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School Board Candidates Answer Questions at Forum

Four of the five candidates running for the ISD 281 school board responded to audience questions during a candidate forum last week.

On Oct. 17,  during a public forum hosted by the League of Women Voters, Robbinsdale Area Schools School Board candidates agreed on one thing: everything a school board member does is for the children.

Golden Valley League of Women Voters member Marti Micks moderated the candidate forum, asking four of the five school board candidates 14 different questions. 

Each candidate had one minute to respond to the question.

Micks said that while the league had asked candidate Peter Vasseur to attend the forum, they did not receive a response.

Audience members submitted questions about the achievement gap, the challenges of being a school board member, and the importance of arts in the district. Residents also asked about overcrowding at Plymouth Middle School, budget cuts and school referendums.

Overall, candidates said that Robbinsdale Area Schools needs to focus on engaging with the community and work to retain students.

"We need to reach out to all of our community, all the city governments and the businesses and work together to do a better job at marketing what we’re doing," John Vento said.

Current school board member and candidate Sherry Tyrrell agreed. "Robbinsdale is a hidden jewel because not enough people know how much we offer families, students and the community," Tyrrell said. "We have a very diverse population and it's something that we need to embrace."

When an audience member asked about Robbinsdale's short school year, candidate and current school board member Helen Basset was quick to note that it's not the length of the school year that's important, but rather what you do with the students during that time.

"We want more for our students and we want more for our staff," Basset said. "Trying to find that fine balance where you can get more that’s affordable is always the challenge."

In regards to the district's lottery system for magnet schools like the new School of Engineering and Arts, candidate Ron Stoffel said that it's important for the lottery process to be fair. "We have learned from the system that we previously used, and we've improved upon it," Stoffel said, referring to the lottery system used for Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion.

To see a replay of the entire forum, click here.

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