Veterans Day

Eleven people have filed to run for the Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board. 

Four seats will be open on the board as the terms of school board members Richard Wolf, Stacey Ruelle, Ben Hanson and Todd Sorensen will expire this year. Incumbent Stacey Ruelle has filed for re-election. 

The Prior Lake American sent questions to each candidate. Candidate Sarah Rippke Lloyd did not submit answers to the Prior Lake American's questionnaire, as she said she will not be campaigning. 

The general election is slated for Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Some responses have been edited for clarity. 

Jonathan Drewes

Jonathan Drewes

Jonathan Drewes

Savage resident Jonathan Drewes has lived in Savage for 20 years with his wife, Dawn. The couple has three children — Brown University sophomore Henry, Loyola University Chicago freshman Lilli and Prior Lake High School freshman Bella. Henry and Lilli graduated from Prior Lake High School. Drewes has a financial planning practice.

Q: What is your community involvement?

A: Through the years I have been actively involved with the Prior Lake Savage Hockey Association, I am involved with the Prior Lake Optimists and have been involved with Say Yes! and our effort to build support for last year's referendum.

Q: Why do you want to run for school board?

A: Serving on the school board will enable me to finish the job started with the referendum campaign and ensure we continue to make good decisions for the good kids of the district.

Q: Do you have any experience with large budgets or finance?

A: As a Certified Financial Planner(r) professional, I have a strong understanding of finance and financial markets.

Q: What would you do as a board member to increase community trust in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board?

A: The school board and the superintendent need to continue to involve community stakeholders in strategic planning and decisions and maintain open communication with the public.

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district in the next four years?

A: The district needs to continue to strive to achieve it's mission to "Educate All Learners." We still have a challenge delivering on that promise to some segments of our student population. Until the achievement gap is narrowed/eliminated, we have work to do.

Drewes said campaign sites are currently under development.

Andrew Ganfield

Prior Lake resident Andrew Ganfield was raised in the district and graduated from Prior Lake High School in 1991. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps before later returning to Prior Lake. He has been married for 24 years to his wife, Beth, and has two sons, both of whom graduated from Prior Lake High School. Ganfield works as a health and safety manager and communication and emergency manager for Mystic Lake Casino Hotel.

Q: What is your community involvement?

A: Scott County Sheriff Department, Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, Emergency Manager Volunteer American Legion Post 1776, Vice Commander, Membership Director and Executive Board.

Q: Why do you want to run for school board?

A: I am running for PLSAS School Board to be the difference this district needs, one that will ask the tough questions and be relentless in obtaining the answers. I will ask for justification in matters of spending, safety, and curriculum. The board represents the community's educational goals and concerns, and therefore the board has an obligation to be direct and truthful to the community.

Q: Do you have any experience with large budgets or finance?

A: Yes. I have recent and ongoing experience with large budgets, finance, deadlines, and reporting.

Q: What would you do as a board member to increase community trust in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board?

A: To increase community trust I will use my leadership experience and ability, and use a responsible, common sense approach to the issues within the district. The simple answer is that I will be truthful in my commentary, and that I will expect accountability from district employees, contractors, consultants, and other board members. I will answer to the residents, parents, and students of District 719.

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district in the next four years?

A: Student/faculty/facility security, facility expansion, and student population growth.

Ganfield said no campaign websites or social media have been established so far.

Jason Kwiat

Jason Kwiat

Jason Kwiat

Savage resident Jason Kwiat has lived in Savage for five years. Kwiat has been married to his high school sweetheart, Christine, for nearly 20 years. His daughter, Claire, is a Prior Lake High School freshman and his son, Henry, is a sixth-grader at Hidden Oaks Middle School. Kwiat is a homemaker.

Q: What is your community involvement?

A: I was a certified substitute teacher in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School District for the first two years after moving into the area and worked at all schools and grade levels. In 2016, I took part in the Say Yes organization’s efforts to get a referendum passed in May of that year. Later in 2016 I was invited to be a member of the PLSAS Facilities Task Force, where our duty was to study student enrollment and demographic data to identify the most pressing district needs and generate ideas for a future referendum that could gain broad community support. I was most recently a key member of the leadership team for the Say Yes for Kids pro-referendum group that helped rally community enthusiasm that resulted in the passing of the November 2017 referendum by an overwhelming 62-38 percent margin.

Q: Why do you want to run for school board?

A: Given that I do not work outside the home and my children are entering the more independent years of middle and high school, I have the time, energy and passion to make being a school board member my full-time job. I will be devoted to the task of working with the community and district administration to continue developing our district into one of the highest performing and most socially conscious in Minnesota. Working on several referendum campaigns over the past few years has allowed me to build solid relationships, develop a strong voice and share fresh ideas that residents have responded positively towards after years of board stagnation. This district is growing and the demographics are changing quite rapidly. It is essential that the next board is made up of tenacious and creative individuals that are not afraid to challenge the status quo and embrace the challenges and opportunities that change can bring to a community that so strongly values public education.

Q: Do you have any experience with large budgets or finance?

A: I do not have experience in this specific, non-essential area.

Q: What would you do as a board member to increase community trust in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board?

A: After the past several challenging and acrimonious years, it is time that the PLSAS school board gets back to basics. Personality conflicts and finger pointing at the expense of progress needs to immediately end. There can be no more secret meetings, conspiracy theories or attempts at censorship. The pressing issues facing this district must be laid bare and the petty, status quo politics removed from the board decision making process. Parents and residents want the school board to concern themselves with important, student-centric issues like improving test scores, attracting top teachers, keeping children safe, and making sure that all students regardless of interest or ability have equal access to cutting-edge resources and personalized educational support. I pledge to seek the advice and guidance of all residents that share my students-first attitude via telephone, email, and social media on a near constant basis. I will work openly, honestly and tirelessly with the other six board members to create a limitless future for our most precious human resource.

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district in the next four years?

A: Dealing with surging student enrollment and district growth will continue to be the most crucial issue facing the district over the next few years. Most of the the additional classroom space that the 2017 referendum funded will not be available for a year or two due to simple logistical limitations of time and weather. It is imperative that the district seeks out proactive and creative solutions to ensure that classroom sizes not spiral out of control and that each student continues to receive the highest quality education possible. Our under-appreciated, under-paid teachers and staff must be given every resource to make sure that all student groups get the education that they deserve and that parents demand. In such a large district, it is imperative that no student gets lost in the shuffle. At-risk populations such as special education and LGBTQ students must be protected and nourished, but so too do groups such as the academically gifted, athletes, artists, and musicians. All children deserve all of our attention, all of our resources, all of the time. The school board must do its job to make sure children and their caring teachers can focus on education, while district administration deals with growth issues.

More information about Kwiat's campaign can be found on Facebook at @jkwiat719, on Twitter at @jkwiat719 and on Instagram at @jasonkwiat719.

Ajay Mandal

Ajay Mandal

Ajay Mandal

Savage resident Ajay Mandal moved to the city in 2010 from South Minneapolis. He is married with three children — a 9-year-old boy, a 7-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl. He runs a technology consulting firm in Savage.

Q: What is your community involvement?

A: I have been a volunteer soccer coach for the Prior Lake Soccer club for the last four or so years. I have also participated in Savage Rotary Club in the past, although I am not an active member.

Q: Why do you want to run for school board?

A: I have 3 kids who go to the Savage/Prior Lake school district, so I am heavily invested in this school district. My main concern regarding my kids’ education is the quality of their education, their safety and security, and to ensure we as the citizens of this district get the best return for the investments being made in this school district. We also need to ensure that we attract the most qualified teachers to our school system. This entails better pay, training opportunities and other incentives to attract the best and the brightest. Changing demographics of the district also requires bringing some diversity to the board. As a person of color, I believe I can fulfill that role.

Q: Do you have any experience with large budgets or finance?

A: No, I do not have experience with large budgets, however I do have the experience of being an entrepreneur and starting my own consulting business. As a small business I manage my finances and budget very tightly, evaluating the benefits of any investment and ensuring optimal returns. I will do the same for the school board if elected.

Q: What would you do as a board member to increase community trust in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board?

A: If elected to the board, my goal will be to promote greater interaction with the parents and the teachers of this school district through town hall type meetings. Before I got involved in this process, as a parent I had no idea or insight into the functioning of the school boards. There has to be more discussions and consensus building on issues that affect our school district and our student population. This will also ensure greater transparency.

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district in the next four years?

A: Safety and security of students, teachers and all members of our school system. Quality of education and teachers. If you look at the last five years of data student performance has flattened. We need to invest in the quality of education, school facilities and better training and benefits for the teachers We need to improve the ranking of our school district. This can be only done by bench-marking and implementing programs what other higher-ranking school districts are doing in the state/country.

Ajay Mandal can be found on Facebook.

Michael Nelson

Michael Nelson

Michael Nelson

Savage resident Michael Nelson has lived in Savage for 15 years with her husband, Andy. The couple has three children — Prior Lake High School juniors and twins Alex and Ella and Hidden Oaks Middle School student Sophia. Nelson works as a designer and coach, helping small businesses and individuals with branding, social media and website design. She used to be a museum educator and still teaches in museums on the occasion.

Q: What is your community involvement?

A: Currently my volunteerism and board work has been focused largely on the arts in the Prior Lake-Savage School District. I have been a board member of the Middle School Band Boosters for five years, president for four of those years. I am a High School Band Booster. I am a voting member of the district’s Patrons of the Arts and Activities as well. I have also volunteered in the schools in a variety of smaller ways since 2007. (Probably not as relevant, local community volunteering has included writing commentaries, teaching at church, visiting residents at St. Gertrude’s in Shakopee.) Board experience over the years has included the board work mentioned above in the district, serving on two art museum boards (The Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame) and the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona). I was on the initial board for the Minnesota Marine Art Museum which was responsible for developing the concept and building the facility as well as hiring the staff and developing community outreach. As this was a brand new facility being built in Winona, both volunteer and financial support was needed. We had to deal with building the site, budgets, security etc. My individual role was also focused on developing the initial education programs, and getting the volunteer corps up and running. In my years as an art museum educator I also served on several community boards over the years and participated in the year-long Leadership Wausau training program in Wausau, Wisconsin to learn about how to increase my participation in community leadership (completed May 1998).

Q: Why do you want to run for school board?

A: It took me a long time to realize I wanted to run, and even longer to decide now was the right time to run. I’ve been pretty focused on working on the arts side of leadership in the schools and planned to continue or even increase that level of involvement. So I was late to my decision to run. But a few things kept nudging me in this direction. 1. We have had an incredible experience with this school district over the years. This experience has made me a champion for public education. 2. I’m excited about the leadership in the district right now and how the district continues to grow and thrive. I’d like to support that growth, and explore any areas that we can continue to improve. 3. I am continually amazed by the the teachers and staff in our district. I value that our children are always treated as people, not just as “students.” I would love the opportunity to continue supporting the excellence demonstrated by the district faculty and staff. 4. The passing of the referendum was a key step forward for the district and I’d love to build on that momentum and help make sure we continue to move forward. 5. Our family went through a scary cancer journey the last two years, with my husband being diagnosed with stage four cancer. He became a role model for me. He started asking himself, and then each of us, 'What is my legacy? Where do I want to make a difference' He asked me that again a few weeks ago and I realized that one way I’d like to make a difference, if I can, is in our schools. 6. I know that the number one thing a board member commits to do is made decisions in the best interest of the students. We have three children and will be district parents for five more years. We also have three nieces and a nephew in the district. And in many ways all students are under the care of the entire community. I’d like to contribute to keeping the focus of decision making on what is best for the kids.

Q: Do you have any experience with large budgets or finance?

A: My budget and finance experience is related to my experience as an art museum employee (running a department budget and being part of the larger budget) and my experience serving on different boards. During the referendum, I learned that school finance is unique and can be pretty complicated. I was confused by hearing different numbers and percentages being used by different groups in the community and not being an expert realized I had to start learning more. To better understand school finance, I had to ask a lot of questions, do a lot of research, and ask for a lot of meetings with district staff. This understanding became important to me while deciding how to vote for the referendum, and as I tried to help others navigate their way through the financial issues involved. School finance is complex. While I am not a master at finance, I now know that being willing to learn more, asking the right people questions, and putting in some time, can help in making better sense of how school finance works. I’m willing to keep asking and learning!

Q: What would you do as a board member to increase community trust in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board?

A: That’s a great question. I guess my answer is two-fold. First of all, I suspect a large percentage of our community already trusts the current school board. Our district has been demonstrating continued growth and excellence. People are eager to move into our community to have access to our schools. I think it is human nature that if people are unhappy or dissatisfied they get more vocal than if they are content with how things are going, and that can make it appear that more people are unhappy than really are. But secondly, my first instinct in a new job of any type (volunteer or paid) is to start by listening. It’s one thing to come into a new position with ideas and ambition, but it is another to start by hearing what others have to say and learning from their ideas and experiences. I’m a big fan of trying to understand before trying to be understood. I think as a school board member this would include (and not be limited to) listening to: partners on the school board, administration, teachers and staff, parents, students, and community members. I know that when I feel truly heard, I am more trusting. So listening would be my first step in building upon the community trust placed in the school board.

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district in the next four years?

A: I think the biggest issue continues to be focusing on what is best for students. In the months and years to come, I think this will include: building on the momentum established by the referendum, managing growth (including school boundaries), finding opportunities that help all students feel comfortable and have opportunities to grow, and listening to and addressing concerns about school security.

Campaign websites and social media for Nelson are currently under development.

Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson and his wife of 35 years have lived in Prior Lake for 15 years. The couple has a daughter who is currently in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School District. Peterson is a design and development engineer focusing on advancing hard disc and solid state drives for Seagate Technology.

Q: What is your community involvement?

A: For 10 years I have volunteered multiple times on assisting in teaching math, science, medical support team for sporting events, coaching track for P.L.A.Y. and supporting school functions and trips. For the past five years I been on the engineering advisory board for the University of St Thomas, for over three years I have volunteered as a mentor to St. Thomas engineering students and have performed overview guidance of senior engineering student projects. I have been a science judge for four years for the Minnesota State Science fair, I volunteer my time twice a year to teach STEM at the local Air Force reserve base, for over 20 years I have volunteered as a technical adviser on industry engineering technical associations including opening up extended technical chapters in China and Thailand. For eight years I have volunteered on the National Ski Patrol.

Q: Why do you want to run for school board?

A: In the role as a school board member I desire to utilize my years of leadership gained over my career to support and serve our community and area students. I and my wife, a Paraprofessional in the Prior Lake-Savage School District, both believe strongly in supporting our youth and ensuring that the academic environment that will help shape our school district students future is the best we can offer given a controlled budget and best aligned resources. I further strongly believe in contributing my career skills and knowledge to help our students and schools now and for the future.

Q: Do you have any experience with large budgets or finance?

A: Yes, during my career I have controlled several budgets including a multi-million dollar budget as an international engineering director.

Q: What would you do as a board member to increase community trust in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board?

A: Ensure accountability of our school board members to keep focus on giving our community the best academic opportunity for our students while keeping costs controlled and phases of change and challenges well communicated to our community.

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district in the next four years?

A: Balanced budgets under opportunity of growth of student population while aligning and considering best timing and delivery of academic environment.

Peterson is developing a campaign website and Facebook page.

Mark Pexa

Mark Pexa

Mark Pexa

Prior Lake resident Mark Pexa has lived in Prior Lake for four years total. Two years ago, Pexa returned to Prior Lake to build a home with his wife, Jessica and two children. Pexa is an information technology supervisor of security and infrastructure at Carver County. He has a master's of science degree in information security.

Q: What is your community involvement?

A: I've worked in the public sector at Carver County for seven years, with one of my first jobs as an Information Technology technician for the New Prague School District. My wife and I enjoy volunteering in the classroom. We host an annual holiday lights and music show with the community.

Q: Why do you want to run for school board?

A: Teachers and staff must have what they need to engage students in a learning environment that supports and promotes critical thinking and reasoning skills as well as creativity and resilience. High quality education starts with a foundation of robust safety and security measures. I want to serve the community as an informed and accessible school board member committed to excellence and district transparency. Facility improvements and new construction projects are critical, and resources must be managed wisely.

Q: Do you have any experience with large budgets or finance?

A: Yes. In my current supervisory role I make purchase decisions and recommendations to ensure that products and services are beneficial to the public. I respect that I am working with taxpayer dollars and need to make responsible decisions to ensure strong return on investment.

Q: What would you do as a board member to increase community trust in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board?

A: Transparency and responsiveness are essential to earning the community's trust. Questions and input from the community are necessary because every member of the community is a stakeholder in the public schools. Students, parents, caregivers, friends, neighbors offer valuable insights and ideas. The questions and concerns expressed by the community are significant indicators of the public's feeling on topics or issues. At this time there are many questions and concerns about what follows the last referendum vote, Nexus' role, changes to safety and security procedures, and various surveys and programs offered to students as well as staff. The school board must address clearly — with concrete and objective information — concerns and questions to earn the trust of the community.

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district in the next four years?

A: Ensuring the objective of the recently passed referendum is achieved. This district will oversee expansion to current facilities and the building of a new elementary school. While this is an exciting time the district needs to ensure objectives are clearly defined and met and that the communities that represent this district are heard. Safety and security will continue to be a hot topic over the next four years. I applaud the district in implementing a visitor management system this year as I was very vocal in the 2017-2018 school year stating changes needed to be made. However, we need to continue to evaluate our standing and ensure we do not begin to fall behind again.

Go to votepexa.com for more information.

Stacey Ruelle

Savage resident Stacey Ruelle has served on the board since 2010. Ruelle has lived in Savage for 19 years with her husband, David. The couple has two daughters — Katie and Maggie, who both graduated from Prior Lake High School. Ruelle has been the Prior Lake Soccer Club administrator for nine years.

Q: What is your community involvement?

A: My community involvement started when my oldest daughter went to elementary school and I joined the PTC. I was a PTC volunteer, president and vice-president and involved with the district-wide carnival during the early years. I became involved with the community groups Stand by Me and Say Yes during the referendum campaigns of 2007 and 2008 and then ran for school board in 2010. Since being elected to the board, I have held the role of either chair, vice-chair and treasurer for the past seven years. I have served on the Executive Committee, Public Engagement and Legislative Committee, Community Education and Early Education Committees and I am the board representative for Schools for Equity and Education as well as the Minnesota State High School rep for our district. I have been a volunteer coach for Prior Lake Soccer Club for many years as well.

Q: Why do you want to run for school board?

A: I would love to serve a third term for our students and families of Prior Lake Savage Area Schools to continue to be true to our mission to educate all learners to reach their full potential as contributing and productive member of our ever-changing global community. I have seen this mission lived out every day in our classrooms. Our district is a true leader in the state and I want to help continue to push us to new heights for all our learners. I also am committed to seeing the expansion of our facilities completed so that we can continue to honor the commitment that are community members made to our district in supporting public education. We will continue to need to be diligent to meet the needs of our ever growing and changing district.

Q: Do you have any experience with large budgets or finance?

A: I have experience over the last eight years of reviewing all of the district finances in detail. The school funding formula can be challenging and sometimes difficult to understand but our board as a whole has gone over the budget cycle every year to ensure that our district is in a sound financial position.

Q: What would you do as a board member to increase community trust in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board?

A: I do think as a public institution you should always continue to build the trust of your constituent's by being engaged and transparent in your decision making. I also think we have done that as a board. Our board meetings can be viewed live or recorded as well as our study sessions are now recorded too. The link to our board packet is also provided so that the public can see the documents that we see and the board has worked as a whole to make our documents and process more transparent.

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district in the next four years?

A: The biggest issue is growth. It has been the biggest issue for the last 20 years and will continue to be that way as long as we have new homes being built in our district.

Campaign websites and social media for Ruelle are under development.

Enrique Velazquez

Enrique Velazquez

Enrique Velazquez

Prior Lake resident Enrique Velazquez has lived in the city since 1999 with his wife of 19 years, Sarah. The couple has three children — a Prior Lake High School student, a Hidden Oaks Middle School student and a Redtail Ridge Elementary student. Velazquez also has a daughter who is a teacher at a Montessori school and lives in Burnsville with her husband.

Q: What is your community involvement?

A: When not seeking a seat with the ISD 719 School Board, I work for the City of Minneapolis Public Works Department as a manager of special projects and business support. In that capacity, I oversee information technology, operational technology, financial analysis, project management, and all customer-facing and finance functions, inclusive of budget, for the Surface Water & Sewers Division; a $200 million enterprise fund.

Regarding community engagement, I have served in a variety of roles. While a member of Friendship Church, I served on the bylaws committee where we worked to refine membership bylaws in keeping with the Word of God. I also served on the Worship & Arts team as a sound and lights technician. While with Harbor Community Church, I played a variety of instruments in the church band as we facilitated worship.

Before moving to Prior Lake, I served as a mentor for new Americans to assist with English as a Second Language, how to manage personal expenses, and where to find resources available for ongoing support.

I have served as Chairperson for Community Relations and Corporate Relations for the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA now known as Prospanica) where we saw growth in engagement and corporate sponsorship to our professional development and continuing education programs.

Served on the Prior Lake Athletics for Youth (P.L.A.Y.) Track & Field Board and coach while my daughters were involved with the youth track and field program. I served on the ISD 719 Community Task Force which reviewed and advised on key needs and initiatives leading up to the 2017 Referendum.

Currently, I volunteer with Catholic Charities Higher Ground in Minneapolis and St. Paul preparing and serving meals for the homeless residents of these shelters and am working on developing a nonprofit to help people experiencing homelessness successfully transition into productive, contributing, members of our community.

Q: Why do you want to run for school board?

A: I have thought about running for school board for several years and it never quite seemed to be the right time. Just as with anything, there is never a right time. With three children in different stages of education, I want a voice for these students and other families like ours. I have spent the better part of my career working with disparate groups at odds with one another yet who firmly believe in a shared outcome. I want to help bridge that divide and deliver results for the community that are reasoned in data, fiscally sound, and demonstrate careful stewardship of public trust. Lastly, I believe that the makeup of government at all levels should mirror that of the populace that government represents. While minority groups collectively represent 15 percent of the Prior Lake-Savage population, according to DataUSA, they are not represented in the same capacity within City Council for Savage or Prior Lake nor on the PLSAS Board. I am hopeful that a successful run will lead to increased awareness and diversity.

Q: Do you have any experience with large budgets or finance?

A: In the corporate sector and in my current role in the public sector with the City of Minneapolis I have been accountable for preparing, maintaining, and adhering to approved budget projections. I have been accountable for budgets ranging from $50 million to $500 million and insist that managers that have reported to me, and my peers, manage operational expenditures wisely through monthly OpEx reviews and adjustments to ensure that we have planned carefully and execute to the plan, both strategically, operationally, and financially.

Q: What would you do as a board member to increase community trust in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board?

A: A significant key to building public trust in the school board is transparency. People may not like the messages that they receive when delivering bad news though they can respect when someone can meet them where they are and deliver hard news face-to-face. From there, it becomes increasingly easier to establish trust, build a working relationship, and develop a plan for how we, collectively, can improve the situation together. Another factor is in doing what we set out to do. Planning is great. Planning without taking appropriate action to deliver on the plan, deliver on what the public expects, creates a deficit in public trust not easily remedied. When coupled with a lack of transparency, that deficit is compounded. I am a firm believer in telling people what I am going to do, doing what I said I was going to do, communicating that actions are underway that align what what I said I was going to do, and then follow-up to ensure that the actions completed met the expectations set in the beginning. When people are engaged and allowed to be part of the process we build in a sense of ownership and accountability. I appreciate others who keep me accountable and who are willing to join me on this journey.

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district in the next four years?

A: "A big issue facing the school board over the next four years is rebuilding public trust, first and foremost. There is significant dissension about how funds are allocated and how effectively the board has managed public funds which will take significant effort to reverse. On top of public trust, Prior Lake and Savage are enviable locations to live. There are a number of developments underway with more planned in the coming years. We need to solve for the incremental growth with sustainable, sound, investment so that Prior Lake remains affordable for those who live here and so that our schools continue to deliver the great level of service that students and parents have come to enjoy."

More information about Velazquez's campaign can be found at enriquevalezquez.com, @EnriquetheCandidate on Facebook and @EnriqueVfromPL on Twitter.

Josh Welch

Josh Welch

Josh Welch

Prior Lake resident Josh Welch has lived in the district for 13 years with the last eight years spent in Prior Lake. He is married and has two children who attend Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools. Welch is a software developer for a financial services company.

Q: What is your community involvement?

A: I'm a big believer in community service and volunteer for events through the schools and our church whenever possible. I served on the Facilities Task Force last year for the school district and I've helped coach softball for my daughter's team the last two summers. I currently serve on the leadership council for Living Joy Lutheran Church and sit on the board of our neighborhood association.

Q: Why do you want to run for school board?

A: I'm running for school board because I believe that our schools are an immensely valuable resource to the community and to keep strong schools requires strong leadership from the community. We need leaders on the board who will be advocates for the success of our students, good stewards of the district and responsive to the community. I will bring these qualities to the board.

Q: Do you have any experience with large budgets or finance?

A: I've been involved with several six- and seven-figure projects in my career where I had responsibilities around estimating costs and delivering on target for significant portions of the project budget. Additionally, I got significant insight into public budgetary matters when completing my MBA at St Mary's University. We had a final project that involved analyzing the budgets of several departments of the City of St Paul and developing ideas for improving the cost effectiveness and/or service levels of those departments.

Q: What would you do as a board member to increase community trust in the Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board?

A: To be clear on this, I think there's a lot of trust that exists between our community and the board. Where it's lacking is among community members who feel like their concerns around real issues aren't being addressed. To maintain the trust that exists, and try to win it back where it lacks, the board to show a willingness for robust oversight. The board needs to be willing to ask tough questions, acknowledge when mistakes are made and show their accountability to the community.

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district in the next four years?

A: The biggest issue in my opinion is going to be the continuing story of growth in the district. We're fortunate to live in a community that's a draw but effectively gauging and responding to that growth will be an ongoing challenge. The community put a lot of trust in the district with the support of the referendums last year and the successful execution of the building plan along with mindful use of the increased operational dollars will be crucial to ongoing success for the district.

Events

Recommended for you