School board candidates have similar views

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 25, 2002

Thursday night’s League of Women Voters debate for school board candidates showed two things: One, there is an obvious interest in the board, judging from the eight candidates running for four positions; and two, most of the candidates are on the same page, expressing support for education and agreeing on how to achieve it.

For the two-year position available on the board, candidates Patrick Corrigan, Jerry Dahl, Michael Miller and Bill Villarreal are all vying for the seat. Though each comes from a different background, they all had common goals of supporting education.

Villarreal, a father of five, is running for the board because he became close to students through his work as a police liaison for the schools. With that experience Villarreal said he became very concerned about their education and their future. &uot;To me, it’s all about the kids,&uot; he said.

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Villarreal had a variety of stories about his dealings with students and said those experiences made him realize the importance of supporting education. Students at Albert Lea High School awarded him as community person of the year every year he was there, and after he left they renamed the award the Bill Villarreal award.

Michael Miller, a parent of two students in the district, is running for the board because, he said, &uot;I believe I can contribute very positively to the board.&uot;

Miller focused on how important education has proved to be in all the experiences he’s had. As a former naval intelligence officer, a human resources director and now as a career counselor, Miller says he has seen education from many perspectives, all of which have shown its importance.

Jerry Dahl, father of three students in the district, is running because, &uot;I am a concerned parent. I feel I want to be included in the education of my children. I want to help and be part of it.&uot;

Patrick Corrigan, 66, told an anecdote about where his support for education came from. &uot;My father told me whenever school issues are up, there is only one way to vote, and that is yes,&uot; he said. &uot;We must work for the betterment of our children and their schools.&uot;

Corrigan pointed to his wide variety of community experience as credentials.

Each candidate said they supported instituting all-day, every-day kindergarten as well as giving learning opportunities to every student regardless of behavioral problems.

Candidates did differ a little on which programs should be first in line for referendum money, though each admitted that most of those decisions have already been made. Villarreal said he would like to consult experienced members of the board before making a decision without doing the homework. Miller said he would like to see the students given a whole range of core courses from which to choose. Corrigan said he wanted to see all-day kindergarten added and extracurricular programs reinstated. Dahl said he would like to see students farther from their schools being eligible for busing.

As for the three four-year terms, three of four candidates attended the debate: Tom Eaton, Jolinda Schreiber and Marjorie Thorn. Sheila Helgerson did not attend.

Eaton, father of two graduates of the district, focused on his experience on the board as his strong point.

&uot;I think it is important to have diversity of not only gender, age and background, but also length on the school board,&uot; he said. &uot;I still have a passion to be on the school board. I don’t want to be anywhere else. That’s where my heart is.&uot;

Schreiber, mother of two children in district schools, said she is running because she has a history of volunteering and being involved with the education of her children.

&uot;When parents are active parts of their children’s education, the kids do better in school and stay in school,&uot; she said. Schreiber said she has been working with TEAM (Together Education Acheives More), a group promoting this year’s school operating referendum, and in volunteering for various education groups. She said she would like to become more involved as a school board member.

Thorn, a mother of six, two of whom are still in the district, has been a board member for the last 10 years. Thorn, born in Albert Lea, said she’d lived in Sacramento, Calif. for many years but said she and her husband returned to Minnesota for education, among other reasons.

Thorn said, after raising six children and being in a family of nine children, she realized the value of education. She also realized the valuable role that the community can play in the education of students. &uot;It takes a village to raise our children,&uot; she said.

All the candidates present agreed on all-day kindergarten being needed and that all students, regardless of behavior, need to be educated. Thorn said referendum money should be used toward making class sizes smaller; Eaton also said class sizes and all-day kindergarten, and Schreiber said all-day kindergarten, and restoring what they’ve lost.