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2022 Esko School Board candidate: Mark Nyholm

"I am an Esko resident, a husband, and a father to twins that entered second grade this year. I am passionate about our community and want to take on greater responsibility for ensuring the success of the next generation, including my own children," Nyholm writes.

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Mark Nyholm
Contributed / Mark Nyholm
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Editor's note: This questionnaire was edited for grammar and style.

Age: 43

Family: Married with two children and one four-legged friend.

Occupation: Staff product development engineer and mechanical R&D manager at Amsoil Inc.

Community service involvement: Courage Kenny, Banff Mountain Film Festival director, National Ski & Bike Patrol, Duluth Cross Country Ski Club.

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Previous experience in elected office: Esko School Board member, 2017-2021; Vice President of the Jack Meade Proctor Gun Club.

Why are you running for office?

I am an Esko resident, a husband, and a father to twins that entered second grade this year. I am passionate about our community and want to take on greater responsibility for ensuring the success of the next generation, including my own children.

I want to help our district continue to open doors and provide a best-in-class educational experience for our youth. This district is known for its education which is why so many wish to live in Esko. But as times change and opportunities present themselves, we must ensure we remain at the top of our game.

MORE ON THE CANDIDATES:
"Service to others is a core value that was instilled in me during my time in the Air Force and I have carried it with me. I view being a member of the school board as an opportunity to serve the community, our teaching staff and our children," writes John Feely.
"I would like the opportunity to serve on the Esko School Board to give back to the community that prepared me for a successful future. I was fortunate enough to grow up in Esko attending K-12, graduating in 2007," Johnson writes.
"I am running for the Esko School Board because it’s time for me to give back from my knowledge and especially school/college related experiences," Kresky writes.
"Esko is one of the best districts in the state of Minnesota. A key reason is the parents and families who live here. We are devoted to our kids. Our stands are regularly full for sporting events, and regularly have full sidelines at away tournaments. However, our school board meetings and academic interest has room for improvement," Kurhajetz writes.
"I’m running for my third term with the same focus I ran on eight years ago. I want to ensure that we maintain a fiscally responsible district and continue to be a performance leader in the region and state, through thoughtful planning, spending and adapting to prepare our students for tomorrow," Rengo writes.
"I chose to run again because I care about our community, our faculty, staff and our students. Education has been my passion my entire career," Sunnarborg writes.

I’m not a candidate with a single agenda; however, I understand that success is not found applying effort an inch deep and a mile wide. Strategy focuses our efforts into taking tasks and driving them to completion so we can be successful. I see and hear issues in our community that require strategic planning to improve, which I am particularly good at. I will support the administration to improve upon the problems of today; however I will also plan to focus on the problems of tomorrow and beyond.

What are the biggest challenges you see facing the community?

Let’s start with the mental health of our children. One in 10 children are bullied weekly, but digitally today and less physical. Combine this with the COVID-19 pandemic, increased divorce rates, higher use of drugs and alcohol in the home, and increased violence in the news and the mental health of our children is degrading. Mental health issues result in apathy and disrespect for staff with added complications of disciplinary action. And when children struggle mentally, they suffer academically. This isn’t an issue we can fix with the flip of a light switch. It will take focus, planning and dedication.

The safety of our district including children, staff and administration is of great importance. Because we are rural does not exclude us from the reality that bad things happen. Just last year our district had a bomb threat. Everything turned out OK, however bad things can happen to good communities. It's our job to ensure our buildings provide a safe environment and have rock solid action plans in the event of an emergency. We’ve made some progress over the past couple years; however, there is more we can do and should do.

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Lastly, our community is growing at a rapid rate. With that creates opportunities and complications. Our district has limited capacity and we’ve been for many years ensuring our class sizes remain small. But what happens when district children take up the schools' capacity? We have two options: 1) we turn away open enrolled children, 2) we increase class sizes. We need focus on maximizing the efficiency of our current space so that we don’t have to turn away children or increase class sizes. All this effort is important to prolong the very expensive conversation looming about a new school which will dramatically increase our tax burden.

If elected, how would you work to address those issues?

I will admit I do not have all the answers with respect to mental health. No one does, however I do have dedication and a high drive for success, which means I would try to surround this issue with folks that may have the experience or knowledge to help bring improvements to our district. It is a fool’s errand to believe the district can control what happens at home, in our own community and what’s on the news. However, what we can do is apply resources at prevention and identifying issues with swift intervention.

To protect our district, we must become experts in our weaknesses. There are professionals trained to think this way in which we can leverage their experiences to identify our own weaknesses and put plans to address them. We cannot fortify our school much like a prison to ensure our district’s safety though. Our school is vulnerable given its location, and there are things we can do to alter our infrastructure and processes to improve. This will cost time and money and is worth it. If we apply focus to our infrastructure and to the mental health of our students, we will improve our overall safety.

Maintaining a high quality of education has been proven through ensuring smaller class sizes. This can be done by improving the efficiency of our current infrastructure. Moving the workout facility to an exterior wall both improves district safety as well as opens up available square footage. This decision has been made, but let’s continue that long-term thinking and add square footage now while it’s the most cost effective and plan for our growth. And as we consider that, let’s also consider rerouting the traffic around the school which would improve efficiency and safety.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONESKO SCHOOLS
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