Hot Springs School Board candidates answer questions

County Commission, Fall River County Sheriff and Oelrichs School Board candidates to be featured in next week’s Herald

 

HOT SPRINGS – On Tuesday, June 5, voters in the Hot Springs School District will go to the polls and elect a total of four people, with varying terms, to serve on the Hot Springs Board of Education, from a field of nine potential candidates.

Of the nine candidates, six of them are running for a three-year term on the board. They include incumbents Scott Thompson and Mark Walton, along with challengers Brian Ahrendt, Rebecca Meyers, Nicole Shaw and Stachia Walker.

Three of the candidates are running for a two-year term. They include incumbent Frances Stokes, recent appointee to the board Kari Sanders and challenger Jason Walker.

Each of the nine candidates were asked by the Fall River County Herald to tell our readers a little about themselves and then briefly answer the following questions:

1) What skills or talents do you bring to the School Board, if elected or re-elected?

2) Choose the top two issues that most concern you regarding the Hot Springs School District, and how you plan to address them, if elected or re-elected.

THREE-YEAR TERM CANDIDATES

Scott Thompson
Age: 54
Occupation: County Executive Director – USDA
18 year resident of the Hot Springs School District
Contact info: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

My family has lived in Hot Springs for the last 18 years. Our daughters Brooke and Bree have graduated from Hot Springs recently and Brynn our son is currently a freshman in high school. I grew up in Bowman, ND on our family farm/ranch. My wife, Lisa, is the Director of Rehab Services at Fall River Health Services. I’m the County Executive Director for the Farm Service Agency in Hot Springs. I have a Master and Bachelor degree in Business, with minors in business and finance. I have been on the school board for the past seven years and served as the President of the Board the past two years. 

1) If re-elected I can bring the experience of serving on the board and as board president. I also bring years of business and finance experience. By having kids that have or that are currently in the school district it gives me a closer touch to the activities of the school system.

2) There are constantly many issues of concern for the school district in this ever-changing world. Currently two of the biggest issues are balancing the budget (right sizing staff/programs/administration/etc.) and ensuring as a board and school system we get the best education for the kids of the Hot Springs School District. Concerning the budget issue, the board has been dealing with it heavily over the past year and a half. With the state and federal funding spiraling down over the past few years the board’s job has been tough. I feel that we have a good handle on it now, but it hasn’t been easy. Things are always a moving target. My goal is to make the best decisions that have the least effect overall on our Hot Springs student’s education. 

Mark Walton
Age: 42
Occupation: Rancher
18 year resident of the Hot Springs School District
Contact info: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I am a graduate of Rapid City Central High School. My wife Misty and our two boys Derrik and Zach moved to the Hot Springs School District in 2000. In 2003 we were blessed with our daughter Jadyn. Since, I have been part-owner and manager of Shangrila Ranch LLC, a farming and ranching operation in Oral. I’m not a man of many hobbies my best times are spent hunting with my boys, riding and roping with my daughter and spending a night out with my wife. 

1) Farming and Ranching requires a variety of skills, from construction, welding mechanics, soil conservation, reading cattle, weather, markets, strategy and the list goes on. I have had the privilege of having a mentor that was second to none in business, and the lessons I have learned from him I will never forget and try to implement daily. In my mind the biggest thing I have to offer isn’t a talent though, it’s that I care. I truly appreciate the teachers and everyone involved in our school, they have played a big part in helping Misty and I raise our kids. Each person has played their own part. So if I have a skill or talent that will help our school move forward to benefit the kids and help the staff, then I will gladly do what I can to the best of my ability.    

2) The two issues that I think about the most are obviously the shortage of funding leading to budget cuts and the safety of our students.

Budget cuts: It has been my goal from the beginning that the kids would feel as little impact as possible, but in the end, the funding formula has to change or things could get worse depending on enrollment next year. Contacting our state legislators and letting them know the impact that the current formula is having on our district is very important.

Safety: With everything going on across the U.S. today, we have to be proactive. I don’t want to be in a situation saying, we should have or I wish we would have. We have options and I want to look into a couple I feel could bring peace of mind, at the least. 

Brian Ahrendt
Age: 53
Occupation: Attorney / Adjunct college professor
Almost 2 year resident of the Hot Springs School District
Contact info: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 605-745-5422

Born and raised in Sioux Falls. Joined Marine Corps after high school. Attended University of South Dakota for undergraduate, graduate and law school. After graduation I opened up a law office in Sioux Falls and began teaching legal classes, including for USD, DSU and one semester for the USD School of Law. Practiced law for 20 years before moving to Hot Springs in 2016 to start Sword & Ahrendt Law Office. Deputy States Attorney for Fall River/Oglala Lakota Counties. Own a hobby business where I design and build vacuum tube guitar amplifiers. Married with two adult children.

1) My 22 years of teaching undergraduate, graduate and law students, gives me a unique insight into what skills are necessary for students to excel in college and professional schools, as well as the ability to know what is required and allowed when it comes to school districts in South Dakota. My vast and varied work history (farm labor, factory worker, plumber’s helper, retail sales, Marine, college professor, attorney) allows me to be a resource for our students in their prospective career paths.

2) Making sure the children of Hot Springs are prepared for life beyond their time in the Hot Springs School District, whether that be in college, technical school, and/or the job market. I am worried that the current budgetary issues could lead to cuts which are going to make them less prepared for their lives after graduation. I want to see all of our children have the opportunity for successful futures, no matter what path they decide to take, and will work to identify and provide those resources necessary to allow them this chance. Transparency in government. The citizens of Hot Springs are stake holders in our school so I will do my best to ensure that the business of the board be done in the open whenever possible

Rebecca (Becky) Meyers
Age: 36
Occupation: CWT/TR Program Coordinator, Substitute Teacher
1 year resident of the Hot Springs School District
Contact info: N/A

I was born and raised in South Dakota. I graduated with 2 Bachelor’s Degrees from Black Hills State University in 2004 and a Masters in Counseling and Human Development from South Dakota State University in 2008. My parents Randy and Kathy Meyers have been residents of Hot Springs since 2004 so although I have not lived here long, I am very familiar with the community. My son is just finishing 1st grade, and I am so proud of the progress he made this year. In my spare time I enjoy baking, sewing, crafting, and reading. I am currently the acting PTA President for the Hot Springs Elementary School. 

1) I have an extensive history of public speaking, residing on boards and committees, leadership skills, and I am not afraid of change or exploring new and creative solutions to the issues we are facing. In 2006 I was granted the Children’s Empowerment Award by the Rapid City Police Department and Youth and Family Services. This year I was substitute teaching which provided me with working knowledge of the needs of our students and educators. 

2) I am not afraid to stand up for what I believe is in the best interest of our children and our community. My 2 main concerns with the district are the budget and the lack of accountability the superintendent and school board have to the community. If elected I intend on re-establishing open communication with the community, holding the superintendent and other school board members accountable for their actions, and using creative solutions to explore other areas we can reduce spending without reducing teaching staff. I would like to see contracts we have with larger companies that are not based out of Hot Springs, such as Trugreen, terminated and renegotiated with local businesses that would support parents in the district and our community. Additionally, I will fight for the return of a foreign language teacher and full-time counselors in the high school and elementary school. 

Nicole (Nikki) Shaw
Age: 40
Occupation: Deputy Treasurer Fall River /Oglala Lakota Counties
30-plus year resident of the Hot Springs School District
Contact info: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 1810 Baltimore Ave., Hot Springs SD 57747, (605) 745-3875

I have lived in Hot Springs for the majority of my life. I moved here from Kyle, S.D., around 1985 so my grandfather could be closer to the VA. I have 3 wonderful children. My oldest children, Harlynn and Tristian, have passed through the halls of the Hot Springs School District as 12 year classmates and are both now successful college students. Xander, my youngest, is currently a 1st grader and is excited to announce that he will be a big second grader next year at Hot Springs Elementary School. I have been happily married to Doug for 8 years. He is one of the smiling faces that will greet you at Fall River Auto Supply. 

Previously, I was an employee of the Hot Springs School District as the Indian Education Liaison. I have been active on the Boys and Girls Club Resource Development Committee, the Bison Booster Club, and served as the Hot Springs Post Prom Committee President for numerous years. I am currently a member of the Hot Springs Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary. For many years I have assisted with the local Toys for Tots program.

1) As a previous employee of the Hot Springs School district, I have basic knowledge of how the budget operates. I can see both sides of issues and help to resolve them. I am not afraid to be the lone “nay” vote if there is a situation that I am not confident in. 

2) The top issues I see regarding the school district is budget and community involvement. By budget, I am not talking about the amount of funding we receive more about how it is spent. Trees will not grow if you only water the top. Our children spend more hours in a day with our wonderful teachers than with their parents, most days. We need to take care of teachers first. Our teachers are the foundation of our district, without them we have nothing. 

 By community involvement, I would like to help develop a citizens’ advisory committee to help keep the community involved and informed of school happenings. The importance of community and parent involvement is crucial. By working together, the quality of the educational program for our children can only improve. This will help to develop an atmosphere of openness and honesty. 

Stachia Walker
Age: 34
Occupation: Business Owner
9 year Hot Springs School District
Contact info: 605-890-1878

Originally from Arizona, I’ve been married for 16 years to Richard Walker, we have two girls 13 and 10,  both attend Hot Springs School District. I am into fitness teaching classes at Health 4 Life. My community involvement ranges from putting on community charity runs to parent volunteering at the school district itself. 

1) First and foremost I have 2 children in this school district, I have a vested interested in how our school performs.  Being a business owner I work with setting budgets and adhering to those budgets, and managing staff. Before owning my own business, I worked for a bank part of my job was reading policies and procedures and following the same. Managing staff, leading by example when following policies and procedures. I am a great team player with a willingness to collaborate with others, and have sincere interest in public education in your community

2) Transparency & Communication- An effective school board  communicate their actions to the community. Through public discourse and written reports, great school board members keep the public informed of the district’s progress and challenges.

Budget- An effective school board, adopt a fiscally sound district budget. They pay attention to finances and regularly monitor the fiscal health of the district. 

TWO-YEAR TERM CANDIDATES

Frances E. Stokes
Age: N/A
Occupation: Retired Hot Springs teacher for 38 years
Contact info: 27532 Todd Drive, Hot Springs, SD. 57747, (605) 745-5931

I am the widow of Jim Stokes, retired grocer and business owner. 

I have been an active member of this community for 52 years. I am the mother of three children, two of which are educators in Colorado.

I have a BS in Education and a MS in Ed. Administration. I have endorsements in Music and Curriculum.

Teaching children has been my life. I believe that all children can learn and that school should be a happy and 

safe place for them to learn every day. Parents should feel secure that their children are getting the best education possible in this school.

1) I feel that I am an excellent communicator. I believe that school boards have an obligation to communicate with parents and to the community. 

I am a good listener and problem solver. Good communication is vital in running a school. 

There is no other institution more important than the school which prepares children to be successful and productive adults.

Curriculum is also one of my strengths. We must keep abreast of curriculum and allow teachers the opportunities they need to enhance the curriculum. Our children need to be prepared to enter universities, trade and technical schools.

2) The two most important issues facing this district, in my opinion, are budget and low morale.

Over a period of time some choices and actions were taken which cost the district a lot of money. This is inexcusable. This CANNOT continue. 

As I stated before, communication is VITAL! A school that has a good working relationship between administration, staff, parents and community will thrive. 

Kari Sanders
Age: 39
Occupation: We farm and ranch east of Oral and I also work at the Farm Service Agency in Hot Springs.
18 year resident of the Hot Springs School District
Contact info: 424-2111 and email is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I am originally from Wessington Springs, SD and graduated college from SDSU with a degree in agricultural business. Carl and I will be married 18 years this June. We have 3 children: Megan is 14 and will be a freshman this fall, Kyle is 12 and will be a 7th grader, and Ray is almost 9 and will be in 4th grade. Our family is very passionate about our community and the agricultural industry. We are involved in 4-H, Prairie View United Methodist Church, and Oral Community Easter Egg Hunt to name a few. I am a SD Agricultural Rural Leadership alumnus and just fulfilled a 3 year board position with the SD Beef Industry Council.

1) I enjoy being involved and volunteering in my local and state community. I am dedicated, helpful, friendly, and outgoing. I am present and involved in the education of my children through attending their activities, helping with homework, and attending teacher conferences. As a business owner, I know how to manage money and watch spending through a budget.

2) As a board, I feel we need to be responsible for our district expenses as the school funding formula is set to decrease based upon enrollment.

As a tax payer I want to ensure the board is fiscally responsible. I also want to help ensure that we can keep a variety of class offerings and we have the proper number of teachers per each class and grade.

Communication is key within the school and community and this will help guarantee that our students have a great education in the Hot Springs School District.

Jason Walker
Age: 42
Occupation: Heavy Equipment Operator
No other information was provided by the candidate prior to the deadline.

 

Fall River County Herald

EDGEMONT OFFICE: PO Box 660 Edgemont, SD  57735-0660   |   605.662.7201
HOT SPRINGS OFFICE: 334 S. Chicago St. Hot Springs, SD 57747 | 605.745.3930
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