Mandan residents will get to decide the makeup of their local school board in the June election.
Four candidates are running for three open seats on the nine-person Mandan School Board after incumbent Bob Klemish declined to pursue another term. The other six seats are not up for election this year.
Challengers Darren Haugen and Ellie Shockley look to bring new ideas to the board, while incumbents Kama Hoovestol and Marnie Piehl hope to retain their seats.
Terms are three years long, and there is no limit to the number of terms a member may serve. Mandan School Board members are paid $4,000 per year.
Dealing with the effects and uncertainty of the coronavirus will be the biggest issue the board will have to decide on following the results of the June 9 election. Decisions will also need to be made on how to handle rising enrollment in the district and mental health for students, according to Superintendent Mike Bitz.
Mandan's state funding for the next school year is pretty well in place since the Legislature operates on a two-year budget cycle and funds had been appropriated in advance, Bitz said. Any major reduction in state funding would likely come after the Legislature meets in 2021, he said.
"We're going to have to work through that," Bitz said.
A more immediate concern for administrators is the uncertainty of how school will look in the fall. It's a constant topic of discussion among school officials, who communicate regularly about what's going on in their districts.
"We're having conversations right now with a lot of 'what-ifs,' but none of us know which 'if' its going to be," Bitz said. "Hopefully we're able to come back, but I don't know. I don't think anybody does."
Haugen is an assistant vice president at Starion Bank.
He is running for the school board to "give back to the community and school district which gave me the education to succeed." He believes as a banker, he is well-qualified to understand the financial challenges facing the school district.
Dealing with growing enrollment numbers within the school district while being a good steward of taxpayer money are the most important issues to him.
Haugen and his wife, Debra, have two adult children that both graduated from Mandan High School. He is chairman of the Mandan Renaissance Zone Committee and the North Dakota Bankers Association Services Board of Directors, and serves on the steering committee for the Mandan Main Street Project.
Shockley is an education researcher within the public sector.
She running for the school board because she developed a passion for public service after seeing how her work informs the decisions of elected officials. Her research has focused on education over the lifespan and teacher turnover and shortages.
Planning for the upcoming school year, addressing facility issues with the high school and safety for students and teachers are the biggest issues she's focusing on.
Shockley has two stepdaughters who attend Custer Elementary School. She is on the board of the North Dakota Women's Network, and is an active member of North Dakota United, the state's teacher union. She served on Gov. Doug Burgum's Task Force for Higher Education Governance in 2018. Shockley is a columnist for The Bismarck Tribune.
Hoovestol is a stay at home mom for her three kids. She previously worked as a teacher within Mandan Public Schools.
She is running for school board because she is passionate about education and wants to make sure all kids get the best schooling possible. She believes her experience on both sides of the aisle as both a teacher and school board member will serve her well.
The most important issues she sees going forward will be to develop procedures to keep students and staff safe while COVID-19 is still present. Better communication by the board with the general public on the construction of new school buildings will also be an important issue, she said.
Hoovestol has three kids who attend Fort Lincoln Elementary School. She is a current member on the Mandan School Board, and also serves as president of the PTO at Fort Lincoln Elementary.
Piehl is the head college relations specialist at Bismarck State College.
She’s running for the school board to support competitive salaries for teachers, programs to help older students plan their futures and literacy efforts that help all students. She believes her job as a professional communicator in higher education, as well as her experience with two terms on the school board, make her a valuable contributor.
The most important issues to her are helping every student find the right path for them, early childhood school readiness, facilities at the elementary and high school level and supporting teachers.
Piehl and her husband, Shadd, have three sons; one attends North Dakota State University, the other two are twins who will be freshmen at Mandan High School in the fall. Along with serving on the Mandan School Board, she’s also on the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber/EDC board.
Reach Bilal Suleiman at 701-250-8261 or Bilal.Suleiman@bismarcktribune.com
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