School Board Candidates Disagree Over Levy

By KBJR News 1

September 8, 2011 Updated Sep 8, 2011 at 10:08 AM CDT

Six of the seven Duluth School Board candidates took the stage. The question and answer session hosted by the Duluth Chamber of Commerce addressed a multitude of issues, all with an undertone of concern for funding.

"We've cut into the flesh, now we've cut into the bone, and now unfortunately what are going to do if we don't get this levy..we're going to start cutting into the marrow," said district three candidate Bill Westholm. He, among three other candidates at the event, emphasized the need for the money the operating levy would bring in.

The candidates who would like to see voters pass a levy emphasized that money equals teachers. More teachers, they said, would mean smaller class sizes.

Judy Seliga-Punyko would also like to see voters pass an operating levy this election season. Lack of funds, is the detrimental reason she says more children don't get full day kindergarten.

"When you start out with children young, and you invest in them, they succeed," said district two candidate Judy Seliga-Punyko. She believes the key to a successful school system is investing in early childhood education. She continued by saying it would be cheaper to pay for all day kindergarten for all Duluth children than for prison down the road.

"We have to think smarter, we can't just throw money at the situation, I think we've done that enough," said Jon Donahue who described himself as a fiscal conservative who values education. He also said the Duluth school system is one with a "champagne diet with a beer budget."

The three at-large candidates that will show up on Tuesday's primary ballot made one final effort to convince voters that they will serve the position well.

"I've spent the last three years attending school board meetings, following school board policies, and Judy can probably tell you I've been there more than some of the school board members," said Doug Frisk.

"Education is very important. I'm a life long Duluthian. I graduated through the Duluth system and my daughters also and they did quite well. I'm very proud of the Duluth School system and I'm looking forward to serving on board," said Michael Miernicki.

"I'm running for school board because I believe it's the responsible thing to do in democracy. You see there's a problem, you step up, put your hat in the ring and you say I'm going to help solve this," said Ryan Stauber.

Frisk and Miernicki said they support the levy in order to avoid deeper cuts, while Stauber said it's up to the voters to decide and he'll support what they decide, he thinks re-evaluating budgets is the real answer.

All candidates also commented on the new schools that are debuting this week. Many supported the facilities saying they harbored a better environment for learning with the upgraded facilities.

Two of the three at-large candidates will advance to the general election in November.

The primary election is September 13th.