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Alexandria School Board candidates answer questions

The Echo Press sent out questionnaires to the candidates that are running in the Aug. 9 primary election.

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ALEXANDRIA — To provide more information about the Alexandria School Board candidates who are running in the Aug. 9 primary election, the Echo Press sent out questionnaires.

The following responses are from the four candidates vying for position 3 — Lynne Lommen, Joel Novak, Greg Odell and Shawn Reilly. In Friday's paper, the candidates running for position 4 will be highlighted.

Dennis Conn's name will still be on the ballot but he said he's decided not to run for the office. The two other candidates for the position, Sandy Susag and Laura Knudsen, respond to Echo Press questionnaire.

The two top vote-getters for each position in the primary will advance to the general election this November.

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Lynne Lommen

LYNNE LOMMEN

1. Please provide some background information and qualifications for the school board position (brief bio, occupation, experience, skills, etc.)

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  • Accomplished Business Owner and Entrepreneur 
  • Launched "Blind Factory Florida Keys" in 1987 sold in 1998
  • Launched "Blind Factory Alexandria" 1994 sold locally in 2005
  • Launched "Drapes on the Lakes/Lommen Decorating" 2012 -present 
  • Strategic Sales and Marketing Specialist
  • Well connected in the community
  • Patriot and Christian 
  • Founder and President of non-profit Women's organization est. 2011
  • Served in leadership roles in the local church
  • Taught 5th grade "Release Time Program" for 6 years
  • Graduated from Jefferson High class of 1965
  • Attended Moorhead State College

2. What motivated you to run for office?

I was inspired to run for the Alexandria School Board after I began campaigning, attending forums, school board meetings and being part of a campaign committee. It did not take long to see something was broken. I was apprehended by what I learned. It was clear that certain agendas and ideologies have been quietly making their way into our schools and being promoted above all. Favored if you will. It was evident that not all value systems and beliefs were being represented. And to further my concern, I witnessed those who tried to exercise their own beliefs were quickly shushed. I knew I could speak out and be a voice for all the children.

3. What differentiates you from the other school board candidates?

I would like to give my fellow candidates the benefit of all doubts by assuming they are in this race for similar reasons such as myself. Being genuine, and purely motivated for a desire to see the next and future generations have the liberties and freedoms that we were afforded as we attended the local Alexandria schools when we were young. I look forward to learning more about my fellow candidates. As we become familiar with each other’s passions and platforms, we will then be able to determine “what differentiates us from one another.”

4. What do you see as the primary work of the school board?

The Primary works of the school board are:

Supervision and evaluation for one employee: the Superintendent

Development of policies that govern schools and creation of district mission/vision/values

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Engagement with the public

Approval of budgets

Above is the framework of the” Policy Governance” model currently in place in the Alexandria School Board District 206. I do believe these reflect the primary work of the school board, however, educational and social culture that has manifested in recent years doesn’t match the stated values of the school district or of this community as a whole. I will work within this framework to raise and align these standards and values.

5. If elected, what are your priorities or what issues should the school board address?

If elected, my priorities will include, but not be limited to, executing the top tier of the existing “Policy Governance” model, defined as “Public and Parents”, requiring the primary educator of a child to be the parent. To engage with and give a voice back to the parents and the public, by open communication and allowing them to weigh in on educational issues. I have discovered many parents feel disenfranchised from their own child’s education. Perhaps the “Policy Governance” itself is not broken, but there has been a definite fracture in the implementation and execution of it.

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Joel Novak

JOEL NOVAK

1. Please provide some background information and qualifications for the school board position (brief bio, occupation, experience, skills, etc.)

I graduated from right here in the Alexandria area. I started my post-secondary education at the University of Minnesota as an education major. I became a military vehicle driving instructor, then a fire team leader charged with teaching my fire team; and then an infantry platoon sergeant charged with teaching my platoon. At Drake University and Drake Law School, I sat on an ROTC scholarship board, and as a judge at the National High School Mock Trial Competition. At Ft. Campbell, Kentucky I coached the high school mock trial team, in Washington, D.C., and here in Alexandria, MN, I sat as a judge at high school mock trial competitions. Finally, at Fort Drum, New York, I created a disciplinary system with the Watertown, NY, and Philadelphia, NY, high schools.

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2. What motivated you to run for office?

Students are the future of our community, our state and our country. I want to do what I can to create a system that prepares them to take on life after high school. When I graduated here in 1978, Minnesota schools were the best in the nation. Today, we are in the bottom half. I want to move our school back to the top.

3. What differentiates you from the other school board candidates?

I am not a one issue candidate, nor am I running because a few temporary issues of the day have made me angry. I love knowledge and education. I want to better our education system, so it puts our students out into the world ready to compete with the best. I am not after anyone; I just want to make things better for our students.

4. What do you see as the primary work of the school board?

A. We need to move our schools into the 21st century. B. To set a local curriculum that prepares our students for the world. C. To ensure our schools are teaching facts, and training students to think as opposed to indoctrinating them with social and political philosophies. D. To create an accessible code of conduct that treats all students equally, informs them of expectations, and gives them due process. E. Institute aptitude driven curriculums. F. Ensure inclusion and equal services for all regardless of position or economic status of the student’s parents.

5. If elected, what are your priorities or what issues should the school board address?

See 4, above.

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Greg Odell

GREG ODELL

1. Please provide some background information and qualifications for the school board position (brief bio, occupation, experience, skills, etc.)

We are living in very difficult times in a different world. Lots of changes are taking place and be assured that none of this is a surprise to our God. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress. The Colonies separated from Great Britain and became free. Today, we celebrate our freedom on July 4 as Independence Day.

I grew up one of five siblings. I am the oldest son. My dad was career military with the U.S. Army for 22 years. My wife and I were married in 1975. Together we own/operate an adult foster care business in our home – since 2004 (Sonshine Villa). My skill is that we started our own business. Upon graduating Bible College and Seminary, I have served three churches as pastor. Baudette, MN is one location where we served and also in Plevna, MT and Cheyenne, WY.

In 1991, I was invited to work full-time with the Salvation Army out of Brooklyn Center, MN. As a teenager, I was influenced by the Salvation Army and its church in Monterey, CA. It was 1970 when I felt a call to serve humanity. The motto of the army is “Heart to God, Hand to Man.”

They asked me to serve the state of North Dakota as a rural service extension representative. The Army saw in me my heart to God and able to use my administrative skills and fundraising abilities.

2. What motivated you to run for office?

The critical times in which we live and the downfall of America’s values.

3. What differentiates you from the other school board candidates?

My life experiences, my journey of life living as an Army dependent. God given leadership skills and what I learned from my father…such as respect for the American flag, the ability to bounce back and having to leave my friends in school every 2-3 years. I learn people skills, showing respect to different cultures. Dad had three different tours to Germany. I learned how to develop friendships and to always smile and give thanks.

A few years back I was on the board of directors at the Alexandria Senior Center and they were going through a tough time. Finances were very low. I assisted the board with direction and help to get them on a firm stand. Thanks also to local donors and volunteers to accomplish this. In life it takes patience and thought to accomplish anything…especially to assure all children are getting a good education. It’s all about our children.

4. What do you see as the primary work of the school board?

As an American, I appreciate every type of education, public schools, charter schools, the right to home school our children. As a tax paying citizen, I want to make sure that our public schools in District 206 is doing all we can to make sure our students, faculty and staff are protected and secure. In 1962 is when the Supreme Court decided that prayer should be removed out of the public schools. They said it was a violation of the Establishment Clause. Prayer included God’s protection from evil and harm, helping our teachers and giving respect to America’s values.

5. If elected, what are your priorities or what issues should the school board address?

It would be a privilege and honor and service to ensure that our district remains true to core values of reading, English, and US History as the founders of our country intended.

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Shawn Reilly

SHAWN REILLY

1. Please provide some background information and qualifications for the school board position (brief bio, occupation, experience, skills, etc.)

I grew up and attended public schools in Hopkins before graduating from St. John’s University and the University of Minnesota with a degree in Secondary English and Spanish Education. My 12 years of teaching at Anoka and Brooklyn Center High Schools were the most challenging and rewarding work I have ever done. During my teaching years, I earned a real estate license. As my real estate work expanded, I made the decision to leave teaching, not because I didn’t enjoy it, but I came to enjoy the flexible schedule that real estate offered. I have worked in real estate in Alexandria since 2004 and currently have an independent office affiliated with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate. Our three children have had excellent educational experiences and opportunities here. Two have graduated and the youngest will be a junior at AAHS this fall. I have tremendous respect for those who teach our kids.

2. What motivated you to run for office?

I am a longtime member of the Rotary Club and try to follow their motto of “Service Above Self.” Serving on the school board is one way I feel I can make a positive contribution. I will be dedicated to learning from and working with other board members and honored to serve the district and community in this way. I will work to ensure that school board meetings remain orderly and respectful. My campaign will focus on the three pillars of Respect, Integrity, and Dedication.

3. What differentiates you from the other school board candidates?

My 12 years as a teacher will give me a unique perspective as a board member. I have a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of St. Thomas. I served on Brooklyn Center High School teacher’s union during a contract negotiation cycle, giving me some understanding of the financial challenges and responsibilities of the board. I am a Junior Achievement board member and have been a classroom volunteer many times. When I was president of Rotary, I started the Josh the Otter Water Safety Program for each kindergarten classroom in the district.

4. What do you see as the primary work of the school board?

I believe the primary role of any school board member is to work on policy decisions that help guide the operations of the district. Responsibilities include studying budgets, listening to concerns of parents and students, evaluating the superintendent, and attending regular board and committee meetings as assigned. Board members should be among the loudest supporters of the fantastic schools we have in District 206!

5. If elected, what are your priorities or what issues should the school board address?

Ongoing issues include: student mental health needs, school safety and preventing bullying, future programming and staffing, full funding of required special education initiatives, teacher retention and compensation. I want to celebrate and support all of the incredible school programs we currently have in place. My goal as a new board member will be to listen and learn so I can become an effective participant and serve the district to the best of my ability.

Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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