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Voter's Guide: Aitkin School Board

Cindi Hills1 / 7
Brian Smith2 / 7
Noel C. Bailey3 / 7
Jeremy Janzen4 / 7
Jeanette A. Smith5 / 7
Kevin Hoge6 / 7
Shawn Speed7 / 7

Aitkin School Board Member (Elect 4)

Noel C. Bailey

Age: 76.

Occupation: Retired government teacher and wrestling coach of 35 years—Sauk Rapids High School (1963-72) and Aitkin High School (1972-98).

Public office experience: None listed.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? I choose to run for school board after considering the choice over the 20 years of retirement I have enjoyed. I just want to give back to ISD No.1 for all the good years I had teaching/coaching there.

Specifically, how will you accomplish your goals? I keep a fair and open mind on issues facing the school district, and will do what is best for the students, teachers, and school, in general.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? I have experience with being a member of the Riverwood Healthcare Auxiliary (2003-Present), a volunteer organization. I served as president for two years. I am a member of the United Methodist Church in Aitkin where I served on the Trustees Committee, and sing in the church choir. I presently work for the Aitkin's Sheriff's Office as a part-time bailiff in the courtroom (2010-present). I will do what is best for our school and community, and am willing to listen to anyone who has issues they would like to discuss about our school and program.

David E. Burgstaler

Did not respond.

Cindi Hills

Age: 45.

Occupation: Attorney.

Public office experience: I have served as a school board member for Aitkin Public Schools ISD 1 since January 2015. I have been the chairperson since January 2017. I previously worked in local county government for nine years, and I currently work as an attorney for the state of Minnesota 9th Judicial District.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? If elected for a second term, I would like to continue moving forward on the district's many initiatives related to school finance, facilities, services, and academic achievement scores. In addition, we will be working over the next several months to hire a permanent superintendent who will lead those important initiatives.

Specifically, how will you accomplish your goals? We will accomplish our goals by implementing best practices both for student success and for the school district as a business. It is also important to continue to collaborate with interested parties such as district employees, parents, students, businesses, local government, school board members, and other community stakeholders. A successful school district is important to the overall success and vitality of the community, so it is important to keep moving forward and to include perspectives from all sides.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? I strongly believe in the importance of education, and I appreciate and respect the work that is done by many people in advancing education in our community. I bring different perspectives for consideration because it is important to think critically when making decisions that affect our students and stakeholders. I am proud of the students and staff, and I enjoy helping them make a difference. I am vested personally in this community and this school district because my husband and I both graduated from AHS and we have three children who currently attend Aitkin Public Schools.

Kevin Hoge

Age: 58.

Occupation: Owner of a beef cow/calf operation and employed by Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Public office experience: Former supervisor for Glen Township, former board member for Long Lake Conservation Center, member and officer for several local and state cattlemen's groups.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? Most important is to choose a new ISD No. 1 superintendent. Our choice of superintendent could affect our school district for many years. Some of our facilities need updating and remodeling, but we need to be fiscally responsible. I would like to increase vocational electives (college courses) in the trade areas.

Specifically, how will you accomplish your goals? In order to accomplish goals the future board, future superintendent and staff, and community members need to work together. Having been on the school board for 12 years I feel I have a good understanding of how the school runs and what will be needed for the future. I will not turn anyone away if they have a question they want answered. I have and will continue to sit down with individuals and school officials to find answers, even though sometimes they may not be the answers that they want to hear.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? I feel I will do a good job as a school board member because of my previous board experience. I am straight forward, honest and I am always open to suggestions and discussion on any problems or new ideas. I will represent all people in the school district from the students, to employees, to taxpayers.

Jeremy Janzen

Age: 41.

Occupation: Self-employed, Cummings Janzen Realty real estate broker and Janzen Auctioneers auctioneer owner.

Public office experience: Four years school board of ISD No. 1 Aitkin Public Schools.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? Continuing to work hard helping develop 21 century learners with administrators and teaching staff by keeping students of ISD 1 at the center. Along with communicating and working with community members helping and engaging them in our wonderful school district.

Specifically, how will you accomplish your goals? By being proactive in all facets of education understanding the different needs of students and staff in the ever changing world of education along with listening to the concerns of the community working towards the best interests of all. I would be visible and approachable for anyone with concerns or questions of the Aitkin school district at the same time keeping the best interests of students and learning in the forefront.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? I was born and raised in Aitkin County. My wife and I are both graduates of Aitkin High School. As a father of five children in the Aitkin School District I am directly involved in the district on all levels. I care about our district and the direction it heading and want nothing more to see our district and community to continue to grow in a positive direction.

Terry Nies

Age: 53.

Occupation: I live on a farm near Aitkin. I have farmed there my whole life.

Public office experience: Did not respond.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? I believe everyone should live within their means and the school district is no exception. We need to take a good look at how we are spending money and where we spending money. I believe academics should come before athletics.

Specifically, how will you accomplish your goals? Did not respond.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? I think being an independent farmer gives me an idea how to budget money and how to plan or prioritize the needs of a business. Thank you.

Brian Smith

Age: 48.

Occupation: Business owner.

Public office experience: None.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? If elected I'd like to hold the current administration accountable, and be able to stop the bullying by the administration. That bullies the pubic, even some teachers are pulling their children out of Aitkin Schools. We shouldn't be forced into taking our children to other schools or homeschooling.

Specifically, how will you accomplish your goals? I would accomplish this by working with a couple of new candidates and some current board members. To get bylaws passed, and make sure we are teaching students how to think not what to think. Giving up on students will no longer be tolerated.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? I have the ability to see that we're being manipulated and I'm the only candidate that has been at the majority of the meetings and been seeing what is happening. I have seen how the chairman of the board tells the board how she's going to vote before the vote. There's a lot of manipulation happening, the public is being manipulated by the board and the board is being manipulated by the administration. Let's take back our school and make treating all children equally a priority, because we will never have equality in our community without equality in our schools.

Jeanette A. Smith

Age: 73.

Occupation: I'm retired from working as a hairdresser and a cook at Long Lake Conservation Center.

Public office experience: I served as Fleming Township Clerk. I've also served as ELCW secretary and church council secretary of Bethel Lutheran Church of Palisade.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? I wish to bring honesty and integrity to the Aitkin School Board. They are not in compliance with the Open Meeting Law (improper posting). They are not given a complete monthly cash flow statement. I hope to make things more transparent, for the Board members and the community.

Specifically, how will you accomplish your goals? I first learned about working on constitution and by-laws when we updated them at Bethel Lutheran Church. This would be the first step. The next step is adopting the Minnesota state statutes from the Minnesota state school board laws. Doing this will enable the Aitkin School Board to have a breakdown of the monthly cash flow statement showing all transfers into and out of accounts. These changes will allow more transparency for taxpayers.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? My training as a township clerk will help me to work with the school board in establishing a constitution and by-laws compliant with state of Minnesota statutes.

Shawn A. Speed

Age: 46.

Occupation: Retired Air National Guard / executive assistant at Aitkin County Health and Human Services.

Public office experience: None.

What do you want to accomplish if elected? I want to make sure that everyone's children, in the district, are provided the opportunity and tools to get the best education we can provide in a safe and secure atmosphere without fear of bullying or any other harm that could interfere with that learning.

Specifically, how will you accomplish your goals? I will do my best to try to make sure the board is heading in a direction that is both fiscally responsible to the citizens of the district while providing the best educational opportunities to our children by being physically present at each and every meeting and voting for what is best for our children, district, and community in mind.

What abilities or qualifications separate you from your competition? Why are you the best candidate for the job? I have an AA in accounting, 21 years of military experience of doing more with less, but first and foremost, I am a father and I have a son who is just starting kindergarten, this year, at Rippleside Elementary and I know I will do anything to make sure he gets the best education from the best teachers that are out there in the best and safest facilities that I can provide him and I will make sure that every other student in the Aitkin School District is afforded the same opportunities. Our kids are our future.

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