Four candidates are seeking three open seats on the Spring Grove Board of Education for District #297 for a four-year term, and one is seeking a two-year term as part of a special election. Challenger Stephanie Jaster is facing incumbents Kristy Folz, Christian Myrah and Aaron Solum for the three four-year spots while Eric Bjerke is running unopposed for the two-year seat he currently holds.

All candidates but Aaron Solum responded to the questionnaire from the Spring Grove Herald. Below are their responses listed in alphabetical order. Each response was limited to 150 words.

Eric Bjerke, age 45 - Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

1.) Please tell us about yourself and why you are running for office?

I was born and raised in Spring Grove. I graduated from Luther College and Mayo Graduate School of Health Sciences. I am employed at Gundersen-Lutheran in La Crosse. Six years ago, my wife and I moved back to Spring Grove to raise our family because we feel it offers a uniquely positive environment for kids to grow and develop.

I was appointed to the school board two years ago to fill the vacancy left by the late Mark Johnson. Appointments are in effect for no more than two years, so I am running to complete the remaining two years of that four-year term.

I want to continue to be on the school board to give back to the

community and promote a quality education for the students of Spring Grove. Our schools should provide a foundation that allows students to face new challenges with confidence and realize their maximum potential.

2.) What short-term (5 years or less) and long-term (more than 5 years) goals would you like to see for the school?

Short term goals include maintaining the financial stability of the district. We want to be here long-term, and thoughtful decisions now will help ensure that viability. Providing an environment that ultimately promotes student achievement is essential. Keeping our technology current will allow our students to be successful after graduation.

Long-term, I would like our school to be recognized for its excellent education as well as its position on the cutting edge of technology. We need to think creatively and evolve with society. While being fiscally responsible, we must seek out and embrace innovative ideas that help us meet these goals.

3.) Right now enrollment seems to remain strong, what steps do you think the school can take to continue to encourage students to enroll in the school?

Supporting our administration and staff so they can do their jobs to the best of their abilities is our key role. I think the strong enrollment that we have recently been enjoying reflects that things are going very well and everyone is doing a great job. Forward thinking will prepare the district to be a competitive option for education in this area.

4.) What do you think are the district's top-three strengths and why?

Our top three strengths are our outstanding administration, our caring and dedicated staff, and our extremely supportive and involved community. These strengths have provided a winning combination that has resulted in a school system that makes us all proud.

5.) What do you think are the district's top-three weaknesses, and how can they be addressed?

Areas where I would like to focus our attention are 1) offering

additional elective courses while maintaining our solid core

curriculum through additional interactive-TV and online courses. 2) I would like to see additional foreign language offered at the elementary level and 3) additional resources allocated to the Advanced Learner (Gifted and Talented) program.

6.) If elected, what are the top three issues you want to see addressed in the next four years?

Our top priorities are 1) vigilantly maintaining the district's

financial standing. This can prove to be a difficult task when the state's finances are somewhat tentative.

2) Continuing to attract new students will be essential for long-term stability. Our emphasis on providing current technology as a learning tool will continue to assist us with this mission.

3) Offering a stronger Advanced Learning program would be a great asset to the district. Funding for Gifted and Talented programs is scarce, and it is often difficult to allocate additional dollars to these programs. It is easy to focus on achieving minimum test scores for our student body as a whole and overlook other areas that could use improvement. However, I think a stronger G&T program would draw additional families and students into the district and, therefore, possibly pay for itself by increased enrollment and state funding.