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Paynesville Press - Oct. 31, 2012

Paynesville School District #741
Dave Currens

Dave Currens

Dave Currens, 49, has served one four-year term on the school board. A graduate of Moorhead State University, he is the president of the State Bank in Eden Valley. He and his wife Sue have two children: Matt, a 2010 PHS grad, and Anna, a senior.

Why are you interested in serving on school board?
I'll reiterate what I said when I first ran for the school board in 2008. Having a strong, well-respected school system that has a high graduation rate and prepares the students for life after high school, whether they go on to post-secondary education or enter the workforce, is an integral component and vital part of having a strong, vibrant community. The school board and administration, business community, and individuals all need to work together towards achieving this goal. I believe my educational background and work experience help me be a valuable member of the school board.

Describe your experiences with kids and explain how these will help you make decisions on school board.
When my kids were younger I was involved whether it was something like Cub Scouts or coaching them in various athletic activities; however, I don't know that this directly helps me make decisions as a school board member. I think my life and professional experiences are used more to guide me in my decision-making process.

Why should voters re-elect you to the school board?
In my time on the school board, I believe that, for the most part, we have been good financial stewards of the district. We have done a lot with an operating levy amount that is, in my opinion, on the low side. We've been able to keep class sizes at relatively low, manageable numbers, and we've been able to offer our high school students the opportunity to take college-level classes and earn college credits. These are just a couple of examples.

Why should (or shouldn't) district voters support the operating levy referendum on Tuesday, Nov. 6? (With its $415 per pupil levy expiring, the district is asking voters to approve a new 10-year levy at $723.)
The voters should support and pass the new operating levy. If we don't, some drastic changes will be forthcoming. This won't be good for our schools, and it won't be good for our community. The reality is that the additional funds are needed to just maintain our current level of class sizes and class offerings. If it doesn't pass, then not only will more cuts need to be made, but there is a high probability that our enrollment may decrease even more, and as we know this isn't good because revenue is tied to enrollment.

If the operating levy referendum passes on Tuesday, Nov. 6, what would you see as funding priorities for the school district?
As stated previously, for the most part the additional funds are needed to just maintain where we're at with respect to the current level of class sizes and class offerings.

If the referendum fails and the district needs to make additional spending cuts, what areas would you target for reductions?
I wouldn't target any one area. Everything would have to be on the table and looked at.

What do you see as the district's most pressing facility needs?
The facilities need to be taken care of. The facilities committee, working in conjunction with the public, came up with a list of repairs and fixes needed and prioritized this; however, this will have to be revisited because some time has passed since this was done. I believe some of the first things to take care of would be better windows and insulation at the elementary building. There are also issues with the heating/boiler systems that need to be addressed. Because of economic reasons, we may need to continue to use the band-aid approach, but I don't know that that is the best solution to resolve the problems because it's only a temporary fix and in the long run ends up costing more by waiting to fix the problems.

How should the district address these needs?
Some things can be taken care of as capital funds allow, but to make some of the necessary and needed changes a bonding referendum may be needed.

What should the district do to deal with the impact of declining enrollment?
The first thing we have to do is to determine why students are leaving our district, but that's only one component. We have a much more mobile society today. If students are leaving because of something they didn't like within the system or school district we need to investigate that. There are certain things that we can control, and other things we can't. If a student leaves the district because the family moves or relocates, we have no control over that. On the other hand, when students enter our district, which they do, we should also find out why they are coming into the district. Again this may be because they want to enroll in our schools because of something offered, but on the other hand it may be because the family relocated to Paynesville. Our goal with respect to enrollment should be to stabilize that number, to the degree that we can, and hope to increase enrollment because the enrollment number is tied directly to revenue.

How important are strong extracurricular programs to our school district? What should the board do to encourage and enhance these programs?
Strong extracurricular programs, both academic and athletic, are important components. If you have strong programs, then interest and participation by the students increases. The downside to having extracurricular programs is that they cost money. I feel we need to offer as many extracurricular academic and athletic programs as we can afford to because I believe they help the participating students by becoming a more well-rounded individual, which includes doing better in school as well as helping them be better prepared for life in general.

How should the school board and school district maximize community support for the Paynesville Area Public Schools?
There needs to be open and honest communication - but that goes both ways. We've heard so much about the community not trusting the board or administration and that there needs to be more transparency. I believe many of these feelings will dissipate over time and believe the process has already started. The board made a good decision in hiring Bob Huot as our new superintendent. Bob's got a lot on his plate and has been extremely busy since taking over on July 1st, but he's is doing an exceptional job in working to mend fences and do a better job communicating with everyone.

We need to keep in mind that we as board members and community members won't always agree on certain matters or issues. It's important to remember that if there is disagreement, the dialogue and exchange is kept civil and respectful. We also have to remember that, in the end, the school board by being elected is responsible for making any final decisions.

What's your view of the leadership role of the school board?
The primary role and function of the board is to provide leadership, develop policy, provide policy oversight, communicate effectively, and be responsible for the overall financial management of the district.

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