Six candidates are running for three seats on Cloquet School Board.

Incumbent Nate Sandman is among those in the crowded field hoping to earn one of the three spots. Melissa Juntunen, Karin Sabyan, Ken Scarbrough, Kelli Smith and Chelsea Stahlbusch are the newcomers running for office.

Sandman and Smith did not return their questionnaires to the Pine Journal.

Here's what the candidates had to say about their priorities, if elected.

Melissa Juntunen

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Residence: Cloquet

Occupation: Real estate agent for RE/MAX Cloquet

What experience do you have in public office?

I have not had any experience in a public office.

Melissa Juntunen
Melissa Juntunen

What community organizations are you active in?

I am active in Best Christmas Ever (BCE), Cloquet Chamber of Commerce and volunteer as coach for elementary girls basketball.

Why are you running for election to the board?

I value education, and I feel it's important that my children have the same or even better opportunities and experiences than I did by attending the Cloquet Public Schools. Also, I want the honesty, transparency and accountability to continue to make our district successful between the school board, staff, students and families.

What do you feel are the challenges for the Cloquet School Board? If elected, what would you do to help mitigate them?

Currently, the main challenge is the pandemic. The responsibility of the school board is to make sure the learning environment is safe. Currently, 7-12 grades have switched to the hybrid method. If elected, I would put the students, staff and our community's safety as a priority,

which I believe the board and district are continuing to achieve.

This pandemic is a learning curve for all involved, and we can only do the best we can with what we are allowed to do. To make this successful, we need to use all the trained educators/resources/tools we have to keep the quality of education as a priority.

Another challenge is budgeting. I will help mitigate this by tackling and investigating the needs/wants and gathering information to make sure the 'right' decision(s) are made. What should be funded and why? I would also like the community/parents to voice their opinions of what they feel is important. Being a parent, I feel our voices should be heard. After all, it is our children that will be affected by the budget. If elected, I would gladly hear your opinions and put them to work. Let me be your voice.

What would be your priorities if elected? Why?

The three A’s: Academics, arts and athletics. Being a lifelong resident and graduate of Cloquet, and now being a mom, these are important to me.

I want to make sure that the district continues to excel in these areas. Also, I want to better the opportunities for our students by enhancing technology throughout the schools. This is the new normal for our students, especially with the current pandemic.

Another priority is continuing to promote the arts and trades amongst our high school students and to continue to encourage them to take college courses. This is an awesome way to promote education for students to figure out what they want to do and to save on tuition.

It's a tough year for all athletes, missing out on the regular number of games, having to wear the mask, and having limited spectators with the mandating from MSHSL. Personally, I look forward to bringing my daughters to watch the varsity boys and girls basketball games, but sounds like that won’t be happening this year. So, with that said, let's find a way to show support, whether it's wearing purple on a specific day or what have you. Go! Cloquet Lumberjacks!

Karin Sabyan

Residence: Cloquet

Occupation: Preschool teacher, pre-grades programming director, vice principal

What experience do you have in public office?

None

Karin Sabyan
Karin Sabyan

What community organizations are you active in?

Cloquet Educational Foundation Board, Blue Jean Ball, Queen of Peace School Advisory Board (non-voting), Home for the Holidays Dinner With Santa, Queen of Peace Mardi Gras, Best Christmas Ever (captain)

Why are you running for election to the board?

To give back to our community through stewardship. I hold a bachelor of science degree in business, as well as a certificate in Catholic school administration from Loyola Marymount University.

My family moved to Cloquet 13 years ago, and I have been involved with the schools ever since. Two of my children are Cloquet graduates, and I have one at the senior high.

Educating our youth is a key factor in creating a society where we can work together for a common good. We can only accomplish this with solid leadership and structures in place. I am truly passionate about education. I believe that I can bring the Cloquet School Board closer to our goals with a unique perspective through my educational background in business and leadership, as well as my experience as a teacher, parent, administrator and community volunteer. I will use my skills to the best of my ability to make collaborative decisions that represent our constituents.

What do you feel are the challenges for the Cloquet School Board? If elected, what would you do to help mitigate them?

One of the current challenges facing the school board and administration is the ability to deliver quality academics and support in an equitable manner in our hybrid and distance learning models. Some of our most vulnerable students are being disproportionately challenged, and we have an obligation to find solutions. This includes the challenges of accessing reliable technology for students and staff, as well as the physical needs of at-risk students and those utilizing our special education services.

To help mitigate any challenge within the school district, we should keep our focus on our mission and look to our own community as a resource. Seeking input and knowledge from our stakeholders increases our probability of identifying solutions that work.

What would be your priorities if elected? Why?

One of the most pressing issues is navigating our COVID-19 response. Within this domain, finding a solution to the substitute teacher and paraprofessional shortage is at the top of the list. This may require some creative thinking to not only find qualified subs, but to remain fiscally responsible.

Another priority would be to build and utilize relationships within the community to provide opportunities for future growth and experiences. I would be particularly supportive of efforts to expand our vocational and other programming that focuses on real-world life skills.

Ken Scarbrough

Residence: Cloquet

Occupation: Retired former Cloquet School superintendent

What experience do you have in public office?

I have not been elected to a public office, but in my 35 years of experience as a school superintendent (beginning at age 29), I have worked with many officials in elected positions and on elected boards. Examples would include school boards, county boards and officials, state level tasks forces, and tribal officials.

Ken Scarbrough
Ken Scarbrough

What community organizations are you active in?

I recently retired, so have taken some time off from community organizations. That is one reason why I want to get involved with the school board – to actively help our students and community. In Cloquet and/or other communities, I have been involved in Rotary, Lions, various community foundations, arts council, and the Chamber of Commerce.

Why are you running for election to the board?

I knew there were open spots on the school board. Our country is experiencing some tough issues, especially in our responses to COVID-19. Cloquet has been a great place to call home for the last 15 years, and I want to give back to the community and help it stay strong.

What do you feel are the challenges for the Cloquet School Board? If elected, what would you do to help mitigate them?

A major challenge the school district faces is delivery of instruction while dealing with the pandemic and corresponding state guidelines.

A second challenge will be to transition educational services from full COVID-19 mode to more normal school operations. Positions, programs, procedures and budgets have been adjusted to meet the COVID challenge. The district will need to plan for which of these adjustments need to remain and how to smoothly transition to different operational procedures.

What would be your priorities if elected? Why?

If I am elected to serve on the school board, I will have a much different role representing the people in the Cloquet School District than the role I had in my previous job as the school district’s superintendent. Board members work with policy matters, collaboratively set directions for our school district, and attend to various legal requirements that usually end up as votes on board motions. As board members, we need to work with the superintendent to assure quality communications with the public and those who have a stake in using or delivering educational services to our public. This will help us maintain strong educational programs, work for improvements where needed, and do this within our available resources and budget.

Chelsea Stahlbusch

Residence: Cloquet

Occupation: I worked for Miners Inc. for 18 years, the last five in human resources at the corporate office. I also work as a realtor at RE/MAX Cloquet.

What experience do you have in public office?

None.

Chelsea Stahlbusch
Chelsea Stahlbusch

What community organizations are you active in?

BCE (Best Christmas Ever) — I have been a captain for the last two years raising funds for a local family that had fallen on hard times from no fault of their own and giving them the Best Christmas Ever.

Why are you running for election to the board?

I am running for the Cloquet School Board because I believe that public education is intimately tied to the vitality of our community. Investing in our children now means a vibrant future for Cloquet. To provide the education every child deserves, the Cloquet School Board must have a vision, and be accountable to the public. My husband and I have four children under 8 years old.

What do you feel are the challenges for the Cloquet Board? If elected, what would you do to help mitigate them?

The COVID-19 pandemic is by far one of the most challenging topics that the school board is facing. I would make sure that all schools have adequate supplies available to support healthy hygiene practices, and routinely clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are frequently touched. If we go to all distance learning in the near future, I would implement a curbside pickup of lunches or contactless delivery to supply lunches to all families.

What would be your priorities if elected? Why?

My priorities if elected would be to collaborate well with the other board members and superintendent and to ensure we are responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of our community.