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Published June 01 2010

Nine vie for five Fargo School Board spots

Several recognizable faces are running for the Fargo School Board in the June 8 election.

From a former city commissioner to four incumbents, next week’s ballot includes known names among nine vying for five spots.

And yet, it’s a quiet race compared to past years.

“So far, it seems like it’s been less hype,” incumbent Dan Fremling said, adding about quiet mayoral and city commission races, “that’s just kind of filtered down.”

That doesn’t mean the campaign issues aren’t as hot for those running to be on the nine-member board.

Kris Wallman has called into question many of the board’s decisions, pushing for more accountability and transparency on how the district spends money.

“My husband called me Erin Brockovich,” she said. “I don’t think I’m trying to stir up trouble, but I do voice my opinion when I think something’s wrong.”

Businessman Michael Jablon agreed that the board can’t afford to “do more of the same.”

“I think there’s a communication breakdown,” he said. “(And) there’s definitely some cracks in how we’re dealing with our planning.”

West Acres General Manager Rusty Papachek, who is also challenging for a spot on the board, said he sees both sides of issues.

“I’m not a one-issue candidate, and I don’t have a bone to pick,” he said. “The biggest thing I bring to the table is my business experience running a shopping mall for 20 years.”

Linda Coates brings experience as executive director of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra and as a former city commissioner.

“I think I’m familiar with folks in different areas,” she said, adding she has a collaborative leadership style.

Artist Jon Offutt hopes 10 years of public arts advocacy provides name recognition for him.

He said he will focus on the district’s partnership with the Plains Arts Museum and will push to use elementary schools as “neighborhood gathering places” when classes are out.

Name recognition is also a plus for incumbents.

Dinah Goldenberg said it’s helpful, but “you don’t take it for granted.”

While challengers push for change, she said criticism isn’t always fair.

“People take a snippet of something and talk about it,” she said.

Board member Rick Steen agreed, adding that challengers’ push for fiscal responsibility is an easy target.

“It’s easy to pick on it in an economy that’s not great without the facts,” said Steen, who’s seeking his third term. “The environment’s different.”

What isn’t different this election, incumbent Don Faulkner said, is the continued importance of keeping neighborhood schools and funding programs.

“I think we’ve done a good job,” he said. “Whether we’ve done that in the public eye enough, I guess we’ll find out.”

The four-year terms come with a salary of $12,000 a year.

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