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Eight seek three Perham-Dent school board seats

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A full slate of candidates will be vying for three seats on the Perham-Dent School Board.

Eight hopefuls--including two incumbents--filed for the three seats. They are John Minge, Sue Von Ruden, Todd Nygaard, Cyndy Huber, Arnie Thompson, Dale Salberg, Jane Aschnewitz and Dan Nodsle.

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Also on the ballot for the Perham-Dent school district is the question on the levy referendum.

The levy proposal calls for an increase in the local property tax levy, to raise an additional $699 per student--for a maximum of ten years.

Candidates are profiled below.

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Cyndy Huber

Occupation/ work experience:

I have been employed for the last 13 years at United Community Bank as the Controller and Human Resource Officer. Prior to that I worked at Kenny's Candy/Nelson Confections and Bradley R. Helmeke, Ltd. in various accounting and financial positions.

Brief biography: I am a 1985 graduate of Perham High School. I received a Bachelor of Accounting degree from the University of North Dakota in 1988. My husband Mark, a 1978 graduate of PHS, is a self-employed electrical contractor in Perham. We have 3 children - Sam, 2008 graduate, currently attending UND, Kaylan, sophomore at PHS, and John, 8th grader at PWMS. I have been involved in many community groups such as treasurer of the Big Pine Lake Association, treasurer and charter member of the 549 Family Foundation, Kinship of the Perham Area board, Jacket Backcourt Club treasurer, Otter Tail County Pine Lakes Improvement District organizational board, Financial Leadership Network, and FOCUS. I also served on various committees at Calvary Lutheran Church and taught Sunday school there for a number of years.

If the referendum passes, bringing more revenue into the Perham-Dent district, are there any programs you would try to restore?

The purpose of the referendum is to maintain or improve the level of the programs we have in place now, not to add new programs. With the lack of state aid available to support the quality of education we have today, we, as do most school districts in the state, need to ask our local communities for support just to operate.

What are your general comments on operating the Perham-Dent schools during difficult economic times?

I feel that we have to concentrate on the quality of the education we are providing. Care must be taken not to spread the budget too thin, but rather focus on what can make the biggest impact for the students such as class size and curriculum to help them succeed. We cannot afford to let our high educational standards slip because that can cause a domino effect in enrollment, business, and community.

What do you feel are the school system's top priorities or objectives at this time?

I feel that the priorities and objectives of the school system are to improve the quality of the education it provides to the students. This comes in many forms. A student needs to be well rounded to succeed. Colleges and employers are looking for individuals who not only score well academically, but who are also involved in other activities. A balance that includes fine arts and extracurricular activities provides opportunities for leadership and personal growth that cannot be achieved in the classroom only.

What, if any, concerns do you have with the school now, and what ideas would you bring to the table as a board member?

My concerns are that with the ever tightening budget pressures, the quality of the education that students receive will be threatened. I will come to the board with an open mind and ready to work hard to achieve the best, well rounded education we can provide with the resources that we have. I am ready to make tough decisions and feel that I can bring a fresh, new perspective to the mix. I am proud to say that I am from Perham and I want to be involved in the excellent, award winning school district that we have and to lead it into the future with more successes.

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Todd Nygaard

Occupation/ work experience:

Marine mechanic for 30 years.

Brief biography:

Graduated from Rochester High in Rochester, Michigan, attended Vo-Tech in Pontiac, Michigan. My father was employed by Chrysler Corp (Marine Division) for 26 years, my mother mainly stayed home taking care of us kids, but did spend 3 years as a Girl Scout leader. I currently own and operate Lakeview Marine and small engine. My wife Michelle is the bakery manager at Service Foods. My wife and I are blessed with two wonderful daughters, Marie, 16, and Abby, 14.

If the referendum passes, bringing more revenue into the Perham/ Dent district, are there any programs you would try to restore?

The arts, our children need and must have a full and well rounded education.

What are your general comments on operating the Perham/Dent schools during difficult economic times?

I really feel the board has done a wonderful job, but we still have a very long way to go. If the levy passes-that is money just for operating; we still need to be very careful with spending.

What do you feel are the school system's top priorities or objectives at this time?

Without a doubt, the finest education and no less; good enough is not good enough. Our children are our future. Our town depends on it.

What, if any, concerns do you have with the school board now, and what ideas would you bring to the table as a board member?

Concerns-just the budget.

Ideas? I'd like to learn how the board works first, I simply know that I'm a good dad, and I want the best available for my children.

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Dan Nodsle

Occupation/ work experience:

Priority IAC, dairy and beef cattle nutrition utilizing microbiology and the use of live bacteria.

Brief biography:

Lifelong resident of Otter Tail County, have farmed in the Dent area for over 40 years. Married; wife, Pam, 2 children Perham-Dent school, Ivan 9th grade, Hunter 8th grade. Sacred Heart Church in Dent.

If the referendum passes, bringing more revenue into the Perham-Dent district, are there any programs you would try to restore?

At the present time we need to maintain what we presently have. Any additions would have to come from donations or fund raising. Band and arts would be foremost on the list.

What are your general comments on operating the Perham-Dent schools during difficult economic times?

The task at hand is a very difficult situation to be in. We can't allow ourselves to cut much more from the budget and still maintain the quality of education that is offered to all children who come through our doors. No Child Left Behind means just that, NO CHILD should miss out on the opportunity that Perham-Dent can offer. Yesterday is gone, we need to work for the future, and the future is our children.

What do you feel are the school system's top priorities or objectives at this time?

Maintain the excellence that has made Perham-Dent what it is today. Everthing that goes on in this district is important to somebody. The concerns of the students, employees, parents, and taxpayers need to be addressed with understanding and representation for every faction of the district.

What, if any, concerns do you have with the school now, and what ideas would you bring to the table as a board member?

My concern is that, if our school is allowed to become less than excellent, that the community standards will start a downward spiral. As a parent, my children are my legacy and my future. The goal should be for them to become successful citizens in this community and beyond. Without the best education, these goals will be hard to attain.

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Dale Salberg

Occupation/ work experience:

Retired educator with 36 years of experience in education, 16 years in North Dakota as a classroom teacher/administrator, 20 years in Minnesota as a School Superintendent, with the last 10 years as Superintendent of the Fosston ISD 601, Fosston, Minnesota.

Brief biography:

Taught and administered in rural school districts and was actively involved in the communities serving on church councils, a Lions member, Rotary member, and served on the city recreation department board in Fosston for 10 years. Member of a 14-school special education board for 18 years, a regional vocational board for 18 years and a school representative on a county collaborative board for 8 years. I have been married for 37 years to Deb Salberg. We have two grown children and 1 grand daughter. Deb, is an elementary school teacher in the Red Lake Falls school system. We have our home on Star Lake and enjoy the area.

If the referendum passes, bringing more revenue into the Perham-Dent district, are there any programs you would try to restore?

Before restoring or expanding any programs I would plan for the next 2-3 years with the revenue available to make sure with declining enrollment when faced with increased costs in energy, health insurance, and most likely no new money from the State of Minnesota, that we recognize the effect of those variables on the budget with the idea that a balanced budget must be maintained.

What are your general comments on operating the Perham-Dent schools during difficult times?

"Students should come first," but the district must be run as a business. Expenditures cannot exceed revenue. Provide the best educational programs possible with the resources available.

What do you feel are the school system's top priorities or objectives at this time?

Plan for the next 2-3 years without increased financial support from the State of Minnesota. Provide balanced educational programming including extracurriculars with the resources that are available.

What, if any, concerns do you have with the school now, and what ideas would you bring to the table as a board member?

I have no real concerns. As a board member I would bring my educational experience to the board to provide options for the district to consider when faced with difficult decisions. Unfortunately, I believe the financial concerns will be the norm rather the occasional concern. We need to provide a quality education opportunity to all students while maintaining the financial integrity of the school district. It is a very difficult balancing act, I believe I can provide some ideas on how to accomplish that objective while respecting the needs of the students, district patrons, and all taxpayers.

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Arnie Thompson

Occupation/ work experience:

Part owner/manager Crossings Inn & Suites Hotel in Perham, MN. Self-employed with Thompson Services and retired from Ottertail Power Co. with 38 years as a Service Representative.

Brief biography:

I received my electrical trade education from NDSSS in Wahpeton, ND.  I am currently a member of the Perham -Dent School Board, Perham Lions Club and the Chamber of Commerce.  My wife Connie is the office manager at the Perham Area Community Center and we have two married children and five grandchildren, of which three of them attend school in the Perham-Dent school district. 

If the referendum passes, bringing more revenue into the Perham-Dent school district, are there any programs you would try to restore?

When the referendum passes on Nov. 4th, the money will be used to continue to maintain and strengthen the programs we currently have in place at the present time. The referendum that we are voting on will not give us any excess money to add more programs, it is strictly a maintenance vote that we need to continue the quality of education that we have.

What are your general comments on operating the Perham Dent schools during difficult economic times?

Our current administration has done an exceptional job of budgeting money during these lean times without loosing quality programs and keeping class sizes as low as possible. We will not be able to continue without the operating levy.

What do you feel are the school system's top priorities or objectives at this time?

We need to maintain the high quality of education that we are offering our students and not settle for less.  This has a pricetag that affects all of us living in this area. The students in our district at present are receiving an all around experience in our schools and therefore it is encouraging those that are relocating to look at us as a strong asset to the area.

What, if any, concerns do you have with the school now, and what ideas would you bring to the table as a board member?

We need to maintain and grow our enrollment in the district to enhance our academic progress.  As a member of the school board I have been involved in the process we have come to in suggesting an education levy for our district.  The changes over the years in decreasing support at the state level have not kept up with inflation and costs that we have seen in our school. As a nine-year board member we have made the appropriate budget reductions each year and I will continue to reduce unnecessary expenses. 

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Jane Aschnewitz

Occupation/ work experience:

Tourism Consultant, Public Relations & Promoting the Region and Minnesota

Board Member, State of Minnesota Heartland Board of Directors

Work history:

Perham Public Schools-Wadena Public Schools

Children with special needs for 12 years

Bus Driver- Bauck Bus Service Inc. - Christianson Bus Service Inc.

Perham Area Chamber of Commerce for 22 years

Brief biography:

Both my husband, Archie, and my family, sister and brother plus our children attended Perham School. MSU Blandin Community Leadership Program, Christmas Giving Tree project with Mr. and Mrs. Steve Sheets, United Methodist Church which Paster and I started that program. Volunteer with the two state parks in Otter Tail County. Member of Friends of Maplewood State Park and Glendalogh State Park. Meals on Wheels, Perham Memorial Hospital and Home Board of Directors member. Pelican Rapid's Lions Club, Pelican Rapids Rotary, United Methodist Church life member.

If the referendum passes, bringing more revenue into the Perham/ Dent district, are there any programs you would try to restore?

If the referendum passes, I feel the administration and school board will work together to keep the Perham/Dent schools on the same high standards for all student programs, restoring what needs to be restored. Hopefully there will not be a need to cut or drop any of the programs. I believe the referendum will pass. The best investment we can make is for the education of children. This is where the government begins: here locally with you and I. Our communities need to stay healthy and strong is schools.

What are your general comments on operating the Perham/Dent schools during difficult economic times?

I feel the school staff, administration and school board have done an excellent job keeping everything in order and working.

What do you feel are the school system's top priorities or objectives at this time?

The school system's top priorities or objectives are important, I am sure a lot of research and input from the staff has been completed. I have talked with families and professionals. They said when they visited the school, they made the decision that the Perham area would be the place to call home.

What, if any, concerns do you have with the school board now, and what ideas would you bring to the table as a board member?

I do not have any major concerns at this time; I know we can work out any concerns that might come into focus in the future. What I would bring to the table is a person who believes in our school systems and I am willing to learn and work together with the administration and staff, to keep the school ready for the future. I would be privileged to serve on the Perham/Dent School Board.

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John Minge

Occupation/ work experience:

Attorney-practicing for past 32 years.

1976-1993 in Winona, MN

1993- present in Perham

Brief biography:

Education: Worthington (MN) high school- 1967 graduate

St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN - 1971 graduate

University of Minnesota Graduate School (journalism) - 1972-1973

University of Minnesota Law School - 1976 graduate

Family: Son, Johnny (lives in Fergus Falls and has a daughter - Lily Minge); daughter, Ahna (just graduated from Macalester College- lives in St. Paul and works for the city of Minneapolis); son, Raymond (a junior in the Institute of Technology at the University of Minnesota).

Volunteer work and organizations: United Way of Otter Tail County board member for 6 years; Otter Tail County DFL board member for about 12 years; Natural Innovations of Detroit Lakes-board member for past 2 and a half years; Kinship (Perham) board member for past 2 and a half years; Perham High School Mock Trial Team lawyer coach for about 12 years; taught a small boat building class for Perham Community Ed in summer of 2006; regular speaker at the OTW Community Action Council First Time Homebuyers class for past 12 or 13 years; take referral cases from the Legal Services ("legal aid") office in Moorhead.

If the referendum passes, bringing more revenue into the Perham/ Dent district, are there any programs you would try to restore?

Funds raised by the levy are not likely to result in the meaningful restoration of programs. Rather, those funds will allow the school district to avoid additional cuts to faculty, staff, programs, and activities. I don't presently have an opinion about what programs to restore if there is a surplus of funds.

What are your general comments on operating the Perham/Dent schools during difficult economic times?

As we tighten our belt, we must focus on those programs and classes that are truly core to the mission of providing a solid basic education. We must also continue to look for economies of scale, efficiencies, and saving money by using technology wisely and cooperating with other school districts.

What do you feel are the school system's top priorities or objectives at this time?

The mission of the school system must be to provide an education that prepares our youth to take those steps- vocational and /or educations-that come next. This includes imparting cultural literacy, a sense of history, and the ability to think independently and critically.

What, if any, concerns do you have with the school now, and what ideas would you bring to the table as a board member?

The lack of adequate funds is impinging on the school system's core mission. The cost of a public education must be shared fairly and not be placed disproportionately on the shoulders of property owners. The legislature must be made to solve this problem, and the taxpayers must be prepared to pay for the solution.

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Sue Von Ruden

Occupation/ work experience:

I'm the Community Relations Director at Perham Memorial Hospital and Home. I've been at PMHH 10 years.

Education:

I graduated from Perham High School in 1981. I have a Bachelors of Science degree in Mass Communications from Moorhead State University (MSUM).

Family/civic groups/volunteerism:

I am married and my husband, John, and I have three daughters - Claire (22) graduated from PHS in 2004; Mollian (12) and Ella (10) both attend Prairie Wind Middle School. John is employed by Arvig Communication Systems. I have been a member of the Perham Rotary Club since 1993, serving as president in 2006. I am a past board member of the Perham Area Foundation and Kinship of the Perham Area.

If the referendum passes, bringing more revenue into the Perham-Dent district, are there any programs you would try to restore?

According to information I have received from attending meetings regarding the need for a levy, the levy will not allow the school district to restore any programs or positions that have been cut to date. It will allow the district to keep the programs it currently has and prevent further cuts from occurring.

What are your general comments on operating the Perham-Dent schools during difficult economic times?

It's going to be tough in the months, even years, ahead and the district needs to continue to be frugal in containing costs. Diverse quality programs and extracurricular activities must be maintained - both are very valuable in the formation of our young people. I believe the district has a dedicated leadership and staff that will work together, with limited resources, to continue the tradition of education excellence we've come to expect from Perham-Dent school.

What do you feel are the school system's top priorities or objectives at this time?

We need to continue to offer strong, quality, and competitive programs for all students. A solid educational foundation is instrumental to future accomplishments in college or in the workforce. As a school district and a community, we may need to become more creative in how this is done in light of declining enrollment and inadequate state funding. We all must be active in communicating with our legislators the need for fair funding so students get the quality education they deserve and the tax burden on property owners is lessened.

What, if any, concerns do you have with the school now, and what ideas would you bring to the table as a board member?

I would like to see the school district and the community work together even more. One of the district's greatest assets is the communities and people who live in them who support it. By forming partnerships with businesses and individuals, the school may be able to offer programs local businesses are looking for in future employees; perhaps there are professionals in the community who can lend their expertise in formulating curriculum for specialized programs, that we will need to keep our students on the leading edge of learning. For example, the school currently partners with the Perham Hospital and Minnesota State and Community Technical College to provide instruction for certified nursing assistant classes in the high school - a program it wouldn't be able to offer on its own.

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