Optimist Club ISD 197 candidate forum

Optimist Club Candidate Forum for ISD 197 School Board Election

Thanks to Clothesline Laundromat for their support.

On Wednesday, October 20, the Optimist Club of West St. Paul hosted seven candidates for the ISD 197 school board for their Talk ‘n Tacos Candidate Forum at Dunham’s. Be sure to see our voter’s guide for more election information.

All nine current candidates were invited (Elena Villarreal dropped out), and seven appeared at the event. Each candidate was given an introduction, asked what they think the biggest challenge facing school board is, and then took questions from the audience.

Here’s video of the event, courtesy of the Optimist Club of West St. Paul:

Here are the links to when specific candidates first appear and then a quick quote from each one:

  • John Chandler: “We have to regain the trust of our community.”
  • Jon Vaupel: “It’s not about just returning to the way things were before COVID-19… it’s about how do we improve upon what we’ve done and learn and grow?”
  • Marcus Hill: “Helping other kids understand different cultures and different people—gets to an empathy, and when you get to that empathy we can really start to solve problems.”
  • Robert Reese: “My concern with critical race theory and diversity, equity, and inclusion is that it separates people instead of brings them together.”
  • Sarah Larsen: “[Coming through COVID,] I think teachers and staff and the administration have learned a lot about what they’re capable of during a quick pivot. I think a lot of kids have learned that they’re capable of more than they think they are too.”
  • Stephanie Auran: “I was a lazy parent… I was not paying attention. I started, this year, paying attention.”
  • Tim Aune: “I was getting a sea of emails from both sides… telling me what was happening in my school, and it wasn’t true.”

See our voter’s guide for more information on voting, the candidates, and other candidate forums.

Big thank you to the Optimist Club for hosting the event, filming it, and allowing us to post the video online.

Oct. 27, 2021 Update: Concern About Quotes

We received an email from candidate Robert Reese accusing us of “slanderous” conduct and threatening to consult an attorney for misquoting him above. We reviewed the video:

  • Here’s the word-for-word quote (with some additional context): “My concern with critical race theory and diversity, equity, and inclusion is that it separates people instead of brings them together.”
  • Here’s our original quote: “Diversity, equity, and inclusion separate people instead of bring them together.”
  • (You can watch the statement for yourself.)

While there’s not a substantial difference between the two versions and we contend that our original version was true to what Reese said, in the interest of transparency and accountability we’ve updated all the quotes above instead of relying on our notes from the event. Of course there is also video, so readers are encouraged to watch the video for the full quotes and context of candidate statements.

This kind of local election coverage only happens thanks to our generous supporters. Consider joining them with monthly or annual support through Patreon and help keep your community informed.

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