What You Need to Know About the School Board Elections

Kerrera Jackson, Copy Editor

It’s that time of the year again. And no, not pumpkin-spice season or even sweater season–it’s election season. Less than two months away on November 2, voting for the Minnetonka School Board election will take place, filling three open spots on the Board. When elected, these three members will begin their terms in January 2022 and will each serve a four-year term. Since the Minnetonka School Board is composed of only seven members, this upcoming election can mean a giant change for Minnetonka Public Schools. 

While this election isn’t nearly as big as last year’s Presidential run, the people who are elected to the Board are crucial to determining what kind of district and school environment students will experience. The Board just recently determined the Minnetonka mask policy, and, last year, the board decided to start the MHS school year completely online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only has the Board played an integral role in the District’s COVID response, it also can hire and evaluate Minnetonka’s Superintendent Dennis Peterson, approve budgets and spending allocations, change the curriculum, create new programs within the school, change the student handbook, and so much more. 

“The School Board is extremely important to us students, as some of the most powerful people in the district are on the School Board,” said Sydnie Tolliver, ‘22. “They make critical decisions regarding the students, curriculum, and policies. I would argue most, if not everything, the School Board does impacts us in one way or another.”

The eight candidates for the upcoming election are Patrick Lee-O’Halloran, Dan Olson, Jessica Reader, Michael Remucal, Michael Salyards, Meghan Selinger and Chris Vitale.

Patrick Lee-O’Halloran’s slogan is “Excellence and Equity,” focusing his campaign on promoting and fighting for diversity and equity within the school district. 

“Equity in education is about being just and fair,” said O’Halloran. “It’s important to recognize that students of color, students who are differently abled, students of different faiths and students who identify as LGBTQ or as any other member of a marginalized group have a different and less ideal Minnetonka experience than the everyday majority of students. Working to correct that is the right thing to do and is the equitable response. Diversity and inclusion programming is how we acknowledge imbalances and implement equitable responses.” 

 O’Halloran thinks it is crucial for Minnetonka Schools to teach about the science behind vaccines and viruses to stop the spread of disinformation surrounding COVID-19. He also believes that Minnetonka High School should make masks and vaccinations a top priority in order to ensure everyone’s safety. 

Another candidate running for School Board is Dan Olson. With respect to the School Board itself, Olson wants to ensure that transparency, accountability and accessibility will be important aspects of how the new board will run. He believes that the community needs to feel more listened to by creating more open forums for discussion and dissent. 

In addition, Olson prioritizes key ideas of equity and mental health in all of the schools. Olson believes in hiring a diversity, equity and inclusion expert as a staff member to evaluate the district, recommend changes, and create real solutions for students and staff. He also supports hiring a dedicated psychologist in every school to help students in need and to help refer them to any resources or care they may want or need. 

Next, Jessica Reader focused her campaign on four main goals: empowering students and a curriculum that teaches how to think and never what to think, uniting students through common interests and considering other viewpoints, educating based on respect for all, and supporting Minnetonka’s diverse curriculum.  

Michael Remucal, another candidate, highlights the importance of combating misinformation surrounding COVID-19. As a doctor, he believes he is the best person to take that on, as well as advising the rest of the board when it comes to the virus and policies surrounding it. 

“As the son of an immigrant from the Philippines and [as someone who has] a family member in the LGBTQ+ community, I will bring something to the Board that the other candidates can’t: personal experience from inside the conversation,” said Remucal. 

“I wish the School Board was more diverse,” said Tolliver, “I think this would benefit the students tremendously. However, I am not hopeful, given the history of Minnetonka and the environment of the district as a whole.”  

Another candidate, Michael Salyards, focused his campaign on the “outstanding academic excellence” of the district and stated that to ensure and improve this excellence, Minnetonka must focus on challenging and competitive academics, politically neutral classrooms and district-wide policies that unite all students. 

“Going forward, any curriculum, ideology or class time activity that divides students by race and labels students as victim or oppressor, must be kept out of our schools,” said Salyards. 

 He also believes that vaccination status and masks must remain a family issue as he considers there to be unanswered questions about the “psychological cost of mandating our children wear masks eight hours per day.”

  Moreover, the candidate Meghan Selinger believes that it is of the utmost importance to continue to decrease the inequality gap in the district by always teaching culturally relevant information and examining if students of color feel connected to the school, their teachers, peers, and overall community. 

Finally, Chris Vitale is the only School Board member up for re-election this year, so he has chosen to focus his campaign primarily on the work he has done for the School Board in the past and the importance of experience when it comes to maintaining academic excellence for all.  

No matter who MHS students or their parents might vote for, it is incredibly important to have one’s voice heard in this election, as who is elected can determine everything for the whole district. Encourage those who live in Minnetonka who are over 18 to get out and vote on November 2. 

  “It’s important for anyone who can vote, to vote. Simply because every vote counts and matters, and it is important especially when the race is predicted to be close like this one is,” said Tolliver.