Jamestown Public School Board candidates answer questions
The Jamestown school board election will be decided in June.
Jamestown residents will choose three people in this year's June 14 primary election to serve a four-year term as a city seat representative on the Jamestown Public School Board. Incumbents seeking reelection are Heidi Heim Larson and Jason Rohr. Daniel Tweten, who was appointed in July 2021 to serve the remaining year of Bob Toso's term after he resigned and currently serves, is seeking his first four-year elected term. Stephen R. Resler is seeking election to his first four-year term.
Absentee ballots for the June 14 primary election were available beginning May 5. They must be returned or postmarked by June 13. Early voting begins May 31 at the Stutsman County Courthouse.
The Jamestown Sun asked five written questions of the candidates. The candidates were limited to 175 words per answer for each question. No changes were made to their answers. Here are the questions and their answers.
1. What, in your opinion, is the greatest priority for the Jamestown Public School District and why?
Heidi Larson: The greatest priority and responsibility of Jamestown Public Schools is the education of the students in the district. The school board works to prioritize and allocate the budget to meet these educational needs. I am really proud to see the expansion that has occurred in Career and Technical Education and this is an area that the board will have to continue to grow.
Stephen R. Resler: The most significant priority for the Jamestown Public School district is to equip our young people through education, not indoctrination, to face the World, contribute and thrive. Our focus must be a return to fundamental reading, writing, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Critical Race Theory and Common Core is nonsense and indoctrination. Purge CRT and Common Core from our textbooks, the classroom, and all aspects of teaching methodology.
Jason Rohr: Over the next decade, school districts will rapidly evolve to meet several unprecedented challenges facing public education and society in general. A majority of those challenges involve attracting and retaining effective staff that will provide the quality of instruction our students deserve. Education professionals are leaving their careers at an alarming rate. Our greatest priority must be to proactively recruit the most talented professionals available for our classrooms. At the same time, we must make the retention of current staff of paramount importance since vacant positions are becoming increasingly more difficult to fill across all disciplines. The solution begins with creating and maintaining a district culture that empowers staff to be true experts in their field rather than policy and procedure hindering autonomy. We must PUT PEOPLE FIRST! Work force issues are currently impacting most sectors of our society, public education is no different. The real question is how we are going to proactively address the issue on a district and state level to secure a strong and viable public school system for future generations.
Daniel Tweten: Ensuring good morale for our educators and students is #1 on my (personal) list of priorities. The public schools are a key contributor to how we want our community to look, and it's hard to have the energy to invest in the community when disruptions (like the pandemic) strain your emotional and physical energy. As the board executes its strategic plan, I'll be looking to do so in a way that ensures we aren't disrupting things in a way that places undue burden on any of our stakeholders
2. Why should voters choose you to serve on the Jamestown Public School Board?
Larson: I am grateful for the opportunity to have served as a school board member and appreciate the support from constituents. I bring a variety of board experiences as a current board member and have served on the district technology committee, Dollars for Scholars, Health Insurance Committee, and School Improvement Committee. I am interested in the concerns the stakeholders and we work as a board to address those concerns. Currently, I have a student in the district which also keeps me in touch with the schools.
Resler: Voters should support me because of my Experience, Education, and Passion for Educational Excellence. I will make time and effort to arrive at a consensus and be a low-key team supervisor.
Rohr: For nearly 25 years, I've advocated for public education and youth as a teacher and/or volunteer in the Jamestown community. I fervently believe the single-most important legacy we leave our kids is in how we prepare them to be the best versions of themselves possible as they enter adulthood. While it's easy to make such statements, I will allow my reputation and actions exemplify my passion for helping youth realize their individual potential. Those who currently serve public education in any capacity realize that doing what’s best for our kids takes more of our resources than ever including time, talent, and funding. Our students deserve the best from us, and I will continue to work diligently on behalf of all students. If re-elected, I would be honored to serve all stakeholders of Jamestown Public Schools.
Tweten: I want to see Jamestown succeed, as a place where families want to invest their time and energy. The schools are a core contributor to that kind of community, and we have a number of issues that will affect how they do that (among them being population change, demographics, aging infrastructure and new educational models). I bring to the table strong analytical skills, fiscal responsibility, and a knack for peaceably working through diverse perspectives, all of which are needed to navigate the changes ahead of us.
3. Jamestown Public School District and the University of Jamestown worked together to partner on facility projects that benefited the community and each entity’s students. Are there other partnerships the school district could pursue that would help the district and the community? Explain.
Larson: We have been fortunate to partner with the University of Jamestown on the Athletic Complex and it is exciting to see so many students involved in activities at this complex. We also appreciate the other donors including the family of Charlotte and Gordon Hansen as well as the Erstad field addition. The district has also partnered with other entities such as the city of Jamestown with the shared School Resource Officer and the use of park and recreation facilities, Jamestown Regional Medical Center with the athletic trainer at JPS, and Central Valley Health District with the school nurse. As we grow and expand Career & Technical Education, there have already been some partnerships and I can see this as one of the areas of growth in the future. These all have been valuable partnerships for the Jamestown Public School District and anytime it makes sense for JPS and an entity to partner it should be explored if it is a win-win opportunity.
Resler: Jamestown U is a wonderful institution. I envy those who attend and teach there. That said, I will look into the UND's Space Studies Programs and advocate additional programs and funding for Jamestown. Robotics, Nanotech, GMO Agriculture, Fusion Tech, and HE3 Mining from the Moon and Mars will solve the World's Energy needs and feed the World. Our Young People should be equipped for Space if they want to 'go abroad
Rohr: With continued cultivation, the district’s relationship with UJ provides a plethora of opportunities for our youth. The next link in creating the perfect trifecta is in the continued relationship development with local industry. Considerable progress has been made in creating connections between our secondary students and the business community with the overall focus of growing Jamestown’s future workforce from within. One of the greatest returns on investment that JPS can bestow upon our patrons is to provide a productive workforce that helps Jamestown and our businesses prosper. Let’s work to connect our young talent with future employers as soon as possible to maximize the potential benefits for all. Jamestown has an opportunity to bring the public schools, UJ, and local industry together to provide life-altering opportunities for our students and community.
Tweten: The JVCTC has been a wonderful model of this kind of collaboration between the business community and the school, and fully support it as it grows to better meet the needs. I would like to see the collaboration between UJ and JPS expanded on the academic front, where practical.
4. The coronavirus pandemic changed how kids can learn. Should the school district offer online learning opportunities to its students? Explain.
Larson: The pandemic changed how we do many things and there is a new normal. Technology is part of our future in every aspect of our lives and can provide many opportunities but I also really value face to face instruction. We accelerated our online learning management system during the pandemic and now offer some online HS courses. The legislature allows a couple situations for virtual learning for K-12 students and one is to create a virtual academy and the other is a short term option for inclement weather.
Resler: COVID-19 is over. Though Kahn Math Academy, Brilliant, and MIT OCW are excellent Online Programs, Online programs need to be scaled back. Young People learn values from their families and retain knowledge by reading, attending class, experiencing, and watching videos. Caring Teachers teaching in the classroom are the key to good education and World preparation. The Socratic Method is superior to droning TVs.
Rohr: The pandemic presented our students and staff with unprecedented challenges requiring immediate solutions. This was an incredibly stressful time for parents, students, and teachers yet as an education community we made the best of a demanding situation. Covid illustrated how ill-prepared most schools were to seamlessly transition to an online learning environment with the main objective being to minimize academic disruption. It was encouraging to see JPS stakeholders unite to triage the situation and provide continued opportunities for our students. This experience also exemplified and reinforced the vital role in-person classroom teachers play in the education process. Online learning is a viable option in a variety of scenarios, however our focus must remain on enhancing the face-to-face experiences that peers and educational professionals provide. The situations where online learning platforms are most advantageous include inclement weather scenarios, credit recovery to keep students on pace to graduate, advanced placement/personal enrichment opportunities, and electives that the local school district may not offer. Online platforms should never replace the vital human connection piece of education.
Tweten: The pandemic may have changed how kids can learn, but not necessarily for the better. I generally would not support an expansion of online learning opportunities because the most important skills are extremely difficult to teach online. Education is more than just delivering academic content. Skills like dealing with differences in opinion, sticking with tasks that are boring, and celebrating successes are best learned when there are personal interactions that go beyond the Zoom call. Unless educators can show me that students' social behaviors are improved through a combination of online and in-person interactions, I would be cautious about expanding online services.
5. Other than the greatest priority that you discussed in question 1, what other three priorities do you feel are important for the Jamestown Public School District? Explain.
Larson: In the future, one of the priorities for the district will be to continue to monitor and evaluate enrollment trends. With the current per-pupil funding model, we need to keep an eye on these trends for future budget planning. We will make some strides in infrastructure this next year, however, the deferred maintenance of buildings will have to continually be addressed. The last item of priority will be to ensure that we are preparing kids for the skills needed for their future. Thank you for the opportunity to submit these responses and the interest in the Jamestown Public Schools.
Resler: No answer provided.
Rohr: All school districts face a unique set of priorities, yet JPS is experiencing many of the same challenges as other districts across the nation. Locally, we need to focus our attention and resources on factors that are within our control. If re-elected, my top priorities would be to: 1. Assess the current culture in the district at each level and determine what we are doing well and what needs attention. We need to restore the mentality and culture within our schools of “a rising tide floats all boats” and put people first ; 2. Promote a comprehensive analysis of all district facilities and develop long-term solutions to our aging infrastructure. As a community, we will eventually need to address the current status of our buildings and how to best prepare for the future; 3. Encourage an engaging connection with all JPS stakeholders with the intent of establishing a continuous, open, and transparent dialogue to ensure we truly are satisfying our mission of "Engaging students with challenging and innovative experiences to prepare them for future success."
Tweten: * Successfully executing the current projects to upgrade our buildings, in an environment of supply chain shortages and inflation.
* Planning for future building maintenance and facilities while accounting for projected decreases in the number of students.
* Adequate evaluation of, and preparation for, new approaches to education that are more collaborative and personalized, while still holding to high standards.
Heidi Heim Larson
Professional occupation; previous if retired: Director of Career Services and Experiential Education, University of Jamestown.
Immediate family - spouse or significant other; children: married, 3 children
Education: Ph.D. in Education from NDSU, MBA, DC, BS
Professional/personal memberships (limited to 5): PEO (Philanthropic Educational Organization), Basilica of St. James, North Dakota Association of Career Services Professionals, American Association of University Women, SHRM
Stephen R. Resler
Professional occupation; previous if retired: Retired. Former U.S Marine, Army National Guardsman, police officer and prison guard
Immediate family - spouse or significant other; children: Divorced. 3 sons, 3 daughters
Education: Western Illinois University graduate, 1989; continued education includes advanced courses in advanced mathematics, particle and astrophysics, statesmanship, Mises School of Economics, world history
Professional/personal memberships (limited to 5): none listed
Professional occupation; previous if retired: crop insurance agent/Insure Forward
Immediate family - spouse or significant other; children: wife, Heather Tomlin-Rohr
Education: MS – Education Administration/Secondary Principal, Tri-College University; BS – Agriculture/Extension Education, North Dakota State University
Professional/personal memberships (limited to 5): Jamestown Public School Board member; ND FFA Foundation Board of Directors; Stutsman County 4-H Leaders Council Executive Committee; Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors; Jamestown JumpStart RealWorld Financial Literacy Camp Organizational Committee
Professional occupation; previous if retired: Systems engineering chief at Collins
Immediate family - spouse or significant other; children: wife, three daughters aged 19, 16 and 14
Education: NDSU - Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering (1996); Penn State University - Project Management (2005); Stevens Institute of Technology - Master's in Systems Engineering (2019)
Professional/personal memberships (limited to 5): member of Temple Baptist Church; treasurer of the James River Figure Skating Club.