mental health care for each school building. Kids are just coming to school with more complex backgrounds than we did when we were young. And they just need some expanded help and resources in that area. Supports for families who are unhoused and trauma-informed care for family or for teachers and all school staff should should also be a priority.

Mohror: I deal with some teachers who work in the alternative education environment. And one of the things I’ve learned is, talk to these kids individually, and guess what — they’re the ones that act out. They’re the ones who caused trouble — but they’re just kids. I mean, I think that this is an opportunity. I’ve talked about this in a couple of other situations — this is a good time for that outside the box thinking, what can we do? I mean, I volunteered myself, because there was like a robotics thing that we did. And nobody wanted to go into the alternative school. And because all these are the ‘bad kids,’ well, you know what, they’re just kids, you go in there, you deal with them. And it’s so great when you see the smiles on their faces, because you treat them like human beings. It’s awesome. And then getting the parents involved, and explain to them what we’re doing, I think is also something that really needs to be taken care of.

Gullickson: We are seeing a little larger number of kiddos who are struggling. And there are a variety of reasons, but we can support them. We are in a position to offer wraparound services, we have advanced those plans this year. And we are working with DPI to set up a school setting. I believe we’ll be the first in the state to offer this type of a setting. We’ve also offered additional training and brought in various programs for our staff through Ukeru training, mental health supports and de-escalation techniques. And Paul is right, I’ve spent a fair amount of time at Explore Academy and these are wonderful kids, and they just have certain triggers. And we need to work with them, talk with them, support them with their ‘why’ and everything that we can do for them to help them have a successful educational experience.

Holden: I think there’s three things that we can focus on to help as it is a complex issue. There are many, many moving parts to this, I think a laser focus on mental and emotional needs for our students and our teachers as well. I think parental involvement is key in a child’s success, both in education and in behaviors and who they end up growing up as adults. I understand that we live in a society that makes it very difficult for 100 percent parental involvement, but that piece has to be has to be a part of it. And I think the other piece is really listening and communicating with teachers and letting them know that that we’re here to listen to what they’re experiencing in the classroom and continued collaboration with that to make sure that we can stay on top of those things and work with them to fix those issues.

Dodd: Safety in schools is one of the major reasons why I’m running for the board. I think physical safety, safety in general, means addressing and acknowledging mental health and emotional health in students. I think a good place to start is more support staff. I think we could use a paraprofessional, maybe two, in every classroom. All I know is that when you have more adults in classrooms and in schools, student outcomes just go through the roof. More support for our teachers so that when they have behavioral incidents and issues with students, they’ve got the support, they need the resources to deploy so that they can continue doing what they do best. And that is teaching. That’ll help, of course, alleviate the teacher burden altogether.

Ollenburger: I think some of the things that my peers have stated, first and foremost, these are kids and no child is inherently bad. No child wants to come to school to misbehave. It’s their cry for help. It’s them raising their hand and asking for help in just a different way. And so how can we best support that? One of the things that I firmly believe in is really around that small classroom size, I heard over and over and over again, from our teachers, actually, throughout the pandemic, that they appreciated hybrid learning because it kept their classroom sizes small. And I think that is something that, as we look not only into this Long-Range Plan upcoming, but the upcoming legislative session, is that how can we make sure that we’re having a smaller class size ratio, those elementary schools like a one-to-15 ratio, where things are manageable, and ensuring that we have the right resources in our classrooms to support the actual education of kiddos. So if somebody has a behavior that can be removed from the situation, and that the class can continue to learn.

Closing statements

Campbell: Thank you again, League of Women Voters and the sponsors, for having us all here, having me here. I am looking to run for school board to support our kids, to support the mission of Fargo Public Schools, to learn more about the the legislative piece and how we can support that and utilize some of the skills that I have to continue to advocate for kids. Again, they’re complex and complicated. But it is wonderful to continue to support our teachers be engaged in what the teachers are needing. If you have questions or concerns out there, please visit me at John Campbell for Fargo Public School Board on Facebook. But again, I am hoping and asking that I’m able to serve and help move us forward and continue all the work that has been done by the school board. And with that, I’ll say thanks.

Nelson: Thank you again to the League of Women Voters. I hope for everybody here and watching online, I’ve been able to provide them insights, information and ideas about who I am as a person and as a candidate and what I bring to the table for Fargo Public Schools. I’m excited for the challenge of working on the school board and I’m ready to take it on. My credentials and experience make me the best candidate for the job. And if you put your vote and trust in me, you will not be disappointed. Please, if you have any other questions, please see my website at kristinforfps.com.

Mohror: I want to thank you, everybody, for coming. The experience that I’ve had with the school board, it all goes by so fast, it’s very little time, you don’t you don’t really get to find out. So if you want to find out more about me, I’ve got a Facebook, it’s called Expect Mohror. It’s a nice little pun on my name. If you need a business card, it’ll spell it out. I also have a website that does the same thing. I just want to emphasize the fact that I’m just a parent and my kids are already graduated. So now I’ve got time. I’ve been there, you know, running around and finding out all the different debate things, all the different sports things, all the different things that tug you into different points of your view. And you’re just being pulled in all kinds of different directions. And I just want to be the person who’s there to be the one to talk to and to give you answers to your questions. I may not know everything, but I can probably find the right person to go to to look it up. Thank you.

Gullickson: Thank you again. Thanks to the League of Women Voters and tonight sponsors for hosting this forum. Thank you for the honor of serving this community in Fargo Public Schools for the last four years. I’d like to say please feel free to reach out to me. My information is on the Fargo Public Schools website and some of you know me personally. Feel free to call me, text me, write me. I’m happy to have a conversation or answer any questions that I possibly can for you. I look forward to hopefully serving for the next four years and continuing all the great work that we’ve had in progress. And I’d be grateful for your vote on June 11. Thank you.

Holden: Once again, I’d like to thank the League of Women Voters for putting this event on. I’d also like to thank once again, our community for their support. It really does take a village and and we couldn’t do it without without our community support. It has been the absolute honor of my life to serve my community and to serve Fargo Public Schools and to do this work. I love this work. I’m passionate about this work. I’d be very humbled for the opportunity to continue this work. If you want to know more about me, my information is public record, please give me a call. I love people. I love to talk to them. So I will answer and I will talk all you want. I think most importantly, though, I’d like to stress how important our democracy is, how important our local elections are. So even if it’s not for me, please go out and vote on June 11. And this November.

Dodd: I wanted to say Happy Teacher Appreciation Week. It’s not enough, but it’s something. I hope all the educators out there have a great week, I’m doing some recess duty tomorrow to help out with my kid’s second grade teacher. But yeah, public education is unique because it gives every child the opportunity to transform their future regardless of their station in life. And while we’re maybe not perfect in pursuit of that ideal, I think we’re close. My experience as a former teacher I think will bring a useful perspective to the board. My job as a realtor demands that I be a great listener and negotiate fairly. I’m open minded and I think I’ll make decisions that prioritize teachers and students, but also make considerations for parents and taxpayers. Our educators and students deserve a school board that puts them first. Their success benefits our entire community. Simply put, I think Fargo is just better when our schools are better. And I think public education is worthy of our investment. My name is Ryan Dodd. And I hope you find a polling location on June 11. And I’d welcome your vote. Thank you.

Allie: Thank you, obviously, for putting this on. I really appreciate it. Thank you to those who submitted questions. And in this process, I very much appreciate you taking the time to submit those. I would actually love to have the questions that we didn’t get asked and I would gladly answer those on my Facebook site. I do want to also echo Ryan’s comments about Teacher Appreciation Week. Thank a teacher today, thank teacher this week, next week and the week after. They’re the ones on the front line doing doing the hard work with our kids every day, and I couldn’t be more appreciative of them for the work that they do. I would love to have your vote on June 11. And you can find out more information about me, obviously, on the 411 stuff. All of our sites will be linked there. But it’ allie4edu.org is my website, same thing at Facebook. Happy to engage answer any of the further questions. And again, thank you for the time this evening.

Morgan: Thank you for this opportunity to talk about running for the school board. It sounds so interesting to me. I just want to become further involved. In 2017, I started the Fargo Neighborhood Coalition. And what that’s about is strengthening neighborhoods. And one of the things that goes along with that is having smaller elementary schools, ones that the students can feel like they belong to. I’m very much interested also in special education. I studied special education in graduate school. I’m 100 percent behind education, it's the most important thing that we can do for ourselves personally, and for one another and for our children. So I’d appreciate your vote. Dawn Morgan, I’m easily found on the internet. And you can call on my landline. I’m listed in the phone directory if you want to go back that far. But you can find my number on the internet. I’d love to talk to you. Thank you so much.

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