School board candidates share a passion for education

With three District 622 school board terms ending at the end of the year, and four candidates running, it means all but one will take a seat on the board next year.

The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District 622 includes nine elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools.

The expiring terms are currently held by Caleb Anderson, Michelle Yener and Amy Coborn, though only Anderson and Yener filed for re-election. They are competing against Andrés González-Butrón and Benjamin Jarman.

The Review asked the candidates via email why they are running, what they believe the top challenges will be in the school district in upcoming years and what project they will prioritize if elected.

 

Anderson, 31, is married to Rachel Norlien Anderson and is an incumbent board member finishing out his first four-year term.

Anderson works as a part-time preschool and extended learning teacher at Woodbury Lutheran Church and is a stay-at-home dad. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Hamline University.

He said if re-elected he would bring to the board his lifelong connection to the community, his business background in marketing, public relations and finance, his experience working in early childhood education and preschool and his knowledge of the school district, which he gained in his first term on the school board. 

Anderson also said he would bring his 12 years of leadership experience on state, city and non-profit boards, which includes appointments to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees and three years as the president and chair of the Century College Alumni Association, among others.

He said he is running for re-election because as a parent with children in district schools, he has “a passion for wanting the best education and the best opportunities for all students.”

“I want our graduates to be well prepared for college, trades or other high-paying, in-demand jobs,” Anderson said. “Additionally, I want our kids to develop not just academically, but to be able to become happy, capable and successful adults, who can take pride in hard work and earn a living wage.”

Anderson said he thinks the top challenges the district faces are the statewide teacher shortage and the state of the district’s school buildings, and if re-elected, those will be the projects he will prioritize.

“If I am re-elected, I will prioritize finding the most efficient, effective and financially responsible ways to make our school buildings safer and more welcoming, with a special emphasis on classroom sizes and great spaces for learning,” Anderson said, adding that he also wants to expand outreach to businesses, non-profits, trade groups and local retirees “to help bring additional volunteer support to our students.”

 

González-Butrón, 55, is married to Maria Mendivelso and holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. 

González-Butrón did not list a current place of employment on the Review questionnaire, but he said that if he were elected to the school board he would bring knowledge of students’ and parents’ concerns and expectations, which he learned as a current member of the Latino Parents Committee. 

He added that because he grew up in an educator’s household, he would bring a knowledge of the importance of stability for teachers, and because of his architecture profession, he would bring the skills to work as both an individual and as a team.

“Dedication and effective student programs by District 622 and my family’s passion for children’s education are some of the several reasons that inspire me to look for the children’s academic success, achieved with first-class education and prosperity,” González-Butrón said.

He said that he thinks the top issues the district faces in upcoming years are balancing and maintaining, or possibly even increasing the district’s budget, teacher stability, closing the achievement gap and further embedding diversity.

González-Butrón said that if he is elected, he will prioritize closing the achievement gap.

“One of the aspects that can help to close the achievement gap is to get diversity communities more inclusive,” he said. “If we approach efficiently to diversity we could truly understand their necessities and implement accurate programs in which students and their families could find resources for their development and an adequate insertion in the community.”

He added, “Although I want to contribute to the students’ success upon reaching the school board and I do not have much experience in the dynamics of the board, I will bring creativity and a new perspective as a father being part of the diversity of our community.”

 

Jarman, 40, who is married to Carey Nadeau, works full-time as a writer at Wells Fargo and holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

Jarman said that if elected, he would bring to the board his experience as a co-chair for the last two district levy campaigns, a former teacher, a current parent teacher group co-president at Cowern Elementary where his son is a fourth-grader, a former member of the 622 Advisory Committee and a coach in a Maplewood youth soccer program.

Jarman said he is running for school board because he feels it is his duty.

“I have considerable experience in education and feel it would be a waste to sit on it,” he said. “With this in mind, running is my responsibility as a member of the community.”

Jarman said that if elected, he wants to make District 622 “a district that the whole state can use as a model for better education.”

He added that he believes diversity inclusion, promoting post-secondary options and pre-kindergarten are the top challenges the district faces in upcoming years.

“I want to focus on enhancing diversity inclusion in the district so all students can learn from different perspectives,” Jarman said. “I also want to continue promoting post-secondary options so students know what they can do when they graduate. Finally, I want the district to increase pre-K efforts so every student is prepared for elementary school.”

 

Yener, 45, who is married to Baha Yener, is an incumbent finishing her second four-year term on the board. She works full-time as a senior quality assurance analyst at Capella University and holds a Ph.D. in education from St. Mary’s University.

She said that if re-elected, she would bring to the board enthusiastic support for District 622, the experience of the past nine years her children have attended district schools, the experience of a career focused on the quality of education and her eight years of experience on the school board.

Yener said she is running because she values the opportunity to participate in an effort to continuously improve the district.

She explained that every student “should graduate and be highly qualified for the next phase of their life,” and “should develop warm and lasting bonds with their schools.” 

She added that all community members should find the schools welcoming.

“Our district is doing a great job serving our students and families, but there is room for improvement,” Yener said. “The needs of our district are quickly and constantly changing, 622 must continue to strive to meet the needs.”

Some of the challenges that Yener said she thinks the district faces in upcoming years are school security, the growing need for special education teachers, achievement gaps and aging buildings.

Yener added that if she is re-elected to the school board, she will prioritize efforts to support student specialization because every student has unique needs and learning styles.

“We have growing demands for special education services, academically-gifted programming, online course offerings, English language services, mental health services and more,” Yener explained. “We have growing needs for culturally-responsive education as we become more racially diverse.”

She added, “We need to hire, train and retain expert teachers and school leaders who develop rich learning environments.”

 

Election Day is Nov. 6. To verify your precinct and voting location visit, www.pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

 

-Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com.

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