WEST FARGO — The West Fargo School Board interviewed four candidates Monday, July 13, to decide who will fill the seat of Kara Gravley-Stack for one year.
After interviewing Mark Staples, Laetitia Hellerud, Scott Kasprick and Tanya Dockter, the board plans to appoint Staples, a Harvard University and West Fargo High School graduate.
Gravley-Stack resigned from the board in June. The West Fargo School Board can appoint an applicant to fill out the remainder of her term that expires in June 2022. At that time, the appointee can run for election to the board and would serve a four-year term.
"Kara (Gravley-Stack) was a very unique perspective on the board, and when she stepped down, she did challenge us to find someone different to be on the board," Board Member Trisha Page said.
Staples is a 2013 graduate of West Fargo High School from Harwood who attended Harvard University where he studied government and economics before returning to North Dakota to work for Gov. Doug Burgum.
He lives in West Fargo and works for a global company. Staples said he missed serving his community and saw the appointment as a way to do that as well as engage in the community.
"I thought this was a great way to chime in as a relatively recent graduate of the school district," Staples said. "One of the perspectives I can bring is as a younger member of the community and as a recent graduate."
Staples said his experience with individualized learning while in the West Fargo School District as a student may help him assist the board as it moves toward incorporating individualized learning programs into the curriculum.
"That was important to me a student, to know that the opportunities that were afforded to me as a student would be continued on for generations to come," Staples said.
He hopes to engage more community members who fall into the population between the ages of being a student and being a parent, which is the unique voice of stakeholders he could represent on the board.
"Throughout my professional career so far, we've worked a lot with stakeholder groups," Staples said. He said in his current role, they are intentional to seek out justice and equity in company policies.
Staples said he would like to run for election to the board in June.
"This is a great opportunity to get a foot in the door and learn how the board works, but I don't think I would be happy with just one year," Staples said. "School board members have some of the most direct outside impact by the work they do. You have a very tangible results from the work you do."
Dockter is a West Fargo graduate and pharmacist at Sanford Health with four children currently attending West Fargo Schools. Dockter said she has two sets of twins, two of which are attending Harwood Elementary School and two who will be seventh graders at Cheney. She decided to apply after the past year as the district navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. She also served on the Return to Learn committee.
"They had a big struggle last year as I think everyone did and it got me involved," she said.
Dockter said she wasn't sure if she would want to run for a seat on the board after the one-year appointment.
"I think the one year is a great opportunity to see what it is like," Dockter said.
A martial arts expert for 26 years, Kasprick is a Grafton native with two daughters in the West Fargo School District, and his wife is a teacher in the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton school district.
Kasprick, a network expert for AT&T, said he would bring his nature of looking at issues fully by taking them apart and putting them back together.
"Even if I personally like one aspect of something, I like taking it apart and looking at all aspects of it so I can understand it," he said.
He would likely connect with teaching stakeholders the most due to his wife being a teacher, he said. He is somewhat familiar with policy governance through personal experience and his position with a large company that sets a high priority on policy processes. He said the role of the school board is to listen to all the stakeholders from the teachers and staff to the students and parents.
Kasprick said he planned to run for the office if he were appointed to the one-year opening.
Hellerud's children are graduates of the West Fargo School District, and she watched the work of the West Fargo School Board for many years.
"I moved to the United States 22 years ago as a refugee, and this place became home," Hellerud said. "I'm always looking for the best path to maximize, or amplify my impact. I'm interested in learning exactly what you are doing and how I can add value to that work.
Hellerud said her experience living in four countries and traveling to more than 40 countries, as well as her own refugee experience, could be an asset to the board.
"I like to consider myself a bridge and a connector. I'm very comfortable with the immigrant community," she said.
Hellerud said she would hope the school board remains focused on high level policy making to allow the teachers and staff to handle individual school and student issues.
She is very active on a number of boards in the community including the Human Relations Coalition for the city of Fargo and the state Human Rights Coalition, but she said if she was appointed to the West Fargo School Board, she would likely resign from at least two boards to give enough time to the school board.
She said an appointment would be the best way to "test the waters" if she would like to run as a school board member in June, but at this time, she saw no reason why she would not run.
"Whether I am on this board or not, I am very committed to this community and this school district," Hellerud said.