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Little disagreement at ISD 192 school board forum

Six of seven candidates on the ballot showed up for Monday night's school board forum.

There was a lot of support for teachers, a lot of enthusiasm for Farmington schools and not a lot of disagreement at a Monday night forum for Farmington School Board candidates.

The forum, put on by North Trail Elementary School's parent teacher partnership, featured six of the seven candidates who will be on the ballot Nov. 6. The seventh, Anthony McDonald, has reportedly suspended his campaign.

The candidates who attended the forum found common ground in a lot of areas. All supported keeping class sizes small and all offered support for physical education offerings in the district.

There was also support for the district's plan to put an iPad in the hands of all students, though it was more qualified from some candidates than from others. Jake Cordes, a graduate of Farmington himself and a senior this year at the University of St. Thomas, said bringing technology into the classroom is an extension of the technology-filled lives most students already lead.

"Technology is everywhere," he said. "Why do we need to take it away in the classroom?"

Others offered more reserved support. Rob Carpentier, a former teacher in the Farmington district, said he supported the plan "with a caveat." He said the district needs to continue working to make sure iPads and other classroom technology are used in a way that enhances education.

"I've seen what works, which is quite a bit, and I've seen what doesn't, which is quite a bit," Carpentier said.

Disagreement was rare enough Monday that when the first significant difference of opinion popped up one of the candidates pointed it out. It came on the subject of the district's strategic plan, a five-year projection approved this year to guide district decisions in the years ahead. Most of the candidates offered enthusiastic support for the plan. Julie Singewald, the only incumbent competing for one of three vacancies, said Farmington is rare among school districts because it has a plan to chart its path. But Carpentier and Eric Bartosh, a teacher in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District, said the plan didn't go far enough. Carpentier said it is too early to say whether the plan is good, and Bartosh said it will be hard to judge the plan's success.

"I believe it's a good start," he said. "I also believe it's not necessarily measurable."

None of the candidates supported bringing a levy to voters in the near future, but none ruled the idea out entirely, either. All said the district should look at all of its budget options before asking residents to pay more taxes.

All six candidates expect budget challenges, though. The district is currently projecting a budget shortfall of more than a million dollars next year, and more than $4 million five years from now.

"We're going to be looking at more deficits in the future, and continuing deficits," Laura Beem said.

All candidates said the district should avoid raising class sizes as it looks for ways to balance its budget.

"Our teachers are some of the best things I see happening in the district," John Guist said.

Monday's forum was the second of two held this fall.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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