Board candidates look to fill vacancy

 

October 27, 2023

Ryan Leonzal

A vacancy on the Carlton school board is one of just two county-based elections on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Last week, the Pine Knot previewed the two-person race for a vacancy in Barnum. The Carlton race is much the same, featuring two people seeking to fill out the remainder of a term vacated by a previously elected official.

What follows are the candidates responses to the questions in the Carlton race:

Ryan Leonzal

Briefly summarize your personal background, qualifications and any prior election experience.

I work with children in Carlton County as a Children's Therapeutic Services and Supports practitioner for the Human Development Center. I have two children, one of which currently attends South Terrace Elementary, and the other being 3 years old. I currently coach youth basketball, football, soccer, and softball. I have no prior election experience.

What made you decide to run for school board this year?

I am extremely motivated by helping kids reach their goals. Being on the school board allows me the opportunity to assist in a different manner than I currently do and provides me the opportunity to help ensure our kids get the best available education experience for years to come.

What do you think is the top issue facing the school district and how would you like to see it addressed?

Dwindling enrollment in our district. State funding is based on student population and with each student that transfers out of the district, that impacts state funding dollars. This, in turn, directly impacts the experience students in our district get on a day-to-day basis. It is my belief that consolidation with Wrenshall would be an excellent way to ensure our district remains strong and we, as a community, can provide students with the best educational experience possible for years to come. With that said, I believe the Carlton schools have done extremely well providing quality education with our current circumstances.

Elaborate on something you think the school board has handled well recently.

I am proud of the school board as they have done well managing the declining enrollment while still ensuring our children receive an education they can be proud of and preparing them for life after school. Keeping consolidation options open is also something that I believe they have handled well.

Across the country, school boards are making curriculum decisions about what can be taught and what books can be read. What's your position?

I have tremendous faith in our educators within the district. If curriculum decisions make it to the board, it is our job to discuss those. With that said, I believe that parents and school staff can decide what is taught within the school, assuming it has educational value for students.

Declining enrollments in small districts and budget shortfalls are a growing issue. How can schools both remain solvent and provide good education and programming?

In this case, I believe consolidation would keep our students in our district for the duration of their educational experience. Our enrollment would double, so would our state funding, in turn expanding our ability to provide an excellent education while being able to offer relevant elective courses in our schools.

How do you feel about consolidation or greater collaboration with other school districts as a solution?

I believe every situation is different and should be driven by community members within the district. In Carlton, it is my belief that consolidation with Wrenshall should be strongly considered and pursued if it was what was best for our students and community.

Finally, why should people vote for you?

I believe that I have proven that I am driven by enriching the lives and experience of youth within our community. I am highly motivated to continue to do that in any capacity for the duration of my career. A vote for me provides students and community members with a voice.

Steven Schmidt

Briefly summarize your personal background, qualifications and any prior election experience.

I have two daughters that attend Carlton schools. I have been involved in various community groups and associations, as well as a board member for the Carlton County Agriculture and Industrial Association. I understand operational costs and expenses by owning and operating a local welding and fabricating business.

What made you decide to run for school board this year?

I am running because I want to see the district succeed and be here not only for my children, but future youth from our community as well.

What do you think is the top issue facing the school district and how would you like to see it addressed?

Finances and enrollment, finding the balance of having better curriculum to entice youth to come to Carlton, and stay in Carlton at all levels K-12.

Elaborate on something you think the school board has handled well recently.

I feel the current and past board has done well at thinking outside the box of traditional education bringing forth the current strategic plan.

Across the country, school boards are making curriculum decisions about what can be taught and what books can be read. What's your position?

About all I can say to this without looking into what is being restricted and why, I feel limiting what is taught or what can be read is overstepping.

Declining enrollments in small districts and budget shortfalls are a growing issue. How can schools both remain solvent and provide good education and programming?

By providing a curriculum that stimulates the brain, body, and promotes engagement with the youth. Education has evolved over the years, and schools need to stay active and diligent in providing appropriate education to meet the demands.

How do you feel about consolidation or greater collaboration with other school districts as a solution?

Steven Schmidt

Wrenshall has a great strategic plan from what I have seen, Carlton also has the same quality and caliber plan. I'm for merging those plans together and becoming one district.

Finally, why should people vote for you?

Honestly, I want everyone to vote for who they feel will represent the best. If you feel I would make a good addition to the board, thank you for your support. If you feel another candidate would be better, great. I respect that. Either way, the district and the youth are the real winners, regardless of who gets the majority.

Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the date of the election.

 
 

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