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Paynesville Press - September 17, 2003

Four candidates file for three school board seats

By Michael Jacobson

Four local residents have filed for three positions on the Paynesville Area School Board. Filings for the upcoming school board election opened on Tuesday, Aug. 26, and closed on Tuesday, Sept. 9.

Filing were former board member Lowell Haagenson, incumbent Gretchen O'Fallon, Paul Thielen, and Bonnie Strobbe.

Three four-year terms on the board are up for election on Tuesday, Nov. 4, with the newly-elected board members taking office in January. Voters will be able to vote for three candidates in the election.

The current terms of Maurice Dosdall, Patrick Flanders, and O'Fallon expire this year. Flanders, the current chair, and Dosdall have combined to serve over 30 years on the school board. Flanders has served on the board since 1989, and Dosdall has served from 1987-1995 and again from 1996-2003.

Requirements for office are to be an eligible voter, to be at least 21 years of age upon assuming office, and to live in the district for at least 30 days before the election.

*Lowell Haagenson, 400 Richmond Street, served previously on the school board from 1995 to 1999, being elected in 1995 and resigning at the end of 1999. Back then, he did not have the time or flexibility to continue serving, he said, but now finds himself in a position to do so. "I'm a little more flexible," he said, "and I'm able to make the commitments to serve again."

Haagenson said he got along with Dosdall and Flanders while serving previously on the school board and is concerned about the loss of their experience. His own experience on the school board - including serving a year as vice chair - and familiarity with the issues should help the board keep rolling along, he said.

Haagenson - who was born in Paynesville, moved away, and then moved back with his family 10 years ago - has two children in the district (Robert in ninth grade and Katrina in fifth grade), two children outside the district (including Laura, who attended school in Paynesville but is now a senior elsewhere), and a 13-month-old at home.

*Gretchen O'Fallon, 14728 NW Koronis Road, has served on the school board since 1996, when she was appointed to replace Velda Larson. She was re-elected to a four-year term in 1999 and has served two years as clerk.

O'Fallon feels serving on the school board is a good way to know what's going on in our schools and a good way to stay in touch with kids. She said she is running again in order to follow through on some unfinished issues.

O'Fallon, who graduated from PHS in 1977, currently has two children in the district: Bobby, a senior, and Russell, a seventh grader. Her daughter, Erin, graduated in 2001.

*Bonnie Strobbe, 15354 Crestland Road, likes to say that she has spent 51 of her 56 years in education. After her schooling, the Iowa native taught, coached, and served as an athletics administrator, assistant principal, and principal during a 34-year education career, including 25 years at St. Paul Central.

For the past nine years - since moving to Lake Koronis full time - she has worked in St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids. She retired as principal of Mississippi Heights Middle School in June 2003.

Strobbe - who has owned property on Lake Koronis since 1986 and lived here permanently since 1994 - said she could not continue working for health reasons but wants to stay involved in education and use her education experience on the board. "Kids are the most important thing we do," she said.

*Paul Thielen, 572 River Street, moved to Paynesville with his family in 1999 because he wanted his kids to go to school in a smaller school district. Now, he wants to take a more active role in that education. "With three kids in the district, it's my concern to see where education is going," he said.

Of his five children, four have attended the Paynesville Public Schools, including three currently: Todd, a junior; Jessica, a sophomore; and Alexxis, 5, who has suffered from leukemia for three years and who also has had a stroke and uses preschool special education. (Another son, Tony, graduated from PAHS in 2003.)

Thielen - whose uncle Larry served on the school board previously and whose father Harry currently serves on the Paynesville Township board - said the district faces financial decisions due to declining enrollment but wants to see better balance in budget cuts. The district should offer the best education possible with its tax dollars, focusing on programs for students, and he sees the district as "top heavy" with too much administration.

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