by Dennis Dalman
Jason Nies, incumbent Sartell-St. Stephen School Board member, said he has a vested interest in wanting to be re-elected to the board in the Nov. 3 election.
“As a resident of Sartell for over 30 years, an alumnus of Sartell High School, a parent to two graduates and two children in our district and a board member for the past eight years, I have a vested interest in maintaining the high standard and reputation that has been established in our great district,” Nies said.
Nies is one of four candidates vying for three open seats on the school board in the Nov. 3 election. Two of those now-open seats were served by Lesa Kramer and Pam Raden, who both chose not to file for re-election. Besides Nies, the other competing candidates are Taryn Gentile, Patricia Meling and Matthew Moehrle.
The Sartell Newsleader asked the candidates many school-board related questions. The following are Nies’s answers:
Nies is a senior solutions architect for ePlus Technology, for which he has worked for 16 years. He was elected to his first term on the school board in November 2012, his second term in November 2016. A 1989 graduate of Sartell High School, Nies and his wife, Kim Thyen Nies, have four children – MacKenzie, a 2015 SHS graduate; Tristen, a 2018 SHS graduate; Mitiku, an eleventh-grader at SHS; and Genet, a ninth-grader at SHS.
Nies earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from St. Cloud State University.
He has been school-board chair for two years and vice chair for one year. During his eight years on the board he has served on the following committees: communications and technology, finance and operations, Benton-Stearns Education District, community outreach, curriculum, instruction and assessment, facilities steering, negotiations, liaison to the Senior Connection (senior-citizen group) and participant in the Stearns County Collaborative.
“Students, teachers and administrators have done a tremendous job adapting to unprecedented times,” Nies said. “The commitment and compassion of the entire staff during this pandemic is truly amazing.”
Nies added he feels grateful for the parents/guardians in the district. They agreed to help transport students and demonstrated so much patience while logistics of drop-off and pick-up procedures were worked out. They also showed steadfast patience in coping with new grade configurations.
“Since there is no playbook for this pandemic, everyone’s continued flexibility and patience is greatly appreciated,” he said.
The district, Nies noted, has implemented many procedures to keep staff and students as safe as possible: mandatory face-coverings, social distancing and a renewed focus on hand-washing and sanitation. Other policies include staggered lunch times, creative use of spaces to minimize cross contacts, limited locker use and limited bus use.
In addition, the district added temperature scanners at the main doors of all schools and hand-sanitizer products throughout all buildings. Buildings and buses are cleaned thoroughly during and at the end of each day.
“We continue to closely monitor daily Covid-19 counts in Stearns County and meet regularly with our District Covid Committee that consists of district staff, parents/guardians and local doctors,” he said.
Nies said he is very much in favor of equity efforts. In the short term, he said, progress has been made in adjustments to student handbooks with regard to hate symbols, and there have been some curriculum changes regarding a few of the books used in English classes, he added.
Nies said for the long-term he would like an equity audit done.
“That will provide an extended equity road map for our district that includes staff development. It is very important for the students in our district who have faced discrimination. It is also important for every student in our district that we can equip all of them to be respectful and welcoming humans.”
“In the coming years,” he said, “we need to continue the excellent tradition this district has developed while making sure we address the equity needs of all our students. We will also need to continue to deal with Covid and the financial implications this pandemic will have on our district and continue to be accountable to all the taxpayers in the district.”
The Sartell-St. Stephen School District achieves its excellence, Nies said, because of great parents/guardians, great teachers, great administrators and great community support.
“If we remember all the decisions we make need to be fiscally responsible and in the best interest of the students,” he said, “we will continue our tradition of excellence.”