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Bulletin editorial: Many candidates a good sign for school district

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opinion Cottage Grove, 55016

Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

With the school year just two weeks away, here's a quick pop quiz:

How many people are running for the South Washington County School Board this fall and how many seats are on the ballot? (No peeking at the story on 1A.)

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Area residents would be forgiven for struggling to answer those questions, given that the recent candidate filing period came amid life's understandable mid-summer distractions. After all, the Nov. 5 election seems so far away and many may not even realize that in this odd year there is an election.

There is good news in the answers to the above questions, however. Seventeen people -- your friends and neighbors -- made the decision to step forward and run for the board, either for a two-year term or one of four four-year seats.

The bumper crop of candidates is a good sign for the district because it shows people are aware there is a void to be filled this November and, presumably, they care enough about local schools to join the campaign.

Remember, serving on a school board isn't glamorous: as with other local elected positions, the work isn't limited to biweekly meetings; also, school boards, perhaps more than, say, city councils, are limited in their authority; and, of course, the pay is meager for the time and effort required, though admittedly it would be difficult to assume anyone runs for a school board to pad their pocket with pay.

But the reward is fulfilling: the realization that decisions made by the District 833 School Board, while often challenging, can have positive effects on thousands of children in our communities.

As summer turns to fall and the November election comes into view, the candidates should tell district residents who they are and why they are running. They ought to be open about what brought them to the race and about their vision for local education. Also, they should be up front about their position on the district's three-question levy that will share the Nov. 5 ballot. Voters have a right to know what the candidates think about the referendum since the board will deal with the results of the election -- whatever they are.

The candidates, too, should work to understand the big issues facing the district and, if there are any so-called single-issue candidates, they should broaden their interests in the district or run the risk of voters looking beyond their one-issue platform.

Here are the people seeking your vote this fall:

For the two-year seat being filled in a special election on the Nov. 5 ballot, incumbent Laurie Johnson is running against challengers Susan Richardson and David Firkus.

There are 14 with their eyes on the four four-year seats: incumbents Tracy Brunnette, Katy McElwee-Stevens and David Kemper, and challengers Fred Hess, Katie Schwartz, John Griffin, Molly Lutz, Leilani Holmstadt, Sharon Van Leer, Raj Gandhi, Mike Thissen, Wayne Johnson, Michael Edman and Safiyyah Cummings.

It's good there are so many candidates on the ballot. The candidates and, more importantly, the voters and students of District 833 will benefit from a candid, clean and informative campaign.

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