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ELK MOUND — Incumbent Mark G. Oas is one of four candidates for two positions on the Elk Mound Board of Education in the April 6 election.
Oas, along with incumbent Gary Bodenburg, will be facing challengers Michael Jenson Jr. and Mark Levra.
Oas, age 44, is married to his wife, Sarah, and they have one son, Ethan, who is a sophomore at Elk Mound High School.
Oas has been a chiropractor for about 20 years and has had his own practice for 16 years. He is a graduate of Elk Mound High School and completed most of his undergraduate education at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Oas received his Bachelor of Science in Human Biology and his Doctor of Chiropractic degrees from Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Here are Oas’s answers to a candidate questionnaire sent out by the Colfax Messenger:
Why did you decide to run for a position on the Elk Mound Board of Education?
I am choosing to run for a third term as a school board member to serve the students, the community, and the teachers, administration, and employees that make up the institution that is Elk Mound education. My goal is to help maintain the important balance of representing all interests while keeping the education of our kids the number one priority. I am proud to be from Elk Mound and to be a part of a growing and thriving district.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unique challenges for school districts over the past year. What challenges related to COVID-19 do you anticipate will be facing the school district in the years to come?
COVID-19 will not be going away any time soon, but that does not mean we can’t return to a normal way of life in the very near future. Fortunately, Elk Mound has already overcome some of the biggest obstacles in educating our students during the pandemic as we have been teaching students face-to-face for the entire school year and allowing a virtual option when needed or when it has been the right option for families. Sound decisions and policy were put into place to get us through the school year. We are ahead of most districts in the region when it comes to that and we have our teachers and administration to thank. The teachers have put in extra time and hard work to transform their classrooms and the way they teach during the pandemic and they should be commended. It has been difficult to accomplish these goals as a district but we have done it. After this past year, we know the value of in-person instruction. In the future, we will have obstacles in returning to a complete sense of normalcy but with consistency in our policies and the continued goal of keeping kids education a priority, I believe we will be nearing normal as we approach the next school year.
What do you believe to be the biggest issues (in addition to COVID) facing the Elk Mound school district?
As always, financial stability is high on the list. We have been fortunate the past few decades that our finances have been managed well. However, Elk Mound is aided by State and Federal government by about 80 percent so we are always at the mercy of policy and legislation that can sometimes adversely affect us. For that reason we need to continue being diligent with our finances, transparent and always communicating with our tax-payers, and constantly preparing for our future.
Another topic which will continue to be an issue will be finding quality educators. We are fortunate to have the best group of educators around in the Elk Mound School District, but the job applicant pool has dwindled across the board when it comes to hiring teachers. It is important we continue to value our teachers and make sure the incentives are there to draw in and keep the best educators for our students.
Looking ahead, the decision-making when it comes to expanding our physical presence as a district by building, renovating, and remodeling versus spending more on technology for virtual learning will always be a challenge. Referendums to keep the school district well-positioned will always be on the horizon. What our district has done in deciding to spend the taxpayer’s money properly has been done well through careful planning over decades Fortunately, with our most recent referendum, the planning and actions that have been taken have allowed for us to more than cut in half the projected tax hike it was going to cost our district’s tax payers and save us a projected $3.5 million dollars in interest on the project. This type of thinking and planning needs to continue.
Why are you the best candidate for the Board of Education?
I feel I can serve the public interest well as I now have two terms of experience serving on a board that has shown it has the best interests of its students, teachers, and community in mind. I have experience working as a representative on other boards/groups in varying capacity and each one has been unique. The important part about serving on an institutional board such as a school board is cooperation and understanding all points of view. Whether you are a student, a parent, a teacher, an administrator, or a taxpayer — all interests must be listened to and served. I will continue to do this for our district.
Anything else you would like voters to know?
I am proud of the Elk Mound School District. I have enjoyed serving on our School Board. We are a growing district which is not the case for most districts in our region and we can be proud of that. I believe we will continue to grow and offer more to our students and community and I want to continue helping with that. I thank you in advance for your vote.