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Published March 18 2012

Laird says teacher salaries, Oil Patch schools need help

GRAND FORKS – North Dakota needs to do more to help schools in the Oil Patch, in-crease teachers’ wages and address respect in schools, a candidate for state superintendent said Saturday.

Max Laird of Bismarck received support for the nonpartisan office from the Democratic-NPL Party during the party’s state convention.

Schools in western North Dakota are facing an influx of students and need support from the state, said Laird, a former Grand Forks teacher and former president of the North Dakota Education Association.

He proposes creating a disaster response structure within the Department of Public Instruction that can assist schools when needs arise.

Laird also wants to see all testing in public schools re-evaluated, saying “it’s time to let teachers teach and not teach to tests.” He wants to see more funding for public education, as well as increased pay for teachers.

Laird has previously sought the state superintendent post but lost to incumbent Wayne Sanstead, who is not seeking another term. Laird paid tribute to Sanstead during his acceptance speech.

Three other candidates have expressed interest in leading the Department of Public Instruction.

Former Bismarck state Sen. Tracy Potter said he will honor the spirit of the nonpartisan office and didn’t seek support from the Democratic-NPL Party. He will go straight to the June 12 primary.

Mandan School Board President Kirsten Baesler and Rep. David Monson, R-Osnabrock, are seeking Republican support at the party’s convention later this month. The annual salary of the state superintendent is $102,868.

Public service commission

Brad Crabtree received the Democratic-NPL endorsement for the North Dakota Public Service Commission.

“We need to put the public back into the Public Service Commission,” he said.

There needs to be a voice in Bismarck for consumers, businesses, agriculture producers and other North Dakotans who depend on the Public Service Commission to protect their interests, he said.

He criticized Republican Commissioners Kevin Cramer and Brian Kalk for using their positions “as a nonstop campaign platform.” Cramer and Kalk are candidates for the U.S. House.

“North Dakotans deserve Public Service commissioners who actually want their jobs that voters entrusted them to,” Crabtree said.

Crabtree ranches in Dickey County, south of Kulm, and serves as policy director of the Great Plains Institute. He has served as a board member of the North Dakota Alliance for Renewable Energy.

Crabtree lost the Public Service Commission race to Cramer in 2010.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Randy Christmann of Hazen and Rep. Blair Thoreson, R-Fargo, are vying for their party’s endorsement for the race. Republican incumbent Tony Clark is not seeking re-election.

The annual salary of a public service commissioner is $92,826.

Lieutenant governor

Ellen Chaffee received the Democratic-NPL endorsement for lieutenant governor and will join governor candidate Ryan Taylor on the ticket.

Chaffee was president of Valley City State University for 15 years and served nine of those years simultaneously as president of Mayville State University.

The lieutenant governor’s annual salary is $88,183.

State auditor

Rep. Scot Kelsh, D-Fargo, received the Democratic-NPL endorsement for state auditor.

Kelsh was elected to the state House in 1996. He serves on the Finance and Taxation Committee and the Energy and Natural Resource Committee. He is a firefighter with the Fargo Fire Department.

Republican incumbent Bob Peterson will seek his party’s endorsement for the race.

The auditor’s annual salary is $90,360.

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Teri Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.