Published June 11 2010
Forum editorial: Mixed messages for Fargo, West Fargo schoolsDepending on one’s perspective, almost any conclusion can be gleaned from Tuesday’s school board elections in West Fargo and Fargo. On one hand, newcomers who were critical of the school boards were elected; on the other hand, incumbents who advocated staying the course were re-elected.
With nine candidates running, the vote was so divided that it took less than 15 percent to finish among the top five. Five seats were up. Any candidate who put a little work into the campaign was going to do well.
The results sent a mixed message. Incumbents Dinah Goldenberg and Rick Steen, who have been leading the district on its current course, won re-election. Three new faces – Linda Coates, Rusty Papachek and Kristen Wallman – won, knocking off incumbents Dan Fremling and Don Faulkner. Coates and Wallman want patrons to vote on school building projects. Wallman in particular was critical of the way the district manages its funds, a message that resonated with some voters. Papachek emphasized his business management experience, a claim he could back up with his success as longtime manager of West Acres shopping mall.
It could be argued that Fremling and Faulkner did not campaign as vigorously as the challengers, a circumstance the incumbents concede. For example, the margin separating Fremling and Wallman was three-tenths of 1 percent.
No matter the spin on the results, this much is clear: The winners all are genuine supporters of public education and are committed to improving Fargo’s public schools.
The level of interest was historic, with 13 candidates vying for four openings on the board. The voters of a district that is perceived to be in turmoil also sent mixed messages: Two incumbents, Angela Korsmo and Karen Nitzkorski, who have been identified (fairly or not) with the district’s problems were re-elected. Dave Olson, who has been highly critical of the board and who said “no” to the last two building bond measures, won. Retired teacher Judy Kvaale, with three decades of classroom experience, was the top vote-getter, which can be attributed in part to support from members of the West Fargo Education Association.
That’s variety. It’s an indication that West Fargo School District taxpayers want diversity of opinion on the board.
West Fargo voters made a calculation, based in part on the obvious need for more classroom space – that is, new buildings – and the inspired hiring of David Flowers as superintendent. But even with a proven education leader like Flowers on the job, the board’s challenge is unchanged: how to accommodate the burgeoning student population, maintain education quality and pay for it all.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.