Q&A: Noel Stratmoen, Candidate for Northfield School Board
Noel Stratmoen is one of five candidates seeking a seat on the Northfield School Board.
Five candidates are vying for your support to be elected to the Northfield School Board, which has four open seats this election.
Patch asked candidates to respond to a series of questions. Below, you will find responses from Stratmoen, who is an incumbent. Responses are written by the candidates and have not been edited by Patch.
In the coming weeks we'll run more Q&As and video interviews for candidates who are on Nov. 6's ballot in Northfield-related races. You can also find out more information about the candidates by checking out our election guide for all election-related stories.
Family: Lois and I moved to Northfield in 1965 and raised two boys here. Todd and his family now live in Brookings, SD, and Shane and his family now living in Stillwater, MN. When we left Brookings, we chose Northfield because of the good job opportunity and the outstanding reputation of the school system. Later, when I left my job at Sheldahl to commute to Minneapolis for work at Control Data and later Seagate Corporation, we purposely chose to continue to live in Northfield… mostly for the strength of educational opportunities but also for the spirit of the community.
Occupation: Self-employed as Lois and I co-own Northfield Property Management Company. Prior the that, I was senior engineer and later, the manager of Plant Engineering at Seagate Technology, as senior engineer at Control Data Corporation, and as senior engineer at Sheldahl. Prior to moving to Northfield, I was on the Engineering faculty of South Dakota State University teaching Industrial Technology courses.
Political experience: School Board of Northfield Public Schools, District 659 for 32 years. Northfield Planning Commission for three years. Northfield Design Advisory Board for seven years.
Why are you running for a seat on the Northfield School BoarD? What do you offer the board and the district?
For all the benefits given to me and to my family by this community, the public schools have been the most influential. With a strong sense of public service and to show our gratitude to this community, serving on the Board of Education is the best way to express my appreciation. I can offer years of experience, some of which will be applicable to future issued that will confront the District. I have served in every leadership capacity of the Board including seven years as chairperson. As a businessperson in the Northfield, I have a frequent contact with parents and taxpayers. People know that they can stop me and ask questions about the School District. I believe I have an opportunity to answer the question/concern for the people that elected me.
What is the most pressing issue facing the district?
Funding. State funding for education has not kept up with rising costs and annual inflation. Recently, the state legislature has chosen to delay funding (they call the maneuver a “shift) to the school so the state could balance it’s budget. What is more of a concern is that the legislature does not have a plan the repay the “shift” to the schools in the state. When this occurred about two decades ago, it took the state about 11 years to get caught-up.
Northfield is surviving now because seven years ago, the Superintendent and his cabinet saw the state’s financial problem coming and rallied the District to reduce spending. The community, teachers, board, and district administration met, discussed, and then finalized a proposal for the Board to consider. The proposal was approved and reduced Districts expenditures by 15%. Furthermore, since that time, the District taxpayers “stepped up” and approved a levy referendum to increase their taxes/funding to the district. We are blessed with the great support for public education in this community
During this same time, the administration and all staff has continued to reduce other operating expenses by approximately $400,000 per year. And the long-term building debt has been refinanced twice in recent years saving several million dollars during the life of the debt. Significant cost savings actions have been taken and I believe the district will continue to behave in a financially responsible manner.
What is something you think the current school board has done well?
Supported the administration and all staff in maintaining the quality education opportunities for all students in the face of declining state and federal funding.
What is something you think the current school board hasn't done well?
Sufficiently close the learning gap for many students. Northfield’s graduation rates have improved significantly, and student learning has improved at all grade levels. I believe all students are entitled to learn to the best of their ability. We have more to do on this issue but lack of funding is hampering our efforts.
What would you have tried to do differently?
We know what to do to improve this problem… we need the money to do it. Reduced class sizes, more “one on one” teaching for the right reasons, more opportunity to engage parents to help in their child’s progress, etc. Education is “time sensitive” in student’s lives. We need to provide the right education at the right time.
Why should constituents vote for you on Election Day? What makes you a better choice than your opponents?
Board experience, positions of leadership on the board, and a resident of the District since 1965 all bring value as a candidate. My openness and visibility in the Northfield community, my daily contact with businesses on Division Street and throughout the community, and my being active in the education community are all pluses.
Anything else you would like to add?
Serving on past Boards with so many wonderful leaders has been a great experience. I am pleased to have served and look forward to continuing to serve you. My training as an educator, the 27 years I spent in industry, and my past experience with leadership roles in committees for the city will help provide me with better insight to whatever issues the District will face. Thank you… Noel