Former Educator vs. Concerned Citizens In Duluth School Board Races

By KBJR News 1

November 3, 2011 Updated Nov 3, 2011 at 10:55 PM CDT

DULUTH, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - Voters in the Duluth School District will decide between candidates representing a wide spectrum on Tuesday.

In each of the three races for school board, there's a former educator and an outspoken citizen who claims they'll represent the people better.

It's a race with three who know what it's like to work in the district, Bill Westholm, Michael Miernicki and Judy Seliga Punyko.

"I think there's a wide variety of things that we've all done besides just being teachers, and you do get a wonderful perspective on education being a teacher," said Seliga Punyko, an incumbent for District 2. She is currently the chairperson of the board and has children in district.

"This whole thing is going to just turn into more inside baseball, and I don't think a board should be made-up of people from within an organizationk," said Loren Martell, candidate for District 2. Martell has been running on the phrase, "Restore the Trust."

"I've heard people who have been very turned off one way or the other by three versus three and it's not always like that," said Ryan Stauber, a At-Large candidate who emphasizes in representing what residents want.

"Whoever gets elected is going to have to work with everybody, we've got too many problems to fight eachother," said Miernicki, an At-Large candidate. He says he and Stauber have seen eye-to-eye on a few issues.

The candidates say they get along, but have different ideas to fix the school district, like whether they support the levy.

"I'm going to vote no, no, no. The board of education for the state needs to come up and do a full audit of the districts books," said Jon Donahue, a District 3 candidate. Donahue says he wants to be a whistle blower for the tax payers and has kids in the district. He originally said he would vote for the lowest tier of the levy, but changed his mind.

"I'm in favor of the levy, and again, I don't think it's going to be there for luxuries it's going to be there for some of the necessities," said Westholm, a District 3 candidate.

"We need it. Yes, Yes, Yes. All the way," said Seliga Punyko. She says the funding is very needed to make sure the students recieve a great education.

"If we don't get it, if we lose more teachers. I'm afraid we're going lose more students, and we're going to have this whole investment go south on us," said Martell. The "whole investment" he's talking about is the new buildings from the Red Plan. He says he saw the debt coming and wants to get elected to help make the right decisions financially.

"I'll be voting for all three levels of the levy, " said Meirnicki.

Meirnicki doesn't believe it will pass, but has ideas to make the budget work for taxpayers and students if it doesn't.

His opponent, Stauber, has decided to take no official position on the levy.

"I am allowing the voters to decide for themselves, what they can afford, what their neighbors can afford and what they believe that the school district should get. Do they trust the district with their money?"

Some candidates like to point out their differences.

"I consider myself a rebel," said Donahue. "The way I want to represent the district is to let the people tell me what they want asked."

Others think those differences can be a good thing.

"We can discuss things, and we can differ on things and that's part of the process. That's what we want, we don't want everybody thinking the same things," said Westholm.

The ones who aren't former teachers, Stauber, Martell and Donahue, are emphasizing they are running to represent the people. They also are the ones emphasizing hearing residents' distrust of the district.

Sunday at 10 a.m. on KDLH 3, we will have full interviews with the candidates.

Posted to Web by Jena Pike