CORRECTION: We completely biffed this one and we apologize to the 2012 candidates and our readers. West Central Tribune editor Kelly Boldan sent us an email that noted misinformation in our earlier version of this post and we now correct the record.
Jackie Saulsbury, a Latina woman, won as one of four candidates elected. Boldan provided a link to this interview by Ruth Trevino with Saulsbury's mother, Idalia “Charly” Leuze, for the Minnesota State Historical Society. Leuze's family moved from San Antonio to Litchfield while she was in grade school, then to Willmar while she was in seventh grade. She now owns Carlito's Mexican Restaurant and Cantina in Litchfield; her daughter Saulsbury served as guest bartender for the grand re-opening in March.
A registered nurse, Saulsbury will serve until 2017.
Again, an apology. Bluestem doesn't often eff up, but when I do, it's awful.
Last week, the West Central Tribune reported in Six vie for Willmar School Board seat:
Six people are on the ballot in a Monday special election for the Willmar School Board.
The person elected Monday will take office at the next School Board meeting and serve a term that expires at the end of 2016.
The seat was left vacant when board member Mike Carlson resigned last fall. He and his family have moved out of the Willmar School District.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday at the Willmar Education and Arts Center, 611 Fifth St. S.W. The district is operating one polling place to save money on the election.
A state law adopted in the past year required a special election to fill the seat, and set limits on when an election could be held.
In the past, the School Board could have appointed a successor to Carlson not long after he resigned.
The candidates are:
• Abdirahman Hussein Abdi, 24, of Willmar, is a pre-med student at St. Cloud State University.
• Justin Bos, 38, of Willmar, is a funeral director at Peterson Brothers Funeral Home in Willmar.
• Bill Busta, 64, of Willmar, retired in 2011 as director of human resources for Willmar Public Schools.
• Christopher Frank, 29, of Willmar, is a lawyer with Frank Law Offices in Willmar.
• Mike Kubesh, 43, of Willmar, is manager for Willmar Bus Service and an EMT with the Willmar Ambulance Service.
• Jennifer Mendoza, 37, of Willmar, works with the GUIA program at Pact 4 Families Collaborative in Willmar.
The presence of a Somali-American man and a Latina on the school board ballot in Willmar shouldn't be a surprise; indeed, Bluestem was surprised by the results of a search of District 347 school board election results at the Minnesota Secretary of State's office (and a review of past candidates) that appeared to reveal that no people of color had run for school board in the West Central regional center in recent years.
Why is that not surprising? According to the Minnesota Report Card database online, here's what the district's student population looks like, in pie chart form:
No racial or ethnic group constitutes a majority in the student body, although white students form a plurality. Diversity issues in the schools came up in the League of Women Voters of the Willmar Area sponsored candidate forum last month, Linda Vanderwerf reported on Willmar School Board candidates share views:
Candidates talked about diversity, elementary school lunch periods, teachers and a variety of other issues in a forum for the six people running in a May 16 special election for the Willmar School Board. . . .
Candidates drew on their personal history and their professional experience to answer questions about a range of school district issues.
Asked how to attract teachers that reflect the diversity of the schools and community, Kubesh suggested that “we need a more diverse board, and a more diverse city council.”
Busta suggested that the district encourage its students to consider teaching careers.
“We have the students, we can turn them into teachers,” he said.
Frank also suggested reaching out to universities. As important as building a diverse teaching staff is to find staff members who are able to communicate with a diverse group of students. . . .
Abdi said he had seen many different types of students when he attended Willmar Senior High School.
“To educate them and give them a chance, they need someone to encourage them,” he said.
In his funeral home business, Bos said, he works with all the different cultures in the community.
Frank, a 2004 Willmar graduate, said he thought the district had not done a good job in dealing with a diverse student body when he was in school.
Kubesh agreed that it hadn’t been handled as well in the past, but the district has improved. Somali and Latino liaisons have helped his company’s bus drivers better understand the children on the buses. . . .
The candidates all suggested that the district do more to promote itself and its advantages to attract students through open enrollment. They also said the district may need to expand its English Language Learner program to give adequate support to students trying to learn English.
Candidate Q & As are found in Meet the Willmar School Board candidates.
Should Abdi be elected, he'll be that second Somali-American man elected to a school board in a Greater Minnesota city, joining Mankato's Abdi Sabrie. If Mendoza gets the nod, she'll join the 20 21 other women of color holding non-tribal elected office at any level, anywhere, in Minnesota (Anishinaabe artist and activist Ashley Fairbanks assembled a spreadsheet of the state's alarming paucity of WOC elected leadership here).
Special elections for local offices tend to have low turnout, and with a pool of six candidates, it's difficult to predict how this one will end up. We wish all the candidates good luck.
Photo: The six school board candidates during the local League of Women Voters forum last month. Via West Central Tribune.
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