Fargo School Board candidates discuss boundary changes, returning to school at debate

The League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley hosted a Fargo Public Schools debate Thursday, May 21..png
The League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley hosted a Fargo Public Schools debate Thursday, May 21.

FARGO — Candidates for Fargo School Board were in agreement on most topics during a debate Thursday, May 21, with boundary changes in the district causing one of the only points of contention.

The League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley presented questions from the public to spark discussion among the candidates.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the public was not present, and the debate was split into two sessions to observe social distancing guidelines.

The candidates focused on the issues of how to reopen schools, boundary changes, how to improve communication with city departments and the Fargo Education Association, climate change and the budget.

All the candidates during the first session agreed that returning to a traditional classroom setting should be taken slowly. They said the school district needed to prepare for phased openings and intermittent closures while working in conjunction with the state department of health's guidelines.


“This is a big and important question,” said challenger Tracie Newman, a board certified pediatrician. “Until we have adequate treatment or a vaccine, we know we are risking future waves of infection.”

With a total of 13 candidates for four seats, most challengers and incumbents were in favor of boundary changes.

Challengers Victoria Johnson, a founder of Families United for Advocacy; Nikkie Gullickson, a PTA volunteer; Seth Holden, owner of Holden Restoration and Remodel; Robin Kee and incumbent Jim Johnson said they were in favor of boundary changes for now, and a new building to ease south Fargo’s student crunch is still up to 10 years away.

“I think it would be foolish immediately,” Kee said. “I think changing boundaries is a better option. The Fargo North building is not utilized as it is supposed to be. I think that ... (if) Fargo South continues to grow as it has been growing, then we will need to build a new building in the next six to 10 years.”

Challenger Eric Evenson, a teacher at Sheyenne High School, and Brandi Aune, a current Fargo School Board member up for reelection, said a new school should be built.

“I know it’s popular to say, ‘no I don’t want to spend $60 million dollars,’ but it’s not right,” Evenson said. “It’s cruel. There are people that live seven miles from Carl Ben and two miles from Discovery, and we’re going to make them move.”

Challengers Jenaah McLeod-Hanson, Stacey Piechowski, Newman, Mary Schultz, and board members John Rodenbiker and Kristi Ulrich said that, for now, boundary changes are more fiscally responsible.

On the issue of climate change, everyone believed it was important, especially since even children are noticing that the air is cleaner since the pandemic hit.


“Emissions dropped 17% since we’ve all stayed home. We need to do everything we can to power that forward. The world depends on it,” Gullickson said.

“Climate change is a huge, huge existential problem that needs systemic changes. This is really big,” Rodenbiker said.

Another topic most candidates agreed on was that the Fargo School Board needed to have better communication and transparency with the Fargo Education Association.

“We need to have open communication and transparency,” said Schultz, North Dakota State Parent Teacher Association President. “Families, some of them, don’t feel they’re being included or have all the information they might need to take care of their children’s education.”

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