Incumbents, experience triumph in RPS school board
Two incumbents and two longtime volunteers won four seats on the Rochester School Board Tuesday.
Incumbents Julie Workman and Jean Marvin will return to the board. Cathy Nathan and Melissa Amundsen will join them as newly seated members in January.
Workman earned her third term on the board defeating challenger John Eischen. She garnered 29,497 votes for 64.3 percent of the ballots to 16,265 votes, or 35.4 percent ballots for Eischen.
Workman said she’s humbled to receive the support.
“I am always incredibly humbled when people who don’t even know me, vote for me,” Workman said. “It’s a huge responsibility and I take that responsibility seriously.”
Workman said she intends to listen to students and teachers and, as the district examines possible new facilities to ease crowding, ensure any new facility serves needed educational purposes.
Workman said she is also looking forward to examining sharing transportation services with the city to facilitate later school start times for secondary school students. Sleep research shows students perform better academically and are safer when they receive more sleep, she said.
“This seems like an opportune time to really work this out with the city,” she said.
Eischen, who challenged Workman for her seat, said he knew it would be an uphill race.
“Going up against a two-term incumbent retired teacher was going to be a challenge,” Eischen said.
Eischen added he was glad his candidacy brought the issue of alternative educational tracks to public discussion.
“I hope my message to not point every student to a four-year degree and the other opportunities was heard,” he said. “I think that it did resonate with voters and some teachers.”
Marvin won her second term. Her challenger, Dwight Ferguson dropped out of the race for health reasons.
Nathan received 29,199 votes, or 65.3 percent of the votes in her race against Greg Gallas, who received 15,331 votes.
Nathan said the school board has a lot of work to do when she takes her seat in January. She said if the district decides on a facilities need plan, work needs to begin on a referendum at the beginning of the year.
“There’s still a lot of feedback to get from the community,” she said.
Nathan added she wanted to develop a measurement for program funding as part of the budget process to help the district see what programs deliver the best results with their resources.
“We need to measure how did those work for our kids,” she said.
Nathan added the district’s first report regarding discipline disparities for minority and free and reduced lunch students is due to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in January.
“When I said I was ready to hit the ground running, I was being pretty serious,” Nathan said. “Because we’re going to be busy in January.”
Amundsen earned 32,516 votes to Bruce Kaskubar’s 13,043 votes for 71 percent of the votes in her race.
Amundsen touched on similar issues facing the board, but added she is concerned about tough budget decisions, which may include cuts, that will soon face the district.
“That weighs heavily on my mind,” Amundsen said.
“Everything the district does is important,” she added. “To have to cut will be painful and difficult.”
“Obviously, the results didn’t go my way,” Kaskubar said in a statement Tuesday night. “Apparently, the majority of district voters are happy with the status quo. Congratulations to Melissa and the other school board winners.”