Separate Wrenshall forums lead to third chance to meet candidates


September 30, 2022

Jana Peterson

From left, Wrenshall school board members/candidates Cindy Bourn, Deb Washenesky and Jack Eudy talk during a forum they hosted for themselves. Fellow candidates Mary Carlson and Eric Ankrum are seated in the front row, but didn't participate in the question and answer session.

Last week saw two different partial Wrenshall school board candidate forums, but residents may yet be able to attend a meeting with all seven candidates.

After rejecting a Sept. 20 forum organized by the teachers union, three of the current board members - Jack Eudy, Deb Washenesky and Cindy Bourn - held their own candidate event Thursday, Sept. 22 at the Silver Brook town hall.

Residents had plenty to say at the meeting, which started with a short introduction from each of the sponsoring candidates, then moved into a question-and-answer session. The candidates touted experience, with Eudy stressing it isn't easy to get up to speed on the workings of the district and the board. Both he and Washenesky have served for nearly four years and they are the senior-most members of the board; Bourn was appointed in November 2021, but said she's "a quick study."

Cheryl Lund brought a copy of the letter the three candidates had mailed districtwide: she wanted an explanation for each of the "hot button" issues they cited in their letter, including teaching about sexuality and racial oppression along with communicating with families about special activities they might not agree with. That led, in many cases, into a retelling of past school board actions and discussions.

There seemed to be agreement among the three board members and some in the audience that teachers should stick to "reading and writing and arithmetic." Low standardized test scores were a repeated concern, as was the looming budget deficit. Without a moderator, discussion occasionally veered off course, letting passionate and even angry citizens share stories and complaints about things their kids have told them.

At one point Jodi Christensen said she came to hear the candidates' positions on the issues, but worried the meeting had "devolved into pointing fingers at the teachers," she said. A teacher in attendance said she felt "hurt" by many of the comments.

Two other school board candidates - Eric Ankrum and Mary Carlson - attended Thursday, although they were forbidden to ask questions. However, Carlson spoke up and asked the board members to correct the line in their letter that stated that Wrenshall teachers had "recruited and promoted their own candidates."

"I am running because I have a child in the district; I have not been recruited," she said. "You sent that letter to everyone in this district as fact."

Bourn owned that one.

"I was wrong in stating that candidates not currently on the board were recruited," she said, leaning into a camera that was livestreaming the event on Facebook.

The meeting lasted close to two hours. When it finished, many people remained to talk with the candidates and each other. The candidates that were there also talked together, and agreed they would arrange a forum they would all be comfortable attending.

On Wednesday as the Pine Knot News went to press, Eudy and Carlson confirmed they had arranged a candidate forum for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6 at the Wrenshall city hall and fire station. All are invited and encouraged to ask questions. There will be a moderator.


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