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Bemidji teachers union to consider School Board endorsements

BEMIDJI--The Bemidji teachers union is set to screen School Board candidates as it considers endorsements ahead of November's general election. Bemidji Education Association leaders plan to interview candidates in early October and determine who ...

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BEMIDJI-The Bemidji teachers union is set to screen School Board candidates as it considers endorsements ahead of November's general election.

Bemidji Education Association leaders plan to interview candidates in early October and determine who they might endorse later in the month, President Jason Koester said.

"We will invite them all in, and we'll ask them questions and we'll visit with them and see which ones we think would be best for our district," Koester said.

The union hasn't endorsed candidates in the last few election cycles because the fields have only been as big as the number of available board seats. This November, though, Bemidji-area voters will have eight candidates to choose from who are running for only three open seats.

Candidates reached by the Pioneer Wednesday were generally interested in receiving the union's endorsement:

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• Jeffrey Lind, Beltrami County's social services director, said he'd be interested in discussing his views and would be "very happy" if that turned into an endorsement.

• Board Member Shawn Whiting, a mental health therapist at Sanford Bemidji, and then what he does said he would gladly accept the union's endorsement if offered, but wouldn't go out of his way to seek it.

• Sarah Young, an associate professor at Bemidji State University, who said she would seek an endorsement.

• Jack Aakhus, a Bemidji Area Schools substitute teacher and football coach, who said he didn't see any reason why he wouldn't want the union's endorsement.

Board Chair Carol L. Johnson, who works in sales and management at Ken K. Thompson Jewelry, and Bonnie Solomon, a corporate travel agent, did not return requests for comment. Gary Rozman, head of the Beltrami County Historical Society, and Wenona Kingbird, a Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe child abuse prevention coordinator, could not be reached for comment.

Only incumbents Johnson and Whiting have held public office before. Johnson was first voted to the board in 2004. Board members picked Whiting in January to finish out the term of Bill Faver, who retired from the board in November. Board Member Melissa Bahr, who was first elected in 2010, did not file for re-election.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
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