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School board 'thankless job'

Often described as probably the most thankless job to which one can be elected, it's also the one closest to people being served. That seems to explain the fact that in Northome and Blackduck, a total of 11 people have filed for the seven open positions, with at least one more running as a write-in candidate. In the other area district, Kelliher, there were no vacancies to be filled until the 2012 election.

Four of the openings are in Blackduck, three in Northome.

Candidates for the Blackduck district board will be discussed and their views outlined in an article in next week's American.

The Northome openings came about after three present members declined to seek re-election. Jack Ungerecht from Northome, Deena Baldwin from Birchdale and Crystal Lewis from Indus are those leaving the board.

The school newspaper, The Mustang Express, sent all six candidates questions and all six responded with particular attention to their view on the two school's role in the education of students.

Bill Eitenmiller wrote that he would like to see youngsters prepared for a future in northern Minnesota, becoming entrepreneurs and building their careers here. He and his wife live in Northome with their two children. He owns and operates Northome Repair. Eitenmiller voiced concern about the district's financial stability and the need for the board to oversee finances and hold the staff accountable.

Gary Dougherty and his wife, Molly, live in Indus and their son graduated from high school there. She grew up in Indus which helped their decision to retire there. He mentions as goals promoting education and help for the staff as a part of his desire for furthering education in the community. He also listed the need for the board to take a role in the decision making process on business affairs.

Derek Wickum lives in Gemmel with his wife and two daughters. He has been a music teacher for 17 years, eight years in Northome and nine in Bemidji. With his own youngsters in school, he hopes for a rigorous academic program balanced with co- and extracurricular opportunities "so our schools stay among the best in the area."

Florence Harvey lives in Indus with her husband and daughter and works with the Koochiching County Sheriff's Office in International Falls. Two their children graduated from the Indus School and a third is now a student there. She stresses a need to make high speed Internet more available, the possibility of satellite or ITV college classes, making Indus a school specializing in the arts, math, foreign language or literature.

Doug Jordan and his wife, Kim, live in Northome with their three children. He sees helping to make sure the school is financially able to stay open as part of the board's job.

"We should just be gearing our kids for further education when many of them won't be able to go to college," he said and "the school needs to discuss other opportunities with the students and their parents." Boards, he said, are part of the necessary checks and balances in the system.

Kelli Stegall lives in Gemmell with her husband, Bob Stueven, and their two children. They own and operate Clear Lake Resort and he is also the director of Trio and Upward Bound at Bemidji State University. As a way to provide more opportunities for students to prepare for the future, she suggests different options in post-secondary education or work experience and job training programs.

Each of the candidates will have an opportunity to expand on their views at a special forum Tuesday evening. The Oct. 19 meeting will take place beginning at 7:30 p.m. following parent-teacher conferences.

It is the first such candidates forum to have taken place in recent years and has been arranged by the South Koochiching-Rainy River Education Association. The teacher's group arranged the forum when the pool of candidates doubled the number of openings for seats on the board.

Former ISD 363 Superintendent Dr. Jerry Struss, will moderate the forum and members of the community were invited earlier to submit questions. The public is urged to attend.