Local Views: When Voting for School Board Candidates, Consider Supporting Those Who Show Up

With less than one week to go before election-day, evaluating candidates for school board has become clearer. The BOLD debate has dominated the election cycle conversation.  But, there are other very important issues to consider.

Two candidates, Mike Ptacek and Amy Burback, are incumbents. They have a record. Their prior actions, votes, and positions are well-known, and should be carefully considered when deciding to vote for or against either candidate.

Most of the other school board candidates are new. They have no prior record of school board accomplishments.

How do voters decide who to vote for among the seven remaining candidates (Sarah Stivland, Chad Gamradt, Don Hovland, Tom DeGree, Jennifer Pelletier, Robert Craggs, and Michelle Deziel)?

We can read their campaign literature, review their websites, and directly ask them question at forums or online.  But, these are just words, not actions.

How do we judge a new school board candidate on their actions?

We can judge them on how they’ve conducted their campaign and their work ethic during the election process. Are candidates door-knocking; meeting with constituents all over the district?

Are candidates going to forums and answering voter’s questions?

Who is generously giving voters access to their time and ideas?

When comparing one candidate to the next, who is making this election a priority?

Putting issues aside, and judging the new school board candidates by their actions alone, it’s clear some are not fully participating, not giving this election their full priority.

We’ve had around seven public candidate forums. Jennifer Pelletier and Robert Craggs have missed at least 50% of them. They were both absent from the Withrow, Marine, Oak Park and First Presbyterian Church forums. They both have consistently chosen priorities other than attending most of the public forums. They have made the conscious decision to avoid meeting with the Marine, Withrow, and Oak Park communities.

All candidates have expressed the desire to unify or heal the district. It’s fair to question that sincerity from candidates who avoid areas of the district so profoundly affected by the school closures both Ms. Pellitier and Mr. Craggs support.

Most agree school board candidates should not run on one issue.

To be fair, some candidates may believe votes are unlikely in a particular neighborhood.  But, all neighborhoods deserve the opportunity to evaluate a candidate’s global platform, especially if that candidate pledges to represent ALL students in the district.

On too many occasions, voters have been denied the opportunity to evaluate Ms. Pelletier and Mr. Craggs. Such poor participation sends a clear message to voters that these candidates are not ready for the commitment required to be a school board member.

So many other candidates have poured their heart into this election with full effort. At other levels of local, state and national office, candidates regularly engage with the public. It’s not unreasonable for the public to expect serious candidates to have an attendance record closer to 100%.

Of the new school board candidates, Chad Gamradt, Sarah Stivland, Tom DeGree and Michelle Deziel have attended every school board forum. They certainly have busy lives outside this election, but all have sacrificed significant time giving voters ample opportunity to evaluate their candidacy.

If actions speak louder than words, these candidates deserve our respect and careful consideration.

— Zis Weisberg