Nine file for four available St. Francis School Board seats

As filings closed Aug. 13 for St. Francis School Board seats that are on the Nov. 5 election ballot, six district residents had filed to run for three available four-year terms. Three other residents will compete for a special two-year term.

In the race for the four-year terms, Marsha Van Denburgh, of Oak Grove, is the only incumbent seeking re-election. Neither of her board colleagues David Anderson, of Cedar, nor Harry Grams, of Zimmerman, filed for their open seats.

Van Denburgh is a parent who has had a child graduate from St. Francis High School and she has others still in the district including elementary school.

“I feel like I have brought some conservative values to the board that were not there previously,” she said,

Many people had asked her to seek a second full term, she said.

If she is successful in being elected to a term that runs through 2017, she would leave the board after that point, Van Denburgh said.

Prior to joining the board in 2010, Van Denburgh helped to form the district’s American Indian Parent Education Committee.

David Roberts, of Oak Grove, is an incumbent who is running against Van Denburgh and four other competitors, but he joined the board when he was appointed to fill a vacancy in February. A district resident since 2010, Roberts has two children entering kindergarten and second grade at Cedar Creek Community School, along with another child in a preschool program at the Lifelong Learning Center.

Roberts was selected from among seven applicants to fill the board vacancy last winter, with the understanding he would be taking an interim term of less than one year, but he told the Anoka County Union that he planned to file for board election more than a year ago.

“I knew good and well I was going to run this time around,” Roberts said.

He has served on the district’s Early Childhood Advisory Council for two years. “I believe in the school district. I think there’s a lot of great things going on,” Roberts said. “It really comes down to wanting to make a positive environment for the kids’ education.”

The incumbents Van Denburgh and Roberts are joined in the race for three four-year terms by challenger Barbara Jahnke, of St. Francis, who retired from employment in the district last spring after 19 years of service as a school counselor.

“I think I could add a very valuable perspective (to the board),” Jahnke told the Anoka County Union. “(Working as a counselor) gave me some unique opportunities to know and to learn about the needs of students and parents in the community.”

She served on a school board in South Dakota before coming to St. Francis. Jahnke has three adult sons and eight grandchildren.

Other candidates who have filed for the four-year terms include Shannon Collier, of St. Francis, Malcolm T. Vinger II, of Nowthen, and Juanita Reed-Boniface, of Oak Grove. None of them could be reached for comment on the race before press time this week.

Reed-Boniface was among the applicants who vied for the vacancy in February.

Two-year term

As he is technically seeking another seat on the board, Roberts will be leaving his current spot open. The three candidates who have filed for the resulting two-year term are Betsy Roed, Corey Ross and Scott Schwarz, all from Oak Grove.

Roed was among the other applicants for the vacancy. She pledged then that she would file for this fall’s election and she opted to seek the shorter two-year term due to not knowing how her young family’s needs might change. “(Serving on the board) is a lot of work,” she told the Anoka County Union. “It is a huge commitment.”

Roed and her husband, Patrick, have two children entering first and third grades this fall at Cedar Creek Community School, and a third child who will start kindergarten in 2014.

Graduating from St. Francis herself in 1995, Roed has served on the Early Childhood Advisory Council and wants to do more for the students in District 15 today. “I feel like somebody else put in the time for me when I was a kid,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of good that can come out of this district. They need to find the right group of people to toot their horn.”

One of her competitors, Ross, said he has heard neighbors saying they want to act with concern for the younger and upcoming generations.

“The fact of the matter is, I am that generation,” Ross told the Anoka County Union. “I want to bring a new perspective and an open mind.”

Ross said he is an area small business owner who is strongly supportive of expanding science, technology, engineering and math programs in the schools.

Candidate Schwarz could not be reached for comment. Candidates for any of the seats had an opportunity to withdraw their filings by the district office’s close of business Aug. 15.