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Bismarck voters to decide school board seats

Bismarck voters to decide school board seats

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Bismarck residents get to decide the makeup of their local school board in the June election.

Seven challengers are running for two open seats on the five-person board. Incumbents Heide Delorme and Rick Geloff are not seeking reelection. The other three seats are not up for election this term. Terms are four years, and there is no limit to the number of terms a member may serve. Bismarck School Board members are paid $9,000 per year.

The first major issue that new board members will face is the coronavirus outbreak that shut down all schools in North Dakota for the remainder of the academic year, with education switched to distance learning. How to reopen schools and bring more than 13,000 students and 2,100 staff, some of whom are over 60 years old, back into facilities safely will be a major task. Administrators are already working on a reentry plan, and they hope to have small groups of students in facilities at some point this summer.

Building expansion likely will be another major issue, as Bismarck's student population is expected to continue growing steadily. The current board is expected to decide whether to approve two proposed elementary schools in northeast and northwest Bismarck before the June election is over. If that decision gets pushed back to after the election, new board members will have to decide on new construction while balancing the needs at current facilities.

Legacy High and Lincoln Elementary both are nearing capacity and have been identified for possible expansions in the near future. With the coronavirus expected to take a significant chunk out of local and state tax revenue, it remains to be seen how the decreased funds will affect the Bismarck School Board's plans.

The candidates

Karen Dunlap

Dunlap is a natural resource specialist with the U.S. Forest Service.

She is running on a promise to listen to parents and administrators as decisions are made on new school construction and expanding existing buildings in the district. She wants to "support and improve" the Bismarck Career Academy, as she believes the facility is a great asset for Bismarck students and the state of North Dakota.

Dunlap has served as president of Horizon Middle School's parental advisory committee the past two years, and as a member of Bismarck Public Schools' calendar committee the past five years. She was recently invited to "represent the parent community" on the Bismarck Strategic Plan Committee.

Dunlap has a natural resource management degree, with a focus on range management and wildlife biology. She has worked for the U.S. Forest Service since 1994, with experience serving in Arizona, Michigan and Idaho, according to her LinkedIn page.

Dan Eastgate

Eastgate is area director of Bismarck-Mandan Young Life and is a full-time Realtor at Venture Real Estate.

His platform focuses on three areas: caring for all students, supporting school staff and emphasizing healthy education spaces.

Eastgate is a certified trainer with Sources of Strength, a bullying and suicide prevention program, and serves on the South Central High School Community Advisory Board. He is a board member of The Citizens of the World international health care nonprofit and serves as a director on the Bismarck Public Schools Foundation Board.

Eastgate graduated from the University of North Dakota with a bachelor of arts degree, majoring in Native American Studies with a minor in history. He and his wife, Lacey, are lifelong residents of Bismarck.

Donnell Preskey Hushka

Preskey Hushka is a government affairs specialist for the North Dakota Association of Counties and executive director of the North Dakota Sheriffs & Deputies Association, as well as the County Auditors & Treasurers Association.

She is a member of the North Dakota School Safety Partners, a student safety program. She has been involved in writing the rules for the armed first responder program, launching a statewide school safety tip line and assessing the presence of law enforcement in schools across the state.

She said it is her priority to ensure the school board votes in the best interest of students and local taxpayers.

Preskey Hushka and her husband, Travis, have a daughter that attends Sunrise Elementary.

Kristine Johnson

Johnson is a stay-at-home mom for her four children. She previously worked in human resources.

Johnson is running on a platform to strengthen school safety and support classroom funding for teachers. She is a proponent of keeping neighborhood schools open.

Johnson was born and raised in the Bismarck community. She's a graduate of Century High School, Bismarck State College and Dickinson State University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in human resources.

She and her husband, Coltan, have two children that attend Highland Acres and another who will start preschool in the fall.

Brooke LeBeau

LeBeau is a census field manager in Bismarck. Her career background is in banking and collections.

She is past president of the Dorothy Moses Parent Committee and the interim president of the Indian Education Parent Committee.

She's running for school board to give the "little guy" a say on various issues. "Bismarck is such a diverse community, and we should all have a seat at the table," LeBeau said.

She has two sons who attend Wachter Middle School.

Nick Thueson

Thueson is the general manager of Dustbusters Inc., a company that provides products for dust control and road stabilization in North Dakota.

He also serves as an ecclesiastical leader for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bismarck, and as vice president of the Bismarck Gymnastics Boosters Club.

He previously served on the Halliday School Board, an experience he said enabled him to understand the challenges that schools and districts run into.

His wife, Joslyn, is an instructional aide for Bismarck Public Schools. The couple have five children who attend Centennial Elementary School, Horizon Middle School and Century High School. The family runs Mo's Snow Shack in the summer.

Sargianna Wutzke

Wutzke is an operations officer for Community Options, an agency that provides support to people with developmental disabilities. She also is the founder and executive director of Arts for All, a nonprofit that provides a variety of types of free art classes to people who are at risk, low-income or who have developmental disabilities.

She has a son and a daughter who attend Legacy High school.

She's running "to ensure that every child in the district receives the best education possible in the most inclusive environment."

Wutzke previously worked as a high school English and history teacher at Montpelier Public School south of Jamestown. She also has worked for Bismarck Public Schools as a substitute teacher and as a paraprofessional working with children who have developmental disabilities.

Reach Bilal Suleiman at 701-250-8261 or Bilal.Suleiman@bismarcktribune.com

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