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16 candidates for Fargo park and school boards attend forum

FARGO - In a diverse panel of 10 candidates vying for a spot on Fargo Public Schools' Board of Education, not one agreed with arming teachers - an idea endorsed by the president to reduce gun violence in schools.On Monday, April 30, the League of...

Fargo Park Board candidates Vicki Dawson, Joe Deutsch, Stacey Griggs, Brandi Malarkey, Matt Magness and Tyler Tracy at the League of Women Voters forum on Monday, April 30, inside the City Commission chambers.
Fargo Park Board candidates Vicki Dawson, Joe Deutsch, Stacey Griggs, Brandi Malarkey, Matt Magness and Tyler Tracy at the League of Women Voters forum on Monday, April 30, inside the City Commission chambers.

FARGO - In a diverse panel of 10 candidates vying for a spot on Fargo Public Schools' Board of Education, not one agreed with arming teachers - an idea endorsed by the president to reduce gun violence in schools.

On Monday, April 30, the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley hosted its first forum for this election cycle inside the City Commission chambers. The three-hour-long event brought together six candidates looking to nab one of three open seats on the park board as well as the large slate of candidates competing for five open seats on the school board.

Audience members supplied questions for the forum and a number related to safety and security. When asked if Fargo schools are doing enough to ensure a safe environment, several candidates said they would never fully know until a tragedy occured, but hoped that day would never come.

Robin Nelson, candidate and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club, said there are already guns in schools with school resource officers, but added, "I've never heard of a teacher wanting to carry a firearm."

Incumbents David Paulson, Jennifer Benson and Rebecca Knutson, who currently serves as school board president, all mentioned what the district does now to ensure students and staff are safe, such as having secure entrances and drills during the school day. The district is also looking to hire its first safety officer to implement more safety measures.

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Candidate Sandra Calhoun said she has a son enrolled in the district who is autistic and thinks there are more ways for schools to improve offerings for special needs students.

This sentiment of improvement was shared by candidates Abdiwali Sharif-Abdunasir and Nyamal Dei, who said immigrant and refugee students need more resources so they are higher performing on standardized tests. "Education can transform lives," Sharif-Abdunasir said.

Other school board candidates include Brian Nelson, former longtime superintendent in Berthold, child care provider Stacey Piechowski and former cardiologist Radomysl Twardowski, who is suing the Bismarck Police Department for $75 million for allegedly violating his civil rights.

During the segment devoted to park board candidates, there was also a strong theme of safety.

Incumbents Matt Magness and Joe Deutsch, existing president in his 12th year on the board, said the city is looking at hiring a park police officer and increasing lighting.

All candidates agreed the biggest challenge facing the park district is expanding resources and accessibility as the city continues to grow.

Candidate Tyler Tracy said if he were elected he would push to have the park district create a children's museum. When visiting other cities, he said his small family always seeks out this amenity and thinks it would be a great addition for Fargo.

Candidate Brandi Malarkey emphasized expanding usage and activities on the Red River and candidates Vicki Dawson and Stacey Griggs explored ways to improve Trollwood Park since a lot of focus and resources are on Island and Lindenwood parks.

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The League of Women Voters will host a candidate forum for Fargo City Commission on Thursday, May 3, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at City Commission chambers, 200 3rd St. N.

Fargo Park Board candidates Vicki Dawson, Joe Deutsch, Stacey Griggs, Brandi Malarkey, Matt Magness and Tyler Tracy at the League of Women Voters forum on Monday, April 30, inside the City Commission chambers.
School board candidates participate in a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters on Monday, April 30. Candidates include Jennifer Benson, Sandra Calhoun, Nyamal Dei, Rebecca Knutson, Brian Nelson, Robin Nelson, David Paulson, Radomysl Twardowski, Stacey Piechowski and Abdiwali Sharif-Abdunasir.

Related Topics: SCHOOL BOARDPARK BOARD
Kim Hyatt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead covering community issues and other topics. She previously worked for the Owatonna People's Press where she received the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award in 2016. Later that year, she joined The Forum as a night reporter and is now part of the investigative team. She's a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth.
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