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Paynesville Press - November 14, 2001

Record turnout elects four board members

By Michael Jacobson

Mark Dingmann The job of the new school board members got tougher even before the election results were known last week. Four candidates - Mark Dingmann (at top right), incumbent Deb Glenz (at top left), Tami Stanger (at bottom right), and Allen Schmidt (at bottom left) - were elected from a field of nine candidates on Tuesday, Nov. 6, but with the failure of the levy referendum last week and the slim chance for a second vote the first major task facing the board members could be more major budget reductions.

Deb Glenz The four members will be sworn in for four-year terms at the board's first meeting in January. That meeting will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 8 p.m. in the media center at the elementary school.

Dingmann, Stanger, and Schmidt will be new to the board, replacing Dan Andersen, Fern Roberg, and Bob See, none of whom sought re-election. Glenz has served on the school board since 1994 and was elected to the board for a third time.

Tami Stanger Dingmann was the highest vote getter with 889, followed by Glenz (788), Stanger (725), and Schmidt (706). Finishing fifth was Bob Stoneburner with 637, and sixth was former elementary principal Gary Heineman with 569. Other candidates were Don Kelm (401), Steve Olson (394), and Sandy Spanier (361).

On Tuesday night, after the levy failed, Dingmann joked that he might not want the job now, since the lack of additional revenue will make balancing the district's general fund more difficult. But he soon resolved himself to the challenge. "I'd rather be on the board at this time than in good times cause this is when it's going to matter," he said on Thursday afternoon.

Allen Schmitz Glenz said she was pleased and surprised to be re-elected. Her surprise was even greater because all four candidates supported the levy referendum, which failed.

"It also scares the pants off me," she said, "because I don't know what we're going to do next year."

She fears that the offerings in the local school will be cut while neighboring districts will maintain or expand their offerings, causing District #741 to lose students through open enrollment. "I hope we can come up with something creative enough to not hurt ourselves too much," she said.

Stanger and Dingmann agreed that one of their first goals as board members will be to address what they see as a negative public perception of the school district. They credit this public perception as the main cause in the defeat of the levy. "I really feel the public punished the existing school board," explained Stanger, "but you're really going to punish the kids."

They were also concerned about the effect that more budget cuts would have on the district's ability to compete with its neighbors in attracting students. They said they would be open, straight forward, and active in getting the school's message out to the public.

"There's going to be tough work ahead, it looks to me," said Schmidt. He sensed a lot of confusion about the school situation. He feels he will need to learn more about the school operation before attempting to educate the public.

Dingmann and Stanger agreed they had a lot to learn about the district's finances and operations, but all three new board members expressed the opinion that their new perspective could help direct the board and help relay the board's messages to the public.

Glenz said it does take time to get up to speed about the school operation, but with the district in statutory operating debt and having to balance its budget primarily through cuts - since the levy failed - the new members won't get long before they have to make major decisions.

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