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Published June 09 2010

West Fargo School Board: Businessman, teacher elected

A former teacher and a vocal opponent of recent building referendums will join two incumbents on the West Fargo School Board.

Longtime elementary school teacher Judy Kvaale and businessman Dave Olson both said they’ll bring new perspectives to the seven-member board.

“I think teachers want someone on the board to speak their voice,” said Kvaale, who taught third-grade at Eastwood Elementary for 29 years. “I have a lot of support from the community.”

They were elected on Tuesday along with incumbents Karen Nitzkorski and Angela Korsmo.

In unofficial but complete results, Kvaale received 13 percent, or 1,494 votes. Korsmo garnered 12 percent, or 1,287 votes, while Olson received 11 percent, or 1,194 votes. Nitzkorski took 10 percent, or 1,080 votes.

“That really tells us the WFEA is quite strong,” Nitzkorski said of the West Fargo teachers association. “I am surprised.”

The election of Kvaale and Olson follows several years of reported low teacher morale and two failed building referendums in the past year.

“There are a lot of people not comfortable with the current administration,” Olson said, adding that his vocal opposition to the past two referendums “helped with my name” recognition.

Nitzkorski said she also wasn’t surprised Olson was elected, adding: “He spent a lot of time, money and energy (campaigning).”

In all, 13 people had vied for the four open spots on the seven-member board.

However, both incumbents being re-elected shows that the community still has faith in the board, Korsmo said.

“That’s encouraging,” she said. “We’re the ones that have gotten things turned around.”

The other candidates were: maintenance worker Mark Akers; Freedom Resource Center program director Mark Bourdon; insurance agent DJ Colter; software consultant Rhonda Hawley; Tharaldson Lodging Company executive assistant Jenny Durbin; lawyer Jason Loos; support staff member Chris McDougall; sales consultant Mark Sahli; and Moorhead counselor Janel Simonson.

Even though voter turnout was fairly light on Tuesday, having the highest number of candidates in recent years for the schools race drew some voters to the polls.

“I am very concerned with the building issue,” former teacher Cheryl Baumgarten said after voting on Tuesday. “I care about educational issues.”

In all, more than 13,000 votes were cast in a school board election allowed voters to choose up to four candidates.

By comparison, last March’s $40 million school referendum brought out 5,339 voters, while last June’s $65 million referendum drew 4,538 voters.

Now, having a former teacher and an opponent of the district’s last two referendums on the board likely will shake up discussions as the board explores how to handle the space crunch at some area schools and boost morale among teachers.

Kvaale and Olson won’t be the only new district leaders starting in July.

Superintendent David Flowers and Business Manager Mark Lemer, who is returning to the district, both start their positions then.

Board members serve four-year terms and will receive $3,000 a year.

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