A special election will take place Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021 for Independent School District 318 to fill a school board member vacancy. The two candidates running for the school board election are Scotty Puglisi and Mark Schroeder. Previously, Ashley Goodman was running for election but declined her candidacy as of Sept. 15, 2021. Puglisi and Schroeder took time to respond to a Q&A with the Herald-Review.
Q: Why are you running for the Board of Education in ISD 318?
Scotty: The short answer is because I feel like I’m being called to run. It’s my opinion that parents need to have more of a “hands on” approach with their children’s education and this is a way I can be better involved and better informed at a deeper level. I hope to protect our educational system against agendas and political opinions that could potentially cloud our educational system. People can be sneaky, and I want to help stand up for what is right. I also want to advocate for our amazing teachers. They do such an incredible job and I’d like to be a voice to help protect their freedoms as well, specifically when it comes to potentially losing their job because of a vaccine mandate.
Mark: My passion is for students and public education. My commitment is to student safety, student opportunity and student achievement. I have enjoyed my time in public service as a public educator and would like to continue that service.
Q: What particular experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a board member?
Scotty: Why am I qualified to be on the school board? Great question! I think what qualifies me the most is that I am a parent to three wonderful kiddos in this district. I have my degree in Elementary Education and a concentration in Communication Arts from Crown College near the cities. I am married to a wonderful man and I help to maintain our budget here at home and have overseen committees as well as served on a board of directors for a local camp. I am a great candidate because I am invested in our community, our schools and churches and most importantly, the people.
Mark: Upon graduation from Grand Rapids High School in 1976, I attended the US Military Academy at West Point. Following graduation, I served in the US Army as a helicopter pilot, a platoon leader, and executive officer and as a company commander. After 32 years in public education, I recently retired as the principal of Grand Rapids HIgh School. During those years, I worked as a physics and biology teacher, the Bigfork Principal and as assistant and lead principal at GRHS. My background in public education has given me broad experience in school finance and curriculum matters. I believe my experience and training qualify me to serve as a school board member.
Q: If elected, what will be your top priorities?
Scotty: My top priorities will include better transparency between the school board and the parents and keeping mandates out of schools for the students and teachers alike. I also feel that the schools are biased in their approach to social issues (i.e. only offering CNN News to students). The school’s food program could use a lift with some better alternatives and we need more helpers (i.e. Para’s & substitute teachers).
Mark: Covid- Our students, staff and families have struggled to deal with the challenges of this disease. I believe we can come together and find solutions to these issues, but the bottom line is we need to find ways to keep our students healthy and in school .Budgets- Difficult decisions need to be made with regards to our district’s budget. Our district cannot remain financially healthy unless we can run a balanced budget. During my years as a principal in District 318, I was always able to balance my building budget and we can do the same at the district level. We will need to carefully examine district revenues and expenditures. Mental health- Our counselors and social workers report that many students are in need of mental health support. Covid, quarantines, online learning, school closings and social distancing have been incredibly difficult on students, families and educational staff. We need to examine our in-district supports and community partnerships to ensure support is in place where it is needed. Curricular issues and student academic support- Student academic achievement has suffered for many of our students during the last year and a half. In many cases, we will need to adjust academic programs and supports. Some of the tools that we have to identify and meet those needs include Fast Bridge, ADSIS funding and Star reports. Staffing issues- Three staffing issues must be addressed. Our educational staff needs to feel they have fair supportive contracts. Our staff at all levels needs to reflect the diversity of the district’s students. Finally, we are having difficulty finding qualified staff in many areas and are having difficulty filling positions when staff are sick. To address these two final issues, we will need to work to recruit qualified individuals.
Q: What differentiates you from the other candidates and/or board members?
Scotty: The ability to call out the differences between the other board members and myself would require a conversation, which we have not all had the privilege of having as of yet. We already have great people in place. My opinion is that I can offer a new, raw and conservative perspective from parents much like myself. I wish I could say that I’m confident that we would all be on the same page, but then that would defeat the purpose of having a board. We can all bring different views and do our best to create the best environment possible for our kids and their future.
Mark: Education is complex .The issues facing schools and students are many. My priorities which include Covid, budgets, mental health, curricular issues, student academic support and staffing issues are just a few of the many challenges that we will face this year. Effective educational leadership requires strong decision making in all of these areas. My positions as a teacher and a principal in both Bigfork and Grand Rapids have given me a broad level of experience that can benefit the school board leadership team.
Q: How can the board be accessible to the community?
Scotty: I saw on the first day of school how each member of the board were available at all the schools. I thought that was great! I think there needs to be more of that. I don’t think that the board is unavailable. I think that parents either don’t care about what’s happening in the schools or they are unaware of how to see what’s truly going on. The school board has open meetings, videos of their meetings and emails they can be reached at. It’s hard to not get a hold of them, unless extenuating circumstances, of course.
Mark: Public input is encouraged at all regularly scheduled school board meetings. Additionally, the phone numbers and email addresses of board members are available on the district web site. I encourage individuals with questions or concerns to make a quick call or send an email to the appropriate person.
Q: What is the best way to address differences of opinion on the board, between the board and the administration, or between the board and the public?
Scotty: Differences of opinion...that’s a hot topic. It has been my observation that less and less people are really willing to listen to hear and understand. Instead of listening, people are just fuming mad and contemplating what they can combat with and who will receive the first verbal bullet. Unfortunately, this is not a local problem. This is nationwide. People have lost the ability to disagree and have healthy conflict. A large number of people think that if there is a difference of opinion, then that means they need to hate each other. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The best conversations happen with both sides listen to understand, and when people can communicate in a way that does not involve slander, calling names or assumptions. Healthy conflict can happen. Healthy conversations do exist. People need to be able to walk over their emotions so they can get to the root of the problem, instead of spouting anger. Anger does not inspire.
If I’m elected, I’d be willing to have more of an open dialogue to help with this. Unfortunately, with any interview, statement, article or post, people will take what is said out of context and use it against you. Those practices will never progress more forward. My hope is that anger can subside long enough for us to accomplish our goals.
Mark: Open communication will always be the best way to overcome differences of opinion. It is important to find common ground, value differing perspectives and approach difficult problems with an open mind. Often, the examination of differing opinions can help develop new solutions to challenging issues.
Q: What is your vision for education in our community?
Scotty: My vision for education for this community would be to have a greater support system for our teachers and staff (i.e. classroom help). My hope is to protect social agendas being brought in to our kids and to keep education simple with things like reading, math and English.
Mark: Our district has a reputation for excellence in education and our students continue to excel after graduation. Our teaching staff, ESPs, administrative leadership teams and support staff are extremely dedicated and passionate about their students. Clearly, our communities have shown they value and prioritize education for our community’s students. I believe that if we work together, we can continue to provide our district’s students with a first class education.
Q: Is there anything else you would like the community to know about you and your campaign?
Scotty: What I’d like my community to know is that people are human. They make mistakes. For instance, I made a post and it was taken way out of context. I would love to be known as the school board member who loves all children. I am not against anyone. I hate division. I don’t believe we need to be at each others throats to get things done. People are quick to judge and slow to listen. There are good people out there trying to do good things and if we keep shooting at them, we won’t have anyone left to fight for us. We can do better. :)
Mark: Please exercise your right to vote in the November 2nd school board election. Early voting has already started. Your vote is needed to support the students of the Grand Rapids and Bigfork communities.
A list of polling locations can be found at https://www.isd318.org/Page/558. Any eligible voter residing in the school district may vote at said election at the polling place or combined polling place designated above for the precinct in which they reside. The polls for said election will be opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m. on the date of said election. There will be no mail ballot precincts and early voting started Sept. 17, 2021.
A voter must be registered to vote to be eligible to vote in this election. An unregistered individual may register to vote at the polling place or combined polling place on election day.
For questions regarding this election, contact the County Auditor’s Office at 218-327-2859 or email email@example.com.