Divide between Staples and Motley addressed
An audience question about whether there is still a stigma between the communities of Staples and Motley over school pairing was addressed at the Oct. 12 Staples-Motley School Board Candidate Forum at Centennial Auditorium in Staples.
Two of the candidates were board members at the time the two schools paired, Chad Longbella with the Staples district and Greg Frisk with the Motley board.
Candidate Bryan Winkels said he was a student during the pairing and even during that time the students were not aware of any pairing problems. “To me there is no such thing as Staples people or Motley people, I’m a Staples-Motley person,” said Winkels.
Frisk disagreed, saying he sees a split “almost every single day.”
“There’s still a lot of hard feelings over the pairing,” said Frisk. He agreed with the recommendation that came out of the realignment process that the school change its name, “to get their identity away from what they came from,” he said.
Longbella said he experienced the harsh words said during the pairing process, but that “we are all one district.” He said the re-start process that moved grades K-3 students to Staples and grades 4-7 students to Motley may have reignited some of those feelings. “Educationally it was a no-brainer, community-wise it was hard to follow,” said Longbella. “As we move forward we will see that it was the right move for the district as we all become one.”
As for this election, Frisk said he is not running as a Motley board member and sees the students as Staples-Motley students. But he also said “I will fight to the death to keep that building (the Motley school) viable.”
Creig Dobson did not weigh in on that specific question but a submitted question from the audience asked him about having a Motley address for his home near the Staples golf course. Dobson pointed out that is just the way the addresses are set up, since he lives in Cass County.
All four candidates were asked what their top priorities will be as school board members.
Dobson said a quality education and a “wonderful atmosphere” are needed for students to learn in. He said he would like to see the community collaborate with the board
Longbella said education is number one, but he also sees athletics, arts and extra-curricular activities as important in creating the character of the school.
Frisk said he would like to follow the new mission statement of the school to become the school of choice in the area. He said the school system today has assumed a role they never had to in the past, to address the needs of kids that they are not getting from their family.
Winkels said that as the realignment is taking place, he would like to make sure that the school board is also aligned. “As a group, what do we need to accomplish this vision?” he asked.
Candidates were asked different questions during each round of the debate, and in some rounds were able to choose a question that had been asked.
Here are some examples of their resonses:
Dobson on Connections High School: “It is a tremendously great program, with career-oriented learning, they can actually go out and feel that career out. It should be advertised a lot more than it is.”
Winkels on the re-start campaign: “I absolutely support the move.” He said there are challenges with the middle school divide and the music program, but “It is going to help us move forward as a district.”
Frisk on business involvement with the schools: For daytime events, business people go above and beyond.” But he said many Motley business owners and most teachers live out of town. He suggested businesses be made aware of the things going on at the school.
Longbella on issues the Minnesoat Legislature should address: “Transportation is huge,” especially the large district covered by Staples-Motley. “At the federal level, special education, we are not getting reimbursed” for mandated services.
Winkels on online education: “There is something to be said about face to face instruction. I would like to see more college in schools classes with that face to face instruction.”
Dobson on building board consensus: “I would like a lot more communication between board members, to collaborate on a topic.”
Longbella on building board consensus: “We don’t need to agree, but at the end of the night we respect each other.”
Frisk on comparing U.S. education to foreign education: “I’ve met people from all over the world, kids go to school longer and have opportunities for higher education earlier.”
Each candidate summed up the debate with a final statement.
Frisk touted his board experience and said “This isn’t an entry-level position, this is a big district and it isn’t going to become more simple for a while. I would want someone with the same level of education as I do and is able to communicate like me ... My record on the board was pretty good, I’m a listener and a guy who got things done.”
Winkels said he has been a “very hard working board member” in his first term. He said his job allows him to go into other school districts to compare what is going on in the area. He also pointed out that the Staples-Motley schools spend a little more on the building and a little less on instruction compared to the state average, and suggested they could become more efficient on the building expenses.
Dobson said as a board member he would find out about community concerns. “If anybody approaches me about something, there are tools set up to talk and find out the answers and get back to the people,” he said.
Longbella talked about his experience. “I bring common sense, caring, and I like to solve problems,” he said. As a board member, he said he does his “due dilligence” on board topics.