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Six running for Minot Public School Board

Six people have filed to run for three open seats on the Minot Public School Board.

Candidates include incumbents Jim Rostad, Mark Lyman, and Mitch Kraft and challengers Justin Ahmann, Mike Gessner and Bonny Berryman.

The election will be held June 9 in conjunction with the county and city elections. Voting will be by mail-in ballot only due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A candidate forum will be held at 6 p.m. today. The forum will be livestreamed on the City of Minot’s Youtube channel and on the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page.

Here is more information about the candidates:

Jim Rostad

Rostad, a retired owner/manager of a collision repair shop, has served on the Minot Public School Board at different times for more than 20 years. He also currently serves on the Ward County board of commissioners and recently served as president of the Minot Area Development Corp. board of directors. He is married and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

Rostad has also been active in his church and with other community organizations.

“In serving on the current Minot School Board, I think I add a very needed voice of experience,” said Rostad in an email in response to a questionnaire sent by The Minot Daily News. ” The current makeup of the board is a good mix of experience and first term members. They provide a fresh look at board decisions, while Laura Mihalik and I bring many years of experience. I’m fortunate in having been able to serve at the state level on the board of directors as well as the president of the North Dakota School Boards Association and being exposed to many school board issues throughout North Dakota.

“The main challenge as I see it, continues to be the increasing numbers in our K-8 classes as they move on to the high school level. I would like to see Minot add a second high school building resulting in two 9-12 schools and to convert Central Campus to an additional 6-8 middle school. This could solve the overcrowding we anticipate at the high school level, but also provide additional, much-needed space at a middle school level. A second high school would double many opportunities for the students of Minot Public Schools.

“We are, no doubt, currently in a very difficult time period economically, and in our society/community. Time will hopefully return us to “normal.” I am extremely proud of our teachers; Minot’s distance learning plan was used as an example for other school districts in North Dakota. The distance learning practices that have been put into place this spring have illustrated how technology can be used to deliver education. I hope that teachers continue to make assignments available electronically; students who are able to work independently might be given the opportunity to thrive. Students who are absent due to illness or activities will be able to access the same resources as those who are present at school. Nothing will replace the value of face-to-face contact for students and teachers, but I think we have just started to see the possibilities that exist. I am excited to see what our educators can do when given the chance to imagine what might be done.”

Mitch Kraft

Kraft, who attended Minot schools and graduated from Plaza High School and then from Minot State University with a degree in business management, is currently the branch manager at Prairie Supply. He is married and has two children attending Minot Public Schools. He is involved in community organizations and serves as the president of the Minot Swim Club. He has also served on the board and served as president on the Minot Association of Builders.

“I believe that our School Board should be made up of parents that currently have students enrolled in our Minot Public School System,” Kraft wrote in an email in response to a questionnaire. “One of the advantages of having students enrolled inner district, and being an actively involved parent, puts me in our buildings on a regular basis. Parents and staff are continually talking about issues and concerns that they have.”

He said the district continues to face some challenges.

“Overcrowding, it is a double-edged sword. On one hand it is a good problem to have; it means that we are growing as a community. On the other had it is a bad problem to have; when students in our middle and elementary schools are not receiving the education that they deserve. I believe we need two comprehensive 9-12 High Schools in Minot. As a current board member I voted to approve the land purchase by Ramstad Middle School, in hopes that we will be able to pass a successful bond issue in the future. We are working / planning on how to accomplish this.

“Our Minot Public Schools mission of ‘Empower all learners to succeed in a changing world’ is an excellent view of public education. I find it interesting that the very early public school system did not focus on math and reading but instead taught the virtues of family, religion, and community. I am excited to see what the next evolution in public education will be.”

Mark Lyman

Lyman, a former anchor/reporter for KMOT, a former public information director for Minot State University, and a former public relations specialist at Odney, is currently the business manager for Hunting Bear, an energy service company focused on the Fort Berthold Reservation. He grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism from Brigham Young University in Utah. He is married with two children attending the Minot Public Schools.

“I am running for re-election to the Minot Public School Board because I think that the work that has been done over the last couple of years needs to continue on its current path,” he said in an email in response to an emailed questionnaire. “We have made good strides in maintaining as close to a balanced budget as possible, increased teacher, staff, and administrative pay, and worked to continue meeting the educational goals of all learners. I am a parent of two students who attend Minot Public Schools and I firmly believe that the board needs good representation from engaged parents.

“One of the key long-term goals that I would like to see us achieve as a community is alleviating current and upcoming overcrowding at the secondary level – specifically through support for a second high school. We need to make sure that whatever bonding support we ask the public for is something reasonable and well articulated. We should also continue to explore other avenues for financial support from the state, from the public sector and through federal grants or loans.

“It has been a fun, challenging, invigorating, opportunity to serve the public these past four years as a school board member. I would like to continue as a board member to be able to see us address overcrowding concerns at the secondary level and build upon the success of the excellent teachers, staff and administrators as they are helping our amazing students be prepared for their future.”

Mike Gessner

Gessner is a retired Minot High School teacher who taught mathematics for 47 years. He coached football, wrestling and baseball while he taught at Minot High and won the Presidential Award in Mathematics Teaching. He also was appointed by the governor to Teacher Fund for Retirement Board and served as its president and also served on the North Dakota State Investment Board. He and his wife, also a teacher, have three children and seven grandchildren, some of whom attend Minot Public Schools.

“I’m running for the school board because I care about kids,” said Gessner in an emailed response to a questionnaire. ” I have grandkids in MP Schools. I want MPS to provide all students the best education to put them on a path for success and satisfaction in a career of their choice. I bring to the board 47 years of experience in education, about 25 years of negotiating experience and, being retired, I offer my time.

“Safety of students and employees is always the number one concern. The School Safety Committee needs to be vigilant and meet on a regular basis. The coronavirus pandemic is our current challenge. Minot Public School employees have done a great job in this current environment. I recognize there will be financial concerns regarding the pandemic. I’m wondering what will happen if schools can’t reopen in the fall.

“Is the District prepared to carry on distance learning? Are teachers? Is anything being done this summer to prepare for the possibility of a second round of virus in the fall? Could next year’s teacher development training be used to allow teachers to review and share the various ideas they generated? (Maybe this is already being done?) Could future parent teacher conferences be held via Zoom?

“Some of the innovations teachers have implemented with distance learning might have potential for use in the regular classroom settings.

“Looking beyond the pandemic, we need to consider the overcrowding issues at the middle schools, and the current alignment of the high schools. My personal view is that Central Campus should become a third middle school. Then, we should build a second high school and have both high schools house grades 9-12.”

Bonny Berryman

Berryman is a retired Minot Public Schools teacher who has continued working as a substitute teacher after her retirement and occasionally filling in as a paraprofessional in special education. She and her husband, also a teacher, have two children. Berryman is involved in Delta Kappa Gamma and the North Dakota Geography Alliance. She served as an officer for the local Delta Kappa Gamma chapter, served as a board member for the North Dakota Geography Alliance, and conducted numerous workshops both state and nation wide for the book that she co-authored entitled “Seeds of Change.” She also was a member of the Minot Education Association and the North Dakota Education Association.

“I am running to give back to the community of Minot which provided me many opportunities to live a fulfilled rewarding life,” wrote Berryman in response to an emailed questionnaire. She said she believes her experience as an educator would make her a valuable board member.

She wrote:

“I have three topics that are my main reasons for seeking a seat on the school board:

1. Declining Student Behavior

This fact has been very evident as I have been subbing over the past several of years. Yes, they have the right to an education but with that come several responsibilities. A good student shows respect for all, has good attendance, is prepared to learn and completes homework. We need to discipline students and if need be remove them to protect the rest so that we can strive to provide a nurturing, learning environment to all.

2. Evaluation

We need to create a better evaluation system for our district to identify our strengths and weaknesses within our staff. For example, we could do a Total 360 review where we look at all staff from superintendent to a paraprofessional. This allows staff members to be evaluated from more than just a superior but from a Total 360 review such as peer staff members, principals, and paras. Evaluations would assist us in setting obtainable goals with specific outcomes such as higher test scores.

3. Special Education

Please note I have a double major with one of those being Special Education. In the past year, I have been subbing as a para in these wonderful classrooms. These paras and teachers have an incredible work load, need our focus and continued support to help our students excel.”

Justin Ahmann

Justin Ahmann, a Minot High School graduate, is a civil engineer at Ackerman Estvold who earned degrees at the University of North Dakota and Ohio State University before returning to Minot in 2011.

He and his wife have three children, a toddler and two children currently attending Minot Public Schools. He is also active in the Parent Teacher Organization at Washington Elementary.

Ahmann said he is interested in running for the board because he has children attending the schools and wants to look out for the best interest of the kids, their parents and teachers.

He is concerned about class sizes and said he thinks class sizes at the elementary level need to be lowered.

He is also concerned about the large classes at the middle school and high school level in the district and believes there needs to be more expanded school space.

As a civil engineer, Ahmann said he is used to problem solving and has spent much of his career working with infrastructure. His background would make him a valuable board member as the board considers whether to build new school facilities to address the overcrowding at the middle school and high school levels, he said.

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