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Published May 21 2010

Candidates divided on second West Fargo high school

Whether West Fargo should have a second high school divided school board candidates on Thursday.

Some voiced strong support for another high school while others suggested alternative solutions for the state’s fastest-growing school district.

“West Fargo needs two high schools; there’s no way around it,” attorney Jason Loos said. “(The space crunch is) just going to get worse.”

While she would listen to what the community wants, executive assistant Jenny Durbin echoed her support for two schools, adding: “We need to stay ahead of the growth and not chasing the growth.”

Other candidates like businessman Dave Olson suggested plans such as converting existing buildings into grades 9-10 and grades 11-12 schools.

It was one of only two issues the one-hour discussion centered on due to the large number of candidates on the June 8 ballot. In all, 13 candidates are vying for four open spots on the board.

All candidates except Chris McDougall attended Thursday’s public forum.

“It sounds like it’s time for some change,” said Moorhead counselor Janel Simonson about the large number of candidates. “I could bring a new vision.”

A new vision may be what’s needed for the second issue candidates tackled: low teacher morale and teacher compensation.

All the candidates opposed paying teachers solely based on test scores but supported exploring alternative compensation.

“They should be rewarded for their creativity,” sales consultant Mark Sahli said.

Insurance agent DJ Colter agreed, adding teachers should be paid for going above and beyond.

“We have the best teachers in the state, and they deserve to be paid well,” added incumbent Angela Korsmo.

As to why teachers reportedly have lost trust in the district, software consultant Rhonda Hawley said more input’s needed.

“There have been a lot of decisions made over the last few years ... (that) have been cramped down their throats,” Hawley said.

That was echoed by retired West Fargo teacher Judy Kvaale.

“Teachers need to know when a new program is implemented why and how it’s going to affect students,” Kvaale said.

Maintenance employee Mark Akers suggested the district have more of an open door policy.

Mark Bourdon, who’s making his second run at a spot on the board, said the district leadership is somewhat to blame for low teacher morale.

“It’s a symptom of fundamental problems, and that problem is leadership, and that leadership is determined by the board,” he said, adding, though, that “we’re on a good path right now” with the hire of a new superintendent and business manager.

That was reaffirmed by incumbent Karen Nizkorski.

“I think we have the magic bullet,” she said about the hire of Superintendent David Flowers. “Change comes slowly, but we’re here to do that.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515