Election 2015 - Achievement gap, school facilities, on minds of ISD 623 candidates

Todd Anderson
Todd Anderson
Erin Azer
Erin Azer
Mike Boguszewski
Mike Boguszewski
Bob Murray
Bob Murray

Four candidates vying for three Roseville Area Schools Board seats

The Roseville Area Schools District 623 Board will gain some new faces next year with four candidates running for three open seats.

Incumbent Erin Azer is running to retain her seat while three challengers are vying for two seats being vacated by board members Lisa Edstrom and Kaying Thao.

Those challengers are Todd Anderson, Mike Boguszewski and Bob Murray.

The Review asked the candidates what skills and experience they think they'd bring to the board, what they think are the top challenges facing Roseville Area Schools in the coming years and what issue or project they would prioritize if elected. They answered via email.

Election day is Nov. 3. To find your polling place head to www.pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us or call Ramsey County Elections at 651-266-2171.

Todd Anderson

Anderson, 44, is a business-to-business sales representative at Reier Group. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from St. Olaf College, two children who attend school in the district and is married to Holly.

Noting what he describes as his leadership skills, a strong work ethic and a talent for collaboration, Anderson says he'd be ready on day one for work on the board.

"I have experience of working with school district staff and I will bring that experience to hit the ground running if elected," he says.

The achievement gap is an ongoing challenge in the school district, Anderson says, as well as district infrastructure.

"ISD623 is doing a number of good things and has programs in place to further diminish the gap but we need to do more," he says. "This district also has a challenge of maintaining aging facilities that will need to be addressed in the near future."

Anderson says he'd work on coming up with a comprehensive facilities plan if elected to the board, while his top priority is student achievement.

"All of our students and also all lifelong learners should have the opportunity to realize their full potential," he says.

Erin Azer

Azer, 43, is an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Skyview Middle School in Oakdale. She has a master's degree in secondary education and bachelor's degree in English, studying at Hamline University and Northeastern University in Boston. She is married to Mike Larsen.

Seeking her second four-year term on the board, Azer says she's served on a variety of committees and would continue to apply her experience, knowledge and drive "to be a great board member."

"As a licensed and practicing 8th grade teacher I know firsthand the challenges of working in the classroom," she says. "I am approachable, optimistic and eager to do the work."

Azer says the challenges facing the district are threefold: narrowing the opportunity gap, keeping up with aging facilities and working with ever-present budget constraints.

"As always we will need to be advocates for the schools at the legislature and be creative in partnering with the community," she says, adding the board must spend tax money responsibly.

Overall, Azer says, "The opportunity gap between white students and students of color remains our biggest concern." She also prioritizes maximizing opportunities for students, recruiting, hiring and retaining teachers of color, and offering staff development that trains and supports teachers.

Mike Boguszewski

Boguszewski, 58, is director of growth and business development at HealthPartners. He has an MBA from Northwestern University in Evanston, two children who attended schools in District 623 and is married to Deborah.

Having moved to the district 25 years ago because he says he was attracted by the quality of the schools, Boguszewski is the current chair of the Roseville Planning Commission and serves on the long-range planning committee of the Minnesota Make-A-Wish Foundation.

"I have strong experience in long-term organizational planning and strategy development in my current role and earlier consulting career, and in various volunteer and civic roles over the years," he says.

Addressing the district's aging facilities will be a challenge, Boguszewski says, as well as working with state legislators to maintain needed school funding while using it responsibly. Beyond, he says he seeks to close the achievement gap by looking at what has worked elsewhere

Boguszewski says maintaining 623 as a high-achieving and attractive district is his priority, while helping students reach their full potential.

"We must provide our teachers with the support and time needed to truly reach and teach kids as individuals, despite a system that emphasizes standardized tests and common core approaches," he says.

Bob Murray

Murray, 64, is the retired owner of The Masters Touch Cleaning Service. He has an associate degree in Greek and Aramaic from Way College of Biblical Research and is a widower.

A self-described "successful businessman" who operated a commercial cleaning service for 18 years, Murray, a Vietnam veteran, says he understands finances, budgeting and cost analysis, and trained in behavioral science and clinical psychology while in the U.S. Army.

Murray says the top challenge District 623 faces is bringing education back to the fundamentals.

"The significance of verbal, grammatical, composition and communication skills play a vital role in successful learning for each student from [kindergarten and beyond]," he says, noting that he made his way through school working with typewriters, dictionaries and other reference books.

"I am thankful for technological tools," he says, though he adds that students become dependent on things like calculators.

If elected, Murray says he would make reading and writing a priority and make sure the district doesn't overly rely on technology.

"Keep the doors to success unlocked with a proficiency in English grammar and composition so each student reads at grade level or better," he says. "Stop relying on technology as the magical cure for everything."


Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.


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