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2020 Election

This year there are four open school board seats on an already full General Election ballot. Each open seat will serve a 4 year term. There are nine candidates, including three incumbents, running for the open seats. Get to know your choices before going to the polls on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Polls are open from 7am to 8pm. Read the candidate Q and A below (Candidates wrote and submitted thier own responses below.)

*Denotes Incumbent 

Get Out (or Stay In) and VOTE
With concerns for COVID-19 (whether you might get it or that you could be in quarantine come election day), voters can choose to vote early. Residents can vote early by requesting a ballot by mail or vote early in-person.

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Get to know the 2020 School Board Candidates

Adam Bjorklund

City of Residence: Buffalo, MN

How long you have lived in the district: My whole life – 40 years

Family: 
My wife, Abby, is a teacher in Monticello. We have two children who are in BHM Schools. Our daughter, Avery (12) is in 7th grade at BCMS, and our son, Asher (8) is in 2nd grade at Northwinds. 

Occupation: 
I’m a Financial Advisor with Ameriprise Financial, serving many local families and working to make sure they never run out of money in retirement. 

Why do you want to serve on the BHM School Board?
I have deep roots in the Buffalo community. My parents and grandparents were born and raised in this community. Having my own family carry on that tradition is important to my wife and me. I also married into a family of educators, which has given me an even greater sense of appreciation for school staff. My commitment to and history with this wonderful town is what drives me to want to do more by being a member of the school board.

What qualities will you bring to the school board if you are elected?
I’ve always been very driven to serve others. Prior to becoming a financial advisor, I owned other small businesses in the Twin Cities area. During that time, my leadership skills allowed me to manage a large staff, while still maintaining a “family feel.” By blending my passion to serve with my financial background, I feel that I am an excellent candidate for the school board. 

What do you believe is the most important issue facing education today? 
I think some of the most important issues facing the school district are educational inequity and fiscal responsibility. Students deserve equitable access to technology, educational resources, and support from our district. They shouldn’t be granted nor denied access to opportunities solely based on the school they attend. I will work with district staff and teachers to create equitable access to educational resources, ensuring all students receive the same opportunities within BHM Schools. I will use my professional experience as a financial advisor to ensure the district is fiscally responsible with the taxpayers’ money. 

Why do you believe BHM Schools is the place to dream, believe and achieve? 
I believe our schools have the best staff around who genuinely care about the education and well-being of every student.
 

Melissa Brings

City of Residence:  Buffalo, MN

How long you have lived in the district: 48 years

Family:  
My husband and I are both graduates of BHM Schools as are our two children (Mariah (’13) and Hunter (’17)).  Additionally, both of our siblings (8 in total) and several of our nephews and a niece have attended and graduated from BHM Schools.

Occupation:  
Self-employed. We own and operate Water Boy (lawn irrigation/sprinkler business) located in Buffalo. 

Why do you want to serve on the BHM School Board? 
I am passionate about serving the students and residents of our district to ensure each student is given the best educational experience possible.  I believe in, value, and understand the importance of our strong educational system and want to continue to be an active part of it.  

What qualities will you bring to the school board if you are elected?
This is my 13th year of having the privilege to serve on the BHM School Board. While on the board, I have served on many committees/organizations some of which are; Schools for Equity in Education, Safe Schools, Safe Communities, multiple hiring teams, contract negotiations for all but one bargaining group, and more. I am known for asking probing questions and looking for alternative ways to do things.  I take my fiduciary responsibilities as a board member very seriously and have consistently conducted myself in an ethical and legal manner while doing what is best for students. In addition, I have been a successful business owner (with my husband) for 22 years. I handle all financial and operational aspects (accounting, customer management, insurance, licenses, etc.) as well as work in the field as needed.  

What do you believe is the most important issue facing education today?
Adequate and equitable funding for public schools.  

Why do you believe BHM Schools is the place to dream, believe and achieve?  
Because we care for the whole child and work with them to do exactly that…dream, believe and achieve! Despite our size, our district offers so many educational and extra-curricular opportunities for our students they are sure to find their “thing”.
 

*Incumbent

Dave Casey

City of Residence: Buffalo, MN

How long you have lived in the district: 34 years

Family: 
Wife – Denise.  Two sons went BHM Kindergarten through HS graduate 

Occupation: 
Retired Teacher from BHM Schools

Why do you want to serve on the BHM School Board?
Being a member of the school board will allow me to use my expertise as an educator and my active community involvement to work for the best solutions for all students, teachers, staff and families. I will be able to use my experienced educational voice to allocate resources to meet the needs of all students. I will ensure the resources are used wisely in accordance with state, federal requirements and guidelines. 

What qualities will you bring to the school board if you are elected?
Worked in BHM as an educator for over 30 years. 
I know what it takes to make schools work from the ground up. 
Involved in curriculum design, budget planning and growth. 
Coached sports and academic teams in our school district. 
I see the big picture and understand the education system. 
The willingness and confidence to make tough decisions I am passionate about public education.
Well-grounded in community affairs.
Great communicator and listener.

What do you believe is the most important issue facing education today? 
In my opinion, the most important issue facing education today is providing a quality education for students during these uncertain times. These are uncharted territories, and we need to support, students, teachers, and families. We need to get the teachers the education, support and supplies they need to be successful. Provide a quality education for students with the dollars available. Funding is always tight and often restricts the ability to do all of the things the District would like to accomplish. This was never more true than today. We cannot lose teachers to budget cuts.  We will need to be extremely thoughtful, creative and fiscally responsible.

Why do you believe BHM Schools is the place to dream, believe and achieve? 
BHM provides opportunities for all students. I have lived here 35 years and I have seen the support our schools and staff have given our students to achieve their full potential. BHM enables students to develop the skills for life-long learning. BHM schools guide students from PreK -12, building on programs and successes from the ground up. Our communities bring together all the great things of small town living with the amenities of a much larger community. We have dedicated teachers, great district employees, and willing students who work together for winning outcomes. Parents believe we will provide an excellent education, students trust our schools to guide and prepare them for life, and together, we all achieve our goals.
 

Eric Ellwoods

City of Residence: Montrose, MN

How long you have lived in the district:
I have lived in Montrose for 17 years. We have been active in the district for all 17 of those years.

Family:
I am married and have three children. Two are adults now, one is in high school at BHS in the Arts Magnet program.

Occupation:
I work as a building engineer for Presbyterian Homes and Services

Why do you want to serve on the BHM School Board?
I would like to serve on the school board to give back to the school district and the greater community for all they have done for my children.

What qualities will you bring to the school board if you are elected?
I am even tempered and all about finding balance. I have worked in schools, have students, and am a citizen. I feel we can be creative and accomplish the goals set before us

What do you believe is the most important issue facing education today?
I believe the biggest issues facing our schools currently is the balance of in person and distance as we navigate the pandemic. Besides that we need to continue to offer opportunities for the students, staff, and value to the taxpayers.

Why do you believe BHM Schools is the place to dream, believe and achieve? 
BHM schools has a diverse offering of coursework and extracurricular activities. Those things are all basis for our students to dream, believe, and achieve. We need to find ways to ensure we can keep what we offer and add more opportunities for them going forward.
 

Brade Elo

City of Residence: Buffalo, MN

How long you have lived in the district:  
My wife, Nichola, and I both from moved from different countries to Buffalo in 1986, she from Leeds, England, and me from International Falls, MN.  

Family:  
Nichola and I are both 1993 graduates from BHMS, we also have three wonderful children at the high school this year.  Neve (freshman), Drew (sophomore) and Charles (senior).

Occupation:  
I’m currently an executive for a large software company specializing in data, advanced analytics, and business process optimization.  My focus on the data sciences has allowed me to be fortunate enough to work with some our nation’s largest firms, diagnosing and recommending solutions to tough problems.   

Why do you want to serve on the BHM School Board?
Preparing our Kids for the Future:  To many, technology change is something that just happens to us, a passive participant.  But to me, it is an opportunity to turn what is passive into active decisions.  I’ve spent 20+ years in the high-tech space, adding my voice to the board will bring that expertise and help our community become an active participant in the future.

What qualities will you bring to the school board if you are elected?  
I’ll bring creative problem solving based on my decades of high-tech experience, active listening and learning from our world class teachers, administration, and community members, with a keen eye towards innovation and the fiscal discipline required to ensure equity among all our students.  

What do you believe is the most important issue facing education today?
Funding transparency & evidence based decisioning:  “Nothing like the facts to screw up a good argument”.  The pressures on schools is enormous, and for too long, have been the inheritors and stop-gaps for our societal and governmental failures in other places.  We need to re-imagine our approach.  I’ve spent my professional life as the person who puts the math on paper.  Using data and insights to inform our decisions and sharing the facts with the transparency required is a priority.  The board is charged with being the stewards of the taxpayer’s treasure, our community and faculty’s time, and we need continuous discipline to ensure we are turning this investment into our future, for our children, and our children’s children

Why do you believe BHM Schools is the place to dream, believe and achieve?
A Place to Dream, Believe and Achieve are BHM values that are grounded in equity.  Equity means that as leaders, faculty, administration and community members, it is imperative that we create and sustain an environment where each child can be successful without regard to socio-economic status, race, gender, identity.  A school system succeeds when all the participants are on the footing they need to be successful.  My commitment is to embrace student equity and advocate for all of our children.
 

Amanda Lawrence

City of Residence: Buffalo, MN

How long you have lived in the district: 17 years

Family:
My husband Dale is a family practice doctor at Stellis Health.  Elizabeth is a 2019 BHS graduate and current student at Gustavus Adolphus College, Rachel is a junior at BHS, and Lucas is an 8th grader at BCMS

Occupation: 
My professional background is in customer service and corporate training.  I am currently serving as president of the 877 Scholarship Foundation Board, which raises scholarship money for graduates of BHM Schools.

Why do you want to serve on the BHM School Board?
I have a passion for education and our amazing schools.  I love that our district has a wide variety of programs and activities for kids of all different interests and life goals. I want every student to be able to find classes and activities that ignite their passion, make them feel like they belong, teach valuable skills and give them confidence about how their unique talents can take them into the future.  We have excellent teachers and staff and I want to ensure that District 877 continues to be a place where outstanding people want to work.  The combination of my skills, vision and dedication to education make me uniquely suited to be an effective member of the school board.

What qualities will you bring to the school board if you are elected?  
I would bring the same energy and focus to the school board as I have in my countless volunteer hours in the schools and on the 877 Scholarship Foundation Board.  I am a hard-working, detail-oriented, level headed team player.  I am an excellent communicator who takes every point of view into account when making decisions.  I am ready to use these skills to help move our school district forward.

What do you believe is the most important issue facing education today?
The issue at the forefront now is the pandemic. Our focus needs to be the safety of students and staff while still moving our students’ education forward.  We need to watch the data, listen to the experts, and remember that although we have different opinions, we all want what’s best for our kids.

Beyond the pandemic, the biggest issue is funding. I would advocate to fully fund schools. It isn’t fair for local taxpayers to bear the burden of underfunded mandates and cost increases due to inflation.

Why do you believe BHM Schools is the place to dream, believe and achieve? 
BHM Schools recognize that every student has unique dreams.  Our students have a huge variety of classes, programs, and activities to choose from, encompassing a myriad of different interests.  We need to maintain these great options so every student can believe in themselves and their abilities, achieve excellence in something they feel passionate about, and learn important skills to help them reach their future goals.
 

Susan Lee

City of Residence: Buffalo, MN

How long you have lived in the district: I have lived in Buffalo since 1970.
 
Family:
I’m married to my husband Dave and we had two children go through BHM Schools and currently have two grandchildren in BHM Schools as well.

Occupation:
Following my bachelor’s degree from the U of MN, we moved to Buffalo and I taught in BHM schools for 34 years at the 6th grade level. I loved working with my students and their families. Education has been my passion. That is also why I have served on the school board since 2006. 

Why do you want to serve on the BHM School Board?
As mentioned above, I am passionate about education. I have devoted my career to BHM schools. My classroom and many graduate classes further developed my curriculum and classroom management skills. Serving on the School Board has enabled me to learn and understand the “other” sides and considerations important to the educational process. As a board member, attending a number of workshops and training sessions have broadened and deepened my understanding of the state requirements and financial side of running a district. Serving as a Mentor Mom for the Mothers’ of Preschoolers during the last 16 years has also kept me in touch with challenges young families face.

What qualities will you bring to the school board if you are elected?  
I am not a politician – I am an educator. I have served and chosen to run again for the Board of Education because of my love for our students and the communities our District serves. With my years in teaching and subsequent years on the School Board, continued service on the board is the best, most effective way for me to serve our BHM community. 

What do you believe is the most important issue facing education today?
This has been a most unusual year! The COVID 19 pandemic has put the District in a sensitive health position. It is important to keep students and staff safe, and we have tried to maintain that priority in developing appropriate practices for our schools.

Because of the many changes this year, our District’s financial situation is facing unprecedented challenges. We have worked very hard with the various teaching and staff groups to provide the best possible experience for our students. I believe that continuity on the School Board will assist in the ongoing adjustments we need to make. 

Why do you believe BHM Schools is the place to dream, believe and achieve? 
BHM schools are places for students and staff to dream as they learn and as they explore life/career choices. For many staff members in our district, education is more than a career, it is a calling. Our students will experience the excitement of learning as they stretch themselves and gain confidence in their potential. As students and staff do this, many will achieve success beyond their expectations.

*Incumbent

Stan Vander Kooi

City of Residence:  Buffalo, MN

How long you have lived in the district:  40 years

Family: 
I had 2 adult children graduate from BHM. Now each of those 2 married  adult children have three children apiece.  All 6 of these grandchildren have and are attending BHM. One has graduated 4 years ago and the other 5 are now attending BHM.

Occupation:  
Retired farm management teacher.  Currently farm 150 acres of hay and kernza.

Why do you want to serve on the BHM School Board?
I want to continue the high-quality education that encourages each student to explore a wide range of career options.  In today’s world there are many career choices that our students need to be aware of. I want to see our schools thrive during these challenging times.

What qualities will you bring to the school board if you are elected?  
I have worked with many farm families in the last 40 years doing business planning so I understand financial statements. I have held leadership positions like chairman of our church of 400 members and local organizations like the Wright-Hennepin Corn Growers and the Wright County Fair.  I am also the incoming treasurer for the Minnesota State FFA Alumni Association.  Plus, I have managed my own farm for the last 40 years.

What do you believe is the most important issue facing education today? 
I read an article recently on how it is really important to be aware of the mental health of our young people.  So it really is important that parents, teachers and staff are part of the process to have contact with our students. Part of that would involve the good use of social media.

Why do you believe BHM Schools is the place to dream, believe and achieve?
We can be a school system that encourages innovation so that each student has a place in our society.
 

Dave Wilson

City of Residence: Buffalo

How long you have lived in the district: 33 years

Family: 
My four children graduated from Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose schools as did my wife. I currently have two grandchildren attending

Occupation:
I'm a retired financial adviser

Why you want to serve on the BHM School Board? 
I was involved with the district long before I became a Board member. It has become a calling of sorts because of all the relationships I am so fortunate to have developed.

What qualities will you bring to the school board if you are elected?  
Fiscally minded yet committed to doing what's best for the students. My business background helps me with being able to work with individuals and groups.

What do you believe is the most important issue facing education today?
Aside from the current COVID-19 situation I would have to say funding. This is something we have struggled with for many years.

Why do you believe BHM Schools is the place to dream, believe and achieve?
Because I have witnessed it, my four children left BHS very prepared for their future. I am proud to say that thanks to the wonderful administration and fantastic teachers in our district, I have two daughters with teaching degrees (one teaches in District 877). My third daughter has her medical degree and my only son is working toward a degree in veterinary medicine. Without BHM Schools, the achievement of their dreams would have been much more difficult.
 

*Incumbent

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