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St. Francis Area Schools
A PreK-12 public school district serving the communities of Athens Township, Andover, Bethel, East Bethel, Linwood Township, Nowthen, Oak Grove, St. Francis and Stanford Township

School Board Candidate Forum

The public was invited to attend the school board candidate forum. The moderator asked questions from the audience. The event was hosted by the Community Education Advisory Council.
Watch the video

  • Tuesday, October 30
  • 7:00 p.m.
  • St. Francis Area Schools District Office, 4115 Ambassador Blvd NW, St. Francis

School Board Candidate Profiles

The following profiles were published in the October 2018 edition of The Courier.

Seven candidates are vying for three seats (4-year term) on the School Board of St. Francis Area Schools. The candidates running are (in alphabetical order): Jill Anderson, Renee Deibert, Jake Humphrey, Barbara Jahnke, Keila Lopez, Scott Schwarz and Marsha Van Denburgh. The profiles appear in alphabetical order.

Each candidate was asked the following:


1. Write about your background and family, including how long you have lived in this school district, St. Francis Area Schools.

2. Describe your involvement with St. Francis Area Schools in the past five years. What do you believe qualifies you to be a school board member?

3. What do you see as the school board’s roles and responsibilities, and what makes a school board effective?

4. What is your vision for St. Francis Area Schools and how does that relate to the mission?

5. What three goals do you hope to accomplish if elected to the school board?

6. What are the biggest issues facing St. Francis Area Schools and how would you address them?

Jill Anderson

Jill Anderson20913 Rendova Street NE
East Bethel, MN 55011
Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Chief of Business Development and Project Management

I have been a resident of the district for 21 years. My husband, Jason, son, Colton Teetzel (student at St. Francis Area Schools Transition 15) and I live in East Bethel. I am employed by the Department of Veteran Affairs. I have extensive experience overseeing budgets, developing strategic and financial plans and overseeing human resources. I possess a master’s degree in public administration.

Giving back to your community is important and I have continually done so throughout my life. Prior to being elected to a two-year term on the board in 2016, I was a member of the district’s Special Education Advisory Council and volunteered with the Grid Club. I am an active board member, attending board meetings, special meetings, union negotiations and committee meetings. Being a board member is more than attending meetings; it is being active in the community, attending and volunteering at events and advocating for our children and the district. I am and will continue to be actively engaged with the educators, the public and students.

Members are charged with representing what is best for the students and the district. We have an obligation to ensure staff receive the support and tools needed to be successful. An effective board requires a shared vision for work and learning, ability to build strategic partnerships and objectively seek answers to questions and challenges as they arise.

Our responsibility is to the students of the district and their education. We should provide the students the opportunity to be involved in their education, and create choices over their programming to reach their goals. All stakeholders should be involved in decisions on programming from educators to students. My vision directly mirrors the district’s mission!

Marketing, class sizes and activities! We need a marketing plan, highlighting the great things our district is doing and thereby increasing our positive image. Unfortunately, due to right sizing, our class sizes have increased. We need to mitigate the impact, consider lean solutions and develop a path forward to reverse this trend. We need to support extracurricular activities offered to students. Activities offer our students the opportunity to hone the skills important to their future success: team building, time-management, prioritization, responsibility and leadership. If we reduce class sizes, emphasize activities, our district will be more enticing. Conversely, marketing will bring in more students, thereby increasing funding.

Retention, finances and superintendent! Today there are many educational opportunities for students. We need to ensure we are retaining and recruiting students. District finances have been a continual source of concern. We rely heavily on state funding, which is based on student count. A financial strategic plan needs to be developed, analyzing student enrollment projections, financial opportunities and fund balance. Our superintendent is leaving the district at the end of this school year. Engaging stakeholders in the process, hiring a replacement and integrating the new superintendent to the district is extremely important. They will be the next leader of our district at a very pivotal time.

Renee Deibert

Renee Deibert

1524 196th Lane NW
Oak Grove, MN 55011
Paralegal/Licensed Insurance Producer

My husband and I along with our two boys, ages four and one, moved to East Bethel from Phoenix, Arizona in 2006. These boys are now 17 and 13 years old. One loves sports and one loves the arts, and my husband and I love it all.

In an effort to place myself in a position to better our community in the past years, I have volunteered for the middle school’s Site Management Counsel to better understand the spending patterns and needs of the schools. Last year, out of some fear for our community’s children, a friend and I rallied parents and friends to create “Parents for Safer Schools” a page and site for parents, teachers, even students to unite for the community’s safety. This was specifically to better security where our children go to school. In my opinion, this was something that was heard by the board and down the line is being addressed. Over all this time, I found joy in giving many hours as a parent volunteer while my children came up through this district in music and sports. Here is where I always wanted to do more, so I expressed interest in running for the school board.

The school board is meant to be a platform intended to better our community as a whole through important and sometimes hard conversations over long hours to make difficult decisions. Our school board can only be effective if there is a bridge of overall fairness and consideration in these decisions.

In my opinion, the board has been falling short in some important areas of the board’s mission. My vision is to see this school district finally grab onto what we know will work towards “equipping ALL students with the knowledge and skills to empower them to achieve their dreams and full potential while becoming responsible citizens.” This empowerment cannot always be a sport or a book and since the arts are in many ways diminishing, I am here to stand for the arts programs. I will stand on as many blocks as necessary to be seen and heard about this empowerment we are promising to our children. I will stay consistent with keeping open discussions. I promise I will strive to be a bridge between the student body, parents, teachers and our board for overall betterment.

My goals are simple:

1. Be trustworthy in my mission to be open and fair when listening and representing concerns and issues brought to me as a board member. I want fair and equal improvements and opportunities.

2. Get involved with our enrollment and budget concerns by finding out what and how the current recovery plan is moving forward.

3. Last and most certainly not least, I want to SAVE THE ARTS PROGRAMS! I want to bring attention to what these programs do for our kids. Some students are not empowered by sports. Some are not empowered by art, but I have full intention to make all empowerment available and fair.

I believe the biggest issue in front of our community right now is the lack of trust in our own school board. Let’s fix this right away. I intend to be the one that will address any concern.

Jake Humphrey

Jake Humphrey

19643 Drake Street NW
Cedar MN 55011
Master Electrician/Electrical Contractor

I grew up in Champlin and graduated (District #11) in 1992. In 1996, I moved to Oak Grove. In 2000, I married my college (Marquette) sweetie, Nicole, who is a supermom and dental hygienist. We have two wonderful children: Tess, a sophomore at SFHS, who loves band, choir and theater; and Jack, a 5th grader at EBES who enjoys swimming, biking and listening to music on vinyls. I am a master electrician and owner of Electric Sign and Lighting, Inc.

I am constantly volunteering time and resources to the schools. I am currently in three booster clubs at the high school. I believe I would be a good school board member because I know what it takes to raise healthy, happy, successful children, and I want to share that message. Each vote I make will keep in check financial and personal responsibility, while seeking to better the outcome for students in the classroom.

I think I would effectively fulfill the school board roles and obligations by being a good steward to the student and taxpayer in diligent oversight of building bond, as well as in making the best choice for a new superintendent to lead us, and by providing a good relationship between the community and the district through a renewed transparency, building trust to share goals and provide the best value possible in education.

St. Francis Area School’s mission statement is one I hold dear in raising my own children, and I truly believe all well-wishing parents should instill in their kids’ lives. The promise is that ALL students will learn book smarts and technical abilities, so they themselves will be able to be all they can be in an everchanging world. The responsible part is of utmost importance, doing your best for yourself and those around you.

To get the most value with the building bond. To hire the best superintendent. To rekindle that which many people say has been lost here: the small town community and school relationship based on trust. Where parents volunteer in droves, to further the cause while sharing the cost. Where we all go to each other’s activities, even if we don’t have kids involved, because we want to. A general excitement for the whole system’s citizenry.

ENROLLMENT will follow, if we solve the problem: APATHY. My kids, your kids, those kids over there, they’re all doing some really amazing things, and this is the best time of their lives! Go to the neighbor boy’s soccer game, take in a show choir regional final. Grab a friend, sit back and enjoy the talent on display, and remind them how grateful you are for the entertainment they bring into our world. Join me!

Barbara Jahnke

Barb Jahnke

24381 Riverbank Lane
St. Francis, MN 55040
Retired School Counselor

St. Francis has been my home for 25 years. I’m now retired but have had a long-standing interest in education. I hold a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and master’s in school counseling. My employment history includes school counselor for St. Francis Area Schools; Aberdeen, S.D.; Standing Rock Reservation, ND; a program director for a community program for homeless or abused families and an elementary teacher.

Being the mother of three sons and eight grandchildren, retirement has afforded more time for family and friends, which I find very rewarding. But, my passion for education continues through my work on our school board over the past five years. A sincere interest in the education of our children, along with background experiences, former employments and a willingness to listen and work hard, qualify me for the St. Francis Area Schools Board.

Working in St. Francis Area Schools as a school counselor for 20 years gave me a good understanding of how District 15 operated, or so I thought. After five years on the school board, my perspective has changed, widened and deepened. In the beginning of my term, I worried about what I would say. Now I concern myself with how well I listen. The school board’s major responsibility is to listen and provide avenues for all voices to be heard as decisions are made.

Our district’s mission to “equip all students with the knowledge and skills to empower them to achieve their dreams and full potential” is also my vision for St. Francis Area Schools. For me, the most important word here is ALL. We need to gather input from all, listen to all and assure an organized and inclusive process for all when making decisions.

If elected again, my three main goals are:

1. Continue to expand the educational opportunities available to students;

2. Increase rigorous educational opportunities;

3. Provide teachers with a professional development schedule which encourages them to qualify to teach rigorous classes such as advanced placement or college in the school.

I believe we need to maintain and expand our safe and educationally solid schools through building a stronger culture of teamwork between all our staff. One of our major issues is our organizational structure and how we talk to each other. We must have everyone on board to make this thing work. When lines of communication are unclear, we waste precious time with redundancy and competitiveness. As a district, we have already done structuring and mapping, and will need to plan to do more.

Keila Lopez

20508 Jackson Street NE
East Bethel MN 55011

Editor’s Note: Candidate’s name will appear on the ballot; did not submit information to The Courier for the candidate profile.

Scott Schwarz

Scott Schwarz

22609 Zion Parkway
Oak Grove, MN 55011
Assistant Store Director at Cub Foods and an adjunct professor at Concordia University, St. Paul

I have lived in the district 13 years and all four of my children have graduated from St. Francis High School.

I was appointed on the school board after a member had left in 2014. I only served two years but was able to understand the various issues and challenges to the district and brought forth ideas and areas of concern for discussion. I think I bring some good ideas and common sense to the board and to the district.

We hire people to run the school district and teach our children. The school board’s purpose is to work through budget and financial issues, looking at the big picture of what needs to be accomplished now and in the future, and leave the day to day operations to the people we hire.

The mission of St. Francis Area Schools is to equip all students with the knowledge and skills to empower them to achieve their dreams and full potential while becoming responsible citizens in a dynamic world. I feel this is a great mission statement and why I will continue to promote college in the schools and work to bring courses for trades in the schools. Working with ideas to get our students to the next step.

My three goals, if elected to the school board are:

1. We have College in the Schools (CIS) to help our students prepare for their next step in life. I would also like to implement Trades in the Schools (TIS) giving students the opportunities to explore classes on being an electrician, plumber, welder, etc.

2. I understand we have some classes with over 40 students. We need to review if this is a trend or unusual and determine how to reduce this to a manageable numbers if it continues.

3. I would like to review some alternatives to the late start schedules. I have many parents stating this is very disruptive to their work schedules and have issues getting their kids to school and the bus.

The biggest issues facing
St. Francis Area Schools are:

a) We need to reexamine the relationship we have with District 916 to see what is the best for our kids and for our budget. If we are spending over 1 million+ dollars for this relationship, maybe we should bring the kids and money back to our district?

b) We passed a referendum for $80 million dollars. We need to continue to make sure those dollars are spent on the areas that they were intended for and review all rental and District 15 property to see how to leverage these areas based on our enrollment trends.

c) How do we make St. Francis Area Schools more attractive as a learning and enriched school system, to keep our students in our district? We are seeing new schools from other districts being built near our borders and offering open enrollment.

Marsha Van Denburgh

Marsha Van Denburgh3270 206th Ave NW
Oak Grove, MN 55303
Small business owner

I have lived in the St. Francis Area Schools district for 19 years. I have 10 children – seven are adopted from the foster care system. Currently, my two youngest attend St. Francis High School.

I was elected to the school board nine years ago and have diligently worked to learn the details of running the district from the school board member perspective. I have extensive knowledge in school finance, legislative issues, legal, and processes and procedures in our own district. Even so, there are always new things to learn. I faithfully attend negotiating contract committees and my other committee assignments. With children in the school, I am also an active parent in my children’s education.

As a school board member, I have the responsibility of setting policy, approving budgets and now hiring a superintendent. Good working relationships with the district administration and not becoming a micro manager make a school board effective.

Our current motto is derived from the mission — Equip. Empower. Achieve. I served on the committee that chose this and want to fully develop systems for our students to be able to actively pursue their dreams in our school system. We have great teachers that need the board to come alongside of them developing successful plans to help our students achieve those hopes and dreams.

Three goals I hope to accomplish if re-elected to the school board:

1. Work with the new superintendent to bring a quality education to our students. My experience will guide this process to move our district forward.

2. Create opportunities. Our students need excellent programming from special education to gifted and talented services with athletics and activities that will help them achieve their dreams.

3. Advocate legislatively for increased funding. We currently pay for too much of special education from the general fund. We are mandated to provide this specialized education but we do not get reimbursed for the extra costs. I have developed relationships with many legislators to continue to advocate for our students and community.

Our funding stream is so much lower than most other districts that it is difficult to provide the opportunities our students deserve. I helped us get extra funding approved in the past — such as more than a million dollars from the state to help pay for the extra services Crossroads students needed. I can continue to be successful in accessing funding through statewide sources which reduces the tax burden on our community.

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