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Election 2020: Q&A with Esko School Board candidates – Pine Journal


All three incumbents — Julian “Bert” Bertogliat, Gerald “Jerry” Frederick and Mark C. Nyholm — filed paperwork to run again. However, Bertogliat has decided to drop out of the race.

In an email to the Pine Journal, Bertogliat said he is thankful for the support of the Esko community during his three terms as a school board member.

“My health issues are telling me it’s time to retire,” he said. “I have spent over 50 years serving the Esko schools in many capacities and will continue in any way I can.”

Bertogliat’s departure leaves four candidates vying for three seats. In addition to Frederick and Nyholm, newcomers Leona Johnson and Steve McConnell are hoping to win election.

Here’s more on the candidates still in the race:

Residence: Esko

Occupation: Electronic technician senior for Minnesota Power

What experience do you have in public office?

Esko School Board – two nonconsecutive terms.

What community organizations are you active in?

Past president and secretary of the Arrowhead Radio Amateur Club; past board member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 31; past chair of the Esko Community Education Advisory Board; past communications director and board member of Grandma’s Marathon; member of the Minnesota Power Foundation: past member of the Esko Educational Foundation; coach and mentor of Esko SubZero Robotics, to name a few.

Jerry Frederick

Jerry Frederick

Why are you running for reelection to the board?

A good board is made up of members with expertise in diverse backgrounds and skills. I think that my background on other boards, organizational and communication skills, my technology background along with my involvement in STEM activities (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and experience in budgets and critical thinking lend itself well to be on the Esko School Board.

I would like to continue my work on several of the committees that I have been active with to see them to completion. My entire family has always held the belief that a person needs to give back to the community in which they live. This is one of those opportunities that has presented itself to me.

What do you feel are the challenges for the Esko School Board? If elected, what would you do to help mitigate them?

Budgets are always a concern. With extra costs involved with COVID-19, even with some state or federal money provided, the district may still face one of its monumental financial challenges with the projected revenue shortfall from the state.

The current board has always prioritized what’s best for the students of the district, putting money and funds toward what makes the biggest impact for the students. We have always been frugal and have tried to maintain a good working general fund balance to help us ride out tough times.

Another is keeping the students safe, not only from effects of the pandemic, but also in a safe environment that is conducive for learning. Upgrading security at the school with security glass, installation of new security cameras, limiting access to the facility during and after school hours and safe routes to school are just some of the examples of measures that have come from the ideas and suggestions from members of our community.

What would be your priorities if elected? Why?

I will continue to do my best to take input from the community and to get back to folks that contact me. I will continue to be fiscally responsible with the taxpayer’s money as I do with my home finances.

As in the past, I will vote to put maintenance dollars into our existing facilities to maintain their structural integrity, rather than having to build a new facility. By doing this, the community’s tax burden is held steady, and in this year’s case is actually going down.

I’ll continue to work with administration and staff and other board members to come up with best practices to keep the students and staff in the district safe, and also maximize their learning experience, so that students get the very best education and keep up the high standards for which Esko is known.

These plans are forever evolving and will change as the needs and surroundings change, both in our local community as well as nationwide. I also hope to continue to provide programs that are in place for both four- year college bound students, as well as programs that fit students interested in the trades where workers are in high demand.

Residence: Esko

Occupation: I am a retired school administrator, having served a district of 1,700 students as K-12 director of curriculum and instruction, an elementary principal, and a family and consumer education teacher.

I can bring to the Esko board experience in these areas: K-12 curriculum planning in all content areas, including areas of special education and CTE; negotiating experience with companies offering health insurance to employees, as well as with various unions in our district; oversight of community education and before- and after-school programming; support of technology applications in various curriculums K-12; successful grant writing for counseling, AODA and mental health programming K-12, as well as strategic planning and goal setting.

I am also an author of high school textbooks, “Strengthening Family and Self” (2010) – 5th edition, and “Interpersonal Relationships” (2018).

Leona Johnson

Leona Johnson

What experience do you have in public office?

This is my first time running for an elected position.

What community organizations are you active in?

I have participated as a volunteer at the Esko Elementary School for the past six years. Currently, I am involved on the board of Little Eskomos Lutheran Preschool and participate as a volunteer in various activities and programs at the Journey Christian Church.

I have participated in presentations at the national level in American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences on topics related to interpersonal neurobiology — how the functions of the brain impact our relationships.

Why are you running for election to the board?

I am running for the Esko School Board to serve as a representative for families in our community. Today we face the challenges of providing quality educational services in an uncertain environment, and I feel that the skills, knowledge and experience that I can bring to the table will support the Esko district in reaching its goals.

What do you feel are the challenges for the Esko Board? If elected, what would you do to help mitigate them?

Managing the costs of operating our schools as we strive to provide high quality education to our students is a major issue in general and will be an even greater challenge with the fallout of a pandemic in our economy.

My experiences in negotiating and grant writing, as well as strategic planning can help us continue to provide outstanding educational services for families. I have and will seek to negotiate better contracts with telephone companies, Internet providers, and health care providers to provide quality services at reduced costs.

Access to technology across our community is not equal. We need to find ways to negotiate with providers to extend access community-wide.

Another issue is providing quality education that meets every student’s needs. Students have different skills, interests, career goals and dreams, and we need to facilitate different pathways for success.

Curriculums need to be aligned with all career and technical education pathways so all students experience success in reaching their career goals. This fits in with Esko’s long-range planning goals.

What would be your priorities if elected? Why?

I commend the staff and board for their response to the coronavirus. Providing quality education for all students in the midst of a pandemic has to be a priority. In hindsight, we can see that what hits major cities takes time to impact smaller communities. Thus, I hope we can continue to press for local control of responses to such events.

Also, the need for equity across our community for Internet access is something we must address. My experiences in grant writing and negotiating could be helpful with this challenge. A networked community is not only needed for distance learning, it also opens up opportunities for online learning that have not been utilized to date.

As I look at the Esko School Vision and their goals, my experiences closely align with their current working goals through 2024 and additional areas that are being reviewed, including some aspects of curriculum in the technology programs, technology best practices (which need to be reviewed with current neuroscience studies in mind), and mental health services and programs. These three goals would be my priorities as well.

Residence: Esko

Occupation: Director of technology and security

What experience do you have in public office?

Lions Club president, Esko Baseball Fun League chair, Esko Soccer vice president and president, Northwoods Credit Union Board of Directors, Esko School Curriculum Committee

Steve McConnell

Steve McConnell

What community organizations are you active in?

Esko School Curriculum Committee, Esko Soccer, Esko Hoops Club

Why are you running for election to the board?

Investing in our youth and community is essential.

I plan to utilize my knowledge, experiences and perspectives to bring a well-rounded voice to the school board. I want to continue to work on the safety and security of the children and staff in the school. I want to look at how we are using technology, but not forget about the good old pen and paper.

I see so many kids with all their technology devices and they don’t even know how to sign their name. Being in technology, I love it, but it’s not everything.

What do you feel are the challenges for the Esko Board? If elected, what would you do to help mitigate them?

We all know the current daily challenge is COVDI-19. I feel we need to continue to monitor the numbers but not forget to focus on the big picture and continue to work on daily, weekly and school year tasks.

What would be your priorities if elected? Why?

Priority number one has to be the children, they are why we are here. Then work our way up the chain with teachers, administration, staff and so on.

We can’t forget about the community and parents also. Our decisions will affect their taxes, day care times, work schedule, etc. The overall big picture has to be looked at when making small, quick decisions.

Residence: Esko

Occupation: I am a mechanical engineer who graduated 20 years ago from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan.

I began my career in the automotive industry rapidly excelling in the areas of design and development in many lower 48 states, including time in Europe. While I truly enjoyed this career, I found myself looking to find my next path closer to home and family. It took me a few years and stops along the way in the medical device field and aerospace before I returned to northern Minnesota, calling Esko my home.

I am responsible for part of the product development activity at AMSOIL Inc. in Superior, Wisconsin. I’ve been with AMSOIL now for 10 years and really enjoy the level of responsibility I have in the company and the latitude I’ve earned to make decisions that are in the best interest of the company.

So what do I do? I design and validate lubricants to solve problems for the automotive market. I manage our mechanical lab, which is a dynamometer facility, that proves lubricant performance.

It’s basically a really expensive toy box for grown adults. It’s a great position to have and a career I’ve grown well with at AMSOIL.

Mark C. Nyholm

Mark C. Nyholm

What experience do you have in public office?

I am one of your incumbent Esko School Board members seeking reelection. I’ve been on the board for four years now working to ensure an exceptional educational experience for our students through collaboration with our awesome educators, administration and our community. I would be honored to serve another four years and continue my passionate efforts to ensure that Esko remains one of the best school systems in Minnesota. Serving on the board is no small task and is a responsibility that I take very seriously.

We need to continue to make good decisions so that all of our children graduate and pursue careers of their own. My personality and background are a great fit for the school board. I investigate, analyze and justify the decisions I make in both my personal and professional life. I will continue to apply this same process to the business of the school board if reelected. I guarantee the decisions I make will always ensure our students, our educators and our community are our top priority.

What community organizations are you active in?

Over the years, I have been involved in numerous nonprofit, charity, sports and volunteer organizations. That involvement was truly rewarding. However five years ago now I was fortunate enough to have twins with my wife.

Everyone with children will agree time becomes more limited, and I’ve dialed back my involvement with these organizations.

The couple I hold very dear to my heart and am still very active today are the Spirit Mountain Ski & Bike Patrol and Courage Kenny. I have been on the patrol for over 10 years and truly enjoy helping those in need. Being the first on the scene of an accident is scary, mentally taxing, exhilarating and humbling. What’s truly special is the ability to apply my skills to the situation and provide not only medical support but mental support to improve the situation.

And Courage Kenny is a wonderful organization helping those that need our help. The amount of joy this organization brings to those that would not normally enjoy some of life’s wonders like the rest of us is purely priceless. For those of you that don’t know Courage Kenny, look them up and volunteer. You will not be disappointed.

Why are you running for election to the board?

I truly enjoy representing the community providing guidance and strategy to the Esko School District.

I am an Esko resident, a husband, and a father to twins who entered kindergarten this year. I have a vested interest in the success of our school system. I am passionate about our school and this community not only to see it succeed while my children are in school, but also to see every child graduate and pursue their dreams.

Many of us with school age children still get the luxury to experience when our child learns something for the first time, and you see the light bulb go off. That smile is heartwarming. Being on the board I get to experience that with every child in the school district.

Typically, those numbers are over 1,200 strong so that’s an immense number of smiles. I’ll guarantee you that amount of positive energy will drive you to put everything you have into making the school in Esko the best it can be. And this is what I promise I will continue for the Esko community, the parents, the students, the staff and the administration.

What do you feel are the challenges for the Esko School Board? If elected, what would you do to help mitigate them?

I will reiterate that serving on the board is no small task and one that I take very seriously.

It would be unjust to identify the current pandemic as a challenge for not just Esko, but for every school in the country. We are handling the challenge exceptionally well and redesigning our school system to ensure our students still receive top notch Esko quality education.

But the pandemic is not our biggest challenge. It is temporary, and we’ll all grow through this and move on.

One of the larger challenges of the board is to help govern academic opportunities well paired with a variety of engaging opportunities. I am a science and technology guy. STEM activities are very interesting to me, and I have been a proponent of opportunities that help our students thrive in this area.

I also recognize that we need to ensure we have a well-rounded offering that inspires each and every student in school. Our students need a well-balanced diet of academia, sports, arts and community outreach programs.

Balancing this opportunity on a fixed budget is difficult. I would surely love to do it all. I will work to support a well-balanced offering.

What would be your priorities if elected? Why?

The educational quality and opportunity for our students has been and will be my priority for the next four years if reelected.

I’ve provided a refreshing viewpoint to the board, asking difficult questions. My interests and professional experiences fit well with the strategy planning and goal setting responsibilities of the school board.

I truly care about the success of our students and the staff responsible for educating them. I will continue to provide strategic leadership to the board and make the best decisions for our community. Go Esko!



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