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Moorhead School Board candidates clash over book banning; council contenders discuss future

School Board candidates were of vastly varied opinion following a question about sex education, book banning and what history should be taught to students.

six people sit at a table.
School Board candidates (from left) David Marquardt, Ken Lucier, Scott Kostohryz, Lisa Hahn and Lorilee Bergin at the 2022 candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Red River Valley on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022.
Melissa Van Der Stad / The Forum
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MOORHEAD — Candidates for Moorhead School Board and Moorhead City Council took to debate on various issues at a candidate forum on Thursday Oct. 13.

Three candidates for city council and eight running for spots on the school board attended the forum, which took place at the Moorhead Public Library and was hosted by the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley (LWVRRV).

A crowded race, eleven people are competing for three open seats on the Moorhead School Board.

The eight candidates for school board, due to their large number, were separated into two groups on Thursday.

David Marquardt, Ken Lucier, Scott Kostohryz, Lisa Hahn and Lorilee Bergin made up the first group, and all had vastly varied opinions when asked about book banning and what history should be taught to students.

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Lucier is against ‘revisionist’ history like the 1619 project, which is a work of long-form journalism by New York Times writer Nikole Hannah-Jones that explores the contributions of Black Americans and the consequences of slavery throughout the history of the United States.

Marquardt said teachers should have a role in deciding how they teach, and wants to see the professionals have a voice in what's being taught.

Bergin was decidedly against banning books.

“I trust libraries to stock our shelves and get books that are mirrors and windows… where (students) can read books that reflect themselves and take a peek into others' realities,” Bergin said. She also strongly advocated for sex education.

Hahn warned against a Marxist agenda while teaching history. She wants 40 specific books removed immediately from the school library.

Kostohryz believed the school board should only get involved when teachers stray from the allowed agenda. He said the banning of books is a very slippery slope, but does support a process where parents can appeal to the school if there is a book they don't like.

Candidates mostly agreed on the topic of school lunches, and said meals should be free for students. Lucier, however, wanted free meals only for means-tested students.

Ideas differed, however, on how to pay for the free meals. Most wanted state or federal funding, while Hahn wanted to hold fundraisers and have students complete volunteer hours to earn meal vouchers.

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Three people sit at a table.
School Board candidates (from left) Keith Vogt, Kristine Thompson and Clint Rossland at the 2022 candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Red River Valley on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022.
Melissa Van Der Stad / The Forum

The second round of candidates, which consisted of Keith Vogt, Kristine Thompson and Clint Rossland, were all opposed to book banning.

“I am philosophically opposed to banning books,” Thompson said. “I believe it further marginalized voices that have been historically underrepresented.”

Thompson added that there are already existing standards for what is taught and that she trusts teachers to teach it.

“Teachers are in their position to educate kids,” Vogt added.

Rossland said the board has no right to tell the school what books to have. Librarians and teachers have an understanding of what is age appropriate for children, he said.

As for school lunches, all three candidates called for state or federal funding to facilitate free school lunches for students, and Vogt called for local action to be taken in the meantime to fill in those gaps.

Not present was Marissa Ahlering, Nikki Pollock and Kent Wolford. Ahlering and Wolford sent statements to be read at the event.

Moorhead City Council

Council candidates present at Thursday's forum were from Moorhead Wards 1, 2 and 3.

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Chuck Hendrickson, from Ward 4, is running unopposed and was not represented on Thursday.

Moorhead's Wards.png
Map of Moorhead's wards.
Submitted graphic

Seven city council candidates are competing for four available seats across Moorhead’s four wards.

Siham Amedy from Ward 1, Heather Nesemeier from Ward 2 and Deborah White from Ward 3 discussed Moorhead's future at the forum.

Three people sit at a table.
City Council candidates (from left) Deb White, Heather Nesemeier and Siham Amedy at the 2022 candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Red River Valley on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022.
Melissa Van Der Stad / The Forum

“This is a really exciting time for Moorhead,” White said. Clay County is a rapidly growing area, she pointed out, and with this comes challenges, including workforce retention and housing development.

White said that affordable housing, investing in the downtown and public safety are her top three priorities.

Affordable housing is at the top of Amedy’s list too, along with making sure that all people in Moorhead feel heard and connected to the Moorhead community.

The way to promote public safety is by building strong neighborhoods, addressing mental health needs and inspiring a diverse law enforcement field, Amedy said.

Nesemeier advocated for affordable housing, smart infrastructure growth and climate resiliency practices.

“I think there is a lot of opportunity for growth and building here,” Nesemeier said, adding that she would like to hear from community members about their visions for Moorhead, specifically downtown.

Ryan Nelson from Ward 1, Eileen Johnson from Ward 2 and Dr. Rick Melbye from Ward 3 were not in attendance. Each submitted a statement to be read at the event.

To learn more about candidates who will be on your ballot this Nov. 8 visit VOTE411.org.

I cover the politics beat – come see me at a local government meeting sometime. I'm also the night reporter on weeknights. 👻
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