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2022 Esko School Board candidate: Todd Rengo

"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.

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

Age: 52

Family: Married with four adult children.

Occupation: Financial advisor.

Community service involvement: Esko Hoops Club, Esko Sports Alliance, Music Boosters, Coaches vs. Cancer, Feed our Starving Children.

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Previous experience in elected office: Two terms on Esko School Board, served as clerk and currently serving as vice chair.

Why are you running for office?

My wife, Sandra, and I are lifelong Eskomos who raised four kids in this exceptional community. I have a biology/secondary education degree from the College of St. Scholastica, and I am a financial advisor with Thrivent Financial.

I’ve been involved coaching and volunteering here for 30+ years, along with serving as school board clerk and vice-chair. 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.

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 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.
"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.

What are the biggest challenges you see facing the community?

Like most rural districts, one of our biggest challenges is managing limited budgets that meet our needs in the most efficient manner possible. Esko is near the bottom in state funding per student, requiring the district to be extra diligent when balancing spending needs and outcomes. With the largest impact to the budget being enrollment, Esko is in the unique position of running at capacity due to high demand in open enrollment. With this comes the challenge of maintaining our success, not just in school performance, but in reputation and consistency. The board, administration and district as a whole are successful when we keep our focus on addressing the needs of Esko and avoid the distractions that have negatively impacted other districts regionally and nationally.

Another looming challenge that is new for school districts is filling teaching and staff positions. Gone are the days of dozens of applicants for a teaching position. All districts are now competing for teachers and other staff in an ever-shrinking pool of candidates due to many leaving the profession during and post-COVID-19.

A third challenge we must unfortunately consider in the U.S. today is school safety, not only from violence, but also from mental health challenges, which became more prevalent after the disruptions of COVID-19.

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

School budgets will always be an issue to manage until the state formula for school funding changes. I will continue to address the issue of funding as I have for the past eight years, by working with school administration to keep Esko the premier district in our region and near the top in the state. As a board, our role is to provide guidance and oversight, and to make the investments that will serve the district long-term. With predictable, consistent enrollment, we are better able to plan and budget strategically, which allows us to use our limited resources most efficiently.

We need to ensure that we provide a supportive, fulfilling work environment to attract and keep the best teachers and staff.

Safety enhancements and addressing mental health concerns will continue to be possible because we’ve maintained healthy fund balances that allow us to adapt and meet needs as they arise.

What successes do you hope to build on if elected?

Despite the challenges of the past few years, the Esko School District continues to be a leader in the region and the state in school performance. The district was recently ranked 10th of 446 districts in Minnesota by School Digger. There are numerous successes to build on as we move forward.

One of the most exciting from a facilities standpoint is the development and implementation of a 10-year facilities plan, which will include a new fitness center; improvements to building security and safety; improvements to water quality; and the development of strategic learning spaces as educational methods continue to evolve.

Outside of the physical building space, we continue to offer and expand opportunities for kids to prepare them for a changing world. We have increased options for students in industrial technology, robotics, and engineering and design. We’ve introduced new programming for the trades, including partnerships with other local districts and Lake Superior College. Through the College in the Schools program, Esko currently offers 72 post graduate college credits, essentially allowing an Esko graduate who takes advantage of these courses to enter college as a second semester sophomore, saving time and money as they move forward. We have amazing, committed teachers and support staff who are dedicated to our students’ education and well-being, and we will continue to support them as education adapts to the new normal post-COVID-19.

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I’m excited to continue serving our school and community, and I appreciate your vote in November.

Related Topics: EDUCATIONESKO SCHOOLS
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