HOT SPRINGS – The only item on the June 4 ballot for Hot Springs area voters next month will be a three-way race for one of two three-year terms on the Hot Springs School Board, featuring incumbent Dustin Kleinsasser and challengers Zachariah Bell and Robert Preuss.
Two additional school board members will also be sworn in at the July school board meeting, including Petra Wilson and Ryan Walz, who went unopposed for their one-year and two-year terms that became available as well.
All five school board candidates were recently sent questionnaires in order to educate voters in the Hot Springs School District about who will be potentially representing them in the coming years.
The candidates were first asked to tell a little about themselves, and then answer the following two questions:
1) What skills or talents would you bring to the School Board?
2) What are the top two issues that concern you regarding the Hot Springs School District and how do you plan to address them if elected?
Following are the responses to that questionnaire from the three candidates on next month’s ballot. We will feature the responses from Wilson and Walz to those same questions at a later date.
Occupation: Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Fall River Health Services
14 year resident of the Hot Springs School District
Contact info: 12802 Pine Haven Road, Hot Springs, SD 57747
I am a single dad of 2 active boys. Joshua is in 8th grade, and Caleb is in 5th grade. I moved to Hot Springs with my family in 1986, and was a 12-year student in the Hot Springs School system. I graduated from HS High School in 1998, and continued my education in 3 different areas (AAS in electronics, AAS in Biomedical Technology, and BAS in Healthcare Administration). I am committed to community involvement (baseball, soccer, football coach, Sunday school teacher, past PTA President, referee for Middle School and JV games). I have a vested interest in our District. Our family enjoys camping, boating, and golf. I care deeply about the students in our district and want to do all I can to ensure they become all they can be; both academically and with their chosen extra-curricular activities.
1) I am a good listener and passionate about our community. I feel these attributes go hand in hand. You have to be a good listener and hear both sides of the issues. You have to be able to act appropriately with those issues. I try to educate myself on the issues of the district at hand. As a board member, I feel that all members should take every opportunity to discuss and advocate for our school and its possibilities.
2) District Morale – The board needs to be focused on moving our district forward. We need vision. We need goals. All this needs to be achieved while maintaining a well-planned budget that keeps the district fiscally responsible to our tax payers. We need to make sure programs, policies, and staff are in place to ensure the success of all of our students. We need to make sure all of their needs are being met, all while having a positive working relationship with administration and teachers. We need mutual respect as we are all committed to the same thing; the student’s personal growth and success. Communication will be key. We need to be as transparent as possible so that our tax payers know what is happening in the district, and how their money is being utilized. I want them to feel free to approach the board with questions or concerns.
Funding / Declining enrollment – The state funding formula and declining enrollment are currently a financial issue in our district. Instead of dwelling on what we cannot control, I want to work on what we can. Is the district spending money the best way to meet our students’ needs? We need to be diligent with the money that the district does have. We need to determine what we can change or what we can do with what we have to maintain or increase our student’s personal growth and success.
Zachariah J Bell
Occupation: ECM Contract Rep, Dept. of Veterans Affairs
2 1/2 year resident of the Hot Springs School District
I grew up in Wyoming – played sports my entire life including football while earning my degrees at BHSU. I have two bachelor’s degrees from there and currently working on my Masters. After college I was a certified police officer in Deadwood and decided to join the Army. I am a combat veteran who spent my entire military career in Special Operations. I have 4 children and a nephew in my household (4 old enough to be enrolled in all levels of the school district). I am happily married to my wife Megan of 9 years. My community involvement revolves around youth activities. I coach soccer and football, am the current Vice President for the HSYSA board, and the Committee Chairman for the new Boy Scout Troop that I co-founded.
1) I have held a wide variety of leadership positions in my life. All things center around basic values in leadership: answers, results and accountability – which I believe has been the problem in recent years with toxic leadership. If I don’t know the answer – I am not afraid to ask or research the answer. I would be there to represent the students, faculty, and the community that elected us.
2) Student/Teacher Ratio – We have a major issue here within the school district where multiple grades have close to a 30:1 ratio. Those numbers do not allow for a proper learning environment. Both our students and teachers struggle because of this. Students that need help understanding something more become lost, and the students who excel are not having their minds stimulated and become bored. For argument sake only 1/3 of the class is receiving the care that they need.
Budget – There is a lot of wasteful spending within the school district. Those funds could be used to better our students and facility. We continue to pay for conferences and professional development for administration, but not teachers, the ones it would benefit most. If elected, I would be interested in looking at the school districts of Fall River County, to see what resources could be combined to free up more budget for every school. Allowing tax payer dollars to be put to good use.
Robert “Bob” Preuss
10 year resident of the Hot Springs School District
I grew up in Northeast Nebraska in the small town of Lindsay. I attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Architectural Studies. Dr. Heather Preuss and I married in 2002, and we lived in Omaha until we moved to Hot Springs ten years ago. We have three children, Maggie (going into 8th grade), Winston (6th) and Emma (4th).
I am active in the community in a number of areas, both civic and youth oriented. I have coached elementary boys basketball the last two winters. Since we’ve been in Hot Springs, I’ve coached youth soccer. I am currently President of the Hot Springs Youth Soccer Association, and have been a Board Member a majority of those years. I am a volunteer Board Member of The Mammoth Site and have been the Treasurer the last two years. This year I’ve become the President of the Black Hills Parks & Forest Association and am in my third year on that Board. Last year I became a Den Leader of our Cub Scout Pack and have helped found a new Scout Troop of which I am the Scoutmaster.
1) My professional experience has included wide ranging supervisory roles in Environmental, Safety and Security in Manufacturing. I also have a decade of experience as a financial advisor before moving to Hot Springs. I have many years’ experience serving on non-profit Boards of Directors, in membership and leadership roles. That experience I feel I will bring leadership to the Board and school. I am not afraid to ask the difficult questions. I realize I don’t have all the answers, but I hope to ask enough of the right questions so we can then come to the right answers as a group for our school’s benefit.
2) One of my biggest concerns for our school is the high student-teacher ratios. There are a few grades that have in the neighborhood of 30:1 student to teacher ratios. My youngest child experienced this last year. Because of this, I became an approved volunteer and went and helped out the teacher as needed. From that perspective, I can see the hardships placed on both the students and teachers in this situation. As a board member it will be one of my top priorities to guide the administration to address this matter and improve the ratios.
The other issue is less tangible but needs to be addressed. Promoting and fostering a positive, constructive and collaborative environment. Only through leadership and hard work can we move forward for our children, teachers and community. That leadership must start with the new school board and I would be proud to serve in that role.