Hastings Public Schools will having its biannual school board election this November with six candidates in the running for three open positions on the board. Originally, there were seven candidates …
Hastings Public Schools will having its biannual school board election this November with six candidates in the running for three open positions on the board.
Originally, there were seven candidates running for the 2021 school board election. However, one of the original seven candidates, Anna Sieben, died unexpectedly on Sept. 3, 2021. In the Journal’s article last week on the school board candidates’ forum, the Journal mentioned Sieben had withdrawn from the race. The Journal was not aware of Sieben’s passing at the time of publishing and regrets this error.
Of the six remaining candidates, two are running for re-election: Board Chair Kesley Waits and Board Director Scott Gergen. Dave Pemble, whose term ends on Jan. 1, 2022 as well, will not be seeking re-election.
Scott Gergen is currently seeking his third term. He was first elected to the board in 2013 and won re-election in 2017.
Gergen is seeking a third term to remain part of the ongoing projects the school board is working on that will continue into 2022. Some of those projects are the district strategic planning, district vision and mission statement, and the two different tax levies, one of which is set to renew in the near future.
Gergen spoke on why it is important to him to continue serving the Hastings community on the school board.
“I have three sons, two of them have gone through the Hastings system, they are out doing great things and my youngest is a ninth grader. My wife and I, when our oldest was old enough for kindergarten, we consciously made the decision to move back to Hastings, because of the schools. I just want to continue to keep them as an attractor for our community, and keep them providing the same excellent education as they have for the previous decades,” Gergen said. Gergen shares other opportunities he hopes to create if reelected.
“I would like to continue with our diversity and equity conversations as they pertain to Hastings,” he said. “Because again, Hastings according to the latest census, is 93 percent white so I’m very interested in how we properly serve our students of color and our LGBTQ students to ensure that we are giving them every opportunity to obtain the same excellent education as the white majority students.”
Waits will run for a second term on the ISD 200 School Board.
“I initially ran for the school board four years ago because this is where my husband and I settled down after he left the military,” said the current board chair. “It was my way of getting involved in giving back to the community and the idea of public service. I’ve loved my time on the board, and I’m incredibly passionate about kids and education, and school boards are a really great fit for me; they’re a cornerstone of the community that’s incredibly important. I think we’re doing really great things on the board, we’re a great team and I’d love to continue that work for another four years.”
If reelected, Waits hopes to continue ensuring the best possible education is provided to children at Hastings Public Schools. She would like to continue creating a strategic plan for the district that not only looks at the short-term future of Hastings Public Schools, but the long-term as well.
“Finding that balance with community member input, and student input, and parent input, and really figuring out where we go, I think that’s going to be one of the biggest struggles and tasks I had for the board. I also think that we’ve been doing a lot of work just as a board, figuring out what governance looks like and how we can be better at our jobs to really guide the district, you know, for three years, for 10 years and make those long-term plans and help build this long-term vision for the district rather than just working on a month-bymonth basis,” said Waits.
Four candidates who have not previously run for school board have thrown their hats in the ring: Tashina Miller, Jessica Dressely, Mike Reis and Carrie Banaszewski Tate.
Miller decided to run for school board after having multiple conversations with parents in the community on the perceived lack of mental health and special education services in Hastings Public School.
“I wanted to run because of the stories and conversations that I’ve had with parents here in the district and also with some of the students here. Hearing about the issues they have been having just made me very concerned. And I really just wanted to get in to see are these policies being really put into effect instead of you know, just saying that they are,” said Miller If Miller is elected, she hopes to improve open communications between students and staff with the board that can result in more positive learning outcomes for students. In addition, Miller hopes to increase the amount of social and emotional support available for students. She would also like to ensure that students receiving special education services are having their needs met.
“Some of the issues that people have talked to me about are for some students, they don’t feel like they’re getting the support that they need when it comes down to their emotional or mental health. And some do feel afraid to speak, or talk to some of the staff members there, because they’re unaware of the help that’s really out there for them. The students hear about it but they don’t really see it as much as we speak about it,” Miller said.
Banaszewski Tate is another first-time candidate who decided to run for school board after talking to parents and community members about their concerns with how the school board has operated itself in the past year and a half.
“I feel that public education is at a crossroads right now,” Banaszewski Tate said. “We continue to have declining enrollment in our district and I want to help address the root causes of decline to make our public schools the best option for the community. I also want to help our kids get back on track after the past year and a half. Parents and community members are concerned about some of the divisive and political agendas being pushed into our district. I’ve heard from several parents that they’ve pulled their kids from Hastings because of this concern specifically.”
In addition to speaking with community members and parents, Banaszewski Tate has also made appearances during public comment at ISD 200 School Board meetings. If Banaszewski Tate is elected, she hopes to enforce a neutral manner of politics in public education.
“Public schools should be politically neutral in nature. When politics are taught, all sides need to be presented and in a neutral manner. No student should know the personal political views of their teachers. Politics have continued to move into our classrooms and also influence decisions made in our district. We need to reverse course and get to a neutral environment, where every child feels welcomed in every class, regardless of their viewpoint and opinions,” said Banaszewski Tate.
Dressely and Reis did not respond to requests by the Hastings Journal for comment.
All six candidates will participate in an open forum 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 5 at Hastings High School. Absentee voting has already begun and early voting ballots can be dropped off at Hastings Middle School’s front office with Becky Garcia- Carrasco, the executive assistant to Superintendent McDowell.