Three candidates vying for two positions on school board

Voters in the Vermillion School District will be asked to choose two of three candidates seeking election to the Vermillion School Board in the June 5  local election.

The Plain Talk asked the school board candidates about their views on local issues and what has prompted them to seek office.

 Tim Schwasinger

Family: Wife – Patty; daughter – Kristen, will be in her third year at USD next year; daughter – Brooke, will be a senior at Vermillion High School next year; son – Paul, will be a freshman at Vermillion High School next year.

Education: Associate Degree – Computer Programming – National College, Rapid City; Bachelor's Degree – Business Administration, Marketing – National College, Rapid City; MBA – MIS Emphasis – USD, Vermillion.

Occupation: Director, Patient Accounts; Avera Sacred Heart Hospital, Yankton for the past 24 years.

Why do I wish to serve on the Vermillion School Board?

I would like to continue to learn more about how our public education system operates.  I bring my ability to be a good listener, a desire to understand and learn more to serve in this capacity.

Identify what you believe are the three biggest challenges facing the Vermillion School District in the next five years, and how you will address those challenges.

Funding – Funding appears that it will only continue to become more challenging for many years to come.  I believe we will have to continue to work together as a community and a state to come up with a better approach to ensuring the top education for our students without dictation by the state as to how the funds should be spent.  We will all have to continue to work with our legislators state wide to help them define options and solutions to assist everyone who is dependent upon state funding. 

Employee Satisfaction/Employee Engagement – The most important asset any business has are the employee's that work for that business.  By ensuring a satisfied and engaged workforce from top to bottom we can ensure that the goals and achievements that we strive for are met.

Economic Development – We must ensure that as a school district we continue to work with our partners in the community so that when employers are looking to move to or expand operations in Vermillion we can support those actions by providing a well rounded, active and progressive education system to assist those that wish to call Vermillion home in the future.  By continuing and strengthening the relationships already in place we can ensure we are an attractive community in so many ways.

What makes you the best person for a seat on the Vermillion School Board?

I believe I bring to the position a commitment to doing what is best for the community and district.  My ability to work with a large variety of people in attaining a common understanding of the challenges and opportunities that are before us is my best asset.  I am at a point in my life that I desire to share by business knowledge in a useful and meaningful way and look forward to representing you on the Vermillion School Board.

Mark Bottolfson

Family: Wife –Beth; children-Stacy, Megan & Blaine.

Education/Occupation:  Graduated from Vermillion High School in 1982.  Self employed farmer.

If incumbent, years of experience: 15 years

Why do you wish to serve on the Vermillion School Board?

I want to continue to serve on the board to ensure that high quality education is available for our students and provide the best learning opportunities with the resources available to the district.

Identify what you believe are the three biggest challenges facing the Vermillion School District in the next five years, and how you will address those challenges. 

1) Teachers and support staff are vital in providing the best possible education for our students.  It is imperative that we attract and maintain highly qualified teachers to educate our students.  While limited funding presents a challenge, I will continue to support fair compensation for our teachers and staff.

2) Technology will continue to play an extremely important role in the student's future. The learning opportunities we provide to the students must include the latest technology available to us. Technology will be a part of every student's future no matter what path they choose to follow.  I will continue to support advances in technology in our classrooms.

3) A significant emphasis must be placed on educating our state legislators on the importance of providing adequate funding necessary to provide quality programs and the best learning opportunities for the students of our district.  I feel children are our future and we will need to continue to urge our legislators to provide necessary educational funding. 

What makes you the best person for the seat on the Vermillion School Board?

I want to give the students of Vermillion the best opportunity for education that we can provide.  I have enjoyed serving on the board for the past 15 years and am prepared to take on the important challenges that face the district.

Dave Stammer

Family: My wife Nikki and my two daughters, Sharrie and Kayla.

If incumbent, years of experience: 6 years (2 terms).

Why do you wish to serve on the Vermillion School Board?

When I was first elected, my drive was to foster new ideas, new perspectives and to ensure that the money that was spent went to benefit our children the best it could. Over the past few years, I have helped with those goals and I will continue to listen to the public and try to find the best possible solution that will be in the best interest of all the students.

Identify what you believe are the three biggest challenges facing the Vermillion School District in the next five years, and how you will address those challenges.

The first challenge every year is funding. How much money will we have, how much will our expenses going to be? We face those questions every year and just like in most of our personal lives we seem to have less income yet expenses continue to get larger. Recently, because of a weak economy and the reduction in state aid, we asked local tax payers for more and we asked all the great employees of our school for some sacrifices. The way the school funding is set up, if a school is growing they seem to have enough general fund money to grow, add staff and programs at a rate that meets or exceed expectations, whereas if a district is slowly losing students the district has a difficult if not impossible time finding ways to do the opposite.

This is my second challenge for our district, which is student population. We currently are slowly losing students. In the past ten years we have lost an average about 13 students for each year. This population decline affects how much funding the district receives, which amounts to a reduction of about $57,000/year. Due to fewer students our funding shrinks and therefore so must the budget at a rate that doesn't hurt the superior quality of our school. But, I believe that Vermillion and the Vermillion area are ripe for growth. We have seen a number of new businesses come to town and with that one would conclude that families will follow. If job growth continues and more families do move into our district our schools will need to be able to grow. Our growth doesn't necessarily depend on all the talk about Hyperion, but if it does happen and happen the way we all have heard, then our school district will face many challenges and changes.

This leads into my third challenge, which is our buildings and facilities. We have some very large and expensive projects that are on the horizon. Number of our buildings will need roofs and heating/ventilation systems replaced. Recently, we replaced the heating system in Austin School. The cost of this project was over $400,000. It is a lot of money but the cost is pale in comparison to the cost of a new building. Also, this summer our track will be replaced at a cost of about $250,000 and sewer lines at the middle school that cost $60,000. These are needed repairs but have large price tags. If growth does occur we need extensive plans for any expansions and additions. If growth does not occur we also need a plan for our current facilities and do we delay a remodeling project in anticipation that our district's growth will change.

I listed only three challenges that the Vermillion School District faces, there are many more, some big others small, some that only take a little time to solve and others that seem to be a challenge every year.

What makes you the best person for a seat on the Vermillion School Board?

I am the best person because just as in my personal life I believe that having a sound financial plan is the foundation. I want our children to have the best education and extracurricular experience that we can offer. I am willing to listen to any suggestions that anyone has to offer to make a sound judgment for our students, staff and schools. I like to take my time and research things when I can instead of jumping into things quickly. I am ready for the challenges that I listed earlier and all other challenges that will face Vermillion. I have enjoyed the years that I have gotten to serve on the board and I wish to continue to serve as I feel I have learned a lot the past few years but feel I still have more to give to our students, teachers and our schools. I believe that we have some of the best students and teachers and I believe that we will continue to produce superior students. The future of Vermillion School District is very bright.

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