Four Vying For Three B-H School Board Slots
Britton-Hecla School District patrons will choose three of four candidates to fill positions on the Board of Education in an election set for Tuesday.
Misty Fredrickson, Troy Knecht, and Kurt Zuehlke are running for re-election and Gary Brassfield is running for his first term on the board. The terms are for three years.
Marshall County residents will vote at the Britton-Hecla Arena Lobby, while Brown County residents will cast their ballots at the Hecla Community Center. Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Residents may vote absentee through Monday by stopping at the Britton-Hecla School business office.
School board candidates were asked to fill out a questionnaire prior to the election. Their responses follow.
Gary Brassfield: I was raised on a ranch in western South Dakota 20 miles east of Rapid City and graduated from Rapid City Central High School. I received my Associates of Arts Degree in Animal Science at Eastern Wyoming College. In 2012, I had an opportunity to relocate my family and continue my job with the South Dakota Animal Industry Board. My wife and I have two children that are involved in many sports and church activities.
Misty Fredrickson: Married, two kids ages 13 and 15, born and raised in Britton and graduated from Britton High School and from North Dakota State University with a degree in Business Economics, and came back to Britton after college to work and start a family.
Troy Knecht: Wife Katrina, children Mataya (10), Livia (7), Reeve (4). Farm by Houghton and also own Sand Lake Sales, an ag retail business.
Kurt Zuehlke: I am married to Shana Zuehlke. Together we have seven kids. We have three children going into grades 11, 9, and 6 next year in the Britton-Hecla School District and also four children going into grades 11, 8, 6, and 4 next year in the Harrisburg School District. I farm and ranch in Marshall County with our headquarters located west of Britton. I graduated from Britton High School in 1996, from South Dakota State University in 2000, and from the South Dakota Ag and Rural Leadership (SDARL) Program in 2014. I have also served on the Miller Township Board, NorStar Federal Credit Union Board, coached youth sports for 18 years, served as chairman for SDARL Alumni Association, the SDARL Board of Directors, and Britton-Hecla School Board for four years.
What is your reason for running for the board?
Brassfield: I attended a school board meeting last year and found it interesting. I wanted to see with my own eyes how things were handled, and I believe if you want to be a part of the outcome you have to be part of the process.
Fredrickson: For me, it’s about the kids and their education and doing what’s best for them.
Knecht: I’ve been on the board for six years and have gained valuable experience in that time. I feel it’s important to have a representative from the old Hecla District so the folks in that area have a voice and that large part of our tax base is spoken for. Beyond that I’ve come to appreciate the community of Britton and want to continue to be involved in the decision-making process for our successful school.
Zuehlke: I have served on the Britton-Hecla school board for four years now. The first year or two involves a lot of learning and understanding the policies and procedures of the board. I feel I am at the point to make use of the experiences from the first four years and help the school district continue to be an excellent place for our youth to learn and develop into outstanding adults.
What do you feel is the number one challenge facing the school district and how would you propose to deal with it?
Brassfield: I feel our number one challenge right now is doing what we need to do to retain the quality classroom teachers we have. We need to invest in those that have invested so much in our kids.
Fredrickson: The school district funding challenge is something we continue to work through. Upcoming capital funding changes are something we will need to be prepared for.
Knecht: The number one priority for me going forward is to help the state government figure out a better path forward for school funding. There are crippling changes coming as far as the way the capital outlay levy is handled and we have to be prepared to deal with those changes. Hopefully, we can be influential enough to bring some common sense to the process. The next legislative session is really our last chance to do this before the new formula goes into effect.
Zuehlke: I believe the top challenge right now is actually looking two or three years into the future. The state funding formula for school districts went through some changes a couple of years ago and will undergo some more changes in 2020-2021. Our district was, unfortunately, one of the most hurt in the state when they capped the state sourced revenue to a student to teacher ratio. Our district happens to have class sizes that are too large for one section per grade, but almost too small for two sections per grade, so that has put us at a disadvantage. Then in 2020-2021, it is proposed to cap what the state’s districts can bring in based on student enrollment for their capital outlay fund, the fund that is designated solely for facilities and infrastructure. I feel like our district and board has been proactive knowing these changes and challenges are coming, and I would like to serve our district another term to see us get through these changes and make sure our district remains strong for many years to come.
List one other issue you would consider a priority for the district and what you think should be done about it?
Brassfield: If elected to the school board, I will familiarize myself with all of the issues concerning our district and work with the other board members to come up with a solution.
Fredrickson: One priority I think of is the longevity of our school. I would like to see Britton-Hecla be around for a very long time. My parents went to school here as well as my husband and I and now our kids attend school at Britton-Hecla. I hope the next several generations have the opportunity to attend school at Britton-Hecla, as well. By being fiscally responsible our district can be ready for generations to come.
Knecht: Another priority for our board should be to make sure we have a functional, attractive facility that compliments the quality of our administration and staff. The improvements we’ve made have turned out great and there a few finishing touches that need to be done. Beyond that, we have to budget wisely to make sure we can perform necessary maintenance. We have great people within the walls of our facility and they deserve to teach in a space that provides a productive environment for educating. Something else that I would personally like to see happen is that we move forward with improvements to teacher pay. It’s been frustrating as a board member who values our teachers to be stuck with a state formula that doesn’t adequately fund the most important piece of a school. Our state government has undervalued teachers and does not send enough money to school districts to give teachers their due. Locally, we are handcuffed by the current formula and what the state is willing to give. It’s an ongoing conversation and hopefully one day there will be a breakthrough that doesn’t require the local taxpayers to choose between keeping their facilities functional or paying their teachers.
Zuehlke: The possibility of declining enrollments in future years is a concern. In two more years, basically all revenue sources will be tied to enrollment numbers and our budget will be significantly smaller than it is right now. I feel a lot of proactive steps have been taken to prepare for this. The question we need to ask is what can we do to make our district and community an appealing place for people to live and send their children to school?
What do you think is Britton-Hecla’s biggest asset and how can it be used to the school’s advantage?
Brassfield: B-H’s biggest asset is our teachers and the support staff. We have some great teachers and staff employed at Britton Hecla. As long as we can keep them here, our kids have a great chance to succeed further down the road.
Fredrickson: Without a doubt our excellent staff, administration, and learning environment. I have always felt this about our school – both as a student myself attending school here and now as a parent having kids in the same district. A student can take away as much from this school as he/she chooses.
Knecht: Our biggest asset at Britton-Hecla is two-fold - our students and the community that supports them. Our staff is motivated by the kids to do better every day and that motivation is not lost on the board of education. Also, the community really gets behind our students and it’s been a great thing to be a part of.
Zuehlke: I believe the biggest asset for our school district is the support of the community. Whether it is support for our outstanding faculty, athletic teams, music concerts, fundraising, classroom programs, etc., our community always steps up to help. The community has stepped up to help make our facilities and programs one of the best in the whole state for a district our size. The support for our extra-curricular programs is tremendous, and I believe these programs are vital to teaching our students how to react to adversity, how extra work pays off, how dedication is rewarded, and how to work in groups or teams. The support of the community for these programs shows our students how important these are to becoming outstanding adults.