How to help students make the transition into Forestview Middle School in 2005 as well as suggestions on maintaining a balanced budget were two topics discussed Tuesday during a Brainerd School Board candidate forum.
Nine of the 10 Brainerd School Board candidates attended the candidate forum in the Brainerd High School cafeteria.
Three four-year terms expire at the end of this year. The seats are those of Ruth Gmeinder, Randy Klinger and Janet Moran. Gmeinder is the only incumbent who filed for re-election. Others vying for the three seats are Reed Campbell, David Colvin, Lois Hansen, Jeff Hilborn, Cheryal Hills, Kent Montgomery, Michael Lambert, Ruth Nelson and Stephen Park.
Colvin did not attend the Tuesday forum.
A balanced budget
Hills said the school board's responsibility is to scrutinize the budget. She said the board needs members who are not afraid to lobby at the state level for education revenue.
Hilborn said he would review the tax base and look at bringing in more revenue through taxes.
"That is if we want to maintain the quality of education that we are all accustomed to," he said. "The alternatives would be cutting programs and personnel."
"I would expect no fluff in the budget," said Hansen. "We need to have it as tight as we can and cut as little as we can."
Gmeinder said the board does a good job with the budget and she would like the board to maintain a 10 percent fund balance.
Nelson said the board could use its reserves in hope that the economy will turn around.
"These are very tough issues to deal with," said Nelson. "We have to be creative."
Montgomery said the district could charge a fee to people who want to use school facilities when school is not in session to help generate revenue. He also said the school district could partner with area school districts with programs to help offset costs.
Park said, "The whole thing is in the classrooms and I'd go to teachers and ask them where to cut."
Lambert said the district could save money by becoming more energy efficient, which will happen when FMS in Baxter opens in 2005.
Campbell agreed with Lambert on working on efficiencies, such as energy savings.
Lambert also said he'd trim the budget in all areas and try to generate more income for the school district.
Forestview Middle School
When the candidates were asked if moving into FMS would pose any problems for school administrators and teachers, a majority said the school district should have no problems and that it will be an exciting time for students and staff. A few said having so many people moving into the school in the middle of the year will bring a few initial challenges, but the challenges would diminish in a short period of time.
Park did not know if there would be any problems. Hills said the only challenge she sees is communication between staff at FMS.
The candidates said they value neighborhood schools in the school district and hope they stay around as long as possible. Hilborn, Hansen and Campbell feel if the schools drain revenue and are not safe for students that they should not be used. Park said the issue would need to be discussed, but agreed maintenance costs should be weighed as part of any decision about neighborhood schools.
Nelson said if the board would decide to build a school she would like it to stay small. Montgomery said if a school was built that the district would need to identify the feelings people have with neighborhood schools and bring that into a new building.
Gmeinder said the board has already put a priority on neighborhood schools. She said studies show that students excel in smaller schools and FMS was designed into four different areas to help with a more neighborhood school feel.
Lambert said, "Neighborhood schools belong to the neighbors and it is part of who they are. It should be up to the people on what happens to the neighborhood schools."
Hills agreed with the others that neighborhood schools are fantastic. She said, however, creating a neighborhood atmosphere at larger schools, such as Mississippi Horizons, can be done.
Candidates expressed different views on a question posed by an 11th-grader about their views on the core mathematics programs.
Hills and Lambert said they do not like the core mathematics program and do not think the program is right for students.
Gmeinder, Campbell, Park, Nelson, Hansen and Montgomery agreed the mathematics curriculum should be left up to the experts, the teachers and administrators, to discuss and to make the decisions. They said it was not a school board's duty to micro-manage.
Hilborn said he had no answers about the program. He said he would have to do research on it before airing his views.
Other issues addressed were student success, evaluation of teachers, strengths and weaknesses of the district, who the candidates would represent if elected, the role the school has in training students for the transition of going from school to work and how to keep the schools safe in light of the recent school shooting in Cold Spring.
The candidate forum was broadcast by the Brainerd High School Television Production class and Charter Communications cable television Channel 8.
Those who missed the forum Tuesday night may tune into Channel 8 and watch it several times before the election Nov. 4. It will be broadcast at 1 a.m., 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. And at 3 a.m., noon and 7 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
The event was sponsored by the Brainerd branch of the American Association of University Women, the League of Women Voters of the Brainerd Lakes Area and the Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce.
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