Five candidates for the Sioux Falls school board gave their opinions on everything from transparency to critical breed theory during a 1.5-hour forum Wednesday night.
They explained everything: why they run, what they think and what they think about education.
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An audience of over 30 attended the in-person forum at the Educational Planning Center on Wednesday evening, co-hosted by the Grand Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Sioux Falls Voters’ League.
The audience submitted questions to the forum moderator, who chose which questions to read at her discretion.
Highlights included candidate experience, which they hope to improve in terms of transparency, student rights and the curriculum.
Experience and motivation
Cory Begley, 43, is on active duty with the South Dakota National Guard. He and his wife, who teaches in the district, have three children who attend schools in Sioux Falls. Begley said he decided to run for the school board as another way to serve his community after 22 years of service in the military.
Paulette Ludens, 63, is retired and works part-time as a school bus driver and part-time at the Midco Aquatic Center as a lifeguard. She is a mother of six, foster parent and 20 year old grandmother. She said she decided to come forward to be a voice for children, teachers and administration.
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Marc Murren, 65, is a retired teacher and trainer who taught at Washington High School and still works as a substitute teacher. He said he decided to run for a school board because he cared about all children and believed education was the key to success in life.
Kate Parker, 47, is the director of government programs at Avera Health Plans. She has two sons in school and is looking for a fifth term on the board. She said she had the experience and leadership to help guide the district towards Superintendent Jane Stavem’s goal of being the best in the country.
Anthony Pizer, 41, is a financial advisor at Thrivent Financial. He has two children in the school district and sits on the board of the Sioux Falls Education Foundation. He said he decided to run for a school board because education can transform the lives of people and the community, and works on a workforce development platform, d student equity and community engagement.
Applicants were asked how they would improve transparency, an issue made even more important during the pandemic when some schools do not disclose the number of COVID-19 cases or notify all parents or students of the increase in cases. .
Pizer said one thing he would change about the district’s pandemic response is accessing knowledge of the number of COVID-19 cases in schools and sharing information about the risk of COVID. -19 and its spread in schools.
âTransparency is vital,â he said.
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Begley said he also believes in transparency and that it is essential for family and community members to know what is going on in schools.
More people should attend board meetings, talk to their teachers, attend their students ‘lectures and inspect their students’ homework to improve transparency, Ludens said. She also said she wanted to start a parent engagement campaign.
Yet it is the most transparent district of the four districts in which MÃ¼rren has worked, he said. MÃ¼rren also suggested that relocating board meeting venues could contribute to transparency in the future.
âWe’ve been very transparent over the years,â Parker said, noting that the Sioux Falls school board and district has always emphasized transparency.
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Almost a month after students left the classroom in Minnesota to protest racial injustice following the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, candidates for the Sioux Falls school board were asked the question:
âDo you support students who organize and organize an outing during school hours?â
âNo, I don’t support that at all,â Ludens said. She added that some organizations have prayed around the flagpole outside the school, but protesting something when leaving school hours is not something she supports, as teachers are responsible and deserve respect, she said.
Murren said the students deserved a voice, but he was not advocating leaving school to protest.
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âIf you give them a voice, if you give them an opportunity, if you give them a chance, you won’t have to worry about these things,â Murren said.
Parker said she supports a student’s free speech as long as it does not interfere with other students ‘ability to learn, adding that students’ rights have been upheld in Supreme Court cases like Tinker v Des Monks, and are protected in state laws.
Pizer said he also supported students’ freedom of expression, but that it was likely that there had been opportunities to engage students earlier, and that those opportunities were “missed along the way.” “.
Begley said he believes the nation is founded on freedom and supports students in their choices, but said students should learn that consequences can come from the choices they make.
Applicants were asked about their perspective on the program: specifically, what they think should be done to improve STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and whether they think the theory race criticism should be taught in schools.
The five applicants mostly agreed that the district offers a broad and diverse STEM education, which can help pique a student’s interest in STEM and their education as a whole.
Some believe that STEM does not need to be improved, but rather that it should continue to be developed.
Yet the candidates differed widely on whether critical race theory should be taught.
Critical Race Theory has existed among jurists and educators since the 1970s, and is a belief that racism is a common experience faced by non-whites in the United States, that racism is institutional, and that it benefits whites.
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Murren and Parker both pointed out that a district’s curriculum is based on statewide standards set by the Department of Education.
But the curriculum taught “is not about hating America,” Murren said. “I think we have to teach children how to think, not what to think.”
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And indoctrination has no place in public schools, Pizer said, whether it is a liberal or a conservative form of indoctrination. He echoed Murren’s comment that educators should teach students to think, not to think.
âIt is imperative that as educators we create a safe and inclusive place for educators and students to talk about complex issues,â said Pizer.
State and federal governments should stay away from creating curriculum, Begley said, noting that he does not support any theory or program that teaches students to “hate this great nation.”
Ludens said she was against critical breed theory, and Begley said he never supported the theory.
âI’m totally against critical race theory, and all the division, all of these new racial ideas and new ideas of gender identity and everything at such a young age,â Ludens said. âI just think kids have to be kids and we have to get back to basicsâ of learning.